Using herbal medicines for Viral illnesses

Using herbal medicines for Viral illnesses
Although the current Coronavirus has recently emerged from the microbe soup with which we share the planet the same anti-viral strategies apply to using herbs for the flu like symptoms as for all such similar viruses.
The key to maintaining good health in an epidemic is avoiding contact as advised by Government agencies.
Washing hands frequently with soap and warm water is the gold standard, so don't panic if you cannot source hand sanitiser in the shops.
Be assertive, offer a tissue to anyone not taking cough and sneeze hygiene seriously if they are in your company, we will all find it hard to consciously remember consciously.
Children are relatively resistant to the effects of the virus but may spread the virus, parents are advised to limit contact of their children with children outside the family, and limit contact with vulnerable people.
Good hydration with water or preferably herbal teas e.g. Boost tea, Clearway tea, Tranquility tea or any combination or single tea including Ribwort, Elderflower, Mint, Yarrow, Wild Oats, Rosemary, Rose Hips, Lemon Balm etc.
Drink herb teas with catechins e.g. Green tea

Eat catechin rich foods 


Catechins are a type of phenolic compounds very abundant in tea, cocoa and berries to which are ascribed a potent antioxidant activity, especially to epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG).

Herbal Strategies
Herbs don't wait for you to become infected, they don't only rely on killing the virus, although they also have anti-viral properties.
A multi-action multi-constituent approach includes the following actions.

  • Strengthen mucous membranes
  • Support immune resistance to external challenges
  • Nervine herbs are useful for reducing immunosuppression due to stress
  • Antimicrobial actions include antiviral actions, but also secondary bacterial infection resistance.
  • Adaptogen actions that support the physiological effects for coping with more prolonged stress.
  • Expectorant effects
  • Promoting sweating for managing a fever

These are targeted at mucous membranes resilience, immune support, nervous system support, adrenal support, antiseptic effect, fever management, antispasmodic effects.

If you are on medication and want to use herbal medicines for any condition seek reputable professional advice from a well-qualified herbalist, pharmacist or your doctor. Better still make an appointment with a well qualified herbalist for a full review of your health.

The herbs have many constituents and the science is generally limited to studying one constituent at a time, as the main reason for the research is for drug discovery for commercial development. Researching the use of whole herbs and blends of herbs is more complex, more expensive and rarely funded. Available research generally supports traditional indications.

Traditional herbal medicine aims to increase resilience and resistance with holistic wellbeing so that you are more able to resist infection.
If you do become infected herbal medicines can make you more comfortable and better able to cope with the illness.

Fevers can have cool benefits: With a herbal medicine approach the management of a fever is to encourage sweating and opening up of the circulatory system to disperse the heat. 
The natural effect of a fever is to reduce the viral load in the bloodstream and research shows that heating boosts our immunity by speeding disease-fighting cells to an infection.

Anti-inflammatories may aggravate Covid-19, France advises: French authorities have warned that widely used over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs may worsen the coronavirus.
The Guardian Sat 14 Mar 2020 15.51 GMTFirst published on Sat 14 Mar 2020 15.47 GMT
However, if a fever is unrelenting and/or associated with respiratory distress contact medical support for urgent medical attention.

General advice

  1. Keep hydrated, this maintains a mucous membrane barrier resilience.
  2. Eat well, particularly your 7-10 fruits and vegetables per day.
  3. Get to bed early, avoid caffeine after 2pm.

Having paid attention to these-

Use your fingers to apply a very small dab of Marigold Balm to the lining at the entrance of your nose. Add 2 drops of tea tree to 30gms of balm and mix thoroughly with a clean utensil or wooden stirrer.
Get out in the fresh air, do your Spring gardening if you have a garden, do your Spring cleaning.

Avoid sugar beyond an occasional treat, dark chocolate and a glass of wine are rich in catechins, but remember too much of a good thing is not better than a treat portion.

Supporting positive thinking, looking out for others, reflection and any contemplative practice all boost the immune system.

Listen to a daily update from a reputable source for relevant advice.  Don't expose yourself to recurring negative media stories.

Don't over-dwell on irrelevant details or other people's opinions. Fear is infectious and it suppresses 'happy chemistry' which you want to encourage.

Do all the things you are usually too distracted to engage with such as DIY, crafts, reading and dancing around your kitchen.

Remember no matter what it brings 'this too shall pass', let it remind us of the importance of what is really valuable in our lives, mainly each other.

Let it remind and refocus us on the importance of sharing the planet respectfully with everything upstream and downstream of our daily lives. It is a reminder to renew pledges to be part of the sustainability and regeneration of our planetary home.

