Updated: Aug 20, 2020
In the current outbreak of COVID19, many patients appear to be turning to complementary, natural, and traditional medicinal therapies in conjunction with western medicine. In addition, natural medicine is being used to guide the development of novel antiviral drugs and enhance clinical outcomes while researchers worldwide are working around the clock to find a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. While some natural medicines in the form of vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other nutrients can help enhance immunity, such measures should not replace social distancing, quarantining when necessary, or any other recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention related to the novel coronavirus and COVID19 infection. Here is some natural medicine research and natural substances being studied for COVID19.
Melatonin and Children
Melatonin is being used in COVID19 protocols however it is not an approved treatment yet. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland of the brain and regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin production is less in older adults. Melatonin exerts anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anticancer and antioxidant properties that protect against respiratory failure. Clinical studies have shown that melatonin exerts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions in the lungs of newborns with respiratory distress syndrome. Melatonin treatment reduces pro-inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, a hallmark condition in COVID19. Effective dosage is individual and unknown.
Melatonin is the reason why children under the age of nine seldom exhibit severe symptoms according to recent research. In fact, children may exhibit mild or even no symptoms at all, even though they have been infected by SARS-CoV-2. When compared to healthy adult seniors, a young child can easily have ten times the amount of peak melatonin levels. Children who are younger, have respiratory problems, or are immunocompromised are at greatest risk.
Pregnancy and COVID19
SARS-CoV-2 is not transmittable from pregnant mothers to their infants at birth according to the latest research. While infants born to mothers with COVID-19 have not tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2, virus-specific antibodies have been detected in neonatal blood sera samples which means the baby came in contact with the virus. More research is needed on this topic.
Blood Type and COVID19
A person's blood type might make them more susceptible to developing the disease. Data suggests that people with blood type A might have a higher risk of developing COVID-19, but people with blood type O have a lower risk. More research is needed on this topic.
Quercetin and Hydroxychloroquine
Quercetin is a polyphenolic compound present in onions, green tea, apples, berries, and other edible plants. Quercetin exerts anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral properties and might improve immune function. It is safe, well-tolerated, and is already an FDA-approved drug ingredient. Although the compound has not been clinically tested against SARS-CoV-2, clinical trials are beginning, with outcomes expected in a few months. Quercetin glucosides, such as isoquercitrin and isoquercetin, have been shown to be much more bioavailable and more quickly absorbed. Quercetin is best absorbed with fat such as avocado, olive oil or coconut oil.
Quercetin may be beneficial in conjunction with hydroxychloroquine, an old, inexpensive anti-malarial drug with a known safety profile. Hydroxychloroquine is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Hydroxychloroquine may be beneficial but it comes with a whole host of side effects affecting the liver, kidney, stomach, heart, and skin. When hydroxychloroquine and quercetin are used synergistically, they become ionophores, compounds that can transport ions across a cell's fat border called the lipid membrane. Zinc is an antiviral ion that can be transported into the cell and block the replication of viruses.
Vitamin D and Magnesium
Approximately 70 percent of people living in the United States are vitamin D insufficient. Vitamin D is protective against respiratory tract infections. Research suggests that daily or weekly supplementation of vitamin D reduced the risk of acute respiratory infection by more than 50 percent in people with low baseline vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency leads to overexpression of renin (an enzyme produced in the kidneys) and subsequent activation of the renin-angiotensin-system, a critical regulator of blood pressure, inflammation, and body fluid homeostasis. Disturbances in this system due to the loss of ACE2 function in the setting of SARS-CoV-2 infection can promote neutrophil infiltration, excessive inflammation, and lung injury. Once lung infection progresses to hypoxia, renin is released, setting up a vicious cycle for decreasing ACE2. Lower levels of ACE2 promote more damage, culminating in acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS.
Since vitamin D insufficiency is widespread, supplemental vitamin D may be beneficial. Effective dosage is unknown however some protocols are calling for 2000-5000IU per day. Vitamin D is best absorbed with proper magnesium levels. Most people are borderline deficient in magnesium too. The best way to get magnesium is through diet. Magnesium is found in kale, spinach, swiss chard, collard greens, brown rice, beans, and lentils. The best way to enhance Vitamin D is to get 20 minutes of direct sunlight daily. Vitamin deficiency testing is necessary to find out if an individual is Vitamin D or magnesium deficient.
Glutathione is an important antioxidant in the body that is required by the liver to get rid of toxins. Oral and IV glutathione and glutathione precursors N-acetyl-cysteine and alpha lipoic acid may represent a novel treatment approach for blocking inflammation and addressing “cytokine storm syndrome” and respiratory distress in patients with COVID-19 pneumonia. Vitamin deficiency testing is necessary to find out if an individual is glutathione deficient.
