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Last updated: 04/07/2020

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Health and disease often go hand in hand. The common cold, the seasonal flu, and all sorts of infections can make our daily life difficult. We lose work and study time as we have to recover, leaving us confined to our bed or couch. So, can we boost our body’s defenses to avoid getting sick again?

Unfortunately, we have no remedy that will guarantee us eternal health. What we can do, however, is to adopt a series of health measures and habits to keep our immune system as strong as possible. This is the best way for us to fight off any disease. Are you ready to learn how to stay healthy?

Key Facts

  • Our immune system contains cells, signaling molecules, and proteins that are responsible for fighting external attacks from viruses and bacteria.
  • Eating correctly, resting enough, and keeping stress at bay will prevent imbalances in your immune function.
  • If you plan on using supplements to boost your immunity, you can opt for multivitamins, vitamin C or D, probiotics, or other products such as echinacea.

Our Selection: The Best Supplements for Your Immune System

In the following section, you will discover our very own selection of the most popular products on the market to boost your immune system. Don’t forget to contact your doctor immediately if you notice any unwanted symptoms. Once you have discarded any serious health issues, these supplements can help you feel stronger combat nutritional deficiencies.

Best Supplement to Support the Immune System

Containing six ingredients known to boost our defenses, Quantum’s SuperLysine+ tablets are a fantastic option to contribute to your overall health. This Amazon’s Choice includes L-Lysine, vitamin C, and echinacea, among other elements. Recommended use is three tablets a day, each pack giving you two months of boost.

Best Elderberry Gummies

If you want to enjoy the supplements you’re taking, Havasu Nutrition delivers those delicious elderberry gummies that will satisfy your taste buds as much as your immune system. With just two gummies a day, you can increase your vitamin C, zinc, and flavonoid intake – the latter providing great anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

Best Organic Mushroom Supplement

Made up of three different types of healthy organic mushrooms grown right here in the U.S.A., these veggie capsules offer a wide range of benefits for your overall health. They can help you improve your mood and detoxify your liver for more efficient digestion. Also, lion’s mane can contribute to your memory and focus.

Best Probiotic & Prebiotic Blend

Both probiotics and prebiotics are known to have a direct influence on the health of our microbiota and, therefore, our gut. Since this is a vital element of our immune system, Dr. Tobias’ Deep Immune blend is an excellent option for your overall well-being. It is particularly useful for individuals following vegetarian diets.

Everything You Should Know About Boosting Your Immune System

The immune system protects your body from invasion by pathogens (harmful microorganisms). Poor nutrition, chronic stress, or simply time can weaken your defenses and expose you to diseases. Luckily for us, we can develop a healthy routine to strengthen our immunity.

friends eating healthy

Your immune system is composed of innate and adaptive immunity.
(Source: Yeulet: 42131725/ 123rf.com)

The Immune System and Our Defenses

The immune system is a collection of cells, proteins, and signaling molecules that protect your body against aggression from the outside environment. We sometimes use the terms ‘defenses’ or ‘immunological system’ to refer to this inner guardian.

In reality, reaching a perfect understanding of our immune system is a feat that only genetics specialists and immunologists are capable of.

A series of complex stimuli regulate our defenses, determining the location, intensity, and duration of the immune response.

That being said, getting to know our immune system a bit better can help us understand the mechanisms that strengthen or weaken it to stay as healthy as possible. In fact, we can divide this system into two primary forms of immunity (1):

  • Innate immunity: This primitive system relies on natural barriers (skin, mucus, gastric acids, and sweat, among others) and specific cells (such as macrophages) that destroy microorganisms through stereotyped mechanisms (which do not change depending on the germ).
  • Adaptive immunity: Also referred to as acquired immune system, it can recognize and respond to a specific microorganism, creating antibodies that facilitate its destruction. The memory of this type of immunity means that its response will be faster the next time you are infected by the same germ.
Innate immunity Adaptive immunity
Response Non-specific

(same for all pathogens)

Specific

(adapted to each pathogen)

Speed Immediate Delayed (several days)
Memory No Yes
Components – Natural barriers

– Inflammation and fever

– Phagocytes (pathogen-eating cells)

– Presenter cells (capture and display of microorganisms)

 – T-lymphocytes (cells that destroy microorganisms and regulate the body’s response)

– B-lymphocytes (antibody producers)

– Antibodies

– Signal molecules

Perfect coordination between innate and adaptive immunity is essential. Otherwise, we may experience phenomena of immunosuppression (weakness of the defenses) or autoimmunity (defenses attacking the body). Various healthy habits can help you maintain this balance.

