Did you know that there are more than 400 different viruses that can cause infections, including the common cold, the flu, hepatitis, mononucleosis and HIV?
Today, many people choose to have an annual influenza vaccination, or flu shot, but this is only 80 percent effective because of the mutating strains of the influenza virus; plus, these vaccines educate the immune system in an improper and unnatural manner, and often contain dangerous chemicals and preservatives. Luckily, there are a number of powerful antiviral herbs that boost the immune system, reduce inflammation and fight infections.
What Is a Virus?
A virus is a small infectious agent that can only replicate inside the living cells of other organisms. Viruses can infect all types of life forms — humans, animals, plants and microorganisms, including bacteria and archaea. They’re found in almost every ecosystem on Earth, and they’re the most abundant type of biological entity.
Viruses have actually been described as “organisms at the edge of life” because they carry genetic material, reproduce and evolve through natural selection, but they lack cell structure, which is generally needed to be considered living.
There are many ways that a virus spreads. In animals, a virus is carried by blood-sucking insects. Some viruses, like influenza, is spread by coughing and sneezing. Viruses like viral gastroenteritis (infectious diarrhea) are transmitted by the fecal–oral route (which is a result of poor sanitation) and are passed from person to person by contact or enter the body through food and water. HIV is one of several viruses that’s transmitted through sexual contact and by exposure to infected blood.
The scary thing about contracting a virus is that antibiotics do not work. Vaccines are also unpredictable, and viruses, including those that cause AIDS and viral hepatitis, evade these vaccine-induced immune responses and result in chronic infections.
What Are Antiviral Herbs?
Antiviral herbs inhibit the development of viruses. They can be used to treat infections without caution because they’re harmless and typically cause no or few side effects. Many antiviral herbs boost the immune system, which allows the body to attack viral pathogens. This can be even better than attacking specific pathogens, which antiviral drugs are designed to do, because pathogens mutate over time and become less susceptible to treatment.
Not only do antiviral herbs fight viral infections, boost the immune system and work as flu natural remedies, but they have a number of other health benefits, such as cardiovascular, digestive and anti-inflammatory support.
Top 10 Antiviral Herbs
Elderberry has a long, rich history of use for medicinal benefits by numerous cultures. It fights infections including influenza, herpes, viral infections and bacterial infections. A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine concluded that elderberry can be used as a safe treatment for influenza A and B. This is due to its efficacy on all strains of influenza virus that were tested, the clinical results, its low cost and the absence of side effects.
Most every part of the elderberry can be used — the flowers, bark, roots and leaves are often used for their amazing health benefits. So discover elderberry benefits for your health today.
Echinacea has become one of the top-selling herbs of all time; that’s because regular use of echinacea is beneficial for immune support and overall health. There is considerable evidence suggesting that phytochemicals in echinacea have the capacity to reduce virus infections and tumors. This powerful herb contains a compound called echinacein that inhibits bacteria and viruses from penetrating healthy cells. This greatly reduces the chances of contracting any type of infection while consuming echinacea.
Some more echinacea benefits include its ability to alleviate pain, reduce inflammation, improve skin problems, treat upper respiratory issues and improve mental health.
The flower petals of the calendula plant, which is sometimes called pot marigold, have been used for medicinal purposes since at least the 12th century. This antiviral herb has high amounts of flavonoids, which are plant-based antioxidants that protect cells from being damaged by free radicals; it also fights viruses, inflammation and bacteria. The dried petals of the plant are used in tinctures, ointments and washes to treat infections, burns, wounds and heal cuts fast.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, ear drops containing calendula are sometimes used to treat ear infections in children, and scientific studies have found no side effects.
Experiments have shown that garlic — or specific chemical compounds found in garlic — is highly effective at killing countless microorganisms responsible for some of the most common and rarest infections, including tuberculosis, pneumonia, thrush and herpes. Because of its antiviral properties, garlic can be used to treat eye infections and as a natural ear infection remedy.
To make a garlic oil infusion at home, crush garlic cloves and add them to a carrier oil (like olive oil). Let the mixture sit for about five hours, and then strain the bits of garlic and keep the oil in a jar with a lid. You can also swallow a raw clove of garlic; you might need to cut it in half if it’s too large. Bite down once to release the allicin; then swallow with water like a pill.
5. Astragalus Root
Astragalus root, another powerful antiviral herb, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, and its main use is to boost the body’s immune system. Scientific studies have shown that astragalus has antiviral properties and stimulates the immune system, suggesting that it may help prevent the common cold or flu.
A 2004 study evaluated the effects of astragalus on herpes simplex virus type 1 and found that the herb has obvious inhibiting efficacy. Another study published in the Chinese Medical Sciences Journal concluded that astragalus is able to inhibit the growth of coxsackie B virus in mice. Astragalus also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and it is used on the skin for wound care. It’s also one the seven adaptogen herbs to lower cortisol.
6. Cat’s Claw
The bark and root of cat’s claw have been used by South Americans for centuries to treat health problems including fevers, stomach ulcers, digestive conditions and dysentery. Cat’s claw works as a natural arthritis remedy and treats ulcer symptoms as well.
Cat’s claw has antiviral properties, and it’s used as a herpes natural cure. Early studies are researching its effects on HIV as well.
This powerful herb is also anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antifungal. It’s used to treat digestive problems such as ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis and leaky gut syndrome. The best way to consume cat’s claw regularly is by making an herbal tea with a tablespoon of the herb in eight ounces of water.
