Winter is a season of snow, holidays, and skiing- it’s also when we need increased antiviral protections. We all seem to become increasingly vulnerable to all kinds of illnesses caused by viruses including the flu, strep throat, or the common cold. Unlike bacterial infections, which can be easily cured with antibiotics, viruses do their best to hang on until our bodies finally fight them off. This year it is especially important to protect ourselves from both Influenza (the flu) and the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV infection) which has more than 17,000 confirmed cases. What are some natural ways to protect yourself from viruses and keep your immune system strong?
Ginger: Ginger has been used medicinally for over 5,000 years and is known to be one of the healthiest spices on the planet. Fresh and dried ginger can treat a variety of ailments including viral infections and fevers. It contains the natural oil gingerol which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that flush toxins out of the body. There are endless ways to add ginger to your diet, the most effective being Fresh Ginger Tea. Make it at home: in a pot, cut up a chunk of fresh ginger (with the peel) and pour boiling water over it. Add honey and lemon and you have the perfect cold remedy.
Green Tea: Green tea is proven to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, and antimicrobial properties. It contains catechins, a specific group of flavonoids that block the enzymes of viral infections, stopping their reproduction. Here is how to make your next cup to get the maximum benefits. Boil some water, grab your favorite mug and put a green tea bag inside, pour the boiling water over the tea bag and let steep for 10 minutes before removing the bag and drinking. You can steep the same leaves 2-3 times to get the max catechin value.
Elderberry: Elderberries have been used throughout history to reduce the severity and length of viral infections. Daily doses of 60ml for adults and 30ml for children can lead to complete recovery in as little as 3 days. The elderberry extract binds to the spikes of a virus protein and destroys them, rendering the virus ineffective. The most common way to consume elderberry is through supplements and syrup, both found in any health food/supplement sections.
Garlic: Beginning in ancient India and Europe, garlic has been used to treat a variety of infections and infectious diseases. Garlic has a long-standing reputation as a potent antimicrobial, with antibacterial and antiviral properties, that are great at combating the flu and the common cold. It contains the compound allicin which strengthens the immune system’s ability to fight germs and boosts the disease-fighting response of white blood cells when they encounter viruses. Garlic can be incorporated into any diet whether raw (pasta sauces, salsa, sandwiches), cooked (meat or tofu marinade), or even in a honey-ginger tea.
Lemon Balm (Melissa Officinalis): This lemon-scented plant has several antiviral properties that effectively treat the common cold, influenza, and cold sores. Lemon balm blocks attachment of cells that are virus-infected onto healthy cells, slowing and stopping the spread of the virus within the body. Lemon balm can be picked up at your local grocery store and used as a lemon peel replacement in a variety of recipes, or even as a tea. To make lemon balm tea just steep 1 tbsp of lemon balm leaves in a cup of boiling water for 10-15 minutes, strain, and enjoy.
St. John’s Wort: St. John’s Wort has multiple active ingredients including hypericin, hyperforin, and adhyperforin which are responsible for many medicinal benefits. This herb has been used since the time of the ancient Greeks to treat a variety of ailments. St. John’s Wort helps fight viruses and boosts the immune system. This herb can be purchased in supplement form at your local health store.
Four Thieves Essential Oil Blend: This essential oil blend is an extremely powerful combination of lemon, cinnamon bark, clove, rosemary, and eucalyptus. Four Thieves has antiseptic, antimicrobial, antibacterial, antiviral, and immune-strengthening/stimulating properties. It is even shown that this oil, when diffused, significantly lowers airborne levels of various bacteria. Four Thieves essential oil blend can be used day-to-day through a diffuser that disperses it throughout the room, massage, lotions, and spray application.
Grape Seed Extract: Grape seed extracts have proven antimicrobial properties and have been seen to treat a variety of infections (fungal and viral). It is derived from the pulp and seeds of a grape. Grape seed extract has documented antiviral activities against multiple viruses, including the human norovirus, which is shown to increase with time and dosage. It is a preventative option against foodborne viral illnesses. Grape seed extract is a supplement available in capsules, tablets, and liquid drop form.
Licorice Root: Licorice root has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries because of its strong antiviral effects. It is full of triterpenoid compounds, which strongly increase viral immunity. Licorice root is also being recognized as a broad-spectrum antiviral. Licorice also contains glycyrrhizin which reduces the replication of viruses and prevents the attack on healthy cells. There are two main ways to take licorice root – through supplements or tea. Use 0.5oz of dried licorice root per cup of water, boil the mixture and then simmer for 10 minutes.
Calendula: Though used more as an ornamental plant, calendula has been shown to combat viruses by reducing their ability to multiply. It contains high levels of flavonoids which protect healthy cells from damaging free radicals. The oils and acids contained in the plant have proven to effectively fight pathogens and various strains of bacteria due to its antimicrobial and antiviral components. Calendula petals can be added fresh to salads and salsas or dried and used in tea.