Anti-viral Agents: A Naturopathic Perspective
Updated: Mar 16
Published in the Walla Walla Family Forum, a Supplement of the Walla Walla Union Bulletin February/March 2020
The novel coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, China over the last couple of months has certainly dominated the news headlines. We rarely see such a dramatic response by governments over a health crisis. I must say that my own life was impacted, although in a small way. One of my best friends teaches at an International School in Shenzhen, China, just outside of Hong Kong. She has taught abroad for years, and this was the year I was finally going to visit, along with my young son. After months of planning, booking, applying for visas and such, we ended up cancelling our trip to Shenzhen, scheduled for the last week of January this year.
According to the CDC, there are four common types of coronavirus, which comprise a few of the many types of viruses that cause the common cold, respiratory tract infections and occasionally, pneumonia. There are also three other human coronaviruses. These include SARS, MERS and now, the novel coronavirus.
Besides the latest coronavirus epidemic, it is also the season for common cold and influenza, also well known as viral infections. Permit me to share with you some natural therapies that have been shown to be beneficial for colds, flus and coronaviruses:
Elderberry Syrup (Sambucus nigra): A study published in the Journal of International Medical Research found that the duration of flu illness can be reduced by 3-4 days with supplementation of elderberry syrup compared with placebo. Elderberry syrup tastes great and can even be poured on pancakes!
Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra): A study published in Lancet found that glycyrrhizin, a constituent in licorice root, was the most effective in inhibiting the replication of the SARS-associated coronavirus when compared with several other prescription anti-viral medications. Licorice root can elevate blood pressure, so it must be used with caution in those with high blood pressure.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid): A study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeuticsfound that giving high dose vitamin C at the onset of cold or flu symptoms, followed by three times daily dosing of vitamin C resulted in an 85% decrease in flu and cold symptoms when compared with the control group. A review article in the Cochrane Database for Systemic Reviews found that long-term, daily supplements of vitamin C in large doses daily does not appear to prevent colds. However, there appears to be a modest benefit in reducing duration of cold symptoms from ingestion of relatively high doses of vitamin C.
Medicinal Mushrooms – Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and Shiitake (Lentinula edodes): A study published in the Annals of Translational Medicine found that Maitake and Shiitake strongly stimulate immune defense reactions. Combining Maitake and Shiitake in a blend was even more immunologically and biologically active than either mushroom glucan alone. The immune defense reactions stimulated by these mushroom glucans are thought to be beneficial for colds and flus. As both are edible mushrooms, they could easily be incorporated into to your daily diet.
These are just a few botanically-derived agents that you may want to have on-hand during cold and flu season. Adequate rest, hydration, nutrition and stress management are very important as well, along with regular hand washing. My heart goes out to the people in Wuhan, living in lock-down, in fear of the coronavirus. Luckily, my friend was able to evacuate to Thailand and will have arrived home, to the United States, by the time of this publication. Stay safe!