The Allies of the Immune System: Rest, Diet, and Exercise

The first thing you need to do to boost your immune system is to analyze your daily routine If. Do you have a balanced diet? Do you sleep enough? Are you under physical or emotional stress? While you may think that these issues are trivial, countless studies have demonstrated that they can influence the proper functioning of your defenses (2, 3, 4).

Although they seem to have little to do with your immunity, these factors can actually determine your resistance to diseases and the speed of your recovery. For instance, one study discovered that simply paying more attention to sick children helps them recover faster (5). Incredible, isn’t it?

Albert Szent-GyorgyiNobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 1937

“A vitamin is a substance that makes you ill if you don’t eat it.”

Sport as Prevention

Physical exercise offers countless benefits. It keeps stress at bay, allows you to rest better at night, and helps you burn calories to maintain a healthy weight. In addition, sport is also a fantastic anti-aging agent – and not just aesthetically.
Moving your body also keeps your immune system young.

Research has proven that regular and moderate exercise strengthens your immune system over time, in part mitigating the effects of aging. Your defenses also suffer and weaken over time, making you more vulnerable to infection (9, 10).

So, how much sport should you do every day to stay healthy? The World Health Organization (WHO) has precise recommendations regarding this. Adults between the ages of 18 and 65 should perform at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic physical activity per week (or 75 minutes of intense sport).

Children and people over the age of 65 will also benefit greatly from exercising. That being said, these population groups should favor leisure or family activities. You can discover the WHO’s different recommendations in the following table (11):

Age group Recommended guidelines
Children aged 5-17 Preferably aerobic exercise.

Playful activity or physical education.

Minimum of 60 minutes of daily exercise.

More intense activities at least three times a week.

Adults aged 18-65 Recreational activities, commuting (walking or cycling), and work.

At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

Alternatively, 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week.

Each session should last a minimum of 10 minutes.

Muscle and bone-strengthening activities two or more times a week.

Adults over the age of 65 Recreational activities, commuting (walking or cycling), work (until retirement), and family activities.

At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.

Alternatively, 75 minutes of high-intensity exercise per week.

Each session should last at least 10 minutes.

Adults with reduced mobility should perform rehabilitation activities at least three times a week.

Activities to strengthen muscles and bones two or more times a week.

Adults who are particularly old or weak should exercise as much as their health allows.

A Fulfilling Life to Stay Healthy

This is as incredible as it is true. Our constantly changing emotions interrelate with our defenses and can affect us positively or negatively. Combined with exciting projects and the affection of our loved ones, an active lifestyle can improve our antibody production, as well as our innate immunity response (14).

But we all know that life isn’t always easy. Many stressful and painful situations that are beyond our control can affect us. It is natural for us to feel sad, anxious, or even angry when facing tragic events. So, can we strengthen our emotional armor to stay healthy? Yes, and it’s all detailed below!

