Nutrition and Supplement Suggestions for Strengthening Immune Resilience
Author: Susan Blanc, N.C.
Nutrition and Herbal Therapist
As COVID-19 is a brand new virus there is literally no supplement or herb that has been specifically tested to show efficacy in either protecting a person from contracting the virus, or for treating an active infection. However, it is reasonable to use what we do know about strategies for supporting immune resilience, as well as taking advantage of known antiviral and immune support foods and herbs.
Food comes first! A whole food, nutrient dense diet provides the foundation for immune health. No herb or supplement layered on top of a subpar diet is going to compensate for a faulty foundation! This is a great time to revisit and recommit to an optimal diet:
~Kick the sugar habit as consuming sugar measurably reduces immune response for 1-5 hours. In addition to avoiding the obvious sources such as sugar, pastries, cookies, candy, etc. this includes ditching the simple carbs such as white rice or pasta in favor of more complex carbs such as quinoa or root vegetables.
~Build up the antioxidant (color-rich) part of your plate - Include three different colors with every meal. Keep some easy back-ups on hand so you can easily add a radish, a carrot or a few slices of beet to any meal.
~Emphasize Vitamin A rich foods (especially important for lung health) such as: organic chicken or beef liver, eggs from truly pastured chickens, orange vegetables such as sweet potatoes, winter squash and carrots, orange fruits such as mangoes or apricots, dark green leafies such as kale, spinach or collards
~Leafy greens such as spinach, chard, kale, and collards are packed with minerals needed for immune building tasks, as well as offering protective vitamins, antioxidants and fiber.
~Zinc is another immune defense superstar. Best food sources: oysters, beef, lamb, cashews, spinach, garbanzo beans, pumpkin seeds, nuts, dark chocolate, pork, chicken, beans, and mushrooms.
~Garlic: eat 1 clove daily (ideally raw, try pressing thru garlic press, letting it rest for 15 minutes, then adding olive oil. Use as a spread, or add lemon juice as well and pour over your steamed veggies).
~Vitamin C: raw red pepper, citrus fruit (including the white pithy part around the fruit), berries, raw tomatoes
~Mushrooms: add medicinal mushrooms to your cooking: shiitake, maitake, oyster, etc. ~Culinary herbs such as ginger, oregano, rosemary, thyme, sage, and parsley provide antioxidant and antibacterial power (and add a much appreciated flavor-boost!)
~Probiotic rich foods to support a diverse and robust population of beneficial bacteria. Include cultured veggies/sauerkrauts, raw veggies such as cabbage and salad greens, miso, yogurt/kefir, coconut kefir water (but choose low sugar varieties), kombucha, cultured cashew “cheese”, and traditionally produced olives
~Sea vegetables such as kelp, dulse, and nori are a rich source of minerals that bolster immune defense
Supplement recommendations: here are some general suggestions. See your practitioner for a more customized plan to suit your overall health context.
~Vitamin C: 400 -500 mg of a whole food vitamin C (ex. Innate Response or MegaFood) 3-4x/day. Reduce quantity if you experience loose stools.
~ Zinc: 25-35 mg/day for shorter term use (not indefinitely). Lozenges are the most helpful for local immunity as it is useful for repelling viruses in the nose, mouth and throat. Look for zinc acetate or zinc gluconate in a lozenge. In a capsule (builds systemic immunity) look for zinc that is chelated such as Zinc bisglycinate chelate (Designs for Health Zinc Supreme on Fullscript, or Reacted Zinc by Orthomolecular, etc.). Jarrow Zinc Balance is another good choice.
~Vitamin D: dosing should be based on your current vitamin D level test results, but likely safe to add 2,000 IU/50 mcg for the next few months. Vitamin D supplements should always contain Vitamin K for balance.
~Vitamin A: 5-10,000 IU/day for short term use (1-3 months). Supports immunity specifically in the mucous membranes/respiratory tract.