Intravenous Vitamin C
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is an essential nutrient, widely recognized for its antioxidant properties. For the past several decades, intravenous vitamin C has been used as an effective antiviral agent for the treatment of multiple types of viral infections. Oral vitamin C uptake in the gut is limited. Intravenous vitamin C bypasses the gut and is 30 to 70 times more bioavailable. Intravenous vitamin C's effectiveness in treating viral infections is also likely due to its ability to enhance the immune system. Vitamin C is highly concentrated in immune cells. Furthermore, some studies have observed that in critically ill patients such as those with severe viral infections, plasma levels of vitamin C might be less than 25 percent of those observed in healthy people. It is noteworthy that there are no published studies on the effect of intravenous vitamin C on COVID19. However, some anecdotal evidence suggests that it might be beneficial in treating the disease.
Selenium has a critical role in the defense against viral infection through its antioxidant, redox signaling, and redox homeostatic contributions. Selenium deficiency is associated with increased risk of several virus infections. In the deficient state, the selenium supplementation is helpful for the prevention and treatment of viral infections. All forms of selenium are well absorbed, but absorption of selenomethionine is the best. Vitamin deficiency testing is necessary to find out if an individual is selenium deficient.
Zinc is essential for normal function and development of cells regulating nonspecific immunity, including natural killer cells and neutrophils. Zinc deficiency impairs the antiviral immunity, particularly to herpes simplex, common cold, herpes simplex virus, hepatitis C, and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). A meta-analysis of oral zinc supplementation studies suggested beneficial effects on the shortened of symptoms and duration of common cold infection. Moreover, research has shown that zinc has antiviral effects; it improves immune responses and suppresses viral replication. Therefore, the consumption of up to 50 mg zinc per day may provide a protective role against the COVID-19 pandemic, likely by improving the host's resistance against viral infection. The three types of zinc supplements most easily absorbed by the body are zinc picolinate, zinc acetate, and zinc citrate. Zinc deficiency testing is necessary to find out if an individual is adequately deficient.
Increasing evidence suggests that sauna use stimulates heat shock proteins. These proteins activate the immune response and help the body's ability to fight off a disease that it has never been exposed to before. More research has to be conducted on this related to COVID19.
Cold showers can support immunity before getting COVID19. Scientific studies have found that taking a cold shower increases the amount of white blood cells in the body. These blood cells protect the body against diseases and infection. Researchers believe that this process is related to an increased metabolic rate, which stimulates the immune response. Complete cranial immersion in cool water can also stimulate the vagus nerve, an important nerve that can help reduce swelling and inflammation. More research has to be conducted on this.
Exercise plays an important role in immunity. Regular, moderate exercise reduces the risk of acute respiratory infections. Moderate exercise less than 60 minutes for 3-4 days per week is beneficial for the innate immune response against respiratory infections and protects from inflammation. By contrast, extreme exercise performed by professional athletes (e.g. bikers, rowers, marathon runners, soccer players) induces a tremendous increase of alveolar ventilation and susceptibility to upper respiratory tract infections.
The top 10 most commonly used TCM herbal medicinal products in China to treat COVID19 patients include Astragalus membranaceus, Glycyrrhiza uralensis, Saposhnikoviae divaricata, Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae, Lonicerae Japonicae Flos, Fructus forsythia, Atractylodis Rhizoma, Radix platycodonis, Agastache rugosa, and Cyrtomium fortunei.
Copper (Cu) is an essential micronutrient for both pathogens and the hosts during viral infection. Cu is involved in the functions of critical immune cells such as T helper cells, B cells, neutrophils natural killer (NK) cells, and macrophages. These blood cells are involved in the killing of infectious microbes, in cell-mediated immunity and the production of specific antibodies against the pathogens. Cu-deficient humans show an exceptional risk to infections due to the decreased number and function of these immune blood cells. Enrichment of plasma copper levels will boost both the innate and adaptive immunity in people. Due to its potent antiviral activities, Cu may also act as a preventive and therapeutic regime against COVID-19. Vitamin deficiency testing is necessary to find out if an individual is deficient.
One family of compounds that demonstrate antiviral activity across a number of studies is the polyphenols. Compounds that show promise for the inhibition of coronavirus in humans include scutellarein, silvestrol, tryptanthrin, saikosaponin B2, quercetin, myricetin, caffeic acid, psoralidin, isobavachalcone, and lectins such as griffithsin. Griffithsin is found in red algae. Silvestrol, a natural compound from the bark of Aglaia Foveolata tree, is an effective antiviral against Ebola infections. Plant compound tryptanthrin has strong viricidal activity against the S protein that targets the ACE2 receptor. Sambucus formosana known as elderberry has been shown to be anti-viral and safe. A compound in elderberry called caffeic acid was found to inhibit the attachment of coronavirus (HCoV) to host cells, indicating potential binding to S proteins. Plant lectins may inhibit SARS-CoV. Lectins have shown promise as antiviral agents against viruses such as influenza and herpes simplex virus, as well as Ebola. Stilbene based compounds resveratrol and pterostilbene can be promising anti-COVID19 drug candidates by disrupting the virus' spike protein. Stilbenes can be found in grapes and berries.