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How Plant Components Can Fight Against COVID-19

Plants are a rich source of many phytonutrients that protect them from diseases, heat, radiation, poisons, and pollutants. Such phytonutrients also have numerous health benefits for humans as they provide antioxidant protection to the body’s cells, fight inflammation, and can boost immune system function. In developed countries, active plant components have been shown to be effective against major health problems such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Recently, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the antiviral benefits of phytonutrients such as quercetin (found in red onions), curcumin (an extract from turmeric root), green tea extract, and resveratrol (found in red grapes) have gained renewed interest.

Below, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, we outline the health benefits of some key phytobiological components.

QUERCETIN is proven to be of benefit against both RNA viruses (e.g. coronavirus, flu) and DNA viruses (e.g. herpes). It helps in thwarting viral multiplication by killing live viruses within cells. Quercetin can also protect infected cells from damage by pathogens and aid in the cell repair process.

CURCUMIN is a very potent antiviral and anti-inflammatory agent. An extract from turmeric root, it inactivates viruses at multiple stages of infection. For example, it can inhibit viral attachment to the cell, thus blocking viral entry. It also prevents viruses from becoming active by blocking the production of viral proteins and inhibiting the multiplication of viruses and their release from cells. This stops the spread of infection. Curcumin also protects against the widespread inflammation caused by viral infections.  The so-called ‘cytokine storm’ that results from extensive inflammation is one of the main causes of serious complications in COVID-19. Curcumin has shown benefits against influenza and other types of viruses including dengue, herpes, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus, human T-cell leukemia virus, and others. Unlike in the case of antiviral drugs, these viruses have not shown resistance to curcumin.

GREEN TEA EXTRACTS are known to reduce influenza infections in healthcare workers, who are frequently exposed to such viruses. At the cellular level, the green tea extract epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) has demonstrated benefits against the coronavirus by inhibiting a key enzyme involved in its multiplication. Similar to curcumin, EGCG has shown antiviral action against the hepatitis C virus, as well as against HIV, influenza A and B, and Zika viruses. EGCG can weaken the coronavirus by inhibiting its outer proteins and preventing its attachment to cells.

RESVERATROL also supports the body’s immune system. Found in particularly high concentrations in red grapes, resveratrol is known for its heart-protective effects. However, it also has antiviral properties and is effective in reducing viral multiplication and inflammation resulting from viral infections. The antiviral efficacy of resveratrol has also been demonstrated against viruses such as influenza A and B, SARS-CoV, and rhinovirus (a cause of the common cold).

Combining nutrients for enhanced benefits

To protect itself against microbial invaders the human body does not rely on any single micronutrient alone. In addition to active plant components, the body also requires a wide variety of essential vitamins and minerals. Research conducted at the Dr. Rath Research Institute has documented how various nutrient combinations can enhance healthy cellular functions. In studies published in July and August 2020, the institute’s researchers examined how micronutrients can impair the coronavirus from entering the body’s cells. Among other findings, they showed that a specific combination of phytonutrients can inhibit the binding of a viral protein to cell receptors by 97 percent. The nutrient combination was also shown to inhibit the expression of these receptors on the cells by 92 percent, thereby reducing the potential sites for the virus to attach itself to.

Considering the impact of the current pandemic on public health and the global economy, as well as a lack of effective treatment options, safe natural compounds with scientifically proven efficacy should become part of public health strategies worldwide and be implemented without delay.