You’re washing your hands 10 times a day and have stopped touching your face. What else can you do to make sure your immune system is ready to fight off COVID-19 and other viruses that you may be exposed to?
To avoid getting sick, there are some easy rules to follow. These guidelines range from immune-boosting supplements to actions and incorporation to reduce risk and protect others around you.
How Does Our Immune System Work?
The immune system is the network of cells throughout our body (in the skin, the blood, and elsewhere) that work together to prevent or limit infection from potentially harmful pathogens (like bacteria and viruses) and to prevent damage from noninfectious agents (like sunburn and cancer) (1)
Our immune system has what’s known as “immune memory,” meaning that when those cells see a pathogen that has previously entered the body, not only do they help get rid of the invader, they also make more copies of themselves to continue to build a stronger defense in the future so the body is better prepared to fight off the pathogen if and when it reappears (2).
In the case of new viruses, such as the novel coronavirus, however, no one has a heightened response to it, because no one’s immune memory has encountered it. No one has been exposed and therefore no one has developed immunity, leaving more of us susceptible, Starnbach explains.
This coronavirus spreads mainly by person-to-person contact when near airborne particles resulting from coughing or sneezing. Coronaviruses can also live on surfaces for up to nine days, and cause an infection resulting from coming into contact with a contaminated surface, and then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth. The CDC believes this method is less common than person-to-person contact, though (3).
A healthy immune system reduces your chance of viral infection. Luckily, there are a number of powerful antiviral herbs that boost the immune system, reduce inflammation and fight infections.
Scrophularia is a family of herbal plants commonly called figworts that may be especially helpful in fighting off viruses.
According to one research review, when Scrophularia scorodonia was exposed in vitro to HCoV-22E9, a type of human coronavirus infection, it revealed it may help prevent the virus from attaching to, and penetrating into, the cells of the body.
Oregano is a popular herb in the mint family that’s known for its impressive medicinal qualities. Its plant compounds, which include carvacrol, offer antiviral properties.
Oregano benefits are proving to be superior to some antibiotics, without the harmful side effects. That’s because oregano contains two powerful compounds, carvacrol, and thymol, that have powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties.
It’s the carvacrol that reverses viral infections, as well as allergies, tumors, parasites, and disease-causing inflammation.
3. Olive Leaf
The olive leaf has antiviral properties, giving it the ability to treat the common cold and dangerous viruses, including candida symptoms, meningitis, pneumonia, chronic fatigue syndrome, hepatitis B, malaria, gonorrhea, and tuberculosis; it also treats dental, ear and urinary tract infections and is a natural treatment for shingles.
Also a member of the mint family, sage is an aromatic herb that has long been used in traditional medicine to treat viral infections (5). The antiviral properties of sage are mostly attributed to compounds called safficinolide and sage one, which is found in the leaves and stem of the plant
Elderberry extract is a top choice when it comes to antiviral herbs. Elderberries contain anthocyanidins, which are chemical compounds that have immunostimulant effects. The Journal of International Medical research finds that elderberry extract may reduce the duration of flu symptoms by an average of four days.
Peppermint, or Mentha piperita, as it’s officially known, is an herb that is said to have natural antiviral properties. In addition to menthol, which is found in the highest concentrations, it contains more than 40 compounds, like flavonoids, polyphenols, and tocopherols, that may play a role in keeping you healthy.
The herb Echinacea is supportive of the immune system and has a direct anti-viral action against colds and viral bronchitis. Preparations that include both the roots and the flowering tops are the most effective at helping the body resist the viruses.
Romm calls garlic, whose official name is Allium sativum L., “the original super-immunity herb.” Garlic has been used as a therapeutic medicinal plant for centuries. It’s main compound, called allicin, is said to have several health benefits, including antimicrobial activity.
More raw garlic benefits include its ability to reduce the risk of cancer, control hypertension, boost cardiovascular health and fight hair loss.
9. St. John’s Wort
Although the exact mechanisms of St. John’s Wort’s natural antiviral activity aren’t clear, researchers believe that the components in St. John’s Wort may alter proteins in the viruses, preventing them from fusing with cell membranes and causing infection, according to Herbal Medicine.
Licorice contains a substance called glycyrrhizin that reduces the replication of viruses and halts their ability to penetrate replicate inside healthy cells. It has been noted to be effective in the treatment of many viral illnesses including HIV strains and viral hepatitis.
11. Aronia Berry
Aronia berries contain higher levels of antioxidants, ployphenois, and anthocyanins than cranberries, blueberries, grapes, and most other fruits. Studies have shown that antioxidants help reduce the risk for cancer, heart disease, inflammation, diabetes, bacterial infections and neurological diseases in humans.
If you contract the coronavirus and you have a chronic medical condition or you are pregnant, you should also see your doctor. And if you experience what the CDC calls “emergency warning signs of flu sickness,” including trouble breathing, chest pain or severe vomiting, please seek immediate emergency care.