Given the latest circumstances, we all felt the impact of the pandemic virus on our everyday lives, including our mental health. The anxiety of the public is rising and results in behaviours such as panic buying foods with long shelf-life, as well as hygiene and sanitising products.
There is no shame in feeling like this and wanting to keep your family and yourself nourished in case of need to self-isolating. Making sure you have enough supplies (enough, not excess at the expense of others starving) to sustain you whilst at home self-isolating also acts as a prevention of the virus spread, as you won’t be needing to leave the house if you happen to be in quarantine.
In today’s advanced world, the majority of us can also use services such as home-delivery but remember, not all of us can. The elderly or people with disabilities may not be able to get their food delivered, and therefore please consider that the availability of the food in shops is the only way for those to stock up, too. Moreover, those people are the ones who are classed as a risk-group and therefore catching the virus can be more fatal to them than others. If you know about someone from this group in your neighbourhood, you can also offer to do their shopping for them when you’re at it.
At this time of uncertainty, we predominantly rely on modern medicine and our government actions to benefit the most of us. However, thanks to the natural way of pathogens becoming immune to standard modern medicine, giving strength to our immune system to fight a potential infection as well as boost our mental health during this stressful period can be supported by the traditional use of herbs and natural remedies. There have been researched many herbs, mainly native to China and used in traditional Chinese medicine, in order to use their benefits in viral infections treatment and that is including viruses of the Corona family (Feng et al., 2014), (Hsu et al., 2014).
Even though we are all doing what the government recommends to prevent catching and spreading the infection, some of us may feel powerless and exhausted. Therefore, I decided to put together a small list of a couple of ingredients and a herb, which are common in the European countries and have been historically used in virus treatment and prevention, as well as supporting mood and mental health. Please remember to be kind, considerate and sharing whilst you're shopping as we are all in this together.
Before modern medicine, garlic used to be a popular staple of traditional medicine all around the world. From being used to treat a variety of diseases in Medieval times to being used by the physician Avicenna as effective pain relief in inflammatory and infectious diseases, including chronic cough (Avicenna, 1998). This is due to compounds present in garlic, which stimulate cells involved in the immune system and its responses and therefore have a positive effect on the body's homeostasis (Arreola et al., 2015).
Garlic is commonly used as a natural antibiotic and has been involved in research due to its antibiotic properties.
When it comes to antiviral properties of garlic, there have been studies performed mainly in the '90s suggesting its effectiveness in the prevention and treatment of various viral infections (Bayan et al., 2014), including the treatment of common cold (Bhasale et al., 2014). The combination of its antiviral properties, immune system support and its history of treating respiratory complications due to a viral infection (Barin et al., 2016) suggest that using garlic in your diet is a good way how to support your health during the current pandemic.
Onions are popular food all over the world, often used as a flavour enhancer, but bringing many other nutrients and health benefits to the table. They also contain amino acids, vitamins, and minerals whilst being eaten raw or cooked (Amodeo et al., 2018).
Onions and the previously mentioned garlic are members of the Allium family, of which flavonoids can strongly inhibit a virus from multiplication (Abubakar et al., 2011). Further substances present in onions such as quercetin, kaempferol, allicin, and others, which negatively affect the growth of viruses and their attachment to the cells, resulting in strong antiviral activity and reducing infection (Sharma, 2019).
St John’s Wort
Not exactly a food item, but in my opinion an important part of this list. Saint John’s Wort does also has antiviral properties (Birt et al., 2009), as well as properties improving anxiety and depression (Benzie and Wachtel-Galor, 2011), which can support your mental health in this stressful time, which effectively acts as immune system support.
Hypericin, the active substance in St John’s Wort has been proven to be effective in antiviral treatment, as well as it has anti-inflammatory properties (Birt et al., 2009).
