Clinical trials for immune-supporting natural products


Between the pandemic, the regular flu season, the common cold, and a myriad of other infectious diseases, immune systems are put to the test regularly. This may be why products promising immune support are among the highest grossing in the natural health industry.

You've got a product that enhances immune function, but today's consumers are burned out on the same old marketing campaigns and promises. They want proof. A clinical trial provides the evidence your brand needs to build consumer trust and keep the world healthier. 


Finding the balance between making supplement claims such as "supports the immune system" and forbidden drug claims such as "prevents COVID-19" is easier said than done when it comes to clinical trials for natural products. To fully and accurately capture the benefits of natural immune support, you need the expertise of epidemiologists, the knowledge of aromatherapists, dietitians, or herbalists, and the proficiency of a clinical trialist.

Because of this complexity, many firms opt instead for treatment-focused trials, testing products on people who are already sick. This approach, however, can cause the FDA to reclassify your immune supporting product as a pharmaceutical, resulting in substantial costs both financially and opportunity. Your trial endpoints need to match your product's effects, and most importantly, these endpoints shouldn't result in FDA warning letters.  

So how do you prove that your aromatherapy blend, herbal supplement, or nutraceutical provides immune support for healthy people? Franklin Health Research helps you meet this challenge with our proprietary Franklin Health Immune Status Scale (FHISS). 

The FHISS is the first tool of its kind developed exclusively for the natural products industry to measure immune support in healthy individuals. This comprehensive measurement captures the accurate effects of immune support by focusing on a holistic understanding of the immune system as a whole. This tool enables our research team to document your product's effects on prevention, wellbeing, and susceptibility to disease in accordance with the regulatory guidelines for natural supplements. This not only protects your brand from reclassification; it also demonstrates the real world effects your consumers care about. 

Measurement can make or break your immune health study

Why do you need the FHISS? The endpoint you choose and the tools in which you measure these endpoints are the the most fundamental and critical elements of your immune health study's design. This measurement is the tool that will be used to capture and document any and all health related enhancements that your product delivers. 

There are three factors to consider with a measurement tool: validity (it measures what it is intended to measure), reliability (it does so consistently–time after time), and sensitivity (it is sensitive enough to capture even small changes in the specific effect). Collectively, these three elements determine the quality of a measurement tool, which plays a role in establishing whether or not it is fit for purpose.

A successful natural product immune boosting trial requires tools that were developed specifically for use in the natural products industry and are capable of documenting a holistic range of improvements in immune health among people who are already considered to be healthy.

Using the wrong tool to measure immune health puts your entire study at risk of a false negative. 

Not only does having the right endpoint measure boost your trial's chances of success, it ensures that your trial meets the FDA and FTC's requirements for claim substantiation. These regulatory agencies identify appropriate and clearly measured endpoints as essential for successful claim substantiation. Outcome measures are also one of the primary criteria the FDA uses when evaluating the quality of a substantiation trial. 

How we design your immune health trial

Franklin addresses this vulnerability by exclusively relying on our proprietary suite of fit for purpose endpoint measures which our team developed specifically to meet these FDA and FTC guidelines. This comprehensive scale captures a wide range of health related symptoms, including objective epidemiological factors such as incidence and prevalence of disease, as well as subjective factors such as perceived immune health.  

These outcomes are measured through real-world effects, ensuring that your study findings not only keep regulatory agencies happy, but that they meet the desires of your customers. Your customers want to know if your product helps them get their daily tasks finished, or avoid having to use sick days at work. We help you achieve that. 

A natural products immune support trial at Franklin Health focuses on 6 primary endpoints, though your trial's endpoints will be hand-selected by our research team to match your product's greatest effects. Our standard immune health endpoints include: 


Nonspecific Symptoms

Capturing general symptoms such as fever, muscle pain, or fatigue provides a clear overview of how well your product keeps people healthy.



Daily function scores indicate how well each participant is able to accomplish routine tasks thanks to a strong immune system. 



