Our immune system is the body’s defense against infections, viruses, harmful bacteria, and disease.
Viruses are responsible for numerous health concerns and conditions that can develop over the course of our lives and we’re all exposed to many of them.
Research has shown and explained that some diseases and syndromes such as diabetes, Crohn’s and colitis, as well as Hashimoto's thyroid disease, can in large part be caused by viral infections.
Viruses are much like hijackers, while they may cause initial symptoms such as the common cold or flu; they can then be dormant and hide within the body. While they do not adversely affect our health with obvious symptoms, they can often leave us feeling fatigued, run-down, depressed, and with low immunity.
Exposure to viruses and having them go from dormant to active can happen due to travel, rapid urbanization, poor diet, stress, overwhelm, or digestive issues and then emerging viruses pop up and our body is not prepared to fight them off.
While we are fortunate enough to have antiviral and antibiotic drugs that can be used to manage the outbreak and control of viral infections, the more we use them as our only tool, the more we’re becoming drug-resistant.
While these medications can be life-saving, they can also come with a list of side effects (that can sometimes outweigh their benefits); herbal medicine can be a great natural alternative with similar benefits and without the side effects.
Herbs have been used for centuries, as natural remedies for bacterial and viral infections; our Digestive and Immune Supplements 101 blog speaks about our favorite immune-supporting supplements as well as digestive supplements.
These can be supportive for day-to-day use and when taken on a long-term basis.
When we need to treat a lingering virus, antiviral herbs come into play.
Monolaurin is derived from coconut oil and has strong antiviral and antimicrobial activity, as it can disrupt the biofilms or protective cases of bacteria as well as the outer membrane of viruses.
Biofilm bacteria can be hard to treat, even with antibiotics, so this is huge that Monolaurin can reach these biofilms and disrupt them. Monolaurin is unique as it has antiviral properties but unlike other antiviral/antimicrobials monolaurin will not disrupt or kill beneficial bacteria within the microbiome. This is the one natural antiviral that is safe to stay on longer-term if necessary, which may be needed for treatment of Lyme disease or Epstein Barr virus.
2: MCT Oil (medium-chain triglyceride oil) is beneficial for digestion and especially good to use when looking to increase good fat in the diet. It is a good antiviral due to its higher amount of caprylic acid and the anti-parasitic, anti-yeast and antiviral properties that come from lauric acid.
Recommended dose: One teaspoon or up to 1 full tablespoon a day is a good dose to shoot for in your smoothies, salad dressings or on top of rice or vegetables. I use MCT oil mixed with maple syrup, collagen, and a touch of pink salt on my paleo waffles and it’s amazing. MCT oil also comes in powder form and can be easily blended into hot or cold liquids—it makes a good non-dairy creamer.
3: Colloidal Silver
Colloidal silver consists of tiny particles of silver suspended in a liquid. It’s a traditional and ancient remedy that has been used for centuries to treat the flu, sinus infections and skin rashes due to its antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal benefits. Colloidal silver is commonly used in hospitals to treat wounds and kill germs and bacteria on the spot.
Colloidal silver has also been clinically shown to kill germs and bacterial overgrowth, much like monolaurin. However, colloidal silver should not be taken at high doses for long periods of time. It’s meant to be used in small amounts for a short period. An important point when taking colloidal silver is the quality of the raw material; finding a high-quality brand is especially important. Our team uses and recommends Silvercillin by Designs for Health and Sovereign Silver.
Please note, silver can interfere with the effectiveness of medications, so it is important to take it away from other medications you may be on and talk with your practitioner before starting.
4: Oregano Oil
I’ve been a big fan of oregano oil for as long as I can remember and it’s not just because I’m 100% Italian.
Oregano oil is so highly effective at being a powerful herbal medicine that we include it in two of our programs. It’s special because it not only acts as a strong antiviral and antimicrobial herb but also supplies the body with essential vitamins and minerals that it needs to thrive.
There have been over two hundred studies completed on oregano, evaluating how oregano interacts with pathogenic bacteria and the nutrient profile of the herb.
Some fun facts, oregano has more magnesium than cashews or spinach and is one of the top sources of iron. The active components of oregano that are primarily responsible for it’s healing benefits include thymol, carvacrol, and phenols. Oregano is used in the treatment of Lyme disease, Candida, E. coli, parasites, protozoal infections, and viruses.
You can also use it topically! When used topically, oregano oil can be great for psoriasis, acne, and fungal infections. When using it for this purpose, it should be diluted with a carrier oil such as coconut or olive oil. The usual dose is 5-6 drops of oregano oil for every ounce of carrier oil.
5: Vitamin C
Vitamin C is essential for boosting immune health and is a powerful yet gentle anti-viral, helping to boost the immune system enough so that it can force the virus into dormancy.
Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, which means whatever is not used by the body will be removed naturally through urine.
Over 140 studies are showing the benefits of vitamin C in alleviating and preventing infections, which are caused by protozoa, viruses, and bacteria. Vitamin C can become depleted if there is a dormant virus or bacteria within the body and leads to a greater risk of a weakened immune system.
Recommended Dose: Because Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin, you can dose this as high as a few grams within a day, taken with food. If you find this causes loose stools, reduce the dosage.
6: Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is essential for healthy cholesterol production and immune system health. In clinical research, Vitamin D3 has been shown to be a potent antiviral, reducing colds and flu by 42 percent. It is very hard to get proper vitamin D in the winter months in the northern hemisphere, so supplementation of vitamin D is important. The RDA for vitamin D is very low, so be sure to get your levels checked often and supplement appropriately.
Using food as medicine is always our recommendation. This includes high-quality bone broth, hot ginger tea with honey or lemon, and warm soup. Adding foods that are naturally high in antiviral components is a great idea, these can include: ginger, onions, garlic, and turmeric.
Healthy vegetables at every meal is a great strategy, as well. In fact, a higher fiber diet has been shown to reduce the rate of the flu in research.
Reducing sugar and processed foods are essential for a thriving immune system and what we recommend you do as a regular practice because refined sugar adversely impacts your digestion and your immune system.
Studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus.
Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover, if you do get sick. Conversely, we know that sleep increases immune function and supports healthy detoxification. We cannot heal, if we are not getting adequate sleep.
When we are carrying around a high viral load we can be plagued with fatigue that we can never fight off as well as a low-level but constant depression. It’s very normal to feel depressed when the body is fighting an infection and this depression happens more often than not when someone just can’t fight-off a low-level infection for many weeks or even months.