For thousands of years, various cultures and civilizations around the world have used herbs to treat illnesses, diseases, and viral infections. With the advent of globalization and ease of travel, viral infections play an important role in human diseases, including recent outbreaks. Even though scientists and researchers have made great strides with immunization and treatment options, people turn to the potent plant compounds in antiviral herbs as alternative remedies.
The Role Of Viruses Today
Viruses cause myriad conditions, including certain cancers and hard-to-cure illnesses like hepatocellular carcinoma, Alzheimer’s disease, and type 1 diabetes. More recent examples include the emergence of dengue fever, measles, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), West Nile virus outbreaks, and the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. To date, there are viruses that do not have effective immunizations, and few antiviral treatments help. The discovery of potent antiviral compounds in various herbs is an urgent need because therapies that control viruses are lacking.
The Role Of Herbal Medicine Today
From purified natural products to antiviral herbs, herbal medicine plays a large role in virus protection nowadays. Scientists are hard at work to find and test how natural agents target viruses, how they affect viral life cycles, and if they are effective against notable pathogens. Research has shown that certain antiviral herbs are beneficial for the herpes simplex virus, the dengue virus, the influenza virus, the measles virus, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). Let’s take a look at some of three powerful antiviral herbs below.
Historically used in Eastern countries like Japan, Korea, China, and Russia, Siberian ginseng, also known as eleuthero ginseng, is one of the most widely used antiviral herbs in the world. While it is in the same botanical family as Asian and American ginseng species, Siberian ginseng is a different plant with different chemical components. Scientists attribute the antiviral properties of Siberian ginseng to eleutherosides, which are a complex group of chemicals.
The root contains the richest concentration of eleutherosides, which stimulate the production of interferon, a protein that enhances antibody activity and inhibits virus replication. Traditional Chinese Medicine uses Siberian ginseng to treat respiratory conditions, colds, flus, and to improve energy and vitality. In many studies, Siberian ginseng helped boost immune response and activate the body’s resistance to infection.
Astragalus is native to the mountains and grasslands of Asia, specifically Taiwan, Korea, and China. Used in essential tonics for over two thousand years, astragalus is one of the fifty fundamental herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Many studies found that the antiviral properties in astragalus stimulate the immune system to help prevent viral infections.
Research in the United States found that astragalus may be a possible treatment for people with compromised or weakened immune systems. It is an adaptogen herb, meaning it enhances immune response and increases resistance to chemical, biological, and physical stressors. Finally, astragalus is often used to strengthen the immune systems of people with upper respiratory infections, flus, fibromyalgia, allergies, anemia, and AIDS.
Elderberry is one of the most popular antiviral herbs in existence. According to Aviva Romm, M.D., an integrative medicine doctor, elderberry is absolutely necessary for fighting off colds and flus. The Journal of Functional Food examined in vitro studies of the influenza virus, and how elderberry extract interacted with the virus. The results indicated that elderberry extract worked to inhibit the virus in the early stages of the cycle.
It is very easy to supplement with elderberry because it comes in the form of extracts, tinctures, supplements, or powders. One study in mice determined that elderberry extract suppressed the influenza virus from replicating by stimulating immune response. In a review of four studies with 180 people, elderberry supplements substantially reduced upper respiratory symptoms caused by viral infections.