Perceived immune status indicates how well the participant believes their immune system is functioning. 



Documenting incidence, prevalence, and duration of respiratory symptoms confirms that product provides respiratory-focused immune support.  



Documenting incidence, prevalence, and duration of GI symptoms confirms that product provides gastrointestinal-focused immune support.  



Documenting incidence, prevalence, and duration of dermal symptoms confirms that product provides skin-focused immune support.  


To meet regulatory requirements, your trial needs to establish that your product improves immune function, not that it cures or treats a disease. Your task is to document maintenance of health in people who are already healthy. This is a far more challenging task. 

That's why identifying the right people to enroll in your trial is critical. Our multidisciplinary team includes public health professionals–experts who can pinpoint exactly who is most at-risk for frequent symptoms or sickness. By targeting non-diseased people who have the greatest exposure to illness and the most vulnerability to illness, we're able to capture the individuals who are most likely to buy your products and who are most likely to benefit from your products. This boosts your trial's chances of success while also meeting the FDA and FTC requirements.

Claim substantiation also requires that the people in your study's trials match the people who consume your products. Different people respond differently to natural products, so it's critical that the people in your trials are similar to the people who will actually use your essential oils, herbal products, or nutraceuticals. If your product is meant to keep kids healthy during the cold and flu season, your trial needs to focus on children. If it's a product for aging adults to protect the immune system from age-related decline, it needs to include individuals in that age range. 

Enrollment, Protocol Compliance, and Drop-outs 

Identifying the right group of people to participate is one thing; getting them into the study and keeping them in a study is a whole different ballgame. Across the industry, over 80% of clinical trials are unable to meet enrollment goals; this inadequacy is a leading cause of study failure. Some firms address this challenge by lowering their standards–enrolling anyone and everyone they can find into a trial. This approach looks great at first, but the resulting poor compliance and large drop-out rates destroy the quality of a study. This introduces a form of bias to your dataset, dramatically reducing the quality of the trial and therefore, the potential for your trial to substantiate a claim. 

Keeping people who enrolled into a study involved in the study and using the product correctly is critical for your trial's success. You already know that people need to actually use your product to experience its protective effects. If the people in your study are only sporadically taking it or sloppily using it, they are more likely to end up sick. This means that the resulting data will be unable to validate your product's effects. Similarly, large dropout rates will also reduce the quality of your study while increasing the risks of a false negative. 

The MY Franklin Health Community

Franklin takes a different approach to enrollment and retention. Rather than simply accepting noncompliance and dropouts as inevitable, we've invested in the cultivation of a large community of willing and eager volunteers who want to join your trial. The community we've built is also demographically consistent with the populations most likely to purchase natural products for immune health in the future. 

By focusing on the participant experience, we're able to find the right enrollees for your study and keep them engaged throughout your trial. The end result for you? Recruitment costs that are a fraction of industry norms. Not only that, we average a 99% retention rate in our trials with near perfect protocol compliance. 

healthy woman
B cells


One of the biggest challenges to natural product research is finding someone who understands both the natural health field and clinical research. Most research firms are pharmaceutical firms first, with nutrition or supplement research as a side gig. These firms simply take the same assembly line approach and cram your unique immune support product into a preexisting strategy. But your highly complex natural product isn't a drug. Your endpoint isn't curing a specific disease, it's preventing disease in general. Cramming it into these study designs falls short when it comes to capturing what makes your oil blend or natural product actually work. The end result is usually an outrageously expensive trial that suffers from poor quality design and ultimately ends in failure. 

As a natural health research firm, we take a different approach. Each and every researcher on our team is also a trained natural health professional. Our team includes aromatherapists, herbalists, health coaches, dietitians, and a range of other specializations that cross the holistic health spectrum. We know the interactions between substances such as botanicals, nutraceuticals, or essential oils, and immune status. This allows us to understand your product in ways no other firm can. We know your product doesn't rely on pharmaceutical-like mechanisms of action or protocols, and we won't treat it that way.

