Natural Virus Protection
Are there any natural remedies we can use to protect ourselves against viral infections? With colds and flu still lurking and new fears about the potential spread of coronavirus, the best advice is to maintain high levels of personal hygiene. This means putting other first! Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, dispose of used tissues immediately, wash hands frequently with hot soapy water and take special care not to contaminate surfaces that other people may touch.
Natural therapists have come under fire for suggesting that certain remedies can kill viruses, although the truth is we don’t know for sure as there simply isn’t enough research.
Studies have shown that culinary ingredients like garlic and oregano have antimicrobial properties and can deactivate certain viruses including influenza and norovirus within a test tube. This is indeed promising, however we aren’t certain whether the amounts used in everyday cooking would offer enough protection, and clearly it is far too soon to have any studies relating specifically to the new coronavirus. Other herbs such as rosemary, basil and sage have also been shown to have some level of anti-viral activity in vitro, so if you like these herbs, use them in abundance. Herbal capsules and tinctures can be very powerful and should only be used under guidance from a licensed herbalist.
Salt has long been used to prevent growth of bacteria, which makes salting an excellent food preservation method - but colds and flu are caused by viruses not bacteria. Even so, saline nasal sprays have been shown to be useful in treating common cold viruses. Although this does not ‘kill’ the virus, some studies have reported reduced length of infection, reduction of some (but not all) symptoms, and reduction of the spread of the virus amongst family members. Salt crystals have also been trialled in the manufacture of some surgical masks, with indications that the salt crystals can neutralize harmful viruses within a matter of minutes. Eating salt is not shown to provide any benefit.
Tea Tree is probably the best known anti-viral in aromatherapy, and is used frequently in products to disinfect surfaces. It should be a pharmaceutical grade oil used in a suitably high concentration to be effective – but is not advisable to use neat unless under the guidance of an experienced practitioner. Gargling with tea tree diluted in water can offer relief from sore throats and may reduce the length of infection, while using tea tree in a room diffuser may help to disinfect the air if you have a sick family member.
Aside from trying to ‘kill’ the virus, a different approach is to enhance your own immune system so that if you do come into contact with a pathogen your body will be able to fight it off. Again, garlic is noted as one of the ‘superfoods’ that has been shown to boost the disease-fighting response of white blood when they encounter viruses. Here is where a Nutritional Therapist can offer you advice, as there are many other foods and supplements that can support the immune system – from probiotics, zinc and vitamin C to individual immune boosting foods. Also be sure to stay well hydrated, to give your body the best chance to recover.
The scientific community is often quick to disregard natural treatments due to limited studies, but if you live by the Hippocratic principle “first do no harm” then there really is no good reason for anyone to belittle the use of non-invasive natural treatments, as long as they are used in conjunction with the personal hygiene advice from Public Health England.
5 ways to protect yourself and others from viral infection:
- Follow the Public Health advice to wash hands frequently with hot soapy water, cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, and dispose of used tissues as soon as possible.
- Avoid close contact with those who are unwell, or if contact is unavoidable be sure to practise good hygiene
- If you have a bad cold or fever think about how you can protect other people – call in sick to work, and get a home delivery of shopping instead of going to the supermarket.
- Take special care when preparing food for others, even if you don’t have symptoms you may still be contagious
- If you have an obvious cold, try a saline nasal spray to reduce the symptoms and make you less likely to spread the infection to others.
5 ways to boost your immunity:
- Add generous amounts of garlic and herbs like oregano and sage to your everyday cooking
- Eat plenty of fresh food – fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses – avoid packaged and processed foods which often lack immune boosting nutrients.
- Consider visiting a nutritional therapist for a tailored supplement programme to support your own immune system
- Use fermented foods to get immune support from the natural probiotics – you can make your own kefir or fermented vegetables at home
- Feel free to try any traditional natural remedies if there are no known side effects – just because they haven’t been ‘proven’ doesn’t mean they should be dismissed. Do your research before parting with your money and seek professional guidance if you are unsure.