Nutrition and immunity in poultry

Prof. D.Narahari
Corporate consultancy Service
Senior Vice-President (IB) & Speakers’ bureau,
World’s Poultry Science Association,
Former Vice-president, Indian Poultry Science Association,
Former Professor & Head, Dept. of Poultry Science,
Tamil Nadu Veterinary & Animal Sci. University, Chennai-600007, INDIA
Email: <><>

    Prevention is better than cure. –àBut immunity is better than prevention.Immunity will increase the general disease resistance power of the birds and thereby improve its productivity. Therefore in poultry production, the farmer must pay maximum attention, to develop immunity in the flock.There are several types of immunities, as shown in Figures1 and 2 below;but we are going to discuss here aboutimmunity of nutrition origin only. In large scale intensivepoultry production,only fast growing and high yielding hybrid birds arereared; which are generally more prone for infections, due to lesser disease resistance power and break down of immunity. Hence the farmer has to take several measures, not only to prevent break down of immunity, but also to boost the immunity. The immunity development by vaccination and by various immune-modulators are depicted in Figure-3.

    Vaccination alone is not sufficient to boost immunity. Moreover, they are specific for a particular disease and vaccines are not available for many diseases. Vaccination failures and break down of immunity are more common, due to improper vaccination, poor nutrition, mycotoxins,, stress of various kinds, overcrowding, insufficient ventilation, poor flock management, improper housing, poor quality drinking water and many more reasons. There are several immunosuppressive diseases; which will not only cause that particular disease; but also results in general breakdown of immunity.Overall general immunity will not only prevent disease outbreaks, but also results in higher rate of production. Nutritionally balanced and toxin-free feed will boost the general immunity in the animals.

Fig.1: Different Types of Immunities

NU 1

Fig.2: Immunities Classified in a Different Way


NU 2


Fig.3: Immunity Development

NU 3

Role of nutrients in immunity development

    Various nutrients in the feed, especially micro-nutrients will play a major role in immunity development, as shown in Table-1. Besides the nutrients, non-nutrients feed supplements like probiotics, eubiotics, yeast, natural pigments, herbal feed supplements, spices, certain specific compounds also possess immune-modulating properties. Some of the specific compounds used as immune-modulators in poultry feeds are Livamisole, Immogen, Reserveratrol, Tetra-hydro-phenyl-imidazo-thiazole, Thymic factor and many more herbal active principles.

Table-1: Role of nutrients in immunity related functions

Nutrient Immunity related functions
Proteins B-cell immunity function debilitated, atrophy of thymus
Arginine Augments T-cell response
Lysine Check viral proliferation
Omega-3 fatty acids Increase the concentration of T-cells and Cytokines
Vitamin-A WBC synthesis, Invasion of macrophages to kill microbes
Vitamin-E Production of Interleukin-2, which kills microbes and cancer cells
B-complex RBC &WBC production, cell mediated immunity
Vitamin-C Prevents stress, anti-viral, killer cells, lymphocytes & interferon production
Manganese Macrophage activity, enhances natural killer cells
Zinc Immunodeficiency diseases and certain forms of cancer. Impaired thymus function, WBC production, serum IgM production, plaque forming cell response
Iron Blastogenic response, circulating T-cells, humoral immunityantigen specific antibody titre, lactoferrin production, which invades microbes
Copper T-cell controlled infections, T-cell mitogen response, Phagocytic cell  anti-inflammatory effect
Selenium Production of cytokines, prevents virus multiplication, especially influenza virus
Chromium WBC respond to fight infection

    These immune-modulators in animal feeds will boost the general immunity in the animals, prevents break down of immunity due to toxins and diseases, prevents vaccination failure, act as anti-stressors, tonics, toxin neutralizers, anti-viral agents and rejuvenate the immune system in the body.

    Many herbs and spices also possess immune stimulating properties, due to the presence of some active principles in them. Some of them are anti-viral and anti-carcinogenic agents. At the same time they are safe; without any side effects. Among the herbs, the most common immune boosting herbs are garlic, turmeric, ginseng (Panax ginseng), aswagandha (Withania sominifera), basil(Ocimum sanctum), white basil (Ocimum album), alfalfa and many more, as mentioned in Table-2. The principal constituents of these herbs are reported to possess anti-bacterial, anti-viral, carminative, stomachic, stimulant, immune-modulator and aromatic properties.

