The Best Anti-Viral Foods and Herbs

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By Brielle Thompson

A virus is an infection that cannot be cured with antibiotics. Examples of viral infections include the common cold and flu. Many foods and herbs are known for their antiviral properties, which means that they prevent or kill viruses. Some foods and herbs also have the ability to boost the immune system.


Garlic's antiviral properties can be attributed to a substance called allicin, which is activated when garlic is crushed, according to Fitness Arts. Garlic can be consumed in a variety of ways--it can be eaten raw or cooked, or taken in a capsule or extract. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, studies show that people taking garlic supplements are less likely to be infected with the common cold. Also, garlic was shown to speed recovery time once infected.


The most common use for St. John's Wort is alleviating minor depression, although it has antibacterial and antiviral properties as well. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that laboratory research shows that St. John's Wort may kill or slow the growth of human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV; however, it interferes with medications used to treat people with the virus, so HIV patients should not take the herb, and it should be used with caution in healthy adults who want to use it for its antiviral properties. The herb is contraindicated with several common medications such as antidepressants and anticoagulants. St. John's Wort can be dried and consumed, or can be ingested as a tea. Capsules and extracts are also available.


Echinacea is a powerful immune-boosting herb. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, echinacea can shorten the duration of the common cold and flu, and reduce symptoms such as sore throat, cough and fever. To be effective, it should be taken at the first sign of infection, such as a runny nose, sore throat or fatigue.


Astragalus is primarily used for its immune-boosting properties. The University of Maryland Medical Center states that studies have shown that astragalus has antiviral properties and stimulates the immune system. Researchers have investigated astragalus as a possible treatment for people whose immune systems have been compromised by chemotherapy or radiation.


Vitamins A, C, and E are all antioxidants vital to protecting the body against infection. Foods high in vitamin A include carrots and sweet potatoes. Red peppers are surprisingly high in vitamin C, along with the obvious fruits like oranges and grapefruit. Vitamin E can be found in sunflower seeds, almonds and some fish.

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