If your immune supporting product is an aromatherapy blend, our expert aromatherapists will work with you to ensure that every element of your study maximizes the unique chemistry your oil blend has to offer. If your product is a supplement, you'll enjoy researchers who are nutrition experts and herbalists. You'll never have to explain the phytochemistry or holistic approaches your product uses to achieve its goals. We know how to maximize your product's effects, boosting not only your chances of success but the level of success your trial achieves.  

As experienced natural health professionals, our team is also familiar with the ways in which natural immune support products are inadvertently misused. We know how to ensure that your aromatherapy blend is dosed sufficiently and applied consistently from day to day. Our culinary experts know how to keep participants consuming your supplement even if they don't like the flavor or texture. These factors are often overlooked by conventional firms but have the potential to make or break your trial. 


Not only will you enjoy the expertise of holistic health experts, your trial will be managed by highly trained clinical researchers. Our research firm is led by a Harvard-trained researcher and each of our team members have graduate training in health research fields. This ensures that your trial meets the highest scientific and methodological standards. 

This expert approach to trial design reduces your chances of a false negative. Far too many natural product trials fail not because the product doesn't work, but because the trial was poorly designed. These problems can involve a study being underpowered, poor choice in endpoint measures, inability to develop an effective intervention protocol, participant dropouts, or sloppy data analysis. 

At Franklin Health, we use our extensive expertise to make you look good. We create immune support trials based on your product's strongest effects. We ensure that the endpoints for your trial are hand-selected to match the effects your product actually delivers. 

Far too many natural product trials fail not because the product doesn't work, but because the trial was poorly designed.

Our power analysis standard cuts your chances of false negatives in half. In an effort to cut costs, many firms conduct studies that are developed to accept a 20% chance of producing a false negative. Roughly 1 in 5 trials are at risk of falling short of statistical significance simply because they are the wrong size.  We cut that risk in half, designing high powered studies that are more likely to succeed. 

Many others fail due to poor intervention strategies. Doses that are too low, schedules that are too complex for participants to follow, inconvenient preparations, or even improper application approaches can all lead to false negatives. When this happens, the problem isn't that your product doesn't keep people healthy, the problem is that most researchers don't know how to help study participants use your product correctly. Our health experts create user-friendly intervention strategies which address all of the complex factors that contribute to study success. 

We also develop comprehensive statistical analysis plans that eliminate the noise from your data, isolating your product's true effects. By using simplistic measures, many research firms are incapable of data analysis that sufficiently captures the effects your product can deliver. Our natural product expertise allows our statisticians to identify and neutralize factors which can minimize the effects, producing trial results that accurately display the true size of your product's protective effects. 

A clinical trial helps you gain:


Now you can quantify your product's effects. i.e. It reduces sick days by XX%! 

Target Marketing

Identify who benefits the most from your product so you can customize marketing campaigns.


Gain credible, high quality substantiation for your proprietary products. 


Clinical trials protect you from legal challenges, but only if they are high quality. 


Scientific publications or presentations deliver the right kind of media attention.

Expert Allies

Clinical trials help you market to key community leaders including MDs and RNs.  


Meet with a Researcher

No high pressured sales events; meet directly with a scientist who can help you explore how Franklin can help you promote your immune enhancing products with clinical evidence. 

Meet with a Scientist

YOUr budget

One of the biggest myths in natural product research is that clinical trials cost millions. That may be true for a novel biotech company with products that have dangerous side effects and high-stakes outcomes such as cancer or heart disease. These costs are directly associated with safeguarding the experimental use of untested medications on people who are very sick. 

Pharmaceutical research firms have created procedures and systems which revolve around high risk drugs among high risk populations. Those pricey systems protect patients in these invasive clinical trials, but are wholly inept when it comes to the needs of trials targeting prevention. 