  • Love: It isn’t poetry, it’s genetics. The most recent studies have revealed that regulation of immunity occurs during the process of falling in love. While these data need to be further examined, some experts believe that love and passion have a positive effect on our body’s defenses (15).
  • Religion: This promising discovery has surprised many a scientist. Older adults who regularly attend the place of worship of their faith seem to produce a greater number of specific immune system mediators. These people demonstrate stronger defenses compared to other individuals (16, 17, 18).
  • Meditative practices: If you don’t consider yourself to be religious, you can turn to mindfulness practices for a potential boost to your immune system. The ancient practices of yoga and Tai chi chuan have also proved to reduce body inflammation and activate defenses when performed consistently (19, 20, 21).
  • Psychological care: If you have suffered a traumatic event, seeking help from a psychology professional may be more helpful than you might think. Besides contributing to balanced mental health, psychological therapy could improve your body’s ability to respond to infection by regulating the immune response (22, 23).
healthy food

A healthy diet is one of the keys to protecting yourself from infection.
(Source: Navas: 56556286/ 123rf.com)

The Enemies of Health

We have already discussed the fact that the immune system of active people tends to be stronger than that of sedentary individuals. In the same vein, those of us who eat a healthy diet are more resistant than junk food enthusiasts. There are a number of other harmful habits that weaken your defenses, so here is what you should give up for a healthier you:

  • Smoking: We have known for decades that smoking increases the chances of suffering from various types of tumors. In addition, smoking can also negatively influence immunity by altering the activity of cells that protect us from respiratory tract infections. This can make you more vulnerable to diseases (24).
  • Alcohol: The abuse of alcohol – drinking large amounts on a regular basis – has been linked to an increased predisposition to viral and bacterial diseases. According to the WHO, some of these diseases are particularly severe (tuberculosis and HIV) (25, 26).
  • Other drugs: Heroin and cocaine can also alter the body’s response to infection. While these data need to be corroborated by more studies, the probable negative impact of these compounds on your daily life means that you should not use them in any form (27, 28).

Last but not least, we cannot overlook our anxiety and nervousness levels. Experts currently identify the existence of two types of stress. On the one hand, good stress is time-limited (taking an exam or competing in an event) and can have a certain positive influence on our defenses.

On the other hand, bad stress is prolonged over time (being bullied or caring for a sick family member). This can lead to a depletion of our defenses, which may be outpaced by the situation. If you find yourself in this position, we encourage you to seek help to reduce, at least in part, your suffering (2, 23).

girl eating pills

Supplements can help you avoid deficiencies that can make you sick.
(Source: Guillem: 102077414/ 123rf.com)

Buyer’s Guide

In the following section, we will delve into the products available on the market to help you strengthen your defenses. By learning more about their usefulness and possible applications, you can determine which supplements are most suitable for you and boost your immune system more efficiently. Don’t pass up on this opportunity!

Multivitamin & Multimineral Supplements

Supplements that combine vitamins and minerals can help individuals who suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Followers of vegan diets (lacking in vitamin B12), people trying to lose weight (low nutrient intake), and the elderly (vulnerable to malnutrition) will benefit most from these products (6, 31, 32, 33, 34).

Multivitamin ingredient Effect
Vitamin A It prevents deficiencies.

Particularly useful for undernourished groups fighting infectious diseases.

B-group vitamins They prevent states of deficiency.
Vitamin C It may shorten the duration and reduce the severity of respiratory tract infections.
Vitamin D It prevents deficiency states, presumably by reducing the frequency of respiratory tract disease.
Iron This mineral prevents deficiencies, therefore reducing the probability of infection.

Its random intake could worsen underlying conditions.

Selenium It helps avoid deficiency states, improving the immune response to viral infection.

Unrestricted use of this chemical element could worsen asthma symptoms and promote invasion by parasites.

Zinc It may reduce the intensity of the symptoms of the common cold.

In addition, it could shorten recovery time from this viral disease.

Make sure you are not suffering from an infection at the time you start supplementing; iron-rich products could aggravate its symptoms. As you may know, it is essential to consult your doctor if you are taking any medications that could interact with these supplements.

Vitamin C

Virtually all multivitamin supplements contain ascorbic acid, often referred to as vitamin C. In fact, this nutrient is so popular that many people take it individually. Paradoxically, its most common use – cold prevention – may not be the most adequate.

Most experts now believe that vitamin C doesn’t prevent us from getting sick. What it can do, however, is reduce the intensity of symptoms and the duration of the cold (33). Before you start taking this supplement, make sure you do not have a more severe condition that requires medical attention (such as pneumonia).

