Modern science is always on the lookout for useful antivirals because can viruses adapt and become resistant to antiviral medicines. Those efforts provide an ever-growing body of clinical research on a variety of potentially antiviral substances, including a wide range of natural antiviral options. Researchers are looking at the world’s traditional healing systems and finding that, in fact, they do have something to offer modern medicine.
Deep Ayurvedic Roots
India’s most influential traditional medicine system, Ayurveda, has evolved over thousands of years. Numerous medicinal herbs and spices have caught the attention of researchers throughout the world. Turmeric is an important culinary spice in India, but is also has been used medicinally for about as long as Ayurveda itself has been around, if not longer.
Turmeric has gotten a lot of attention in recent years for its anti-inflammatory action, but researchers have also studied it as a potential antiviral. One of the active ingredients, curcumin, has been shown in vitro to have some success in inhibiting the replication of a variety of viruses. Bio-availability, always a factor to consider, can be a challenge for those using turmeric for the benefit of the curcumin.
Piperine, found in black pepper and cayenne, can enhance that bioavailability by as much as 2000 percent. Taking higher doses of curcumin with piperine – double or more of the standard supplementation dosage – while generally recognized as safe, can interact with some medications. Among those are blood thinners, such as warfarin. Talk to your health care provider before making any significant change in diet or supplement use.
Ginger, a member of the Zingiberaceae plant family, as is turmeric, has also been shown to have antiviral qualities. Part of the culinary and medicinal traditions of many nations, ginger has been highly valued for thousands of years. In vitro testing of fresh ginger root against the influenza A (H1N1) virus and human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV). Anti-viral actions include inhibiting viral attachment and internalization.
It’s a Family Thing
The mint family, or Lamiaceae family, includes a wide range of herbs long recognized for their culinary and medicinal value. Among these are, naturally, the various mints, but also sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano and marjoram. Hyssop, lavender and lemon balm are also in this aromatic plant family. Plants in this group, while they differ in scent and flavor, share many traditional use medicinal qualities.
In vitro studies have pitted Lamiaceae family members against a wide variety of viruses. Carvacrol, one of oregano’s active plant compounds, has been shown to be active against rotavirus, herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), primarily by interfering with the mechanics of how viruses function. Rosemary has oleanolic acid, which has been shown in vitro to inhibit influenza virus entry and functioning. Lemon balm, sage and peppermint have shown antiviral promise by interfering with virus replication and entry processes.
Expand Knowledge, Practical Use
Can natural antivirals replace pharmaceuticals? No, not yet, not in a medically critical situation. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t have antiviral treatment value. A natural antiviral with clinically demonstrated potential to inhibit virus replication, for example, could be helpful at the start of a viral illness, perhaps lessening its overall impact. A multi-pronged approach in an era of drug-resistant disease is smart medicine. Clinical research on natural antivirals is ongoing and yours should be too. The more you know, the better able you are to weigh and choose your options.