Airborne vs Emergen-C: Ingredients, Purported Benefits & Effectiveness – Healthline

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Airborne and Emergen-C are popular nutritional supplements. They both contain high levels of vitamin C, as well as other nutrients. The products claim to boost your immune system.

However, you may be curious if they actually work against the cold and flu viruses. You might also want to know how the supplements compare.

Check out this article before you head to the store. We’ll explore the difference between Airborne vs. Emergen-C, as well as the effectiveness of their ingredients.

Airborne is an immune support supplement created by Schiff Vitamins. It’s available in various forms, including gummies, chewables, dissolvable tablets, and powder.

The powder comes in individual packets and the recommendation is one packet per day. One packet is supposed to be dissolved in 4 to 6 ounces of water, which creates a fizzy drink.

Here’s the information for Airborne Zesty Orange Immune Support Powder Packets:

Active ingredients

According to Schiff Vitamins, the active ingredients include:

  • Antioxidants: vitamins A, C, E
  • B vitamin: riboflavin (vitamin B2)
  • Minerals: zinc
  • Herbs: Japanese honeysuckle, forsythia, Schizonepeta (Japanese catnip), ginger, Chinese vitex, isatis root, echinacea

Purported benefits

Airborne is designed to support your immune system.

Side effects

Airborne is generally considered safe. The manufacturer does not list any possible side effects.

However, you may develop side effects if you take too much, due to the amount of vitamin C. One serving contains 1,000 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C. Your intake of vitamin C shouldn’t exceed 2,000 mg per day.

Consuming too much vitamin C may cause:

  • abdominal cramps
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • headache
  • insomnia
  • heartburn

The potential side effects of the herbal blend are unknown.

Average cost

On the manufacturer’s website, Airborne Immune Support Powder Packets are listed for $14 for 20 packets. This equals less than $1.50 per serving.

Emergen-C is an immune support supplement. It’s available in different forms, including powder, gummies, and chewables. The brand is most known for their Emergen-C Immune+ Super Orange powder.

Like Airborne, the powder is available in individual packets. The recommendation is one packet per day. One packet is supposed to be dissolved in 4 to 6 ounces of water, creating a drink.

Learn about Emergen-C Immune+ Super Orange powder, below:

Active ingredients

According to the ingredient label, the active ingredients include:

  • Antioxidants: vitamin C
  • B vitamins: thiamin (B1), riboflavin (B2), niacin (B3), pantothenic acid (B5), pyridoxine (B6), folate (B9), cyanocobalamin (B12)
  • Minerals: zinc

Emergen-C’s Immune+ line also contains vitamin D and higher levels of zinc.

Purported benefits

Emergen-C claims to provide immune support. It alleges that this will help you feel good.

Side effects

The product is considered safe, but taking too much might have side effects.

One serving contains 1,000 mg of vitamin C and 25 micrograms of vitamin B12.

High doses of these vitamins may lead to:

  • abdominal cramps
  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • headache
  • insomnia
  • heartburn
  • dizziness
  • anxiety

Additionally, vitamin C may reduce the amount of vitamin B12 available in your body. It’s generally recommended to take the two vitamins separately.

The supplement also contains 10 mg of vitamin B6. Taking high doses of vitamin B6 may lead to nerve damage, causing tingling in your extremities.

Average cost

Depending on the retailer, Emergen-C Immune+ Super Orange costs about $6 for 10 packets. This equals approximately $0.60 per serving.

Here’s what the research says about the ingredients in immunity boosters:

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is the main ingredient in Airborne, Emergen-C, and other immunity boosters.

Your immune cells require vitamin C to function properly. This includes cells like neutrophils, which help fight infections.

The research is mixed on its effectiveness. According to a 2013 review, taking vitamin C each day reduced the duration of colds in 8 percent of adults. It also reduces the severity of colds.

There’s no proof that vitamin C will reduce or eliminate your risk of getting sick.

The review found that vitamin C supplements may be beneficial for people who do strenuous physical activities. Regular vitamin C intake may reduce their risk of catching a cold by about half.

Vitamins A and E

Vitamins A and E are essential for proper immune function. However, it’s unknown if vitamin A and E supplements help the cold or flu. There isn’t research on this benefit.

To date, most research has focused on pneumonia risk and older males. For example, an old 2004 study examined how vitamin A and E supplements affected the risk of pneumonia in older men who smoke. The researchers observed no effects.

A 2016 study also determined that vitamin E supplements may reduce the risk of pneumonia by 69 percent in men who smoke.

Researchers haven’t studied if vitamin A and E supplements can prevent the common cold. Studies involving the general population are necessary.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D regulates your immune cell response. It also suppresses inflammation.

But according to a 2018 review, it’s unclear if vitamin D supplements help against the cold or flu viruses. A 2017 study found that vitamin D can prevent acute respiratory infections. It may be most helpful for people who are deficient in vitamin D.

Additional research in the general population is needed.


Zinc is necessary for the development and function of immune cells. Zinc supplements are often used to treat the common cold, but the evidence is mixed.

In a 2020 study, taking 13 mg of zinc daily had no impact on recovery from the common cold. Meanwhile, a 2017 review found 80 to 92 mg of zinc per day can reduce cold duration by 33 percent.

This suggests higher levels of zinc may be effective. Yet, one serving of Airborne only provides 8 mg of zinc. One serving of Emergen-C contains 2 mg. These amounts are too low to provide the therapeutic benefits observed in research.

B vitamins

B vitamins are required for immune response, respiratory function, and energy metabolism.

Vitamins B6, B12, and folate are particularly important for the function of natural killer cells. These cells work against viral infections.

Though B vitamins are associated with a healthy immune system, researchers haven’t studied how they affect the cold and flu.

It’s possible to overdose on vitamins. The symptoms depend on the vitamin, but generally, high doses can cause:

  • diarrhea
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • weakness
  • headache
  • abdominal cramps
  • heartburn
  • insomnia
  • indigestion
  • frequent urination
  • bone and kidney problems (with high vitamin D)
  • interactions with prescription medication

To avoid these side effects, follow the instructions on the manufacturer’s packaging. Avoid taking more than the serving suggestion.

The best way to strengthen immunity is to follow a healthy lifestyle.

This includes practices like:

If you decide to take immune supplements, it’s still important to practice these habits. Supplements should complement, not replace, a healthy lifestyle.

Airborne and Emergen-C are designed to boost your immune system. Both supplements contain high levels of vitamin C, but Airborne also has riboflavin (vitamin B2), zinc, and herbs. Emergen-C contains B vitamins and zinc.

There is some evidence the nutrients included in these products can reduce or prevent sickness. But there are no studies on the specific products.

Taking too many of these supplements can also cause side effects like nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. You should balance taking supplements with other healthy habits to support immunity, such as eating well, limiting alcohol, and getting enough sleep.

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