Antivirals and herbs to support your immune system
When it comes to dealing with a virus, the best line of defence is a healthy immune system. Unlike bacterial infections which can usually be remedied with antibiotics, there are very few treatments that can kill a virus outright. This is largely due to the fact that viruses do their nasty deeds from inside your cells - taking over the cell's machinery, and replicating themselves exponentially. Fortunately, Mother Nature is always there to offer us a helping hand.
Since ancient times, herbs have been used as prevention—and to potentially speed the healing process of viral infections. However, human research on natural antivirals and herbs is very limited and more work is needed to allow strong conclusion to be drawn about the effects of natural antivirals.
This being said, here are 5 promising natural antivirals and herbs to boost your defences.
1. Colloidal silver
Silver has been used as a medicine since ancient times to treat a wide array of ailments, including the bubonic plague. Colloidal silver is a suspension of pure metallic silver in water, and has been used to dramatically reduce the activity of the HIV virus in AIDS patients and to slow down the ravages of other viruses in general. It works by impeding the enzymes that allow a virus to make use of oxygen, essentially suffocating the virus so it cannot do damage in the body.
The common black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) has long been used as a go-to antiviral herb for reducing the length and severity of flu symptoms. By binding to the tiny spikes on a virus protein, elderberry extract is able to prevent the virus from piercing and invading healthy cells, rendering the virus ineffective.
A study in mice, in the journal Bioscience, Biotechnology and Biochemistry found that concentrated elderberry juice packed a double antiviral punch by not only suppressing the replication pathway of the influenza virus, but also stimulating an immune system response. In addition, in a meta-analysis of research from the journal Complementary Theories in Medicine, which included 180 total participants, elderberry supplements were found to substantially reduce upper respiratory symptoms caused by viral infections.
An in vitro study looking at the influenza virus, published in the Journal of Functional Food, also found that elderberry extract "showed mild inhibitory effect at the early stages of the influenza virus cycle, with considerably stronger effect in the post-infection phase."
Elderberries are available in a variety of products, such as elixirs, pills, tinctures and syrups, however it is most powerful when used at the earliest signs of symptoms.
Most commonly known for its abilities to help with digestive complaints such as bloating, peppermint (Mentha piperita) is also effective in fighting viral infections. This is thanks in large part to its numerous active components (over 40), such as flavonoids, polyphenols, and tocopherols, that play a role in keeping you healthy.
Its main components, menthol and rosmarinic acid, have been shown to exhibit a strong antiviral and anti-inflammatory activity and in one study that was published in Phytomedicine, researchers found that peppermint oil reduced the viral activity of the herpes virus.
Another study form the journal Food Science and Biotechnology also found that peppermint-leaf extract offered potent antiviral activity against RSV and significantly decreased levels of inflammatory compounds.
Peppermint oil can be purchased as a soft gel supplement or is commonly added to teas, extracts, and tinctures to garner its antiviral properties.
Liquorice has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine and other natural practices. Some of its active compounds include glycyrrhizin, liquiritigenin, and glabridin, which have powerful antiviral properties, reducing the replication of viruses and halting their ability to penetrate and replicate inside healthy cells.
Numerous studies have shown liquorice root extract to be effective against viral infections such as HIV, RSV, herpes viruses, and severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (SARS-CoV), which causes a serious type of pneumonia.
Curcumin, the main compound in turmeric, has been used as a medicinal healer as far back as the 18th century.
In an in vitro study published in Antiviral Research, which specifically looked at zika and chikungunya viruses, researchers found that the viruses lost infectivity when incubated directly with curcumin, suggesting that curcumin has the ability to prevent viruses from infecting cells. According to the researchers, curcumin reduces the viruses' ability to replicate, by keeping it from binding to the surface of cells.
In addition, according to a review of current research published in Frontiers in Microbiology, curcumin has also shown antiviral activity against several other different types of viruses.
Whilst there is no one-size-fits-all dose, a review of research published in Food noted that 500 to 2,000 milligrams has been supplemented without any side effects, though it is also possible to cook with turmeric.
When using turmeric, it is recommended to combine it with black pepper, which has been shown to increase its absorption rate. If opting to supplement, check that the supplement also has bioperine – black pepper extract.
For the most effective results when using any of these natural antivirals, it is highly recommended to use at least two or three of these remedies in conjunction in order to stop viruses in their tracks.
As always, consult your naturopathic doctor for advise that is tailored specifically to your body.