Three Common Foods With Proven Anti-Viral Properties

In the time of Corona Virus, your food should be your front line defense.

The Corona Virus is no joke folks. But while there is no known cure for the pandemic, there are lots of studies out there on the anti-viral properties of many common foods. Many of you might be surprised to learn just how powerful some of these ingredients really are. Here are three simple foods that you probably already have right in your home kitchen, all with scientifically proven anti-viral powers to boost your immune system and help keep you safe and healthy in this trying time.

Green Tea

Back in 2011, Japanese scientists discovered that schoolchildren that regularly consumed green tea had much lower chances of catching the seasonal flu than those that did not. Since then, many studies have been done on the anti-viral properties of green tea compounds called catechins (GTCs), a type of anti-oxidant known to have many different health-promoting properties. A 2017 review published by the National Institute of Health (NIH) for example, states that “Studies have shown that GTCs, especially epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), have antiviral effects against diverse viruses.”

According to the review, these catechins have been found to inhibit the replication of everything from the HIV virus, which causes AIDS, to the HPV virus, responsible for Hepatitis infections. Even more relevant though, the review features studies showing green tea catechins can inhibit influenza viruses, arboviruses (viruses transmitted by insects), viruses that infect farm animals and even the EBOLA virus, which has a crazy death rate of near 25 percent.

The anti-viral properties of green tea are so well established now that Korean scientists recently published a paper recommending that green tea extract (GTE) be considered a form of “safe and environmentally friendly personal hygiene against viral infections.”


Dark blue and purple colored berries also contain unique anti-oxidant compounds that have been found to have potent anti-viral properties in scientific studies. A 2017 study found that specific berry compounds, known as anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins and phenolic acids, inhibit the replication of the flu virus both directly and indirectly and “can be considered as an alternative treatment and prophylaxis (preventative measure) of influenza.”

While blackberries, blueberries, and even grapes (yes, wine is anti-viral!), all contain these compounds, the highest concentrations are found in the elderberry, which is common around the world but only still eaten traditionally in a few countries. A recent 2020 study found that elderberry extract is both anti-bacterial and anti-viral and showed “inhibitory effect” against everything from the MRSA superbug (a kind of antibiotic-resistant bacteria) to the IBV Coronavirus, an enveloped virus that infects poultry and is related to the Covid-19 that is currently plaguing the world.

In fact, elderberries are so potent that back in 2009, an international team of researchers found that elderberry extract was just as powerful as the often used anti-viral pharmaceutical Tamilflu at inhibiting the replication of the H1N1 virus, also known as the Swine Flu.

Citrus Peels

Just last week, the Internet was buzzing with the sensational story of a 99-year old British woman who “beat” the Corona Virus by eating marmalade sandwiches. As funny as that sounds, and it sounds ridiculous actually, traditional British marmalade does have a special ingredient that indeed has been proven in scientific studies to have strong anti-viral properties, meaning marmalade may quite possibly have contributed to this woman's remarkable survival. That ingredient is citrus peel.

In 2014, Chinese researchers investigating the properties of an Asian citrus fruit known as Guangchenpi and its effect on respiratory infections, found strong anti-viral activity associated with a compound called “Tangeretin”, a flavonoid anti-oxidant found concentrated in the peel of the fruit. A 2018 study shows that Tangeretin both inhibits the entry and blocks the fusion of several varieties of arenaviruses (enveloped viruses that infect rodents and sometimes humans), including the Lassa virus, which is particularly deadly to humans.

Tangeretin is found in most citrus fruit peels, including oranges and grapefruits, but is most highly concentrated in, you guessed it, tangerines.

Note: I am not a doctor nor is this “medical” advice. There is no known “cure” for the coronavirus and eating anti-viral foods in no way means you are immune to catching it. However, the research presented here represents just a handful of the many many scientific studies that prove that many common foods and ingredients do indeed have amazing anti-viral and immune-enhancing properties. The next article in this series will focus on spices and common herbs.

Environmental journalist with words in Mongabay, Earth Island Journal, Vice, Parabola Magazine, High Times, Paste Magazine and more.

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