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11 Common Herbs with Antiviral Properties

 Ginger is by far not the only herb capable of warding off colds and other viral infections. In fact, some of the common herbs and roots you may already have on hand in your garden or pantry have potent antiviral properties as well. These 11 powerful herbs, like the humble garlic, aromatic sage, and fresh peppermint, have stood both the test of time and scientific scrutiny, and are widely known for their antiviral activity. Learn about their specific benefits below.
Do keep in mind, however, that taking herbs is a supplemental method, and not a primary treatment of any condition unless otherwise advised by your doctor, and you will still need to adhere to all guidelines and recommendations given by medical professionals in preventing and treating a specific condition.
 

1. Fennel

Herbs with Antiviral Properties Fennel
Both the roots and the seeds of the sweet-tasting fennel plant have been used to reduce inflammation and ease digestive distress for centuries. Indeed, the roots of the plant contain quite a lot of vitamin C and other powerful antioxidants, which made researchers believe it may be beneficial at boosting the immune system.
Some studies, though mostly test tube and animal model studies, have even shown the potential of the herb to kill specific viruses. For example, one article showed that the naturally-occurring ingredients of fennel called rans-anethole was capable of eradicating the herpes virus. To learn more about this aromatic plant and its benefits, consider reading our previous article - The 12 Health Benefits of Fennel.

2. Oregano

Herbs with Antiviral Properties Oregano
Oregano is great not only on pizza! In fact, the delicious herb has been shown to eradicate a multitude of different viruses, such as the herpes virus (type-1), respiratory syncytial virus, and the rotavirus, which causes diarrhea and digestive distress in kids.
In addition, one test-tube study also explored the potential of the herb to kill the murine norovirus, which causes a highly infectious stomach flu in mice. A virtually identical virus also affects humans and is the primary cause of stomach flu. Oregano managed to eradicate the virus just 15 minutes after exposure. It needs pointing out, however, that all studies mentioned above used oregano oil, the most concentrated form of the herb.

3. Echinacea

Herbs with Antiviral Properties Echinacea
Echinacea flowers sure do look quite beautiful in the garden with their vibrant petals and peculiar cone-shaped core, but the primary reason people grow this bright pink flower is for its health benefits.
In fact, many people use echinacea to boost their immunity before the flu season, a tradition that stems from Native American medicine, as Native Americans used the flower to treat all kinds of conditions, including viral infections. Studies support the plant's potential to treat some viral infections, such as herpes and influenza.

4. Garlic

Herbs with Antiviral Properties Garlic

Garlic is definitely one of the most popular seasonings in the world, but apart from being quite delicious and essential for some of your favorite dishes, it's also a very potent herbal remedy. Additionally, it is one of the most well-studied herbs out there that has well-known anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting effects.

Furthermore, garlic has been shown to have antiviral properties against specific viruses, namely influenza A and B, viral pneumonia, rhinovirus (the cause of the common cold), and even HIV. The most recent research conducted on 23 humans evidence also suggests that garlic extract can eradicate warts related to HPV (human papillomavirus) in 2 weeks of use. This all leads us to one conclusion - never shy away from garlic when cooking!

5. Sambucus

Herbs with Antiviral Properties Sambucus
Image Source and Cover Image (cropped): Jupaba Vucba/ Flickr
You've probably heard of elderberries, but few people actually know what these blackberries are beneficial for. Sambucus, or elderberries, are a traditional medicinal ingredient that's been used for all sorts of purposes for centuries, but the scientific evidence proving most of these uses is limited.
That said, there is one review study in 180 humans that concluded that black elderberry supplements significantly helped shorten and decrease the severity of upper respiratory viral infections. The berries were also shown to boost the immune response in response to the flu in mice.

6. Peppermint

Herbs with Antiviral Properties Peppermint
The mint family of plants has one thing in common - virtually all of its species, be it peppermint, basil, or lemon balm offer a multitude of health benefits, including ones connected to the treatment of viral infections. One of the ingredients suggested to be responsible for the beneficial immune-boosting and antiviral effects is menthol, and peppermint has the highest concentration of it compared to other members of the mint family.
Other essential oil components present in peppermint, basil, and lemon balm have been also known to fight off different viruses causing upper respiratory infections, enterovirus, and herpes, among others, so make sure to include plenty of these herbs in your diet, too.

7. Rosemary

Herbs with Antiviral Properties Rosemary
Rosemary is another one of those herbs that's widely known for its antimicrobial and antiviral properties, and rosemary essential oil and extract, in particular, are present in many concoctions that intend to treat all sorts of infections. Two ingredients naturally-present in the herb - Rosmarinic and Oleanolic acid - may be responsible for these beneficial health effects.
Rosemary extract has been found to kill hepatitis A and herpes, whereas oleanolic acid has shown the potential of treating herpes, HIV, and influenza in animal models and in-vitro studies.

8. Sage

Herbs with Antiviral Properties Sage
Another member of the mint family and a frequent ingredient on many people's shopping list is sage. This soft-leaved plant has a pleasant aroma and is commonly added to both meat and vegetable-based dishes. Though not much research is done to account for the anecdotal use of sage as an antiviral agent, in vitro studies suggest that safficinolide - one of the naturally-occurring compounds in sage - can be helpful at fighting HIV-1.

9. Ginseng

Herbs with Antiviral Properties Ginseng
Ginseng needs no introduction, as the herb is a staple item in Chinese traditional medicine and has enjoyed increasing popularity worldwide in the past decade or so. While ginseng extract itself has been shown to be effective at killing hepatitis A, herpes, and some respiratory viruses, isolating compounds called ginsenosides and administering them in a high concentration seems to have an even greater antiviral effect.
One noteworthy virus that succumbs to ginsenosides are coxsackieviruses, a group of extremely dangerous viruses that can cause meningoencephalitis - a potentially life-threatening brain infection.

10. Dandelion

Herbs with Antiviral Properties Dandelion
You've probably heard that young dandelion leaves can be enjoyed in salads, but the flowers of the plant are also a common ingredient in plant medicine. The plant is very sturdy and so it's commonly considered a weed, but it shouldn't, as it has many anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial health effects.
In terms of its antiviral effects, dandelion extract was reported to kill influenza, hepatitis B, and other viruses. A more recent test-tube experiment also showed the ability of the extract to stop the spread of the life-threatening Dengue virus.

11. Licorice

Herbs with Antiviral Properties Licorice
The last, but definitely not the least ingredient on this list is licorice - no, not the candy but the root that gives the candy its characteristic smell and flavor. Like ginseng and ginger, licorice root is a staple in Eastern medicinal practices, but there is also some interesting research that reveals the antiviral potential of the plant.
In-vitro research reveals that the extract of licorice root is capable of eradicating HIV, herpes, and even SARS-CoV (the first coronavirus, not the novel kind the world is currently battling). To read more about the benefits of the herb, read this article: 9 Amazing Health Benefits of Using Licorice Root.
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