Immunomodulating herbs

by Alexandra Comaniciu

Herbs contain many bioactive compounds. Why people sometimes opt more in for the usage of such herbs is because there is a natural synergy between these compounds which can boost the human homeostasis in a more rounded way (somehow plants know how and where to act in regard with the various lacks of the body) in opposition with the synthesised drugs which, indeed, are more concentrated because they tend to be single compounds in a drug formulation, but usually they treat certain disruptions in the body. The common drugs do not prevent the human body from getting unbalanced (medically speaking)- the way herbs do.



Herbs can have different impacts on the immune system of a certain animal/ person: they can activate the immune response, they can slow down the immune response or, as most of the herbs are, they can be immune modulators ( flexibility in the human immune system).

Herbs can be consumed in various forms: in cooking, teas, but also in food supplements and in volatile oil forms (when the plant produces the oils which can then be extracted). According to the concentration of the active compound needed, the intake should vary as well as the forms.

  1. Immune stimulants

Why herbal immune stimulants should be implemented in a day-to-day lifestyle is because they are similary effective as conventional drugs, but they do not affect the immune memory of the cells (but it means that they should be constantly taken). They are also known as Antimicrobials because they can act directly on a bacteria or virus

Such herbs are:


More antiviral herbs (4):

  • Oregano- due to carvacrol
  • Sage
  • Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Sambucus
  • Licorice
  • Ginger


  1. Immune modulation (Tonic herbs)

The saponins and polysaccharides can have a general impact on the immune system responsiveness. They can either increase or decrease the effects of the natural fighting cells in the body (T cells, macrophages, lymphocytes etc). They are generally used when the immune system needs a boost (due to certain weakness that have occurred.

I think that they should be used in a Controled Human Infection because they might not interfere directly with the virus (in our case), but can help the body fight the disease form an early onsetting stage.


  1. Hormonal modulation

The action of the herbs is indirect: the immune response is triggered via endocrine functions(which might be suffering due to stress or emotional/ mental irregularities).  Example: the activity of the adrenal glands can be boosted through saponins that can be found in:




Note: Maybe our volunteers should be split in two groups ( one group to be given a few weeks before the controlled infection starts some Immune stimulant herbs and the other group-healthy volunteers as well should be infected with the virus and afterwards should be put on a strict diet with Immune modulation herbs to see the effects—obviously the group should be controlled and checked)


Moreover, the lifestyle  is really important when it comes to the well being of people. “Our emotions play a central role in the functioning of our immune systems—so much so, that there’s a whole field of science called psychoneuroimmunology. Our moods—and sense of connection—have a profound effect on our white blood cells (immune cells, such as B cells, T cells, natural killer [NK] cells, and macrophages). The feelings of stress and social isolation are some of the biggest immune “downers” out there. Stress hormones, such as adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol, weaken immune function. “ (2) If we want to have a more holistic approach in the trial process, maybe we should implement the ideology of certain articles such as “Psychological Stress and Susceptibility to the Common Cold”(3) that states that the psychological stress (which can be generated by the media in the Covid-19 situation) has been associated with an increased risk of acute respiratory illness. The research is based on only about 400 healthy subjects, but it is a start and the well-being of the pacients should definitely not be left out of consideration.


Folk antiviral herbs:

  • In the Asian part of the world, people take preventing herbs in order to diminish the possibility of the corona-type viruses to get into the human system in order to replicate etc.:
    1. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine)
  • People start drinking herbs to relieve symptoms even before being tested as positive and therefore the patients in Guangdong and Zhejiang have been reported to have a mortality rate of 0.1% in the case of the Covid-19 . (5) The study mentioned in (5), however states that the recovery was due to o combination of modern and traditional therapy.
  • “a blend of Forsythia, Chinese skull cap and Honeysuckle is categorized as antiviral, antibacterial and found to be good for the immune system)”(5)
  • Cimicifuga rhizoma, Meliaecortex, Coptidis rhizoma, Phellodendron cortex and Sephorasubstrata have also been proven to have anti-coronaviral effects
  • Lycoris radiata was showed to be effective in a study from 2005 that underlined the antiviral activities of certain herbs against the SARS-associated coronavirus (a virus that comes from the same “family” as the Covid-19) (6): “Lycoris radiataArtemisia annuaPyrrosia lingua, and Lindera aggregata exhibited significant inhibition effects on virus”


Herbs with anti-viral actions:

First of all we should understand how the coronavirus proliferates: “Corona virus is caused by rapidly dividing virus which works by injecting it’s genome into other’s gene and multiplies there hence it depends on other organisms for its growth and therefore makes it more difficult to vanish the disease-causing agent and it is becoming a great topic of research among the drug developers, researchers and scientists.” (5)

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)—has been traditionally used for treating influentza and colds; it is high and flavonoids that inhibit the Haemagglutinin (HA) inhibiton (prevents the viral replications- that is vital in inhibiting of the proloiferation of the coronavirus)

– Turmeric (Curcumin longa) as well targets HA to inhibit virus entry

– Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) inhibits HA

Surface spike protein inhibitors (the spike proteins located on the coronavirus facilitate the entry of coronaviruses into the human host cells.  Indian gooseberry (Phyllanthus embelica) has displayed anti-CoV activities.

Some believe that the coronavirus has very out-of-the-ordinary effects because they trigger a cytokine storm. There are herbs that can prevent this inflammatory cascade: Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata), Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea), Curcumin (Curcuma longa). (7)




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