Vitamin C may help relieve cold symptoms.
(Source: Doroshin: 38455095/ 123rf.com)

Probiotics

The microbiota in our body is absolutely vital for our well-being. These friendly bacteria prevent us from being colonized by harmful microorganisms, which is why maintaining a healthy flora should be a top priority. Stress, poor diet, and the use of antibiotics can destroy this delicate balance (36, 37).

While you can find hundreds of probiotic preparations out there, experts generally taking supplements containing Lactobacillus species for a positive impact on our health. Immunosuppressed individuals should never use them without medical supervision.

foco

Did you know that vaccines introduce inactivated or fragmented microorganisms into our bodies? This process activates our defenses and leads to the development of antibodies against specific diseases.

Summary

Your immune system protects you from attacks by viruses, bacteria, fungi, and other parasites. Developing a series of healthy habits is the best way to keep your defenses in optimal condition. In addition, eating properly, exercising, avoiding drugs, and maintaining a positive attitude will help you stay healthy for longer.

Supplements developed to boost the immune system can help you address nutritional deficiencies or alleviate the symptoms of milder illnesses, as long as you have ruled out severe infections.

We hope that our article has helped you better understand how you can strengthen your immune system. If that’s the case, feel free to leave us a comment and share it on your social media!

(Source of featured image: Monticello: 32014496/ 123rf.com) 

References (41)

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2. Dragoş D, Tănăsescu MD. The effect of stress on the defense systems. J Med Life [Internet]. 2010 [ 2020 Mar 22];3(1):10–8.
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30. Soyano A, Gómez M. Role of iron in immunity and its relation with infections [Internet]. Vol. 49, Archivos latinoamericanos de nutrición. 1999 [ 2020 Mar 21].
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Why you can trust me?

