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Antiviral herbs

Related Terms

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Background

  • Several herbs have proposed antiviral activity and may aid in prevention of viral infections. More than 400 different viruses are known to cause infections including the common cold, hepatitis, mononucleosis, avian bird flu, and AIDS. Once infected with a virus, little can be done within the limits of contemporary western medicine to treat presenting symptoms. Certain medications may shorten the duration of an illness caused by a virus, or may decrease the severity of symptoms, but they are generally expensive and not readily available. Many people choose to have an annual influenza vaccination, or flu shot, but this is only 80% effective due to mutating strains of the influenza virus. Antibiotics such as penicillin and azithromycin are not effective in killing viruses, and should only be used to treat infections caused by susceptible bacteria.
  • Attempts have been made to isolate herbal agents that are thought to possess antiviral activity. Herbal preparations that strengthen the immune system may help the body fight off invading viruses that could otherwise cause infection, and are of particular interest to the scientific community.
  • Current research shows promise for arabinoxylan, a compound derived from Hyphomycetes mycelia mushroom, as an antiviral agent. Echinacea purpura has also gained mainstream acceptance for use in preventing and reducing the severity of the common cold, but scientific research has yet to provide conclusive evidence regarding efficacy.
  • Other herbals and immune supporters that may offer protection against viruses include but are not limited to: astragalus, Siberian ginseng, garlic, coenzyme Q10, DMG (dimethlyglycine), andrographis, cat's claw, cloves, elderberry, ginger, lemon balm, licorice, olive leaf, oregano, shiitake and reishi mushrooms, St. John's wort, resveratrol, scullcap, N-acetyl-cysteine, green tea, propolis, cranberry, and mullein.

Practice

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Theory/Evidence

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Safety

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.