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Herbs for Your Virus-Fighting Arsenal

When it comes to viruses, herbal remedies are more powerful than you might realize

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Herbs for Your Virus-Fighting Arsenal

Because there are many excellent health-giving herbs, it’s difficult to narrow them down for this list. But many of these long-used medicinal herbs with far-reaching health benefits are also demonstrating antiviral properties in research studies. Here are just a few that have been under the microscope recently.

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Cat’s claw (Uncaria tomentosa)

A tropical vine that is commonly used for arthritis, cat’s claw has also demonstrated antiviral activity in cell studies, specifically against the herpes virus. Researchers have recently examined some of its bioactive components against spike protein cells of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

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Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)

Echinacea is most people’s go-to North American herb when they feel a virus or other infection coming on. According to proprietary preliminary cell culture studies published in Virology Journal, the herb, in a prepared product, showed antiviral activity against the common cold coronavirus and may show potential against the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

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Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)

Found growing in various parts of Canada, elderberry is one of the most popular natural antivirals. Its reputation is backed by research showing its effectiveness against the influenza A virus and other upper respiratory infections.

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Garlic (Allium sativum)

Readily available throughout Canada and around the world, garlic has a reputation for boosting health, but recently, a cell line study in Trends in Food Science and Technology found that the organosulphur compounds in garlic appear to enhance the immune response and block the ability of viruses to enter into host cells to replicate.

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Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Thanks to its delicious flavour, ginger is a widely used culinary herb. Research published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that fresh ginger, but not dried, was effective at inhibiting the human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV), which causes mild cold-like symptoms.

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Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)

This common garden herb not only makes a flavourful tea, but, in cell cultures, it has also demonstrated antiviral activity against the herpes simplex virus.

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Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

To say that licorice has a lengthy history of use is an understatement, considering that the Greek botanist and pharmacologist Theophrastus recommended licorice 2,300 years ago. The herb contains two antiviral compounds known as glycyrrhizin (GL) and 18β-glycyrrhetinic acid (GA). GL has been shown in cell-line studies to be effective against influenza, herpes simplex 1, and multiple other viruses, while GA has been found effective against rotavirus and HRSV.

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Oregano (Origanum vulgare)

Ancient Greeks believed that Aphrodite created oregano to make humans’ lives happier—a mission proven by its culinary pre-eminence. Preliminary cell-line research in the Journal of Virology found that carvacrol found in oregano oil effectively inhibited replication of human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV).

Because drug-herb interactions and medical contraindications are common, it is best to consult your health care practitioner about whether any of these herbal antivirals are right for you.

Using your herbal remedies

Herbal remedy Formulations*
cat’s claw capsule; tea; tincture
echinacea capsule; tea; tincture
elderberry capsule; juice; syrup; tea; tincture
garlic capsule; dried herb (baking, cooking); tea; tincture
ginger fresh herb; juice; tea; tincture
lemon balm capsule; dried herb (baking, cooking); tea; tincture
licorice capsule; dried herb (baking, cooking); tea; tincture
oregano capsule; dried herb (baking, cooking); tea; tincture

*Follow package instructions for the remedy you select.

An antiviral double double

Double up your antiviral remedies by adding a teaspoon of ground cinnamon to a tablespoon of manuka honey as a delicious spread for toast, bagels, or muffins. Cell-line research shows manuka is helpful against flu viruses.

This article was originally published in the April 2022 issue of alive with the title "Herbs for virus fighting."

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