Can supplements help combat COVID-19?
With the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) hitting its peak in some states this week—and with peaks projected in the coming weeks throughout the rest of the country—researchers and pharmaceutical companies are working at lightning speed to develop a vaccine and a cure for this deadly virus.
Several possibilities are being explored in this arena, and we are still months, even years, away from viable options. In the meantime, though, what if a possible option in the fight against the virus that causes coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) existed in the supplement aisle, rather than on pharmacy shelves?
To understand how certain supplements can play a role in this pandemic, it’s useful to know how SARS-CoV-2 operates in the body.
How the Novel Coronavirus Invades and Infects
SARS-CoV-2 enters the body by attaching to a protein on the surface of cells called angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE-2). This protein is actually beneficial in the body, but when the coronavirus binds to it, its positive effects are greatly diminished. Some scientists call it “ACE-2 exhaustion.”
While anyone can develop COVID-19, people at highest risk of infection and also severe complications are those who are older or have an underlying condition like high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes. All of these risk factors also happen to be associated with ACE-2 exhaustion—which perhaps explains why these people suffer so much more than children and young adults, who naturally have more robust ACE-2 activity.
In order for the coronavirus to actually attach itself on to ACE-2, an enzyme called furin comes into play. This strain of coronavirus is very sensitive to furin, which allows it to bind tightly to ACE-2. It’s also what makes it so contagious and dangerous.
Finally, once the virus attaches and enters cells, it creates an enzyme called 3CL protease, which is responsible for replication and spread of the virus.
So, when it comes to fighting SARS-CoV-2, researchers are looking at several facets:
- Enhancing and improving beneficial ACE-2 function
- Inhibiting furin and 3CL protease
And this is where certain supplements have shown promise.
Inhibiting 3CL Protease & Furin
Quercetin is an antioxidant flavonoid found in citrus fruits, apples, onions, parsley, sage, tea, and red wine. It can help slow the effects of aging by defeating the free radicals that damage your cells and your DNA. It also acts as a natural anti-inflammatory and helps prevent the release of inflammatory histamines, which are responsible for the symptoms of allergies.
Luteolin is another flavonoid, which is present in celery, broccoli, pepper, chamomile tea, and thyme. It has cardioprotective effects, as well as anticancer and immune-boosting properties.
When it comes to fighting viruses, studies conducted during the outbreaks of Ebola and SARS (a close relative of COVID-19) showed that quercetin acted as an antiviral agent, targeting and dismantling the way the viruses enter host cells.
In one such study, researchers identified molecules that were responsible for antiviral properties, one of the major ones being luteolin. Since quercetin is structurally similar to luteolin, they looked into it as well. They found that quercetin could disrupt the entry of the SARS virus into cells, and wrote that it “offers great promise as a potential drug in the clinical treatment of SARS.”1
Both luteolin and quercetin also inhibit 3CL protease. (Luteolin has the added benefit of hindering furin activity.) And along with several other drugs and supplements, quercetin is currently being studied in China as a treatment for COVID-19.2
You can increase your levels of both flavonoids by eating the foods rich in them. But for truly therapeutic levels, supplements are your best bet.
Enhancing ACE-2 Activity
Improving the beneficial functions of ACE-2 can also be accomplished naturally.
There are many ways, but the easiest and cheapest are to exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet that consists of whole foods.
As far as supplements go, opt for curcumin. Not only does it improve ACE-2 activity, it suppresses inflammation—particularly the inflammatory cytokines that are responsible for fatal lung damage. The potential is so strong that research is set to start on intravenous curcumin for the suppression of severe inflammation that could lead to lung damage and death in COVID-19 patients.3
While intravenous curcumin is obviously not accessible by the masses, oral curcumin supplements, such as Newport Natural Health’s Curcumin EX Plus, are readily available for purchase online.
I’m sure you’ll see plenty of articles and studies over the next several weeks and months mentioning other possible supplements and medications for COVID-19. Any and all of those could also be viable options. The fact is, research into this strain of coronavirus that leads to disease is still so new, and much is yet to be discovered.
However, the supplements mentioned in this article are easy to find and not cost prohibitive. You can use both right now as preventives to boost your immune function and make you more resistant to disease. Keep in mind, though, if you do come down with COVID-19, it is best to discuss with your doctor the use of these or any supplements/medications. Stay healthy and safe out there!
- Yi L, et al. Small molecules blocking the entry of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus into host cells. J Virol. 2004 Oct;78(20):11334-9. Last accessed April 8, 2020.
- Mehrabian A and Mikaeeli S. Montreal researchers propose a treatment for COVID-19. 2020 Mar 17. Last accessed April 8, 2020.
- SignPath Press Release. SignPath Pharma to focus on coronavirus disease (COVID-19) by developing treatment for acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). 2020 Mar 17. Last accessed April 8, 2020.