Table-2: Commonly used herbs with their active principles and functions

Name of the herb Active principles Functions
Garlic Allicin, allelic sulfide, aojene Anti-microbial, reduces cholesterol
Curry leaves Koenigin, murrayin Stomachic ,general tonic, antioxidant, anti-diabetic
Thulasi (holy basil) & white basil Eugenol, eugenic acid, carvecrol Immunomodulator, reduces cholesterol , anti-microbial
Phyllanthus neruri Phyllanthin, hypophyllanthin Rejuvenates Liver cells, detoxification
Andrographis paniculata Andrographolide Rejuvenates hepatic cells, anti-viral, anti-oxidant
Solanum nigram (black night shade) Solanin Stomachic, cardiac tonic, appetizer, prevents gastric ulcers & cancer
Fenugreek seeds, Cinnamon Methyl- hydroxyl-chalcone- polymer (MHCP) Stomachic, reduces cholesterol and sugar, anti-diabetic
Grape seed  & pulp Resveratrol, lycopene, nirangenin Anti-oxidant, increases good HDL cholesterol
Citrus pulp, tea waste Flavonoid compounds Anti-oxidant, anti-cancer
Various berries, including goose berry, blue berry Anthocyanins Anti-cancer, liver tonic
Leaves of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage & turnip Sulforaphane Anti-cancer, antioxidant
Soy, clover Isoflavonoids Prevents arterial /capillary blocking
Flax seeds, canola, chia, fish oil Alpha-linoleic acid(LNA), EPA, DHA Lowers risk of cardio-vascular diseases, Reduces bad cholesterol
Spirulina, azolla LNA, xanthophylls, chlorophyll Yolk pigments, reduces cholesterol& stress, anti-oxidant
Turmeric Curcumin Anti-carcinogenic, anti-oxidant, anti-viral
Glycyrrhiza glabra Licorice Anti-microbial
Azaracta caryophyllus Azaractin Increase T-cell immunity
Alfalfa Sataivin Immune-modulator
Andrographis paniculata Andrographolide Prevents liver damage, neutralizes toxins & pesticides Immunomodulation, rejuvenator
Picroriza kurroa Picroliv Immunomodulation, rejuvenator
Embilica officinalis (Amla) Ascorbic acid, Emblicanin Immunomodulation, rejuvenator, anti-stress
Withania sominifera (Aswagandha) Isopelletierine, Anaferine, Withanolides Immunomodulation, rejuvenator
Ginseng (Ginseng panax) Ginsenosides Rejuvenator, Adaptogen
Terminalia chebula Lupeol, Friedelin, Glucopanoside Immunomodulation, rejuvenator, Anti-fungal
Trichopus zeylanicum (Arogya pacha) Punigluconin, Flavonoids Anti-stress, cures AIDS, immune-modulator, rejuvenator
Tinospora cardifolia Tinosporin Stimulates humoral & cell mediated immunity
Graviola /soursop/ guyabano Graviolin Powerful Anti-cancer agent, & immune-modulator
Cassia augustifolia (swarna patri) Emodins, Chrysophanic acid Anti-microbial, blood purifier
Bringaraj / Asteraceae Eclypta alba Wedelolactone,  furanocoumarins, oleanane & taraxastan


Liver cell rejuvenator, toxin neutralizer, immunomodulation,

    Many herbal Pharmaceutical products, having combination of several herbs, essential oils (eubiotics), naturalpigments etc.; sometimes with other immune-modulators are used in poultry feeds, to boost immunity, prevent vaccination failures, as anti-viral, liver & general tonics, performance enhancers, anti-stressors and as rejuvenators. These products will also reduce mortality and improve the overall production performance of the animals. Therefore they are used now as safe substitutes for antibiotic growth promoters (AGP) in many countries. Unlike AGP, these products are not having any side effects,no drug residues and no ban in any country.  Immune-modulators, especially herbs are used in combination, instead of single product. They protect the liver, kidneys and other vital organs from damage by microbes, as well as mycotoxins. They are used at 250g to 1kg /ton of feed, on a regular basis, in many countries, to boost immunity and prevent breakdown of immunity. Some of the herbal based immune-modulators and liver /kidney rejuvenators’ formulations are given below.

a) Immune-modulator- cum- liver tonic formulae:

    Each kg contains, Amla (goose berry) powder= 25g, Aswagandha (Rovalfia serpentina) root powder= 5g, Thulasi /holi basil leaves (ocimum sanctum)= 50g, Turmeric powder=100g, Andrographispaniculata= 10g, White basil=Ocimum album (dogthulasi)= 20g, Eclipta alba (bringaraj / kasilangani) powder= 20g, Phylanthus neruri = 20g, Alfalfa (Medicago sativa / lucern) leaf powder= to make 1kg, Dose= 250 g to 1 kg /ton of feed.

b) Eubiotic performance enhancer:

    Eubiotics are latest generation performance enhancers, used in livestock and poultry feeds. They are safe and effective, permitted by FDA and European Union. They are essential oils and oleoresins of plant origin like oil of winter green, eucalyptus oil, lemon grass oil, ginger oil, clove oil, peppermint oil, cinnamaldehyde, carvacrol etc. Used in all feeds to enhance growth rate, egg production, for disease resistance, appetizer, and stomachic.

    Composition = each kg contains, Ginger powder=100g, Winter green oil=2-5g, Lemon grass oil=2-5g, Eucalyptus oil= 10g, Capsicum oleoresin (from red pepper)=5g, Turmeric powder= 100g, Vishamushti( nuxvomica ) seed powder= 5g, Lucern leaf powder= to make 1kg, Dose= 500 g to 1 kg /ton of feed, c).Liver rejuvenator and general tonic:Each kg contains: Eclypta alba= 100g, Phyllanthus neruri=50g, Amla (Embilica officinalis)= 50g, Choline = 200g, Andrographis paniculata= 25g, Terminalia chibula= 50g, Picroriza kurra= 25g, Alfalfa /lucern meal= to make 1kg, Dose =250 to 500 g /ton of feed.

For more details please contact the author by e-mail :,



POULTRY PUNCH incorporated in 1984 and we are in poultry media since last 36 years and publish Poultry punch – English Monthly Magazine. Mr Balwant Singh Rana prior to laying the foundation of Poultry Punch magazine was still involved with renowned Indian poultry companies and It was there that he had the vision of doing something exceptional for the Indian poultry industry and then he stepped into the poultry media.

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  1. An excellent analysis of Nutrition and immunity, a useful and very practical article

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