Pearl Williams Freelance Homoeopath
Pearl is convinced of the healing effect of herbal substances. That is why she decided to pursue an education in homeopathy. She works as a freelance homoeopath and in her spare time she loves to read and write. This gives her a great deal of expertise in the field of herbal medicine.
Artículo de revisión
Nicholson LB. The immune system. Essays Biochem [Internet]. 2016 Oct 31 [ 2020 Mar 23];60(3):275–301.
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
Dragoş D, Tănăsescu MD. The effect of stress on the defense systems. J Med Life [Internet]. 2010 [ 2020 Mar 22];3(1):10–8.
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
Besedovsky L, Lange T, Born J. Sleep and immune function. Pflügers Arch – Eur J Physiol [Internet]. 2012 Jan 10 [ 2020 Mar 22];463(1):121–37.
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
Calder PC. Feeding the immune system. Proc Nutr Soc [Internet]. 2013 Aug 21 [ 2020 Mar 23];72(3):299–309.
Go to source
Ensayo clínico con humanos
Béres A, Lelovics Z, Antal P, Hajós G, Gézsi A, Czéh Á, et al. “Does happiness help healing?” Immune response of hospitalized children may change during visits of the Smiling Hospital Foundation’s Artists. Orv Hetil [Internet]. 2011 [cited 2020 Mar 22];152(43):1739–44.
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
Maggini S, Wintergerst ES, Beveridge S, Hornig DH. Selected vitamins and trace elements support immune function by strengthening epithelial barriers and cellular and humoral immune responses. In: British Journal of Nutrition [Internet]. 2007 [ 2020 Mar 16]. p. S29-35.
Go to source
Artículo de consenso
Pascual V, Perez Martinez P, Fernández JM, Solá R, Pallarés V, Romero Secín A, et al. SEA/SEMERGEN consensus document 2019: Dietary recommendations in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Semergen. 2019 Jul 1;45(5):333–48.
Go to source
Guía clínica
Locke A, Schneiderhan J, Zick SM. Diets for Health: Goals and Guidelines. Am Fam Physician [Internet]. 2018 Jun 1 [ 2020 Mar 2];97(11):721–8.
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
Sellami M, Gasmi M, Denham J, Hayes LD, Stratton D, Padulo J, et al. Effects of Acute and Chronic Exercise on Immunological Parameters in the Elderly Aged: Can Physical Activity Counteract the Effects of Aging? Front Immunol [Internet]. 2018 Oct 10 [ 2020 Mar 22];9(OCT).
Go to source
Artículo científico
Campbell JP, Turner JE. Debunking the Myth of Exercise-Induced Immune Suppression: Redefining the Impact of Exercise on Immunological Health Across the Lifespan. Front Immunol [Internet]. 2018 Apr 16 [ 2020 Mar 22];9(APR).
Go to source
Organización Mundial de la Salud
OMS | Recomendaciones mundiales sobre la actividad física para la salud. WHO [Internet]. 2013 [ 2020 Mar 22]
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
Besedovsky L, Lange T, Haack M. The sleep-immune crosstalk in health and disease. Physiol Rev [Internet]. 2019 Jul 1 [ 2020 Mar 22];99(3):1325–80.
Go to source
Web oficial
Nation Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times. Natl Sleep Found [Internet]. 2019 [ 2020 Mar 22];1–4.
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
Brod S, Rattazzi L, Piras G, D’Acquisto F. ‘As above, so below’ examining the interplay between emotion and the immune system. Immunology [Internet]. 2014 Nov [ 2020 Mar 22];143(3):311–8.
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
D’Acquisto F. Affective immunology: where emotions and the immune response converge. Dialogues Clin Neurosci [Internet]. 2017 Mar 1 [ 2020 Mar 22];19(1):9–19.
Go to source
Ensayo clínico con humanos
Koenig HG, Cohen HJ, George LK, Hays JC, Larson DB, Blazer DG. Attendance at religious services, interleukin-6, and other biological parameters of immune function in older adults [Internet]. Vol. 27, International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine. Baywood Publishing Co. Inc.; 1997 [ 2020 Mar 22]. p. 233–50.
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
Koenig HG. Psychoneuroimmunology and the faith factor. J Gend Specif Med [Internet]. 2000 [ 2020 Mar 22];3(5):37–44.
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
Koenig HG. Religion, Spirituality, and Health: The Research and Clinical Implications. ISRN Psychiatry [Internet]. 2012 [ 2020 Mar 22];2012:1–33.
Go to source
Ensayo clínico con humanos
Falkenberg RI, Eising C, Peters ML. Yoga and immune system functioning: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials [Internet]. Vol. 41, Journal of Behavioral Medicine. Springer New York LLC; 2018 [ 2020 Mar 22]. p. 467–82.
Go to source
Ensayo clínico con humanos
Yeh S-H. Regular tai chi chuan exercise enhances functional mobility and CD4CD25 regulatory T cells. Br J Sports Med [Internet]. 2006 Mar 1 [ 2020 Mar 22];40(3):239–43.