Ayurvedic medicine has praised ginger’s ability to boost the immune system before recorded history. It believes that because ginger is so effective at warming the body, it can help break down the accumulation of toxins in your organs. It’s also known to cleanse the lymphatic system, our body’s sewage system. Ginger prevents the accumulation of toxins that make you susceptible to viral, fungal and bacterial infections. Medicinal ginger health benefits also include working as a natural remedy for nausea, pain alleviation, anti-inflammatory properties and improving diabetes.
8. Licorice Root
Licorice is emerging as a prominent player in the search for treatment and prevention for diseases like hepatitis C, HIV and influenza. The Chinese Journal of Virology published a review that confirms the antiviral activity of licorice root due to its triterpenoid content. Another 2010 publication notes licorice’s antioxidant, free radical-scavenging and immunostimulating effects.
Some more licorice root benefits include:
- Sore throat remedy for fast relief
- Cough natural remedy
- Protection against leaky gut signs and symptoms
- Heals adrenal fatigue
- Pain relief
9. Olive Leaf
The olive leaf has antiviral properties, giving it the ability to treat the common cold and dangerous viruses, including candida symptoms, meningitis, pneumonia, chronic fatigue syndrome, hepatitis B, malaria, gonorrhea and tuberculosis; it also treats dental, ear and urinary tract infections and is a natural treatment for shingles.
Research shows that olive leaf extracts effectively fight against a number of disease-causing microbes, including some viruses that cause influenza and other respiratory infections. The powerful compounds found in olive leaves destroy invading organisms and don’t allow viruses to replicate and cause an infection. In fact, the olive leaf is so beneficial to our health that treatment with olive leaf extracts reversed many HIV-1 infection-associated changes in a study done at the New York University School of Medicine.
Medicinal grade oregano is distilled to extract the essential oil and preserve its healing compounds; in fact, it takes over 1,000 pounds of wild oregano to produce just 1 pound of oregano oil!
Oregano oil benefits are proving to be superior to some antibiotics, without the harmful side effects. That’s because oregano contains two powerful compounds, carvacrol and thymol, that have powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties. It’s the carvacrol that reverses viral infections, as well as allergies, tumors, parasites and disease-causing inflammation. Doubting the power of this antiviral herb? Well, there are over 800 scientific studies that reference carvacrol and its amazing health benefits!
How to Use Antiviral Herbs
Teas are a great way to get the antiviral benefits of herbs every day. Steep one tablespoon of herbs in hot water for 5–10 minutes. Ginger, for example, is great in an herbal tea after dinner. It aids digestion and fights viruses. Echinacea, for example, is a popular herbal tea that’s sold in most food stores, so the work is already done for you.
Herbal infusions are stronger than teas because they require a larger quantity of herbs. To make your own herbal infusion, steep a cup of antiviral herbs in water for about 7 hours. Keep the infusion in an air-tight jar, and drink it cold or heated. Because the infusions are strong, don’t drink more than one cup a day.
DIY Herbal-Infused Oil
An infused oil is when you heat the herb in a carrier oil for several hours. You can use the oven to heat the mixture, or try leaving it in a hot and sunny place for 12 hours. Use about 1/2 cup of antiviral herbs (you can use one herb or a mixture), and add it to 1 cup of coconut or jojoba oil.
If you heat the mixture in the oven, it should be in an oven-safe dish for 3 hours at 200 degrees. If you decide not to use the oven, put the mixture in an air-tight jar and let it sit in a sunny place for about 12 hours. Once the herbs are infused into the oil, drain the leaves and keep the oil in a jar. You can use the oil topically to alleviate pain and kill infections.
Many of these herbs are sold as essential oils; make sure to purchase organic and pure essential oils from a reputable company. To use essential oils benefits like their antiviral properties, diffuse 3–5 drops in your home, add 2–3 drops to warm bath water or mix 1–2 drops with a carrier oil and apply the mixture directly to the skin. Massaging essential oils into your feet, abdomen and chest is useful when fighting a fever or flu symptoms. If you are new to this natural remedy, use my Essential Oils Guide to get you started.
Antiviral Herbs Recipes
A great way to get herbs into your everyday diet is by adding them to a smoothie. My Cilantro Ginger Smoothie Recipe helps your body detoxify and soothes inflammation. It also has antiviral and antibacterial properties. Another great option is my Alkalizing Juice Recipe that has a knob of garlic; this is a great way to fight viral infections and boost your cardiovascular health.
I recommend you try making herbal teas at home. They’re easy and full of health benefits. You can use ginger or licorice root in place of turmeric — just follow my Turmeric Tea Recipe and add a teaspoon of the herb of your choice or 1–2 drops of an essential oil or oil infusion.
Don’t miss an opportunity to add these powerful antiviral herbs to your meals. They can be thrown onto so many meals throughout the day, and it’s worth it! Try my Veggie Omelet that calls for garlic and oregano — two antiviral herbs that fight infections.
An easy way to add these herbs into your diet is to throw them in healthy soups! Choose from my 49 Healthy Soup Recipes; you can add 2–5 drops of an essential oil, herbal infusion or oil infusion to any of these soups. They boost the flavor and health benefits.
Possible Side Effects & Interactions of Antiviral Herbs
If you use infusions or essential oils, remember that the products are extremely potent and should not be taken for a long period of time. If you use these natural remedies for their antiviral properties, do not consume them for more than two weeks. Giving yourself a break between long doses is important. If you are pregnant, be cautious of using essential oils and reach out to your health care provider before doing so.
Some of these antiviral herbs interact with medications, so read up on an herb before you begin consuming its extract or essential oil.