Antiviral supplements and herbs can offer strong immune support during cold and flu season. During peak infection times, or during outbreaks of novel pathogens like the COVID-19 Coronavirus, I see a barrage of advertisers exaggerating the claims of their products.
Of the health professionals I’ve spoken with, the research I’ve read, and my personal experience I’ve found only a handful of such compounds worth consideration. That’s to say; I think most supplements advertised as “natural antivirals” are mostly a waste of money.
The compounds listed below all have some degree of clinical support for their role as antivirals. It’s important to realize these compounds do not have comparable levels of data to that of prescription antivirals. However, that’s not a reason to discount them. There is much less incentive for research on non-patentable compounds than prescription solutions.
Monolaurin is the monoglyceride form of lauric acid — naturally found in breast and coconut milk. Many of the doctors I’ve seen over the years have recommended monolaurin as an antiviral supplement that I could take during cold and flu season.
My personal experience with this compound has been using it as an anti-fungal. I’ve found it to be nearly as effective as comparable pharmaceuticals like Fluconazole, but without the nasty side effects. Research suggests I’m not alone in this experience (R).
Colostrum is produced by mammals just after childbirth. It’s referred to as “mother’s milk” and helps infants ward off infection and forms the basis of their developing immune system.
One study found that colostrum was more effective at preventing the flu than the actual flu vaccine (R). Researchers of this study concluded with the following statement:
Colostrum, both in healthy subjects and high-risk cardiovascular patients, is at least 3 times more effective than vaccination to prevent flu and is very cost-effective
Various metals demonstrate strong antiviral and antibacterial properties. One caveat is that they have to have a very small molecular size. These types of compounds are often referred to as “nanoparticles” but can also be found on supplement shelves as metal “colloids”.
Some studies have shown that silver nanoparticles are ineffective in killing certain bacteria (R) but it’s generally regarded as a very effective biocide. In recent years, silver particles have been effectively used in wound and burn treatments to lower the risk of infection (R).
NASA has also investigated the antibacterial, antiprotozoal, and antiviral properties of silver and silver nanoparticles. Their interest ranges across disease prevention, water purification, and commercial sanitation (PDF).
Other research has shown colloidal silver to be effective at treating the following pathogens (R):
- Herpes (HSV-1)
- Hepatitis B
One important note: the effectiveness of colloidal silver is dependent on particle size. The “sweet spot” seems to be particles between 1–100nm (R). This allows the particles to directly interact with harmful compounds like bacteria and viruses.
Growing up, I was always told to take L-Lysine when I was sick or had a fever blister. Oddly enough, it always seemed to help!
Viruses require host cells to replicate and rely on certain amino acids to support their devious plans. L-Arginine is known to be essential for viral replication (R)(R). Certain viruses, like the herpes simplex virus (HSV), are completely dependent on Arginine-based metabolism.
Lysine competes with arginine for absorption and therefore can limit the amount of Arginine available to a viral infection. In other words, L-Lysine helps fight viral infection by starving it out (R)! There are some mixed results in clinical study however, and it would seem L-Lysine isn’t always a magic bullet.
One study found that, among 100 HIV-positive patients, L-Lysine supplementation actually increased the total viral load by nearly 400% (R)! Interestingly, the study also found that L-Arginine (high in meats) did not increase or decrease total viral load.
Elderberry syrup is one of the latest trends in natural immune support. Research has shown certain commercial products like Sambucol to increase immune response by as much as 4500% compared to placebo (R).
Researchers have shown elderberry extracts effective in treating MRSA (R) which is a notoriously difficult infection to treat. Laboratory testing has shown elderberry effective at preventing H1N1 (R). Other research demonstrates that elderberry can be effective at preventing a range of other bacterial and viral infections (R).
One double-blinded, placebo-controlled study found that elderberry extract can reduce the severity and duration of infection (R). It’s worth noting that the dose used in this study was 600mg elderberry extract for 8 days, followed by 6 days of 300mg dosage. The subjects were evaluated during a period of travel, before which the 600mg dose was considered “priming.”
Another study found 15ml of Sambucol elderberry syrup, taken 4 times daily, reduced the severity and duration of infection (R).
Viral infections are part of human life. This year, facing the threat of the COVID-19 coronavirus, everyone I know is scrambling for an effective antiviral arsenal. Every medical professional I’ve spoken with has recommended three things above all else: wash your hands, avoid contact with sick people, and avoid unnecessary travel.
The supplements and compounds listed here are those that I’ve found helpful to me personally — and that have some basis of supportive evidence. These compounds may offer valuable assistance during a viral outbreak. They might also make you feel worse.
I can’t stress how important it is to work with a health professional to best understand how to use such compounds effectively. It’s also important to purchase from trustworthy supplement brands to ensure maximum purity and potency.