By Jane Barthelemy. With over 400,000 viruses that can affect your health, you need to know these natural anti-viral herbs and supplements. Whether it’s a cold, flu, mumps, or Epstein Barr, the rules for kicking a virus are the same. These safe plant-based medicines have an important place in your tool chest for basic self-care. They’re my everyday go-to remedies before doing pharmaceuticals, which may have dangerous side effects.
My Top 5 most effective supplements are:
- Coconut Oil,
- Schizandra Berries,
- Astragalus Root,
- Garlic Bulb,
- Oregano Oil
What Are Anti-viral Herbs?
Anti-viral herbs block the development of viruses. They can be used to treat infections safely because they’re harmless and cause no or few side effects. Many anti-viral herbs boost the immune system, allowing the body’s natural defenses to attack viral pathogens. Using the body’s own defense systems is better than antiviral drugs, especially since viruses can mutate over time. The body can adapt to this; however pharmaceutical drugs and vaccines cannot.
Best Anti-Viral Herbs and Supplements
Aloe vera boosts the body’s defenses at the cellular level, stimulating the immune system. Polysaccharides in aloe stimulate white blood cell activity and increase the number of T-helper cells. Aloe has been used topically to treat skin problems for many years, such as sunburns and viral rashes like chicken pox, mumps, shingles, and herpes. The Aloe Vera plant can also treat many oral problems, including cold sores, herpes, and gingivitis. Aloe is a succulent plant with a cool, gooey interior. Aloe is a powerful laxative and will not help your skin when taken internally. Topical use of aloe on the skin has no negative side effects. If you are allergic to garlic, onions, tulips or any other member of the lily family, it’s best to avoid aloe vera.
To Take: Find a real aloe plant, cut the leaves off the plant and filet them, cutting each leaf in half lengthwise to maximize the surface area of the gel. Then place the leaves on the affected skin, gooey side down. Alternately, the gel can be scraped out of the leaf and applied to the skin. If you cannot find an aloe plant, use 100% aloe gel from a natural products store. It is usually in a dark brown glass bottle to prevent exposure to light. Buy gel and not juice. Juice is beneficial, but not for the skin. The gel is best for the skin – simply apply to the skin as often as you want. Do not use commercial “aloe gels” as they can make the irritation worse. For a rash, use aloe externally on the skin.
For a skin virus, cut the aloe vera leaves lengthwise to maximize the surface area. Place the leaves on the affected skin, gooey side down.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Although it’s highly acidic, apple cider vinegar (ACV) helps keep your pH levels balanced, which can help prevent colds and flu viruses from getting cozy in your nose and chest. ACV alkalizes the body, and an alkaline environment repels microbes. Most of us tend to run a bit more acidic, thanks to the standard American diet, so it’s no wonder we spend the winter months battling germs. A tablespoon or two of ACV at the first onset of a virus, or when someone close to you has it, will help prevent a full bout of the virus. You can also add it to salad dressings.
To Take: Gargle a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar mixed with a bit of warm water, adding a bit of raw honey if desired, at the first sign of illness and repeat hourly until symptoms disappear.
Ancient Chinese used Astragalus as an immune booster, to treat colds, flus, and other viruses. Also called Radix Astragali, Milk Vetch root, Huang Qi, or ?(?), studies show that Astragalus can reduce the frequency and duration of viral ailments by strengthening the immune system rather than by killing viruses directly. Astragalus also has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and is used to care for skin lesions. It’s one the seven adaptogen herbs to lower cortisol.
Astragalus root contains polysaccharides that are thought to play an important role in building the immune system. It contains saponins called astragalosides, flavonoids, and triterpenes. There is also evidence to suggest astragalus can successfully inhibit the common cold, influenza, herpes simplex virus, Coxsackie B-3 virus, hepatitis B virus cells, and treat HIV by protecting t-helper cells.
To Take: Astragalus can be taken as an extract, pill, or the root can be added to soups. Find it at most Chinese markets or health food stores as a tincture, capsule and tablet. It can be used topically for the skin, or dried and used in tea. There is no standard dose for astragalus. Work with a medical professional to determine how much to take and how often.
The flower petals of the calendula plant, also called pot marigold, have been used for medicinal purposes since at least the 12th century. Calendula is filled with powerful skin healing, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties, yet is gentle enough for most people and animals to use safely. Calendula contains high amounts of flavonoids, plant-based antioxidants that protect cells from free radicals. It also fights viruses, inflammation and bacteria. Calendula provides one of its greatest benefits in relieving eruptive skin disorders such as shingles, and warts from viral infections. Calendula’s polysaccharides stimulate the immune system and are considered effective against HIV-1 virus. Calendula eardrops can be used to treat ear infections.
