Many plant foods exhibit anti-viral properties, but these are my top picks.
Include a variety of these foods into your diet on the regular to support your immune system and help your body more effectively fight pathogens.
Garlic is a triple-threat. It provides anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. So, whenever you feel sick (and even when you don’t) it can be beneficial to be generous with the amount of garlic you consume.
Garlic has shown anti-viral activity against influenza A and B, HIV, herpes simplex 1 and 2, rotavirus, cytomegalovirus, and viral pneumonia. (1)
Eat it raw to get the most powerful anti-viral benefits. Otherwise, if cooking with it, it’s imperative that you chop it 10 minutes before cooking to reap the antiviral benefits. (watch my IGTV for more details on this). Garlic supplements don’t have the same impact.
Try it: Garlic Sauteed Chard, Shirataki Basil Pesto Pasta with Garlic Shrimp, Golden Garlic Bread with Cashew Basil Pesto
Ginger is noted for its ability to fight respiratory viruses, and can be included in the diet raw or cooked.
Studies show fresh ginger blocks respiratory virus-induced plaque formation on airway epithelium by blocking viral attachment and internalization. (2) Dried ginger doesn’t have the same effect.
Try it: Kick-A-Cold Tea, Ginger Veggie Spring Rolls with Lemon Tahini, Carrot Ginger Soup
Oregano has powerful anti-viral properties, but you’ll have to consume it in a higher concentration then simply sprinkling a teaspoon of dried oregano over a meal. Instead, purchase fresh oregano (which you can find in the produce section) to use in salads and teas, and for therapeutic benefits, use a liquid oil of oregano supplement with a standardized concentration of carvacrol, the active component believed to be responsible for oregano’s antiviral properties.
For example, in a test-tube study, both oregano oil and isolated carvacrol reduced the activity of murine norovirus (MNV) within 15 minutes of exposure. That said, the pure, higher concentration of carvacrol was able to completely inactivate the virus within one hour of exposure, while the oregano oil with a lower carvacrol content, was only able to slow it, and didn’t completely inactivate the virus in that period. (3) That’s why when choosing an oil of oregano supplement, choose one with a high and standardized carvacrol content, like my picks below.
Try it: Add fresh oregano leaves to salads, and dried you can add it to any dish, like Superfood Scramble or Garlic Sauteed Chard
Purchase it: Wild Oil of Oregano (high strength), Oil of Oregano Supplement
4. Green Tea
Green tea contains a variety of catechins- notably epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG)- which exhibit anti-viral effects against diverse viruses – including influenza, herpes, adenovirus, HIV, and more.(4)
Matcha green tea is higher in EGCG and presumably offers more virus-fighting benefits.
Try it: Have a regular cup of organic green tea or matcha tea or try it in this Matcha Smoothie Bowl or Mango Matcha Smoothie Bowl
5. Lemon Balm
Lemon balm has exhibited antiviral activity against a diverse number of viruses, including influenza. (5)
You’ll find lemon balm as a tea or supplement in most health food stores. You can also find it as an essential oil, which you can diffuse in the air to keep your home or office air fresh and clean.
If you’re lucky enough to find fresh lemon balm at a farmer’s market, scoop it up and add the leaves to a salad or steep them in hot water to make a fresh lemon balm tea. Instead, most health food stores sell lemon balm tea or supplements, which are an acceptable choice.
Try It: Lemon Balm Tea, Lemon Balm Supplement, Lemon Balm Tincture, Lemon Balm Essential Oil,
Elderberry is a flowering plant that has traditionally been used to treat colds and flu, and which has exhibited both antiviral and antibacterial effects. (6)
In one randomized study of 60 adults with flu-like symptoms, those who took 15 mL of the elderberry syrup four times a day saw symptoms clear up on average four days earlier than those who took a placebo syrup. (7)
Try it: Sambucus Black Elderberry Syrup
7. Coconut & Coconut Oil
Coconut oil is rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), which are believed to have potent anti-viral properties.
According to a study published in the Journal Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, when unrefined coconut oil is consumed, “the MCTs are broken down into individual medium chain fatty acids and monoglycerides, which can kill or inactivate pathogenic microorganisms inside the body. The antiviral action, attributed to monolaurin (the monoglyceride of lauric acid), is that of solubilizing the lipids and phospholipids in the envelope of the pathogenic organisms causing the disintegration of their outer membrane. There is also evidence that MCFA interfere with the organism’s signal transduction and the antimicrobial effect in viruses is due to interference with virus assembly and viral maturation.” (8)
Cook with unrefined coconut oil or use it in place of butter.
Try It: Cook this 5-Spice Salmon, Superfood Scramble or use it in a stir-fry or with scrambled eggs.
8. Black Walnuts
A particularly bitter type of walnut that has anti-viral, anti-fungal, antimalarial, and anti-parasite properties.(9)
You will most commonly find it as a tincture or supplement, but some health foods stores carry the whole walnut pieces, which you could eat as a snack or use as a salad topper. They are very bitter so start with a small amount. You’ll get used to the flavor quickly, and they are nice as a topping on various dishes.
Try it: Black Walnut Pieces, Black Walnut Supplement, Black Walnut Tincture,
The wonder spice that provides a plethora of health benefits also exhibits antiviral properties. The active component of turmeric, curcumin, has been found to inhibit virus replication and interfere with virus-cell binding.(10)
Use the dried spice or buy the fresh root, peel, and grate it into your cooking pan instead. Always pair turmeric with black pepper to increase absorption of curcumin.
Try it: Organic Turmeric, Turmeric Supplement with Black Pepper Extract
Asian Beef Bowl with Golden Cauliflower Rice, Garlic Sauteed Chard, Golden Turmeric Cauliflower
Which of these are you adding to your diet? Share in the comments below.