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Herbal Actions : Antiviral

What is an antiviral herb?

Many people misunderstand what the term antiviral means.

Most people interpret that antiviral herbs will work like pharmaceutical antibiotic drugs do.

For e.g. you contract a bacterial infection and you take something to kill the bacteria or pathogens however, herbal antivirals do not work in the way pharmaceuticals do.

Firstly let us explain the differences between viruses and bacterial infections.

Bacteria are living organisms coming in all different shapes. Bacteria have a cell wall. They can live symbiotically with plants and animals.

Most animals and humans on earth are reliant on bacteria one example of this is how the vitamin B12 is synthesised by some bacteria within our gut flora.

You may already know that we have billions of bacteria living in our digestive tract? Hopefully most of these are helpful as it can become problematic when our "bad guys" are trying to compete with our "good guys". 

This "bad bacteria" can cause issues for us which is when we are often prescribed antibiotics or antimicrobial herbs to "kill" off this bacteria.

Viruses are different. They do not have a cell wall and are not able to reproduce on their own, they require a host cell in order to replicate.

When you contract a viral infection the virus has invaded your cells.

Managing a viral infection is difficult because the virus is replicating inside your  cells.

Instead of "killing" viral cells, herbal antivirals work to inhibit the virus from attaching to your cell walls or inhibit the replication of the virus once it gets into your cells. This herbal assistance can then give your immune system the upper hand to better deal with the rest of the infection.

How do we know if a herb is antiviral?

One way if identifying if a herb is antiviral or not is to test it against viral cells in a lab. These tests are called ''in vitro'' which meaning not in a living organism.

Researchers will introduce herbal liquids to viruses in a petri dish and analyse the results.

What are some examples of antiviral herbs?

Olive Leaf


Lemon Balm



Milk Thistle

Licorice Root

Reishi Mushroom




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