Viruses and superbugs have become a part of day-to-day living, but that doesn’t mean you have to live in fear of those nasty microbes. Your immune system, when armed with nature’s best weapons, can be a formidable rival against a wide range of viruses and bacteria. I spent nearly three decades tracking down over seventy of the most effective natural weapons against viruses and bacteria, which I curated for my book Super-Powered Immunity: Natural Remedies for 21st-Century Viruses and Superbugs. While many people are already familiar with some of the old standbys like elderberry, garlic, oregano oil, and vitamins C and D, the following book excerpt shares ten of the lesser-known but highly valuable options that are worth keeping on hand.
Berberine is a plant nutrient extracted from plants like barberry, Oregon grape, and blue cohosh, among others. A growing body of research shows that it packs a punch against many different microbes, including bacteria, fungi, and viruses alike. Research published in the medical journal Frontiers of Medicine found that berberine is antibacterial against E. coli. Another study showed that berberine has
antibacterial activity against a broad spectrum of bacterial varieties, including strains that are drug resistant. Berberine also demonstrates significant effectiveness against fungal infections like various strains of Candida, including against the biofilms they create. Biofilms are slimy coatings that bacteria create to protect themselves and reduce the likelihood of being detected and killed by the human immune system. In a study published in the journal Drug Design, Development and Therapy, researchers found that berberine was highly effective at reducing all five of the Candida strains they tested it against, as well as at inhibiting the biofilms they create. Impressed by the significant antifungal effects of berberine, the scientists concluded, “Berberine might have novel therapeutic potential as an antifungal agent or a major active component of antifungal drugs.” Exciting research published in the Archives of Virology found that it demonstrated antiviral activity on many viruses, including herpes simplex, human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), HPV, and HIV.
EPIGALLOCATECHIN GALLATE (EGCG)
You’ve probably heard about the incredible healing abilities of green tea, but few people know that, in addition to its heart-healing and anticancer properties, green tea and the potent compound found in it—epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)—is also highly anti-infectious. One of the primary phytonutrients found in green tea, EGCG has been identified in research as having antibacterial properties, on its own or in combination with antibiotics to bolster the drugs’ effects, including against S. aureus and many other bacteria. Other research in the Journal of Applied Oral Science is exploring the addition of EGCG into dental fillings since it has been found to inhibit some Streptococcus bacteria. The same research also showed that
EGCG demonstrates antifungal activity. Another study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that EGCG demonstrated antiviral activity on multiple families of viruses, including HIV, influenza A, and hepatitis C, and interfered with the viral replication process that is needed for survival of hepatitis B, herpes simplex, and adenoviruses.
One of the most powerful things you can do to boost your immune system and aid its ability to fight off infectious intruders is also one of the least known. Many people have not even heard of the nutrient glutathione, which is one of nature’s greatest treasures when it comes to fighting disease-causing microbes. Glutathione is an antioxidant nutrient that is produced in the cells of your body, primarily from three building blocks of proteins called amino acids, including cysteine, glutamine, and glycine. Even moderate changes in glutathione levels in the body have a profound effect on the status of lymphocyte (immune cells) functions. Research in the International Journal of Medical Microbiology found that glutathione on may be effective in treating some bacterial infections. Glutathione has been discovered as the potential missing link in the prevention and treatment of viruses. A study published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences found that a glutathione deficiency may play a central role in severe disease symptoms linked to Covid-19. Earlier research in the journal Biological Chemistry found that glutathione regulated the immune response, which not only helps the body attack foreign invaders like pathogens, it also prevents the immune system from overreacting.
Quercetin is a plant pigment (known as a flavonoid) that is found in many foods and its antiviral properties have been the subject of numerous studies. One study published in the medical journal Viruses found that quercetin inhibited a wide spectrum of flu viruses’ ability to enter the cells, which they need to do for their survival. Quercetin has been shown to inhibit respiratory viruses in cell studies, including inhibiting rhinoviruses, coxsackie viruses, and polio viruses. It demonstrates beneficial effects against RSV, polio viruses, herpes simplex viruses, and cytomegalovirus.
CAT’S CLAW (UNCARIA TOMENTOSA)
Growing between thirty and sixty meters high, this vine has demonstrated antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties that have been proven effective in combating persistent infections, including those involved in bladder infections, Crohn’s disease, gastritis, glandular fever (Epstein Barr syndrome), hepatitis, herpes, Lyme disease, prostatitis, and yeast infections (Candidiasis). It has demonstrated significant antiviral activity, including against the herpes simplex virus21 as well as SARS-CoV-2.
