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Are you looking for ways to ward off viruses so that you can stay healthy in these uncertain times? Mother Nature's got your back with five of the most potent natural antivirals that can help keep viruses at bay
While much of the world is in lock-down mode over potential coronavirus infection and global drug manufacturers fast-track a risky vaccine, nature has provided us with an array of powerful virus fighters that can boost overall immunity and help protect against viral infections.
Best of all, these all-natural health boosters are easy to source, economical and have minimal risk of adverse effects. In short, they are a logical first line of defense against health threats from near and far. Best of all, you don't need a doctor's prescription to begin reaping the benefits of these super-supplements.
1. Vitamin C
Perhaps the most common advice given when a person starts to feel a cold or flu coming on is, "take lots of Vitamin C." More than a myth or superstition, vitamin C is clinically proven to both prevent and treat the common cold.
An upper respiratory tract infection (URTI), sometimes referred to as a cold, can be caused by a variety of viruses, including rhinovirus, coronavirus, adenovirus, influenza, parainfluenza virus and others, with the remaining 20% to 30% of cases being caused by bacteria.[i] Colds are often diagnosed without benefit of blood tests, but rather by symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, sore throat, runny nose, sinus congestion and so on.
There are hundreds of scientific abstracts illustrating the benefits of vitamin C supplementation. In this meta-analysis conducted by the Department of Public Health at the University of Helsinki, Finland, researchers found a statistically highly significant reduction in common cold incidence in groups supplemented with vitamin C as compared with placebo.[ii]
A more recent meta-analysis of nine randomized, controlled trials published in BioMed Research International in July 2018, found that an extra therapeutic dose of vitamin C taken at the onset of a cold shortened the length of the cold by a whopping 56% and significantly relieved symptoms, including chest pain, fever and chills. These benefits were observed in individuals already taking routine vitamin C supplements.[iii]
For overall immunity boosting, a combination of vitamin C plus zinc at doses of 1,000 milligrams (mg) vitamin C plus 10 mg zinc has been shown to be effective in patients with the common cold.
Zinc is indispensable for a healthy immune system. Since immune system functioning declines with age, some adults may benefit from a supplement, and it may also become more important during times of extreme stress and seasonal illness.
A study published in May 2008 in the journal, Experimental Gerontology, demonstrated that short term oral supplementation with zinc safely and efficiently induces the stress response in healthy white blood cells from elderly donors. Researchers believe that the stress response may be a candidate pathway connecting zinc deficiency with aging and immunosenescence, the natural degeneration of the immune system over time, and that proper dietary zinc intake may protect neurons from stress.
Zinc supplementation has also been shown in clinical trials to improve symptoms of depression, a timely benefit considering the increasing fear and stress brought on by current events and increasing social isolation. Zinc lozenges are a popular way to boost intake of this vital nutrient and have been shown to be very effective at wiping out common cold viruses 3.1 times faster than in those not taking zinc.[iv]
Upper respiratory tract infections are a frequent diagnosis when someone seeks medical treatment for acute symptoms of the common cold. Echinacea, an herbal supplement commonly taken at the onset of cold symptoms, has major scientific evidence to support its widespread use for this purpose, both as a treatment for, and preventative of, URTIs.
In May 2016, a team of researchers from Iran University of Medical Sciences performed a meta-analysis of more than 100 journal articles meshing the terms "echinacea" and "URTI," identifying 66 relevant articles for deeper review. After the in-depth analysis, the research team concluded that there is a considerable amount of evidence showing the effectiveness of echinacea products in the prevention and treatment of respiratory tract infections.[v]
Another meta-analysis published in May 2015 in the journal Advances in Therapy concluded that "echinacea potently lowers the risk of recurrent respiratory infections and complications thereof," noting that echinacea's immune modulatory, antiviral and anti-inflammatory effects might contribute to these observed clinical benefits.[vi]
A meta-analysis from 2006 came to similar conclusions, stating that "the likelihood of experiencing a clinical cold was 55% higher with placebo than with echinacea," prompting the conclusion that echinacea is effective in the prevention of symptoms of the rhinovirus-induced common cold.[vii]
4. Licorice (glycyrrhizin)
Licorice has a deep and ancient tradition of use as an herbal medicine by numerous cultures around the world. Licorice supplements may be labelled under its botanical name, Glycyrrhiza glabra, or the name of the active compound that gives licorice its characteristic sweetness, glycyrrhizin.
Anecdotally, licorice has been credited with conferring benefits such as reducing inflammation, especially in the stomach, reducing symptoms of coughs and bronchitis, lowering cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and even protecting against microbial or viral infections.[viii] Licorice's antiviral effects are so strong and preliminary studies so impressive that this ancient herb may be one of the best defenses against global pandemics.