Natural products such as essential oils, nutrition supplements, or herbal creams are self-prescribed at the health food store, not physician-prescribed through a highly regulated pharmacy. Natural products have hundreds if not thousands of years of safe use in human health, unlike novel isolated chemical extracts which lack human history. Natural products boost the structure and function of human health rather than treat diseases. Your immune supportive product isn't an experimental pharmaceutical and your trial shouldn't be designed like one either.  

Instead of forcing your immune support product into an extraneous research model, we design custom trial strategies around your needs. Our expert approach to clinical trial design focuses on the quality of your trial and FDA/FTC natural product-specific guidelines such as those for dietary supplements or cosmetics. We prioritize ethics compliance, data protection, and quality control over wasteful and irrelevant systems borrowed from other industries. Through this approach, we're able to reduce inefficiencies in the research process and eliminate needless overhead costs that are not relevant to the standards for health-enhancing products. We also use cutting-edge designs such as decentralized trials and non-invasive measures. Most importantly, not only does this approach substantially reduce the cost of a clinical trial for your immune booster, it also improves the quality of the trial. It's a win-win. 

Actual Clinical Trial Costs

So what does this actually look like for your trial? At Franklin, we prioritize transparent pricing. Each and every trial is a bespoke design based on your immune support product's unique needs, with your budget and goals in mind. With our extensive expertise in natural products and clinical research, we're often able to come up with creative solutions to work with any trial budget.

The typical randomized, double-blinded placebo-controlled clinical trial for an immune enhancing supplement varies based on a number of factors. These trials typically require a minimum of an 8 week intervention, though 3-6 months is the norm. On the lower end, a trial may run anywhere from $145,000-$185,000 for an 8 week study of 60 people. On the upper end, a 4-6 month intervention with multiple groups and more complex analyses can run into the mid-$300,000 range. Our scientists will work with you to develop an immune support trial that captures the real world effects of your product while staying within the confines of your budget. 

Getting started is easy


Schedule a FREE, no obligation meeting with a Franklin Health scientist. 


Tell us more about your product and your marketing goals. 


Review our proposals, discuss any changes, and we'll take it from there! 


One of the most important reasons to conduct a clinical trial is to boost protection from legal challenges. If you want to say your product improves immune support or boosts general prevention, the FDA and FTC require you to bring the evidence. Not just any evidence; they require high quality evidence that meets key criteria. 

The FDA identifies these criteria as: study population, study design and conduct, data collection and statistical analysis, and outcome measures. You may have a "successful" trial but if it doesn't meet these quality-based criteria, it doesn't substantiate a claim.

Unfortunately, poor quality trials are common in the natural products industry. Many large firms aren't equipped to manage the unique elements of natural products or to prioritize health-enhancing outcome measures and FDA guidelines. Others may use dubious techniques such as "p-hacking" or conduct multiple analyses without controlling for multiplicity. These may give the appearance of success, but ultimately fail to meet industry standards.  

Here's the catch. Regulatory agencies can easily catch these common mistakes. Quick and cheap trial results that use shoddy statistical approaches don't fool expert statisticians. Neither does a long and overpriced trial conducted by drug researchers who know nothing about natural products. And when these trials are evaluated for quality, your company will be the one that pays the price. 

We take our commitment to the integrity of your trial seriously. The overwhelming majority of our studies are published in peer reviewed literature and/or presented at academic or scientific conferences. This not only provides valuable free press for your immune enhancing product, it also provides additional evidence that your trial is high quality and capable of substantiating your claims. 

Not only do we keep quality at the forefront of what we do, each of our trials are backed by our Five-Point Promise, which details our commitment to ensuring trial outcomes that work, sample populations that matter, natural health expert researchers, high quality research methods, and direct access to researchers–not high pressure sales people or account managers. By focusing on quality over quantity, we're able to deliver high quality clinical trials faster and more affordably than any other firm in the natural products industry. 


You know your product boosts immune health; we'll help you prove it. 

Schedule a free, no-obligation meeting with a scientist today to learn more about how Franklin can help your product become "clinically proven." 


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