Humans are vulnerable as never before and need to guard and protect our connections with all living creatures if only because they are many and we are few, many reproduce, adapt and change more quickly than us. We may be more booksmart than ever but we don't rule the world. It will never be possible to have a vaccine ready on the shelf for new viruses.

We can take care of ourselves, and those around us and take what joy is possible in the time with family or community that this makes available.

We can all dance around the kitchen, and tell very corny jokes.

Available Research

The following research is limited to specific anti-influenza effects. The herbal actions listed above also have positive research which cumulatively would need a book to integrate just for the 'flu.
Unwanted effects from herbal food supplements are generally mild and reversible. Most have an enviable safety profile compared with paracetamol or nonsteroidal medication including ibuprofen.
Always ask for reputable professional advice from a well qualified herbalist, pharmacist or your doctor if you are on medication. 


Mode of Action of Plant-Derived Antiviral Agents

3.6 Mode of Action of Plant-Derived Antiviral Agents

CHAPTER 3 Ethnomedicinal Wisdom: An Approach for Antiviral Drug Development Ananya Das Mahapatra1 , Priyanka Bhowmik1, Anwesha Banerjee1 et al. P.42-44

Catechin, present in the globally most popular beverage green tea leaves, when fermented into theaflavins can neutralize bovine rotavirus and coronavir (Lin et al., 1997). Another common herb Ocimun basilicum or the sweet Basil of India and China has broad spectrum antiviral activity. The aqueous and ethanolic extract along with purified apigeninlinalool, and ursolic acid showed strong activity against HSV-1 (Bag et al., 2012), adenovirus 8 (ADV-8), Coxsackievirus B type-1 (CVB1) (Chattopadhyay and Naik, 2007). While Isoborneol, a monoterpene of essential oils isolated from Egyptian plant Melaleuca alternifolia, exhibited anti-HSV-1 activity by inactivating HSV-1 replication within 30 min of exposure (Armaka et al., 1999). Similarly Vatica cinerea from Vietnam is reported to inhibit HIV-1 replication (Zhang et al., 2003). The plant Cimicifuga racemosa (black cohosh) having antidepressant activity was also reported to have antiviral activity against human retroviruses by inhibiting HIV-1 reverse transcriptase (Sakurai et al., 2004). It is important to note that the viral diseases caused by Picornavirus and Rhinovirus do not have any drugs till date, while the plant-derived compounds chrysoplenol-C, and its glycoside has virucidal effect against both group of viruses (Wei et al., 2004). Scientists have also explored Himalayan flora used in traditional medicine against viral diseases (Amber et al., 2017). Ethnomedicine from India, Pakistan, China, and Nepal has been explored as source of antivirals against Influenza virus, Rhinovirus, AdenovirusCoronavirus, and Respiratory Syncytial virus (RSV). Different compounds including monoterpenoids, flavonoidstriterpenoidsiridoid glycosidessesquiterpenesbenzoic acids, and phenolics have strong antiviral potential. Recent emergence of deadly dengue, which is now a public health concern worldwide, has also been shown to be prevented by plant-derived drug. Lupeol isolated from Maytenus gonoclada has shown activity against dengue virus (Silva et al., 2017). Extracts from Carica papaya have now been used for the treatment of dengue in hospitals (Ahmad et al., 2011; Dharmarathna et al., 2013) mainly to prevent the reduction on number of platelet due to platelet aggregation, although the anti-dengue or anti-aggregation of platelet activity of papaya extract has not been scientifically proved till date. In folk medicine, papaya latex is used to cure dyspepsia, external burns and scalds, while its seeds and fruits have excellent antihelminthic and antiamebic activities. However, Chinnappan et al. (2016) have found that the leaf extract of papaya could possess a dengue-specific neutralizing effect on dengue virus-infected plasma that may exert a protective role on platelets. Luteolin, a bioflavonoid isolated from several dietary and medicinal plants, has been shown to have activity against HSV-1 (Ojha et al., 2015), dengue (Peng et al., 2017), Epstein–Barr virus (Wu et al., 2016), Japanese Encephalitis (JE) (Fan et al., 2016), and Chikungunya (Murali et al., 2015). Ginseng, a well-known medicinal herb, has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years, and was found to be effective for treating influenza (Yoo et al., 2012) and HIV (Park et al., 2014); while in a clinical trial, Ginseng was found to help in curing HBV infection (Choi et al., 2016). Ethnopharmacological use of essential oil extract of three traditional Cretan aromatic plants in Eastern Mediterranean region and Near East claimed to be effective in the prevention and treatment of upper respiratory tract infections of bacterial and viral etiology (Duijker et al., 2015). While an Egyptian plant Nigella sativa extract tested against influenza patients showed better activity in people who cannot be treated with interferon-alpha (Barakat et al., 2013). A great deal of scientific research is being conducted to understand the mechanisms by which plant products exert their antiviral effects. Usually, plant-derived compounds exert antiviral effects through diverse mode and mechanism including (1) inhibition by autophagy, (2) generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), (3) change in viral gene expression, (4) inhibition of viral entry to host cell including attachment and penetration, (5) inhibition of different steps of replication, (6) inhibition of viral release, as well as modulating the host immune parameters, which are briefly presented in Fig. 3.1.
Fig 3.1

