Are you looking to add some virus-kicking herbal additions to your diet?
If not, you probably should be!
Herbs have been used for centuries to prevent and treat a multitude of infections and disease.
They influence the body through their chemical molecular structures, which in turn influences cellular activity and metabolic processes in the body.
Antiviral therapies and vaccines have been important in limiting the impact of viruses on the body and decreasing the severity of viral infections.
That’s why we wrote our in-depth guide to herbs for hpv, which focused on those of us wanting to help our bodies fight off the HPV infection.
As new viral infections continue to develop globally such as Ebola, MERS-CoV, and the current COVID-19 pandemic, a number of antiviral herbs have been highlighted for their broad-spectrum effect on the immune system.
This is why we’ve decided to outline our top 10 favourite antiviral herbs to help your body ward off those persistent viruses.
Astragalus is a legume that has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries to replenish the so-called Qi, believed to be the vital energy of the body, and help boost the immune system. The herb is considered an adaptogen, meaning it helps the body maintain physiological balance.
Astragalus has a stimulating effect on the immune system, increasing the number of white blood cells and immunological functions that help us fight off pathogens like viruses.
Particularly, Astragalus has been found to have an effect on cardiovascular and neuroendocrine systems and been used in treatment of a wide variety of infections and an adjunction to cancer therapy.
Astragalus has also been specifically studied for its inhibitory effect on cervical epithelial cell growth (cervical cancer cell growth).
Green Tea Extract (EGCG)
Green tea extract is another plant compound known to provide antiviral activities against a range of DNA and RNA viruses.
The active compounds within green tea are catechins, specifically epigallocatechingallate (EGCG), which have been found to play a critical role in cancer chemoprevention, diabetes, neurodegenerative diseases, stroke, and other biochemical disorders.
In viral infections, EGCG has been found to inhibit the early stage of infections, through attachment, entry and membrane fusion by interfering with viral membrane proteins.
Broccoli Sprout Extract
Broccoli sprout extract contains a number of antiviral compounds; sulforaphane, Indole-3-carbinol and DIM, that contain powerful metabolites that support the body in repair of DNA damage.
Research has found sulforaphane exhibits anticancer activity, cardiovascular disease prevention, hypotensive effects and myopia prevention. The anti-cancer effect of sulforaphane is attributed to its induction of phase II detoxification enzymes and prevention of generation of phase I.
Sulforaphane from broccoli seeds has been found to have high anti-viral activity on the influenza A virus as well as HPV.
Ganoderma Lucidum – Reishi Mushroom
Reishi is called the mushroom of immortality. Traditionally administered throughout Asia as a cancer treatment and to promote health and longevity.
The mushroom prevents infection by bacteria and viruses by providing an immune surveillance system, identifying and eliminating abnormal molecular patterns. Studies have found that Reishi inhibits cancer cell growth through activating proteins that induce apoptosis, cell death.
Clinical studies have also shown that the use of Reishi can dramatically impact the clearance of HPV.
AHCC – Shiitake Mushroom
AHCC (active hexose correlated compound) is an extract obtained from shiitake mushrooms.
AHCC has been studied for its therapeutic role in defending the host against a wide range of viral infection in humans.
Promising research evaluating the use of AHCC on HPV showed a profoundly positive effect. 8/10 participants taking a daily dose of 3g of AHCC for 6 months, tested negative for HPV infection at the end of the study.
According to a new research paper published in Italy, AHCC has shown a protective response to a wide range of viral infections, and this could support its use in the prevention of human pathogenic coronavirus, including COVID-19.
This paper notes that AHCC has been extensively investigated as an immunostimulant both in animals and/or in humans affected by West Nile virus, influenza virus, avian influenza virus, hepatitis C virus, papillomavirus, herpes virus, hepatitis B virus and HIV by promoting a regulated and protective immune response.
Lentinula Edodes – Shiitake Mushroom
Lentinula edodes, or shiitake mushroom, is the third most cultivated mushroom worldwide. It is used commonly in cuisine and has also been found to have a number of therapeutic properties.
Shiitake has been found to impact the immune system through its polysaccharide content, which contains high levels of Beta-glucan known to inhibit viral replication and inhibit tumor cell growth. Shiitake is the medicinal mushroom that is used to produce AHCC.
Coriolus Versicolor – Turkey Tail
Coriolus versicolor, better known as turkey tail, is a tree growing mushroom used for centuries for its ability to enhance the immune system.
Turkey tail contains immune-boosting polysaccharopeptides, Krestin (PSK) and Polysaccharid peptide (PSP) that have powerful immune-boosting properties.
The peptides in turkey tail have been found to increase white blood cells, stimulate dendritic cells, allowing the body to produce molecules that fight infections and naturally strengthen the immune system.
Korean Red Ginseng aka Panax Ginseng
Korean red ginseng, is one of the oldest used traditional medicines. The slow-growing root is a popular remedy for reducing inflammation and creating balance in the body.
Studies have found ginsenoside extracts from ginseng to have anti-inflammatory effects on cells, increasing the antioxidant capacity in cells.
Korean ginseng has been specifically studied for its diverse benefits on a range of viral infections. The traditionally used roots has been found to exert direct antiviral effects by inhibiting viral attachment, membrane penetration, and replication.
Elderberry, or sambucus nigra, is a purple coloured berry derived from the elder tree. Traditionally used to fight infections, elderberry has become a common supplement to treat colds and flus.
Elderberry, has been studied for its anti-viral effect against infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), a pathogenic chicken coronavirus. The study found the extract was able to disrupt the virion structure and inhibit the virus at an early stage of infection.
Glycyrrhiza – Licorice Root
Licorice is one of the most widely used botanical medicines. Originally used in Egyptian, Chinese and Indian cultures for its role in alleviating viral respiratory tract infections like a dry cough or hoarseness.
Recent research has evaluated the underlying mechanisms of licorice in inhibiting viral infections. Finding licorice to play a role in reducing serum liver enzymes in chronic hepatitis and having an inhibitory effect on HIV replication and interferon-inducing and natural killer cells.
Studies on the role of licorice on influenza virus have found it able to inhibit the recovery of hemagglutinins, suggesting a beneficial treatment of inflammatory processes related to viral infection. Following the SARS outbreaking 2003, licorice has been studied for its effect on inhibiting SARS-CoV replication in vitro.
Licorice extract should be taken with caution; heavy consumption has been associated with increased risk of hypertension and preterm birth in pregnancy.
So, how can you get started with taking anti-viral herbs?
These, as well as many other botanical compounds offer a natural and effective way to support the body through infection and disease. The growing research around herbs and their ability to influence the immune system provides a promising outlook for the future.
Papillex contains several of the well-researched herbs mentioned above including reishi mushroom (ganoderma), astragalus, green tea extract (EGCG), and broccoli sprout extract (sulphoraphane, DIM, I3C).
Before taking a new anti-viral herb you should consult with a naturopathic doctor or professional health care provider to ensure that it is a safe and effective fit for you.