Monday, March 21, 2016

Anti-Viral Foods and Herbs

A virus is an infection that cannot be cured with antibiotics. Examples of viral infections include the common cold and flu. Many foods and herbs are known for their antiviral properties, which means that they prevent or kill viruses. Some foods and herbs also have the ability to boost the immune system.


Garlic's antiviral properties can be attributed to a substance called allicin, which is activated when garlic is crushed, according to Fitness Arts. Garlic can be consumed in a variety of ways--it can be eaten raw or cooked, or taken in a capsule or extract. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, studies show that people taking garlic supplements are less likely to be infected with the common cold. Also, garlic was shown to speed recovery time once infected.


The most common use for St. John's Wort is alleviating minor depression, although it has antibacterial and antiviral properties as well. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that laboratory research shows that St. John's Wort may kill or slow the growth of human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV; however, it interferes with medications used to treat people with the virus, so HIV patients should not take the herb, and it should be used with caution in healthy adults who want to use it for its antiviral properties. The herb is contraindicated with several common medications such as antidepressants and anticoagulants. St. John's Wort can be dried and consumed, or can be ingested as a tea. Capsules and extracts are also available.


Echinacea is a powerful immune-boosting herb. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, echinacea can shorten the duration of the common cold and flu, and reduce symptoms such as sore throat, cough and fever. To be effective, it should be taken at the first sign of infection, such as a runny nose, sore throat or fatigue.


Astragalus is primarily used for its immune-boosting properties. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that studies have shown that astragalus has antiviral properties and stimulates the immune system. Researchers have investigated astragalus as a possible treatment for people whose immune systems have been compromised by chemotherapy or radiation.


Vitamins A, C, and E are all antioxidants vital to protecting the body against infection. Foods high in vitamin A include carrots and sweet potatoes. Red peppers are surprisingly high in vitamin C, along with the obvious fruits like oranges and grapefruit. Vitamin E can be found in sunflower seeds, almonds and some fish.

There are some seriously hardcore herbs out there at your disposal.

1. Prickly ash bark.

This is one mother of an antiviral, good also for chronic infections, depression, and digestive complaints (all which seem to tag along with long-term viruses). Go for the tincture and disregard the package directions. According to the ever-illuminating herbalist Matthew Wood, an effective and therapeutic dose is 1-3 drops of tincture three times a day, no matter your age, weight, or size. Note: prickly ash bark can affect lactation, so use cautiously if you're breastfeeding.

2. Apple cider vinegar.

Mix two tablespoons of raw apple cider vinegar with eight ounces of water and a splash of lemon juice (sweeten with stevia if you like) and drink on an empty stomach three times a day. You can also apply vinegar to any affected areas of the skin, covering the area with a soft bandage (this is more easily done before going to sleep).

3. Oil of oregano.

Another serious antiviral and antioxidant, you can take oil oregano internally (1-4 drops in water twice a day), or externally on affected skin. Use cautiously if pregnant.

4. Garlic.

Eat as much garlic as you can stand. Seriously. A lot. And then eat more. If you can’t stand to eat it, get the capsules (you can find odorless ones) and take lots. Lots and lots and lots. For viral infections on the skin, you can pulp raw garlic and wrap it in gauze. Apply the poultice to the affected area (but don’t use for longer than two weeks). If you have a serious condition such as AIDS or cancer, avoid garlic if there's also a fever present.

5. Goldenseal or Oregon grape.

Goldenseal is a fantastic antiviral, but can be expensive as well as endangered and over harvested. If you can find it, take Oregon grape, the much less expensive, much more abundant cousin to goldenseal. Since both of these herbs contain berberine (which can kill off too much of your natural intestinal flora), take this for one week, then take a week off before resuming. Avoid it if you're pregnant.

6. St. John’s Wort

St. John’s Wort not only offers relief from depression, but it also helps fight viruses and boosts the immune system. Take the recommended dose, following bottle directions. Avoid if you’re currently taking an MAO or protease inhibitor.

Otherwise, all the usual general health stuff applies — fresh fruit and vegetables, exercise, fresh air (especially fresh air). But listen to your body. Viruses can sap our energy and if we exhaust ourselves, then it’s just an invitation for them to hang out longer.

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