Natural Antiviral Agents that Optimize Immune Response - Dr. Axe

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Antiviral Toolkit: Natural Agents that Optimize Immune Response and Fight Viral Invaders


Antiviral toolkit - Dr. Axe

Your body faces constant attacks by germs, toxins and other harmful invaders. At the same time, everyday stress and worry can keep you and your body on constant high alert.

All of those things demand attention from your immune system. And adding anything extra or unusual into the mix can throw everything further out of balance.

In trying times, staying healthy offers your best defense. And the best way to achieve that is through immune system regulation.

Regulation Works Better Than Stimulation

You may hear a lot about boosting your immune system to help it fight. But with some infections, an immune boost can turn into immune overreaction. When that happens, your body ends up fighting against itself.

The key here is balance. A well-regulated immune system doesn’t overreact or underreact. It does what’s needed to knock out an invasive germ and stops short of attacking you.


That concept of regulation applies in a broader sense, too. Regulating emotions and stress levels help reduce immune system reactivity and improve immune system responses. That’s especially true during stress-filled challenging times.

Your Whole Body Needs Regulation

In order to regulate the immune system, your whole body needs to be in balance. That can seem impossible during times of crisis.

Panic, fear, anxiety and stress can throw your immune system into a state of dysregulation, and make you more vulnerable to infections.

Luckily, there are several simple things you can do to calm things down and return your whole body to a more regulated state:

  • Eat the healthiest diet possible, including anti-inflammatory foods like green vegetables, nuts and seeds, olive oil, and berries
  • Keep your body moving as much as you can, but avoid overexerting yourself (as that stresses your system)
  • Spend some time outdoors
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Do things (like listening to music) that help you feel relaxed
  • Meditate daily to help your mind and body relax

Any of these actions can help regulate your body and your immune system, and help you avoid an immune system overreaction.

Immune System Overreaction and Cytokine Storms

When your immune system detects infectious microbes — like viruses or bacteria — it activates an alarm system. One of the main alarm proteins, called galectin-3 (or Gal-3), starts sending urgent alerts to other immune system cells. In that role, Gal-3 sets off many immune reactions, including inflammation.

Normally, this response helps your body recognize and neutralize invaders. But sometimes, Gal-3 goes into overdrive and causes an excessive inflammatory response.

That overreaction is known as a cytokine storm, which can pack a deadly blow as it causes overwhelming inflammation throughout the body.

Some infectious microbes can trigger Gal-3 and cytokine storms, leading to severe health consequences including:

  • respiratory failure
  • kidney damage
  • liver damage
  • septic shock

Cytokine storms can be especially dangerous in respiratory infections, making it nearly impossible to breathe as the lungs become overwhelmed by inflammation.

To avoid these potentially fatal outcomes, you want to keep your immune system balanced and regulated, and that means keeping Gal-3 under control.

Related: Cytokines: Their Key Role for Your Immune System and Inflammation Levels

Calming the “Alarm” Protein Galectin-3

Keeping Gal-3 under control can be life-saving.

Modified citrus pectin, or MCP, is the only proven Gal-3 blocker currently available. MCP prevents Gal-3 from being over-expressed, which helps keep runaway inflammation under control and stops cytokine storms.

Plus, MCP brings additional critical benefits that can help you weather health crises:


  • neutralizes and eliminates toxins and other harmful substances that can distract or overload your immune system
  • helps activate the right immune cells to take on specific threats
  • actively protects key organs including heart, liver and kidneys
  • tackles cancer growth and metastasis
  • helps regulate the immune system
  • offers antimicrobial protection

When building your antiviral toolkit, MCP makes a crucial first addition. MCP’s combined powers of reducing the burden on your immune system, protecting you against infectious microbes and blocking overactive Gal-3 can help keep shield you during any health crisis.

Regulating Your Immune System

For generations, practitioners of traditional Asian medicine have relied on medicinal mushrooms for their wide-ranging health benefits — particularly their ability to adjust the immune system.

Medicinal mushrooms have adaptogen qualities, meaning they adapt to the immediate circumstance to survive. And those qualities can also help you by regulating your immune system and its inflammatory response.

Medicinal mushrooms teach your immune system to work better and smarter — not harder.

In addition, many medicinal mushrooms offer antiviral, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant protection. Beneficial medicinal mushrooms include:

  • Ganoderma (reishi)
  • Cordyceps
  • Coriolus
  • Umbellatus
  • Maitake
  • Shiitake
  • Tremella

Some of these medicinal mushrooms (like Coriolus) have an immediate effect. Others, like reishi and cordyceps, offer more long-term support. Mushrooms such as tremella, cordyceps and reishi protect the lungs, while mushrooms like maitake and shiitake protect the digestion.

Medicinal mushrooms can be taken individually, but they work even better when taken together. Include them as staples in your antiviral toolkit for overall immune regulation and support.

Protecting Cells Against Invaders

Germs infect you by sneaking into your cells. Some more virulent viruses enter through ACE2 receptors, which act sort of like keyholes that can open doorways into cells.

Certain infectious microbes have “keys” that fit well into those ACE2 keyholes. They use their “keys” to latch tightly on to ACE2 receptors and break into healthy cells.

Fortunately, specific herbs may be able to lock down ACE2 receptors and prevent invaders from barging in. Such antiviral herbs include:

  • Chinese skullcap root
  • licorice
  • horse chestnut
  • Japanese knotweed root

And like other herbs, each of these contains hundreds of plant compounds, so they can have multiple positive effects on your health. For example, Japanese knotweed possesses strong antiviral properties, and horse chestnut is well known for its anti-inflammatory properties.

Time-Tested Herbs Keep You Healthy

For thousands of years, plants have been used to keep people healthy, fight diseases, and treat symptoms. Many of the most powerfully healing herbs are widely used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Whether you’re looking for immune system regulation, antiviral properties, anti-inflammatory powers or symptom relief, there’s an herbal remedy that can help.

Herbs with immune-regulating properties:

Herbs with antiviral properties:

Herbs with anti-inflammatory properties:

All of these herbs have a place in a complete antiviral toolkit. Remember, the main pillars of keeping yourself healthy are regulation — for your immune system and your stress levels — and blocking immune overreactions that can lead to dangerous cytokine storms.

Integrating the various elements introduced in this article can yield both short and long-term results. And on the way, they can be of significant benefit to yourself and those around you.

Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc has been a recognized expert in the field of integrative medicine since the early 1980s, with a specific focus on cancer, immune health, detoxification and mind-body medicine. He is a respected formulator, clinician, researcher, author and educator. As part of his commitment to the advancement of integrative medicine, Dr. Eliaz partners with leading research institutes and has co-authored numerous peer-reviewed papers on innovative therapies for immune enhancement, heavy metal toxicity and cancer prevention and treatment. He is founder and medical director of Amitabha Medical Clinic and Healing Center in Santa Rosa, CA, where he and his team of practitioners pioneer individualized treatments for cancer and chronic illness.

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