A June 2003 study published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet explored glycyrrhizin and its effects on the replication of SARS-associated coronavirus.[ix]
This ground-breaking study, performed during the global outbreak of SARS coronavirus and the subsequent search for antiviral compounds to treat the disease, tested the antiviral potential of glycyrrhizin against four common antiviral drugs, on two clinical isolates of coronavirus (FFM-1 and FFM-2) from patients with SARS. Of all the compounds tested, glycyrrhizin was the most active in inhibiting replication of the virus, prompting researchers to suggest that glycyrrhizin should be assessed as a potential treatment for SARS.
Studies on both SARS and MERS-type coronavirus have demonstrated that licorice extract breaks down the integrity of the viral envelope while also boosting the host's immune activity, giving rise to optimism over its potential use to treat the various coronavirus disease strains.
Glycyrrhizin is a concentrated extract from licorice, and is GRAS, or "Generally Recognized as Safe," in the U.S. Both licorice and glycyrrhizin supplements can be readily obtained in powder, pill or liquid form. However, individuals with high blood pressure, metabolic alkalosis or low mineral levels should be advised that glycyrrhizin has been shown to aggravate these effects in some individuals.[x]
Consuming licorice in herbal form rather than highly concentrated glycyrrhizin supplements can help to mitigate these concerns.
Besides warding off vampires, garlic has been identified by natural health practitioners as one of the top five food-medicines that could possibly save your life. With the increasing prevalence of drug-resistant bacteria and the failure of drug-based treatments to stop the spread of common virus strains, building your inherent resilience to pathogens could be literal life insurance against some of the more serious -- and potentially lethal -- viral infections.
Garlic has several hundred therapeutic properties, confirmed by a growing body of scientific research, which you can view directly on GreenMedInfo.com. Some of these beneficial actions include inhibiting pathogens such as the parainfluenza virus, haemophilus influenzae, several strains of streptococcus and pneumococcal infections.
While it's not necessarily helpful to hang garlic on your door or wear it around your neck, adding garlic liberally to your cooking or taking a high-quality supplement can provide a big health boost and help you stay safe from unwelcome viral visitors.
Guard Against Nutrient Deficiencies for Optimal Virus Defense
There is an abundance of peer-reviewed science supporting immune-enhancing nutritional supplementation as a safe and effective defense strategy against viruses. Boning up on these nutritional pillars of good health will ensure that you have fortified yourself against viral infection from the inside out.
[i] Ran L, Zhao W, Wang J, et al. Extra Dose of Vitamin C Based on a Daily Supplementation Shortens the Common Cold: A Meta-Analysis of 9 Randomized Controlled Trials. Biomed Res Int. 2018;2018:1837634. Published 2018 Jul 5. doi: 10.1155/2018/1837634
[iii] Ran L, Zhao W, Wang J, et al. Extra Dose of Vitamin C Based on a Daily Supplementation Shortens the Common Cold: A Meta-Analysis of 9 Randomized Controlled Trials. Biomed Res Int. 2018;2018:1837634. Published 2018 Jul 5. doi: 10.1155/2018/1837634
[iv] Hemilä H, Fitzgerald J, Petrus EJ, Prasad A .Zinc Acetate Lozenges May Improve the Recovery Rate of Common Cold Patients: An Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis. Open Forum Infect Dis. 2017 Apr 3. doi: 10.1093/ofid/ofx059. PMID: 28480298
[v] Daneshmehr MA, Tafazoli A. Providing evidence for use of Echinacea supplements in Hajj pilgrims for management of respiratory tract infections. Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2016 May;23:40-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2016.03.001. PMID: 27157957
[vi] Andreas Schapowal, Peter Klein, Sebastian L Johnston. Echinacea reduces the risk of recurrent respiratory tract infections and complications: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Adv Ther. 2015 Mar ;32(3):187-200. Epub 2015 Mar 18. PMID: 25784510
[viii] University of Rochester Medical Center, URMC, Encyclopedia, Licorice Root. Accessed Mar 27 2020. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=19&contentid=Licorice
[ix] Cinatl, J., Morgenstern, B., Bauer, G., Chandra, P., Rabenau, H., & Doerr, H. W. (2003). Glycyrrhizin, an active component of liquorice roots, and replication of SARS-associated coronavirus. Lancet (London, England), 361(9374), 2045-2046. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(03)13615-X
[x] Isbrucker RA, Burdock GA. Risk and safety assessment on the consumption of Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza sp.), its extract and powder as a food ingredient, with emphasis on the pharmacology and toxicology of glycyrrhizin. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology : RTP. 2006 Dec;46(3):167-192. DOI: 10.1016/j.yrtph.2006.06.002.