To Take Calendula: The dried petals of the plant are used in tinctures, ointments and washes to treat infections, burns, wounds and heal cuts fast. 1) Boiling water method with dried flowers: Place a tablespoon of dried calendula flowers in a heatproof mug and pour boiling water over them. Cover with a saucer and let steep for around 15 to 20 minutes. 2) Boiling water method with fresh flowers: Fill a heatproof jar with fresh flowers and pour boiling water over them. Cap and let infuse until the tea is cool enough to drink. Strain. It can also be used as an eye rinse for itchy eyes due to allergies, dryness and viral pinkeye.
The bark and root of cat’s claw have been revered by South Americans for centuries as an anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal. It is used to treat fevers, stomach ulcers, digestive conditions, dysentery, arthritis, IBS, colitis and leaky gut syndrome. Cat’s claw has anti-viral properties and is used to treat herpes and HIV.
To Take Cat’s Claw: Enjoy regularly as an herbal tea, with a tablespoon of the herb in eight ounces of boiling water.
The powerful anti-viral properties of coconut oil have recently been documented by Dr. Conrado Dayrit of San Lazaro Hospital in the Philipines. He observed the viral load of subjects to decrease from 600,000 to undetectable within just a few months.
To Take: 4 tablespoons of coconut oil daily, from a variety or sources including coconut milk, shredded coconut, coconut butter and pure coconut oil. Do this for 90 days without any break. Take it with food if you have difficulty digesting fats. Spread coconut oil on toase, put it in smoothies or stir-fries. Your goal should be that 90% of your oil intake is coconut oil.
Regular use of Echinacea has been shown to be beneficial for immune support and overall health. There is considerable evidence suggesting that phytochemicals in Echinacea can reduce virus infections and tumors. This powerful herb contains a compound called Echinacea in that inhibits bacteria and viruses from penetrating healthy cells. This greatly reduces the chances of contracting any type of viral infection while consuming Echinacea. Other benefits include its ability to reduce pain and inflammation, heal skin problems, treat upper respiratory issues, and improve mental health.
To Take: Use as a tincture, capsule or tablet.
Elderberry has a long, rich history of medicinal use in many cultures. It fights infections including flu, herpes, viral and bacterial infections. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine concluded that elderberry can be used as a safe treatment for influenza A and B. This is due to its efficacy on all strains of the flu virus that were tested, the clinical results, its low cost and the absence of side effects.
To Take: Most every part of the elderberry can be used — the flowers, bark, roots and leaves are often used for their amazing health benefits.
Fermented Foods as a Probiotic
Chinese doctors often say the root of the immune system is in the gut. Ancient cultures enjoyed large amounts of fermented foods. We need a strong immune system to stay clear of viruses. The importance of a healthy intestinal micro-biome can never be over-emphasized. One of the best ways to boost the intestinal flora and the immune system is to eat fermented foods. Fermented vegetables are economical and easy to make. The possibilities are endless: Kim-chi, homemade sauerkraut, yogurt, carrots, beets, cabbage, and any vegetable you have in your kitchen. Fermented dairy such as yogurt and kefir also offer enormous benefits. It’s beneficial to enjoy a serving of fermented foods at every meal.
Studies show that garlic is highly effective at vanquishing countless microbes responsible for viral and bacterial infections, including influenza, common cold, tuberculosis, pneumonia, thrush, and herpes. Because of its anti-viral properties, garlic can be used to treat eye infections and as a natural ear infection remedy. Raw garlic is said to reduce the risk of cancer, control hypertension, boost cardiovascular health and fight hair loss.
To Take: Make a garlic oil infusion. Crush garlic cloves and add them to a carrier oil (like olive oil). Let the mixture sit for about five hours. Then strain the bits of garlic and keep the oil in a covered jar. You can also swallow a raw clove of garlic, or a half a garlic if it’s too large. Bite down just once to release the allicin. Swallow it with water like a pill. It’s a good anti-viral practice to eat fresh garlic with most meals. Squash it under lemon juice to reduce odors.
Ancient Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine hold that ginger can boost the immune system and warm the body, and thus it can help break down any accumulation of toxins in your organs. Ginger is also known to cleanse the lymphatic system, your body’s sewage system. Ginger prevents the build-up of toxins that make you susceptible to viral, fungal and bacterial infections. Medicinal ginger health benefits also include working as a natural remedy for nausea, pain alleviation, anti-inflammatory properties and improving diabetes.