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
Black DS, Slavich GM. Mindfulness meditation and the immune system: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Ann N Y Acad Sci [Internet]. 2016 Jun 1 [ 2020 Mar 22];1373(1):13–24.
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
Pennebaker JW, Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Glaser R. Disclosure of traumas and immune function: Health implications for psychotherapy. J Consult Clin Psychol [Internet]. 1988 [ 2020 Mar 22];56(2):239–45.
Go to source
Metaanálisis
Segerstrom SC, Miller GE. Psychological stress and the human immune system: A meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychol Bull [Internet]. 2004 Jul [ 2020 Mar 22];130(4):601–30.
Go to source
Artículo científico
Qiu F, Liang C-L, Liu H, Zeng Y-Q, Hou S, Huang S, et al. Impacts of cigarette smoking on immune responsiveness: Up and down or upside down? Oncotarget [Internet]. 2017 Jan 3 [ 2020 Mar 23];8(1):268–84.
Go to source
Organización Mundial de la Salud
WHO. Alcohol [Internet]. 2018 [ 2020 Mar 23].
Go to source
Artículo científico
Barr T, Helms C, Grant K, Messaoudi I. Opposing effects of alcohol on the immune system. Prog Neuro-Psychopharmacology Biol Psychiatry [Internet]. 2016 Feb 4 [ 2020 Mar 23];65:242–51.
Go to source
Artículo científico
Zaki NG, Osman A, Moustafa H, Saad AH. Alterations of immune functions in heroin addicts. Egypt J Immunol [Internet]. 2006 [ 2020 Mar 23];13(1):153–71.
Go to source
Ensayo clínico in vivo
Pellegrino T, Bayer BM. In vivo effects of cocaine on immune cell function. J Neuroimmunol [Internet]. 1998 Mar 15 [ 2020 Mar 23];83(1–2):139–47.
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
Cheskin LJ, Margolick J, Kahan S, Mitola AH, Poddar KH, Nilles T, et al. Effect of Nutritional Supplements on Immune Function and Body Weight in Malnourished Adults. Nutr Metab Insights [Internet]. 2010 Jan 4 [ 2020 Mar 23];3:NMI.S4460.
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
Soyano A, Gómez M. Role of iron in immunity and its relation with infections [Internet]. Vol. 49, Archivos latinoamericanos de nutrición. 1999 [ 2020 Mar 21].
Go to source
Artículo de revisión
Villamor E, Fawzi WW. Effects of vitamin A supplementation on immune responses and correlation with clinical outcomes [Internet]. Vol. 18, Clinical Microbiology Reviews. 2005 [ 2020 Mar 23]. p. 446–64.
Go to source
Artículo científico
Maggini S, Beveridge S, Suter M. A combination of high-dose vitamin C plus zinc for the common cold. J Int Med Res [Internet]. 2012 [ 2019 Oct 13];40(1):28–42.
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Artículo de revisión
Chambial S, Dwivedi S, Shukla KK, John PJ, Sharma P. Vitamin C in disease prevention and cure: An overview [Internet]. Vol. 28, Indian Journal of Clinical Biochemistry. 2013 [ 2019 Oct 13]. p. 314–28.
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Artículo de revisión
Maggini S, Pierre A, Calder P. Immune Function and Micronutrient Requirements Change over the Life Course. Nutrients [Internet]. 2018 Oct 17 [ 2020 Mar 23];10(10):1531.
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Artículo de revisión
Mora JR, Iwata M, von Andrian UH. Vitamin effects on the immune system: vitamins A and D take centre stage. Nat Rev Immunol [Internet]. 2008 Sep [ 2020 Mar 19];8(9):685–98.
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Artículo de revisión
Markowiak P, Ślizewska K. Effects of probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics on human health. Vol. 9, Nutrients. MDPI AG; 2017.
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Artículo de revisión
Bischoff SC, Barbara G, Buurman W, Ockhuizen T, Schulzke J-D, Serino M, et al. Intestinal permeability – a new target for disease prevention and therapy. BMC Gastroenterol [Internet]. 2014 Dec 18 [ 2019 Sep 8];14(1):189.
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Artículo de revisión
Fratellone PM, Tsimis F, Fratellone G. Apitherapy Products for Medicinal Use. J Altern Complement Med [Internet]. 2016 Dec 1 [ 2020 Mar 23];22(12):1020–2.
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Artículo de revisión
Barrett B. Medicinal properties of Echinacea: A critical review [Internet]. Vol. 10, Phytomedicine. Urban und Fischer Verlag Jena; 2003 [ 2020 Mar 20]. p. 66–86.
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Revisión Cochrane
Karsch-Völk M, Barrett B, Kiefer D, Bauer R, Ardjomand-Woelkart K, Linde K. Echinacea for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev [Internet]. 2014 Feb 20 [ 2020 Mar 23];2014(2).
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Revisión Cochrane
Jepson R, L M, Craig J. Arándanos para la prevención de infecciones urinarias. La Bibl Cochrane Plus [Internet]. 2008 [ 2020 Mar 23];4(2):19.
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