J Tradit Complement Med. 2014 Jan-Mar; 4(1): 24–35.
Antiviral Natural Products and Herbal Medicines
As many viruses remain without preventive vaccines and effective antiviral treatments, eradicating these viral diseases appears difficult. Nonetheless, natural products serve as an excellent source of biodiversity for discovering novel antivirals, revealing new structure–activity relationships, and developing effective protective/therapeutic strategies against viral infections. Many natural products and herbal ingredients are observed to possess robust antiviral activity and their discoveries can further help develop derivatives and therapeutic leads (e.g., glycyrrhetinic acid derivatives as novel anti-HBV agents, acetoxime derivative from the Mediterranean mollusk Hexaplex trunculus as inhibitor against HSV-1, and caffeic acid derivatives as a new type of influenza NA antagonist).[155,156,157]
Most relevant references.
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Phytotherapy Research. Volume22, Issue2. February 2008. Pages 141-148
Antiviral effects of Glycyrrhiza species

Historical sources for the use of Glycyrrhiza species include ancient manuscripts from China, India and Greece. They all mention its use for symptoms of viral respiratory tract infections and hepatitis. Randomized controlled trials confirmed that the Glycyrrhiza glabra derived compound glycyrrhizin and its derivatives reduced hepatocellular damage in chronic hepatitis B and C. In hepatitis C virusinduced cirrhosis the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma was reduced. Animal studies demonstrated a reduction of mortality and viral activity in herpes simplex virus encephalitis and influenza A virus pneumonia. In vitro studies revealed antiviral activity against HIV1, SARS related coronavirus, respiratory syncytial virus, arboviruses, vaccinia virus and vesicular stomatitis virus.
Mechanisms for antiviral activity of Glycyrrhiza spp. include reduced transport to the membrane and sialylation of hepatitis B virus surface antigen, reduction of membrane fluidity leading to inhibition of fusion of the viral membrane of HIV1 with the cell, induction of interferon gamma in Tcells, inhibition of phosphorylating enzymes in vesicular stomatitis virus infection and reduction of viral latency.
Future research needs to explore the potency of compounds derived from licorice in prevention and treatment of influenza A virus pneumonia and as an adjuvant treatment in patients infected with HIV resistant to antiretroviral drugs. 

Complement Ther Med. 2019 Feb;42:361-365. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2018.12.004. Epub 2018 Dec 18.

Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) supplementation effectively treats upper respiratory symptoms: A meta-analysis of randomized, controlled clinical trials.

Author information


Upper respiratory symptoms are often treated with over the counter drugs, antibiotics, and antiviral medications. Due to concerns about safety and efficacy, there is a demand for an alternative solution. Black elderberry (Sambucus nigra) has been used to treat cold and flu symptoms, but there are no large-scale studies or meta-analyses. This meta-analysis quantifies the effects of elderberry supplementation and evaluates moderators including vaccination status and the underlying pathology. This analysis included a total of 180 participants and evaluates moderators such as vaccination status and cause of the upper respiratory symptoms. Supplementation with elderberry was found to substantially reduce upper respiratory symptoms. The quantitative synthesis of the effects yielded a large mean effect size. These findings present an alternative to antibiotic misuse for upper respiratory symptoms due to viral infections, and a potentially safer alternative to prescription drugs for routine cases of the common cold and influenza.


BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011 Feb 25;11:16. 

Inhibitory activity of a standardized elderberry liquid extract against clinically-relevant human respiratory bacterial pathogens and influenza A and B viruses.



Black elderberries (Sambucus nigra L.) are well known as supportive agents against common cold and influenza. It is further known that bacterial super-infection during an influenza virus (IV) infection can lead to severe pneumonia. We have analyzed a standardized elderberry extract (Rubini, BerryPharma AG) for its antimicrobial and antiviral activity using the microtitre broth micro-dilution assay against three Gram-positive bacteria and one Gram-negative bacteria responsible for infections of the upper respiratory tract, as well as cell culture experiments for two different strains of influenza virus.


The antimicrobial activity of the elderberry extract was determined by bacterial growth experiments in liquid cultures using the extract at concentrations of 5%, 10%, 15% and 20%. The inhibitory effects were determined by plating the bacteria on agar plates. In addition, the inhibitory potential of the extract on the propagation of human pathogenic H5N1-type influenza A virus isolated from a patient and an influenza B virus strain was investigated using MTT and focus assays.


