October 13, 2022 8 min read
The entire world’s focus seems to be on one virus right now: Covid-19. This laser focus is definitely merited, given how much tragedy and turmoil it’s been causing globally for going on two years. In terms of ending or staunching the pandemic, most attention has gone to (very effective) things like vaccines, masks, and social distancing. There’s been less attention paid to what kills viruses naturally, despite the fact that there are some pretty darn effective natural virus killers out there, like antiviral herbs. While these natural antivirals may not be the solution to the pandemic, they’re an extra tool in your health toolbelt, not only against Covid but also against any future viral infections you might be exposed to. Read on to learn more about natural antiviral options, from antiviral herbs to ozone therapy and beyond.
Would you rather listen than read? Get an audio version of this guide on The WellBe Podcast.
When you don’t feel well or get sick for a few days, the culprit is likely either a bacterial infection or a viral infection. As the names suggest, bacterial infections are caused by bad bacteria (as opposed to good bacteria, like probiotics), while viral infections are caused by viruses.
Bacteria are tiny, single-celled microorganisms that live basically everywhere, including in your body (hello, gut microbiome!). Most bacteria cause no harm, and the good kind we just referenced, called probiotics, can even help protect you from disease. They do this by acting as your bodyguards against bad bacteria and improving your gut diversity, which keeps your gut safe and your immune system strong. But some bacteria, called pathogenic bacteria, can cause infections in humans. Examples of bacterial infections include strep throat, UTIs, and Lyme disease.
Viruses are even smaller than bacteria, and a bit scarier. While bacteria can live anywhere on the planet, viruses are parasitic, meaning they need living cells or tissue in order to grow. Once a virus makes its way into your body, it will take over your healthy cells and use them to multiply. Some viruses even kill host cells as part of this process! Examples of viral infections include the common cold, the flu, chicken pox, measles, and Covid-19.
One of the important differences between bacterial and viral infections is the way they’re treated. With a bacterial infection, you’re likely to be prescribed antibiotics. These can be extremely effective, but can also have a number of concerning side effects (read about them in our antibiotic guide).
Antibiotics also do nothing against viruses. Furthermore, because they damage your gut and therefore your immune system, taking them while fighting a virus can cause you to weaken, or even lose your fight. That’s why it’s so essential to confirm your infection is bacterial — which your doctor can do by taking a culture — before you agree to take antibiotics. As a recent study showed, children who were given antibiotics for pneumonia showed no improvement from the medication, almost certainly because their pneumonia was viral, not bacterial.
Similarly, antibacterial soap is ineffective against viruses. About 75% of liquid soaps and 30% of bar soaps contain antibacterial compounds, which are meant to kill bacteria, not viruses. But you know what does kill viruses? Just regular old soap and water. See, a virus is a nanoparticle in which the weakest link is the fatty bilayer, and because soap dissolves fat, it causes the entire virus to fall apart and die. So the soap actually physically breaks the viruses, deactivating it — no antibacterial compounds required!
When there’s not soap and water around, hand sanitizer that’s at least 60% alcohol can be an effective way to kill viruses. But remember, the ingredients should be alcohol, water, and maybe some essential oils or aloe vera, not a bunch of other chemical junk. Also, it’s important to note that according to the CDC, hand sanitizer kills most, but not all, of the microbes on your hands. It is certainly not research, but the actress Kristen Bell posted an interesting image showing the difference under a UV light of microbes after hand washing vs. using hand sanitizer.
So are there medications that are the virus equivalent of antibiotics? Yes, but antiviral drugs only work in very specific circumstances. A key difference between antibiotics and antivirals is that antiviral drugs are effective only when administered within a certain time frame before or shortly after exposure. And they do not destroy their target virus; instead, they inhibit its development. Antiviral drugs become less effective with time and use, and have many side effects, like vomiting, cough, and behavioral changes.
Okay, so now you might be wondering, what kills viruses without harming your gut microbiome and your immune system or causing serious side effects? Natural antivirals. Viruses are tricky little organisms, and can come in all sorts of different shapes and forms, which makes treating them difficult. Luckily, there are some natural virus killers that you can incorporate into your life to help protect you against viruses.
Note that some of the items below are relatively new, and there are still questions about their effectiveness and risks. Still, there’s promising evidence that they can help. Without further ado, here’s a rundown on your natural antiviral options:
When it comes to what kills viruses naturally, antiviral herbs and supplements are the two most popular and easy to use options. Here’s our rundown on which antiviral herbs and antiviral supplements actually work:
Clearly, you have a lot of different options when it comes to antiviral herbs! In terms of taking them, there are various methods. With some antiviral herbs, like oregano and basil, you can add them to your food as you usually would. With other antiviral herbs, or if you want a more potent dose of basil or oregano, you can opt for supplements, teas, or liquid extracts.
At the end of the day, what kills viruses is your immune system. Natural antivirals like silver, UV light, and antiviral herbs can definitely provide a helping hand, and sometimes a major one. But ultimately, your overall health and the strength or your immune system will be what determines whether or not a virus you are exposed to makes you sick, and how long that sickness will last.
To that end, the best thing you can do now to protect yourself against Covid — and against future viruses in general — is to take steps to keep your immune system strong. That means eating immune-boosting foods, getting enough good quality sleep, reducing stress, and, above all, keeping your gut health in check (since 70% of your immune system lives in your gut!).
Viruses range from pesky to downright deadly, and they’re a bit more complicated to treat than bacteria. However, we do have some concrete knowledge about what kills viruses naturally. Here’s what to remember about preventing and treating viral infections without pharmaceuticals:
Have you benefited from natural virus killers? Which ones? Share your experience in the comments below!
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