To Take: Enjoy ginger tea. Throw diced ginger into your smoothies. Use in stir-fries and superfood snacks.
Ginseng is considered an adaptogen, which means it helps your body to withstand mental and physical stress. American ginseng may boost your immune system, function as an antioxidant, benefit inflammatory conditions and act as a stress tonic. Asian ginseng has stimulant properties and may be useful for heart health, neurodegenerative disease, boosting mental performance, and more. Siberian ginseng is not a true ginseng and contains different bioactive compounds than American and Asian ginsengs. American Ginseng can help prevent and heal the common cold, flu, and prevent influenza and other respiratory infections of the lungs.
To Take: Take ginseng root in tea. Take ginseng tonic or capsules.
Potent anti-oxidants in Green Tea called catechins can inhibit influenza virus replication and their negative virucidal effects. One study evaluated polyphenolic catechins from green tea found that the EGCG and ECG were found to be potent inhibitors of influenza virus replication. It has been suggested that the anti-viral effect of catechins on influenza virus is mediated not only by specific interaction with HA, but via alteration of the physical properties of the viral membrane.
To Take: Brew a teaspoon of dry green tea leaves in boiling water. Drink Matcha tea. Use Matcha in dessert recipes and milkshakes.
Hydrogen Peroxide in the ear
Viruses love to hang out in the Eustacean tubes, which flow between the inner ear and the throat. In fact this is a favorite entry point for microbes. 3% hydrogen peroxide can kill them.
To Take Hydrogen Peroxide: At the first sign of a cold, flu, or respiratory viral infection, get out your 3% hydrogen peroxide. To put it into each ear canal, face to the side, so the ear is on top. Using a medicine dropper, put a few drops in the top ear. When the bubbling stops, turn the head over and treat the other ear. Repeat this every 2 hours, if possible. It also helps to frequently gargle with hydrogen peroxide. Use one teaspoon 3% peroxide in an 8-oz glass of water. Also you can spray 3% hydrogen peroxide with a plastic spray bottle directly into the throat several times a day.
An essential amino acid that strengthens collagen, L-Lysine it more difficult for viruses to spread. The opposite is true of Arginine, an essential amino acid that encourages viruses to spread. Thus increasing your Lysine intake, and minimizing your Arginine intake can help control any viral ailment. Taking L-Lysine as a daily supplement or increasing your dietary intake of lysine relative to arginine, will reduce the frequency and severity of attacks.
The average adult diet supplies 6–10 g/day of lysine. Lysine, unlike arginine, cannot be made within the body. If lysine is not consumed in the diet in adequate quantities relative to arginine, you may become more susceptible to cold sores. Therefore, it is important to consume a diet that is rich in lysine to arginine ratio.
Foods High in Lysine are Dairy, Cheese, Meats, Natto.
Foods highest in Arginine to cut back on are Nuts, Seeds, Chocolate.
To Take Lysine: There are varying amounts suggested. Some practitioners say a regular dose should be 1,500 – 2,000 mg/day (half a teaspoon) before meals or food. Some research suggests that the dosage should be higher at 3,000mg/day. And some practitioners say one should take about 2 g or half a teaspoon of L-lysine 3 times a day. (If the label just says “Lysine” then it may be the synthetic D, L form and may not be as effective).
Oregano oil benefits are proving to be even more powerful than some antibiotics, without the harmful side effects. That’s because oregano contains two potent compounds, carvacrol and thymol, which have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Carvacrol reverses viral infections, as well as allergies, tumors, parasites and disease-causing inflammation.
Medicinal grade oregano is distilled to extract essential oil and preserve healing compounds. It takes over 1,000 pounds of wild oregano to produce just 1 pound of oregano oil!
To Take: Oregano oil needs to be diluted with a carrier oil, such as olive oil. A few drops of oregano oil in a tablespoon of carrier oil can be used to drink and swallow, to swish in the mouth, or to apply topically to a viral outbreak.
Reishi mushroom, Ganoderma lucidum, is considered one of the most important immune-boosting herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. Modern studies suggest that Reishi may inhibit the spread of the herpes virus. Reishi can delay blood clotting, so consult your doctor before taking Reishi if you are taking aspirin, warfarin (coumadin), or any other medications or supplements that interfere with clotting. In traditional Chinese medicine, Reishi is often used in conjunction with Astragalus. Astragalus has been found to improve immune function in people with herpes simplex keratitis.
To Take: Reishi is available in whole mushrooms, powder, tincture or capsules.