For the first time, it was shown that a standardized elderberry liquid extract possesses antimicrobial activity against both Gram-positive bacteria of Streptococcus pyogenes and group C and G Streptococci, and the Gram-negative bacterium Branhamella catarrhalis in liquid cultures. The liquid extract also displays an inhibitory effect on the propagation of human pathogenic influenza viruses.


Rubini elderberry liquid extract is active against human pathogenic bacteria as well as influenza viruses. The activities shown suggest that additional and alternative approaches to combat infections might be provided by this natural product.

Phytother Res. 2017 Apr;31(4):533-554. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5782. Epub 2017 Feb 15.

A Review of the Antiviral Properties of Black Elder (Sambucus nigra L.) Products.

Author information


Black elder (Sambucus nigra L.) has a long ethnobotanical history across many disparate cultures as a treatment for viral infection and is currently one of the most-used medicinal plants worldwide. Until recently, however, substantial scientific research concerning its antiviral properties has been lacking. Here, we evaluate the state of current scientific research concerning the use of elderberry extract and related products as antivirals, particularly in the treatment of influenza, as well as their safety and health impacts as dietary supplements. While the extent of black elder's antiviral effects are not well known, antiviral and antimicrobial properties have been demonstrated in these extracts, and the safety of black elder is reflected by the United States Food and Drug Administration approval as generally recognized as safe. A deficit of studies comparing these S. nigra products and standard antiviral medications makes informed and detailed recommendations for use of S. nigra extracts in medical applications currently impractical.

Molecules. 2018 Jul 20;23(7). 

Effect of Tea Catechins on Influenza Infection and the Common Cold with a Focus on Epidemiological/Clinical Studies.

Author information


Influenza and the common cold are acute infectious diseases of the respiratory tract. Influenza is a severe disease that is highly infectious and can progress to life-threating diseases such as pneumonia or encephalitis when aggravated. Due to the fact that influenza infections and common colds spread easily via droplets and contact, public prevention measures, such as hand washing and facial masks, are recommended for influenza prophylaxis. Experimental studies have reported that tea catechins inhibited influenza viral adsorption and suppressed replication and neuraminidase activity. They were also effective against some cold viruses. In addition, tea catechins enhance immunity against viral infection. Although the antiviral activity of tea catechins has been demonstrated, the clinical evidence to support their utility remains inconclusive. Since the late 1990s, several epidemiological studies have suggested that the regular consumption of green tea decreases influenza infection rates and some cold symptoms, and that gargling with tea catechin may protect against the development of influenza infection. This review briefly summarizes the effect of tea catechins on influenza infection and the common cold with a focus on epidemiological/clinical studies, and clarifies the need for further studies to confirm their clinical efficacy.

 Phytomedicine. 2011 Dec 15;19(1):1-7. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2011.10.010. Epub 2011 Nov 22.

Antiviral activity in vitro of two preparations of the herbal medicinal product Sinupret® against viruses causing respiratory infections.


Sinupret(®), a herbal medicinal product made from Gentian root, Primula flower, Elder flower, Sorrel herb, and Verbena herb is frequently used in the treatment of acute and chronic rhinosinusitis and respiratory viral infections such as common cold. To date little is known about its potential antiviral activity. Therefore experiments have been performed to measure the antiviral activity of Sinupret(®) oral drops (hereinafter referred to as "oral drops") and Sinupret(®) dry extract (hereinafter referred to as "dry extract"), in vitro against a broad panel of both enveloped and non-enveloped human pathogenic RNA and DNA viruses known to cause infections of the upper respiratory tract: influenza A, Chile 1/83 (H1N1) virus (FluA), Porcine Influenza A/California/07/2009 (H1N1) virus (pFluA), parainfluenza type 3 virus (Para 3), respiratory syncytial virus, strain Long (RSV), human rhinovirus B subtype 14 (HRV 14), coxsackievirus subtype A9 (CA9), and adenovirus C subtype 5 (Adeno 5). Concentration-dependent antiviral activity (EC(50) between 13.8 and 124.8 μg/ml) of Sinupret(®) was observed against RNA as well as DNA viruses independent of a viral envelope. Remarkable antiviral activity was shown against Adeno 5, HRV 14 and RSV in which dry extract was significantly superior to oral drops. This could be ascertained with different assays as plaque-reduction assays in plaque forming units (PFU), the analyses of a cytopathogenic effect (CPE) and with enzyme immunoassays (ELISA) to determine the amount of newly synthesised virus. Our results demonstrate that Sinupret(®) shows a broad spectrum of antiviral activity in vitro against viruses commonly known to cause respiratory infections.


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