A topic we can’t seem to escape these days is the widespread panic that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused. Only time will tell whether the response to the risk was too much, not enough, or just right. In any case, there is a lot we can do to be proactive in building a powerful immune system that can protect you against any number of viruses from the common cold to the west nile virus.
Following is a list of herbs that are incredibly powerful in building our body’s natural immune system:
- Garlic – Known to enhance immune system function by stimulating the production of lymphocytes, macrophages and natural killer cells. 2
- Ginger – Studies have shown that ginger is able to reduce inflammatory reactions triggered by viral infections, and contain anti-influenza properties. 3
- Ginseng – Used for centuries to treat viruses, particularly Korean red ginseng has been shown in animal studies to stimulate the production of natural killer cells.
- Oregano – Contains carvacrol, which has strong antiviral properties. Oregano has been shown to dramatically reduce the activity of murine norovirus, the primary cause of stomach flu.
- Peppermint – Contains menthol and rosmarinic acid, both show strong anti-viral, antimicrobial, anti-oxidant and anti-tumor properties.
- Basil – Used for centuries to treat viruses; the ursolic acid and apigenin in basil appears to have the greatest impact on viruses. 4
- Echinacea – Has been used for a variety of ailments, including the common cold, the flu and infections. Recent studies have found that this herb increases the production of macrophages, while also decreasing the impact of invading viruses and bacteria.
- Rosemary – High in oleanolic acid, which has shown to prevent the binding of the virus protein to healthy host cells. 5
- Lemon Balm – Many use this herb to treat anxiety and insomnia, however it also has antiviral qualities, where the extract reduced the potency of HIV virions. (Virions are the complete, infective form of host cells with a core DNA or RNA. 6
- Turmeric – Curcumin has shown signs of antiviral activity by specifically targeting viral proteins.
- Sage – Contains ursolic acid, which can be stronger than ampicillin and inhibits the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. 1
- Other spices that may help combat viruses are cinnamon, thyme and cayenne pepper.
According to the CDC, the coronavirus was first identified in the 1960s, and there are seven strains that can affect humans. The current strain discussed in the news is COVID-19. It should be noted that a virus can become resistant to drugs over time, and a new strain of the virus can form, making previous medications less effective or completely useless. There are typically 3 to 4 strains of the flu that could become active in any given year.
As a result of its ability to change and/or become drug-resistant, it is difficult to devise a cure for a virus. There is still research studying the effect of herbs on various viruses, but there has been no definite indication that herbs can actually remove viruses from the body. However, the consumption of herbs as described above is designed to keep the immune system healthy, which could allow it to fight viruses naturally at the point of initial contact, which is at the cellular level.
1 Ghorbani A, Esmaeilizadeh M. Pharmacological Properties Of Salvia Officinalis And Its Components. J Tradit Complement Med. 2017 Jan 13;7(4):433-440. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcme.2016.12.014. [PMID: 29034191]; PMCID:
2 Arreola R, Quintero-Fabián S, López-Roa RI, (et al). Immunomodulation And Anti-Inflammatory Effects Of Garlic Compounds. J Immunol Res. 2015;2015:401630. doi: 10.1155/2015/401630. Epub 2015 Apr 19. PMID: 25961060; PMCID:
3 Lipke MM. An Armamentarium Of Wart Treatments. Clin Med Res. 2006 Dec;4(4):273-93. doi: 10.3121/cmr.4.4.273. [PMID: 17210977]; PMCID:
4Rasool A, Khan MU, Ali MA, Anjum AA, (et Al). Anti-Avian Influenza Virus H9N2 Activity Of Aqueous Extracts Of Zingiber Officinalis (Ginger) And Allium Sativum (Garlic) In Chick Embryos. Pak J Pharm Sci. 2017 Jul;30(4):1341-1344.
5 Khwaza V, Oyedeji OO, Aderibigbe BA. Antiviral Activities of Oleanolic Acid and Its Analogues. Molecules. 2018 Sep 9;23(9):2300. doi: 10.3390/molecules23092300.
6 Geuenich S, Goffinet C, Venzke S, Nolkemper S, Baumann I, Plinkert P, Reichling J, Keppler OT. Aqueous Extracts From Peppermint, Sage And Lemon Balm Leaves Display Potent Anti-HIV-1 Activity By Increasing The Virion Density. Retrovirology. 2008 Mar 20;5:27.