The immune system is the body’s first and last line of defense against pathogens and disease; without a well functioning immune system, even the most innocuous bacterial and viral infections could overwhelm physical systems and lead to serious illness or even death. In healthy individuals, the immune system consists of several different layers of protection including the physical barrier of the skin, the innate immune response that reacts to any pathogenic intrusion immediately, and the more specialized adaptive immune response.


Components of the immune system

The adaptive immune response is designed to combat specific pathogens; typically, specialized white blood cells called lymphocytes attack the infection or intrusion. The body produces three types of lymphocytes, known as B cells, T cells and natural killer or NK cells. T cells and B cells are tasked with identifying and responding to specific threats to the body. This process is called antigen representation and allows the cells to produce specific responses to pathogens that the body has previously encountered. NK cells use a slightly different process and can defend against some pathogens to which the individual may not previously have exposed.


Identifying the threats

Healthy immune systems are necessary in order to fend off disease and protect the body against toxins and pathogens. The immune system also reacts to mutations and cancerous growths within the body, typically attacking these cells with cytotoxic granules that contain powerful cell-killing enzymes. In all these cases, the value of the immune system depends on its ability to distinguish between the organism’s own cellular structures and those of external pathogens. One way in which this is achieved is through immunological memory. Vaccinations are effective due to this ability of the immune system to remember and maintain active defenses against previously encountered bacteria and viruses, essentially destroying these pathogens before they can gain a foothold in the body.


Disorders of the immune system

Perhaps the best known disorder of the immune system is AIDS, but a number of other physical conditions can cause weakening of the immune system that can potentially lead to additional complications. Poor nutrition can cause depressed immune system responses, as can alcoholism and drug abuse. Young children and the elderly are also vulnerable due to a reduced immune capacity and often are more prone to contracting illnesses during these stages of life. A number of natural and pharmaceutical substances are used to boost the body’s ability to fight off disease. The Moringa oleifera plant shows outstanding promise in this regard with significant beneficial effects on the immune processes within the body; a study published in 2007 in the scientific journal Food Chemistry showed that moringa leaves contain powerful antioxidants that can supplement and support the body’s own natural immune functions.

The antioxidant properties of moringa leaves allow the immune system to fight off infections and cancers more effectively, providing the body with a secondary line of defense against pathogens and offering hope to those suffering from reduced immunity due to illness, congenital disorders and other factors. Moringa supplements offer very low risk of side effects, making them a valuable addition to dietary regimens among susceptible populations.