Also called Wu Wei Zi in Chinese, this tiny berry has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine as an adaptogen, meaning it boosts the immune system and reduces stress. Thanks to its high concentration of antioxidants, schizandra helps fight free radical damage and lowers inflammation, the root of modern disease. According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, studies suggest that schizandra increases hepatic glutathione levels and glutathione reductase activities, down-regulates inflammatory cytokines, activates the eNOS pathway, inhibits cell death, and enhances cell proliferation. Research indicates schizandra improves liver function, lowers fatty liver disease and fights chronic hepatitis C virus. Other studies show that it’s a natural stress reliever, improving performance of cognitive tasks.
To Take: Get dried schizandra berries at the herb store or online. Throw a teaspoon of berries in your smoothies or eat them dry as a pick-me-up snack.
Vitamin C and Bioflavonoids
This dynamic duo is known for their combined power as anti-inflammatory and anti-viral, to speed up the healing time of colds, flus, blisters and cold sores.
Vitamin-C: A great source is citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes. Berries, red and green peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and green peas are also good sources. Boiling destroys Vitamin-C, so they’re best eaten raw or lightly steamed.
Bioflavonoids: There are different types of bioflavonoids. Red grapes, wine and olive oil are rich sources of resveratrol. Apples and red, blue and purple berries contain abundant anthocyanidin. Catechins are found in green tea, apples and grapes, while quercetin-rich foods include citrus fruits, red onions, parsley, red apples consumed with their peels, apricots, dark cherries and darker types of berries. Boiling may reduce the levels of certain compounds, so they’re best eaten raw or lightly steamed.
To Take: Eat the fruits and veggies above. Citrus peel is very high in certain bioflavonoids. Save your orange and lemon and lime peels, and use them in tea.
Once believed to affect only bone health, the importance of Vitamin D is jut coming to light, and we find a Vitamin D deficiency implicated in many health issues. Vitamin D is best obtained through safe sun exposure. The lack of vitamin D that many Westerners suffer, can wreak havoc on the body, especially the immune system.
To beat a cold or go outside and get plenty of safe sun exposure on a regular basis. If you live in an area with only seasonal sun take a vitamin D supplement.
Drink up! It’s essential for life. Yet we forget. Most people need 70 – 75 ounces of clean, filtered water every day. That’s 8 to 9 glasses of water per day needed to hydrate and flush your body. For best hydration, drink water in small doses, not gulping more than 8 ounces at a time.
Wellness Formula by Source Naturals is a convenient tablet that has many of these anti-virals. Available in most natural food stores, it contains many of the supplements mentioned above, and more! Buy Wellness Formula online at VitaCost. Here are the ingredients:
- Vitamin A (as palmitate 4,000 IU & beta-carotene 1,000 IU) 5000 IU 100%
- Vitamin C (from ascorbic acid, zinc, ascorbate) 1300 mg 2,167%
- Vitamin D3 (as cholecalciferol) 400 IU 100%
- Calcium 40 mg 4%
- Zinc (as zinc citrate and ascorbate) 23 mg 153%
- Selenium (as sodium selenite) 60 mcg 86%
- Copper (as copper citrate) 150 mcg 8%
- Sodium 10 mg <1%
- Garlic Bulb 360 mg *
- Propolis Extract 295 mg *
- Echinacea Purpurea Root Extract 270 mg *
- Elderberry Fruit Extract 240 mg *
- Horehound Aerial Parts Extract 150 mg *
- Aromatic Solomon’s Seal Rhizome 120 mg *
- Olive Leaf Extract (10% oleuropeins) 100 mg *
- Andrographis Aerial Parts Ext. (10% andrographolides) 100 mg *
- Mullein Leaf Extract 80 mg *
- Mullein Leaf 80 mg *
- Isatis Root Extract 75 mg *
- Bioflavonoids 60 mg *
- Goldenseal Root Extract 45 mg *
- Angelica Root Extract 45 mg *
- Astragalus Root Extract 45 mg *
- Isatis Leaf Extract 40 mg *
- Eleuthero Root Extract 37 mg *
- Pau d’Arco Bark Extract 30 mg *
- Cayenne Fruit 30 mg *
- Ginger Root Extract 30 mg *
- Grape Seed Extract (Proanthodyn™) 10 mg *
Caveats on Herbal Remedies
If you have a serious immune disorder, an autoimmune diseases, or any of the following: tuberculosis, leukemia, diabetes, connective tissue disorders, multiple sclerosis, HIV or AIDS, organ transplant, or liver disorder, do NOT take immune-boosting supplements (such as Reishi and Astragalus) without consulting your doctor first. Immune-boosting supplements may reduce the effectiveness of certain medications that suppress the immune system. If you are taking prescription medication, consult your doctor first to avoid any negative interactions.