Herbal recommendations: Some items may be available on Fullscript, our on-line dispensary. (For other sourcing: www.mountainroseherbs.com, local shops such as Five Flavors Pharmacy in Oakland, or Farmacopia in Santa Rosa (also provides mail order fulfillment), local vitamin/herb departments as stores such as Sprouts, Whole Foods, Vitamin Express and local health food stores.
Approximate dosing ranges are provided; exact dosing best discussed with herbal practitioner. Additionally, if person actually becomes sick, strongly advise making a phone appointment for specific guidance. Different herbs are used at different stages of a viral illness and recommendations can vary depending on the person’s constitution.
Top 5 Herbal Recommendations:
~ Astragalus: use preventively to build deep immune support, especially in the lungs. Not for use if acutely sick. For prevention: powdered root: 800-1600 mg/day, dried root extract 400-800 mg/day; tincture: 4-8 ml/day. STOP taking this if you actually get sick. Recommended: Astragalus Complex by MediHerb, 2-4 tabs/day (combines Echinacea and Eleuthero with the Astragalus) or comparable product
~ Reishi (mushroom): adaptogen, anti-inflammatory, immune defense. Capsules: take 3- 500 mg tablets, 3x/day, Tincture 80-100 drops (approx. 3 droppers full), 4-6x/day. Powdered herb (least expensive), 1 tsp. twice/day, source: www.MushroomHarvest.com. Do NOT buy simple dried mushroom powder. Buy a product where the mushroom has been properly decocted into water and then dried. Another good company: https://animamundiherbals.com/ ~Andrographis: Prevention: tablets: 2-3 grams/day, tincture 4-6 ml/day. Acute: up to 6g/day in tablets or up to 12 ml/day. Note: MediHerb makes a combination Andrographis/Echinacea/Holy Basil product—Andrographis Complex—dose is 1 tablet 2-4x/day.
~Monolaurin/Lauricidin: excellent anti-viral, take lower dose for prevention; increase dose if sick. Start with ¼ scoop twice/day and increase to adult intake dose of 1 full scoop 2-3x/day. For children 3-5 take ¼ scoop 1-3x/day, 6-8 take ½ scoop 1-3x/day, 9-11 take ¾ scoop 1-3x/day. (Can still order directly from the www.lauricidin.com website.)
~Echinacea: use during prevention period, may not be best choice for acute treatment if actually sick with the virus. In tea form: drink 2 cups daily of Traditional Medicinals Organic Echinacea Plus. In tablet/capsule form (Echinacea is NOT a low dose herb, need to take proper dosing for desired immune benefitrovide): 2-3 grams/day of dried root, in tincture form (liquid extract): 3-5.5 ml/day.
Two specific products:
Biocidin: use the throat spray preventatively, especially after being out in public, and use for acute care if sick (still available on FullScript)
Viracid: For maintenance: 2 capsules per day; For acute immune support: 1-2 capsules per hour (currently sold out on FullScript) (this includes the elder, Echinacea, astragalus, and Andrographis along with immune-specific vitamins and minerals.
Licorice: powerful anti-inflammatory/anti-viral. Limit use if hypertension is present. Tincture (1:5): 10-20 drops, 3x/day (do not take if on steroids or diuretic medications). Tablets, use DGL chewable tablets, 200-300 mg, 3-5x/day. Especially useful for sore throat.
Elderberry: Antiviral, antioxidant. Tea, 2 cups daily, or lozenges, or use recommended doses of elderberry syrups. Recommended product: Designs for Health ImmunoBerry (not currently in stock at FullScript).
Susan Blanc is an herbalist and nutrition consultant. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with highest honors, studied Herbalism for 6 years with local and national experts, and received her N.C. certification from Bauman College. Susan teaches classes at Castro Valley Adult and Career Education, the California School of Herbal Studies and served on the faculty at Bauman College for 5 years. She has served as a consultant to the California Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Susan has also worked at the Sonoma County Herb Exchange, a grower’s coop for fresh medicinal herbs. Susan is a member of the American Botanical Council, the American Herbalists Guild and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.
Susan offers individual consultations and classes on cooking and herbal remedies.