Furthermore, St John’s Wort also consists of compounds such as quercetin, rutin or kaemferol, which are also known for their beneficial effects on human health (Benzie and Wachtel-Galor, 2011) and thanks to its slightly bitter taste also support digestion through its chemosensory stimulation (McMullen et al., 2015).
! This herb is not to be taken when pregnant or when on prescribed medications as it may weaken the effect of the drug* (NCCIH, 2017). Please consult your GP if you are unsure about this herb’s contraindications. *Medications including antidepressants, birth control, Cyclosporine, Dixogin, Oxycodone, HIV drugs and blood thinners such as Warfarin
Disclaimer: Please know that everything is to be consumed in moderation in order to maintain the effect, as well as that these ingredients act rather as a support to your health than a definite way how to avoid catching the virus. The information in this article is science-based and therefore suggests mentioned ingredients as a part of a healthy diet to benefit your physical and mental health. Please know that the ingredients are not a substitute for any medications.
If you believe that you suffer from COVID-19, please follow the advice provided on https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19.
Abubakar, S., Mustafa, M., Sam, S., Teoh, B., Wong, P. and Zandi, K., 2011. Antiviral activity of four types of bioflavonoid against dengue virus type-2. Virology Journal, 8(1), p.560.
Amodeo, V., Conforti, F., Marrelli, M. and Statti, G., 2018. Biological Properties and Bioactive Components of Allium cepa L.: Focus on Potential Benefits in the Treatment of Obesity and Related Comorbidities. Molecules, 24(1), p.119.
Arreola, R., Carrera-Quintanar, L., Flores-Gutiérrez, E., López-Roa, R., Ortuño-Sahagún, D., Quintero-Fabián, S. and Reyes-Grajeda, J., 2015. Immunomodulation and Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Garlic Compounds. Journal of Immunology Research, 2015, pp.1-13.
Avicenna A. In: Al Qanoon Fil Tib. Sharafkandi, S, translator. IV. Tehran, Iran: Soroosh Press; 1988. pp. 122–178.
Barin, A., Karimi, V., Langeroudi, A., Sadri, N. and Shojai, T., 2016. The effect of Allium sativum (Garlic) extract on infectious bronchitis virus in specific pathogen free embryonic egg. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, 6, pp.267-458.
Bayan, L., Gorji, A. and Koulivand, P., 2014. Garlic: a review of potential therapeutic effects. Avicenna Journal of Phytomedicine, 4(1), pp.1–14.
Benzie , F. and Wachtel-Galor, S., editors, 2011. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular And Clinical Aspects. 2Nd Edition.. 2nd ed. Taylor and Francis Group, LLC, p.Chapter 11.
Bhasale, A., Cohen, M. and Lissiman, E., 2014. Garlic for the common cold. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 11(11).
Birt, D., Hammer, K., Hillwig, M., Kraus, G., Maury, W., McCoy, J., Murphy, P., Neighbors, J., Price, J., Wei, J., Wiemer, D., Widrlechner, M. and Wurtele, E., 2009. Hypericumin infection: Identification of anti-viral and anti-inflammatory constituents. Pharmaceutical Biology, 47(8), pp.774-82.
Feng, Y., Huang, J., Liu, K., Song, Y. and Su, D., 2014. Antiviral Herbs - Present and Future. Infectious Disorders - Drug Targets, 14(1), pp.61-73.
Hsu, W., Lin, C. and Lin, L., 2014. Antiviral Natural Products and Herbal Medicines. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, 4(1), pp.24-35.
McMullen, M., Towell, A. and Whitehouse, J., 2015. Bitters: Time for a New Paradigm. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2015, pp.1-8.
NCCIH, 2017. St. John's Wort And Depression: In Depth. [online] National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Available at: <https://nccih.nih.gov/health/stjohnswort/sjw-and-depression.htm> [Accessed 18 March 2020].
Sharma, N., 2019. Efficacy of Garlic and Onion against virus. International Journal of Research in Pharmaceutical Sciences, 10(4), pp.3578-86.