Top 10 Natural Immune Boosters to Guard Against Severe Covid-19
What is COVID-19?
The novel coronavirus responsible for COVID-19 came into existence in December 2019 and has since then, changed the world and the lifestyle of its inhabitants.
Covid-19 is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 1. Most people infected with Covid-19 experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and are able to recover if the body’s immune system is optimised to recognise and fight off the causative virus2.
Numerous studies have shown that the use of herbs and vitamins is very beneficial for the proper functioning of the immune system due to their bioactive components which have been found to be effective in fighting infections3.
Natural herbs and some vitamins possess anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral properties which strengthen the immune system and have been found useful in reducing the chances of being infected by the Covid-19 virus4.
Below are some natural herbs and vitamins that can help boost your immunity and fight against any viral infections5:
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous)
Astragalus is a well known natural herb, a type of legume which has been used in Chinese traditional medicine for hundreds of years due to its significant immune-enhancing, antiviral and anti-inflammatory qualities. Research has shown that astragalus can increase the body’s production of white blood cells which help to prevent and fight bacterial as well as viral infections including the common cold6.
Its roots contain bioactive compounds that help strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation. The roots of this plant are made into different forms of supplements, capsules, syrup, and tea and help in the management of viral illnesses such as the common cold, influenza, herpes, hepatitis C, etc. They have also been noted to help in reducing the symptoms of COVID-197. Consuming 9-30 grams of astragalus per day is considered safe, however, there is no current evidence as to any health risks associated with consuming it in the long-term6.
Moringa (Moringaceae oleifera)
Moringa is a natural herbal plant that originated from South Asia and is now widely distributed all over the world. Well known for its numerous medicinal and nutritional values, the parts; bark, root, seeds, gum, pod, fruit, and flowers are nutritionally beneficial, with the leaves having a higher content of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, proteins, and phenolic acid8.
Its high content of bioactive compounds, vitamins, and minerals helps to enhance the body’s natural immunity and cellular functioning.
In an experimental study, M. oleifera exhibited antiviral efficacy against various viruses, including herpes virus, influenza virus H9 and RNA virus/enveloped virus, highlighting its potential as a therapeutic agent against the coronavirus8.
Mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)
Mushrooms have been cultivated and used for medicinal purposes around the world. These natural herbs contain various polysaccharides, lipids, steroids, and organic acids which fight inflammation and strengthen the immune system7. It has antiviral properties which include directly inhibiting viral enzymes, viral nucleic acid synthesis, adsorption, and uptake of viruses into mammalian cells or indirectly stimulating immune activity8. Studies have shown that the mushroom is also essential in effectively fighting the flu-causing influenza viruses and show neutralizing effects against pox, influenza A virus and HIV9.
Besides their antiviral effects, many mushrooms have immune-modulatory properties, which means that they help keep the immune system in balance, a property that researchers find valuable for the production of immune-modulating drugs 10.
Fennel is an aromatic perennial plant that originated in the Mediterranean and is now widely grown all over the world. It can be eaten raw, cooked, or used as a condiment. It contains a high amount of selenium which stimulates the production of T white blood cells that are involved in the destruction of infected cells as well as activation of other cells of the immune system7. Also, it is a source of essential oil that has powerful antiviral effects that safeguard the body against viral infections and decreases inflammation., It is also known to provide relief from chronic cough, common cold and lower respiratory infections4.
Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
Ginseng is a slow-growing, fleshy rooted plant of the Panax family used in traditional Chinese medicine for several decades. Two varieties – the American and Korean are more popularly known for their capacity to fight viruses and stimulate immune responses against RSV, herpes viruses, and hepatitis A4. In addition, ginseng contains compounds known as ginsenosides which decreases the severity of viral infections, including the symptoms of Covid19.5.
Oregano is a popular natural herb closely related to the mint, thyme and sage family. Commonly known for its potent medicinal qualities, it contains a compound known as carvacrol which possesses antiviral properties that reduce the severity of diseases such as stomach flu and respiratory infections5. It stimulates the immune system and due to its antioxidant effects, can inhibit the production of damaging free radicals.
Echinacea (E. purpurea)
Echinacea, a herb native to North America, is one of the most popularly used ingredients in traditional medicine due to its significant health-promoting properties. It is used to prevent, or provide early treatment for colds and other upper respiratory infections.
All the parts of the Echinacea plant are very beneficial to health, including the flowers which have immune-boosting effects, making it particularly useful for treating viral infections and reducing the symptoms of Covid-19 and other respiratory infections11.
Vitamin C is perhaps the most widely recognised vitamin for its usefulness in the treatment of upper respiratory tract infections12. Vitamin C increases the production of white blood cells, which are key fighters of infection and enhances their activation and ability to destroy the pathogens which they come across13. It also functions as a powerful antioxidant that protects the cell against damages induced by oxidative stress and free radicals commonly seen in the Covid-19 disease. Supplementing with vitamin C has been shown to reduce the duration and severity of upper respiratory tract infections14. Supplemental vitamin C is a great and comparatively simple and affordable treatment for both mild and serious respiratory infections and there have been many reports of the use of high dose vitamin C in the treatment of the acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARD) associated with COVID-1915.
Common sources of vitamin C are;
- Citrus fruits
- Green vegetables
- Bell peppers
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient essential for the optimal functioning of the immune system. It enhances the action of monocytes – a type of white blood cell and macrophages that play an important role in our immune defences against viruses as well as other microbes10.
Vitamin D supplements may improve response to antiviral treatments in people with certain infections, including hepatitis C, HIV, and Covid-19 symptoms. Vitamin D intake in adequate amounts may reduce the risks of influenza and COVID-19 infections and lower the risk of death.
Vitamin E is a fat-soluble vitamin that is important in regulating and maintaining the body’s immune function. Foods rich in vitamin E include avocados, nuts, and dark leafy greens.
Always chat to your doctor before taking new supplements, including herbal medicines, as they may interfere with the compounds of other medications you may be taking.
It’s very important to know that these are purely ways to boost your immune system to guard against the moderate or severe symptoms of viruses such as Covid19. Regular intake of these herbs and vitamins does not replace the importance of vaccinations, handwashing, wearing masks, self-quarantine and other protective measures.