COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), emerged in 2019 and has infected over 328 million people worldwide as of January 2022.
There has been interest in prescribing nutraceuticals for patients infected with COVID 19 , to enhance immune body function and reduce inflammation.
Many of these ingredients however have not been studied in people with COVID-19 infection, but some scientists believe that by supporting the immune function, the symptoms can be prevented or reduced. Clinical studies are being conducted worldwide.
According to Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Senior Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publishing: “Based on the science, there is reason to be hopeful that supplements such as vitamin C or D, zinc, or melatonin might help in the fight against COVID-19. While there is no proof yet that they do, additional research could show a benefit in certain situations, or with a different dose or formulation of the supplement. “
Many physicians include in the COVID19 management protocols the following supplements: Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Zinc that have positive effects on body immune function. There are natural supplements that can provide immune support and anti-inflammatory effects and can be used in this context. Here are some examples :
Studies conducted before the emergence of COVID-19 suggest that andrographis supplementation might reduce the severity of respiratory tract infections . Because of these findings, some scientists believe that andrographis could help treat the symptoms of COVID-19, but studies have not thoroughly assessed use of this herb for this purpose.
Echinacea has been described as an antioxidant with potential antibacterial activities , that inhibits viruses from binding to host cells. It stimulates cells involved in immune mechanisms and might reduce inflammation by inhibiting inflammatory cytokines.
Elderberry contains many compounds that might have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antimicrobial, and immune-stimulating effects.
Ginseng might stimulate B-lymphocyte proliferation and increase production of some interleukins and interferon-gamma that produce immune activation and modulation. Ginseng might also inhibit virus replication and have anti-inflammatory activity.
Laboratory and animal studies suggest that melatonin enhances immune response by increasing the proliferation and maturation of cells involved in body immunity.Melatonin also appears to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects.
Omega-3 fatty acids have potential anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulating effects and several researchers believe that omega-3s might benefit patients with COVID-19. In a recent study of self-reported use of omega-3 supplements (dose not reported) more than three times per week for at least 3 months among 372,720 U.K. residents aged 16 to 90 years, the use of this supplement was associated with a 12% lower risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Findings were similar for 45,757 individuals in the United States and for 27,373 participants in Sweden.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that act mainly in the gastrointestinal tract. Probiotics might improve immune function in several ways, including enhancing gut barrier function, increasing immunoglobulin production, inhibiting viral replication, and enhancing the phagocytic activity of white blood cells. Probiotics might also help reduce inflammation. In a recent study of self-reported use of probiotic supplements more than three times per week for at least 3 months among 372,720 U.K. residents aged 16 to 90 years , the use of this supplement was associated with a 14% lower risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Findings were similar for 45,757 individuals in the United States and for 27,373 participants in Sweden.
Due to the antioxidant, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and platelet aggregation inhibition effects some researchers believe that this herb can have a role in management of COVID19 infections.
Along with conventional treatment strategies, adjunctive use of these nutraceuticals may also be beneficial in the treatment and/or prevention of COVID-19 symptoms and severity.
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Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. Coronavirus Resource Center. 2021.
Brendler T, Al-Harrasi A, Bauer R, Gafner S, Hardy ML, Heinrich M, et al. Botanical drugs and supplements affecting the immune response in the time of COVID-19: Implications for research and clinical practice. Phytother Res: PTR 2020. [PubMed abstract]
by Daniela Addeo MD MBA