LEMON BALM (MELISSA OFFICINALIS)
I grew a large batch of lemon balm, which is also sometimes referred to as melissa, from seed this year, allowing me to enjoy its delightful fragrance in my garden as well as its delicious flavour when steeped as tea. The herb’s delicate flavor may lead people to underestimate its antimicrobial capacity but lemon balm has proven its antibacterial and antiviral effects in laboratory and clinical trials alike. Research in the journal Plants found that lemon balm essential oil contains key active ingredients known as geranial, neral, and citronellal, which demonstrated high antimicrobial activity against microorganisms it was tested against, including five diseasecausing bacteria plus C. albicans and other fungi.72 This common garden herb also demonstrates antiviral activity against the herpes simplex virus75 likely due to its active constituents known as rosmarinic acid and other polyphenolics, which are water soluble, meaning they can be extracted by infusing the herb in water to make a tea.76 In a study published in the journal Natural Products Research, scientists found that lemon balm is highly effective against the herpes simplex virus.
OLIVE LEAF (OLEA EUROPAEA)
First used medicinally in ancient Egypt where olive leaves were considered a symbol of heavenly power, olive leaf has since become used around the world for the treatment of many conditions. Most people already know the health benefits of eating olive oil on a regular basis, but an increasing amount of research is showing that olive oil isn’t the only therapeutic part of these trees. The leaves of the trees are potent antioxidants, antiinflammatory, and have long been used for their antiviral properties as well. The olive tree produces a compound known as oleuropein that is abundant in both the leaves as well as the olives. It is believed that this compound is responsible for the many health benefits of olive oil and olive leaf extract. In the early- to mid-1800s olive leaf was used to treat fevers and malaria. A study published in the journal Mycoses found that olive leaf extract was effective at battling almost all bacteria and fungi it was tested against, including those found internally as well as on skin, hair, and nails, demonstrating its widespread antibacterial and antifungal properties. Olive leaf has demonstrated antimicrobial activity against a wide range of microbes, including those behind the following conditions: infections, chronic fatigue syndrome, dental infections, ear infections, gonorrhea, hepatitis B, malaria, meningitis, pneumonia, shingles, tuberculosis, and urinary tract infections.
MAITAKE MUSHROOMS (GRIFOLA FRONDOSE)
Both a culinary and medicinal mushroom, maitake has been found to contain a compound known as proteoglucan, which is associated with its immune-stimulating effects. In both laboratory and animal studies, research shows that polysaccharides found in maitake mushrooms have demonstrated antiviral activity against both hepatitis B viruses and HIV
OYSTER MUSHROOMS (PLEUROTUS OSTREATUS AND PLEUROTUS FLORIDA)
There are several species of oyster mushrooms, which are primarily known for their culinary uses, but research shows that these delicious mushrooms may also improve immune health. Readily available in grocery stores and at farmer’s markets, oyster mushrooms contain many nutrients and therapeutic compounds, including protein, vitamin C, iron, potassium, copper, and zinc, all of which are important for strong immunity, particularly the vitamin C and zinc.
Most known for their ability to reduce cholesterol levels similarly to statin drugs as well as for their anticancer and antitumor ability, oyster mushrooms also demonstrate antimicrobial properties. They showed antibiotic activity against various. Oyster mushrooms inhibit hepatitis C virus and may be beneficial against HIV as well.
REISHI MUSHROOMS (GANODERMA LUCIDUM)
Reishi’s immune-supporting properties alone make it an excellent mushroom to incorporate into your diet or supplement regime on a regular basis. Animal research shows that reishi enhanced immune cells like interleukin-1 and white blood cells created in the bone marrow. It also demonstrates broad antibacterial and antiviral properties largely due to its ability to activate the immune system. Tea made from reishi showed activity multiple strains of bacteria. Reishi has even demonstrated anti-HIV activity both in laboratory and human studies.
Most people take remedies in insufficient doses, without adequate frequency, or in an incorrect form, which usually results in either minimal effectiveness or no noticeable results at all. It is critical to identify the most powerful remedies (including the correct species when it comes to plants) and the most effective form of the remedy (such as infusion, tincture, oil extract, or another form). It is also critical to ensure that it is used in a correct dosage amount and with the ideal frequency and duration to yield the best healing results. Follow package instructions for the product you select. Usage information for these as well as detailed information for over seventy remedies is provided in Super-Powered Immunity: Natural Remedies for 21st-Century Viruses and Superbugs.
- Fahima Abdellatif et al., “Minerals, Essential Oils, and Biological Properties of Melissa officinalis L.,”Plants 10, no. 6 (May 26, 2021): 1066.
- Akram Astani et al., “Melissa officinalis Extract Inhibits Attachment of Herpes Simplex Virus in Vitro,” Chemotherapy 58, no. 1 (2012): 70–77.
- Hoffman, Medical Herbalism, 566.
Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is an international bestselling and awardwinning author of 25 books including her latest book Super-Powered Immunity: Natural Remedies for 21st-Century Viruses and Superbugs. Her work has appeared in over 100 publications including: WebMD, Prevention, Vegetarian Times, Huffington Post, Woman’s World magazine, First for Women magazine, Care2.com, and Yahoo!. Follow her work at DrMichelleCook.com, Facebook. com/drmichellecook, and Instagram.com/ mschoffrocook.
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