No supplement will cure or prevent diseases such as COVID-19, yet research has shown that supplementing with certain vitamins, minerals and herbs can improve your immune response and protect against illness.
Image: Sophora japonica, the herb that quercetin comes from.
Amongst the abundance of research since the inception of the SARS-CoV2 pandemic, the importance of identifying key factors shown to improve overall immunity and reduce viral severity continues to grow. Beyond simple lifestyle factors found to improve health and immune system function, being able to rely on well evidenced natural supplements continues to help forge overall antiviral protection. From melatonin and vitamin D, to quercetin and many others, there is a growing list of practical applications as to which supplement to use, when to use it, and what to expect as a result. As science continues to validate effective measures against COVID-19, it is becoming more clear that an allied list of natural products have the ability to provide activity toward overall health.
In terms of prevention, vitamin C, vitamin D, quercetin, zinc, elderberry, Chinese skullcap, licorice, curcumin, and a plethora of natural immune modulators (including echinacea, ginger root, astragalus, lemon balm and others) have all been well proven to enhance overall immune protection. Vitamin C, for example, similar to flavonoids, inhibits NLRP3 inflammasome activation. This particular innate immune response plays an important role in antiviral host defences. However, in the presence of many viruses, its hyper activation and excessive downstream production often leads to pathological tissue injury during infection. With the addition of vitamin C, the delicate balance of this pathway can be much more controlled. Research has shown that the general vitamin C dosing required to reduce risk of viral infections is anywhere between 500-3000mg per day.
In addition to vitamin C, another widely used natural product, quercetin, also shows a tremendous amount of literature toward its antiviral inhibitory power. Ongoing studies confirm the multiple levels of quercetin’s activity, including its prophylactic benefit toward viruses themselves, and its benefits in enhancing supportive immunity. Interestingly, not only does research validate the use of quercetin for the preventative reduction of viral risk itself, but it also highlights its synergistic activity with the co-administration of vitamin C. On its own or alongside vitamin C, research indicates therapeutic dosing of quercetin has been shown beneficial within the range of 500-2000mg (or more) per day.
Many viruses also appear to be susceptible to the inhibitory actions of zinc. Zinc may prevent viral entry into cells and appears to reduce overall virulence. Typical daily dosing of zinc is 15mg-30mg, wherein it may also provide direct protective effects within the upper respiratory tract as well.
Aside from the already mentioned nutrients, another well-known natural product, vitamin D proves as an extremely formidable player when it comes to reducing viral risk. Vitamin D has been shown to confer antiviral protection, and one of its benefits includes improving vitamin D levels in the deficient population. By restoring low levels in those who are deficient, research has shown that it can greatly reduce the risk of severe symptoms from viral infections. Doses in the range of 2000IU (or more) have been implicated in those requiring vitamin D repletion, as well as those with already adequate 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels.
Another recognized natural product used in favour of antiviral risk, is melatonin. Melatonin has been identified for its various antiviral mechanisms, however, one of its primary roles is in its ability to reduce risk by inhibiting NFkB and NLRP3 activation. Due to the likelihood of depleted stores in those with increased susceptibility toward many viruses, doses anywhere from 0.3mg to 20mg (or more) have been validated to reduce overall infective potential.
Each of the other natural herbs and products listed above have continued to be thrust into the limelight for their medicinal activities related to both immune regulation and specific antiviral properties.
What natural supplements do you rely on to support your immune system and fight off colds, flus and viruses? We would love to hear from you.