COVID-19 and Herbal Spices

Herbal Spices

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The Relationship of Inflammation COVID-19 Severity and How Herbal Spices May Help

∞ When an individual has an inflammatory illness, one of the things I often tell them is to spice up their food at every chance they get, using as much spice as they are comfortable with.  These are not just the hot and spicy herbs. I tell them to increase all the cooking spices. These include spices such as oregano, thyme, rosemary, garlic,  basil and the rest of the gang. My reason for telling them this is that these various spices are great anti-inflammatories through their mechanisms of regulating molecular targets of inflammation and reducing free radicals that are associated with inflammation.  Simply by adding these flavorful herbs to their meals they can reduce inflammation, and get an added layer of protection from inflammation induced damage, should inflammation occur. Many of these same spices were recently examined by research reviewers as herbs that might help decrease cytokine levels seen in COVID-19. Since cytokines are involved in COVID-19 inflammation and severity, and many spices have been shown to lower cytokines, they felt they might reduce the associated problematic inflammation in COVID-19. Learn how COVID-19 severity and herbal spices made these researchers stand up and take notice.


The Research Article

The review article is called COVID-19, cytokines, inflammation, and spices: How are they related. This was a research literature review published in Elsevier Public Health Emergency Collection as part of the COVID-19 Initiative. The reviewers evaluated 484 research articles relative to herbal spices and inflammation. These Indian writers gathered evidence to examine why their country of India would have less progression of COVID-19, as well as associated complications and mortality compared to the USA. They note that anti-inflammatory spices used in Indian cooking and as a medicine may be the reason for the difference. I am going to give you a brief review of this article and tell you which spices they include in their list of spices that help to alleviate the inflammatory cytokines in general, of which many are high in COVID-19. They are herbal spices you may want to become better acquainted with. I am not going to bore you with the nitty-gritty details of which cytokines are high in COVID-19 and which herbal spices have been shown to lower them. That is all in their research article on COVID-19 and herbal spices if you should wish to read it. I am going to give you the big picture and stress the main points in this article.

Cytokine Storms

A cytokine storm can be elicited In some people who have severe COVID-19 infections. Severe infections are usually associated with comorbidities. Cytokine storms can cause extensive damage and even permanent injury as well as death. The reason it is called a cytokine storm is that inflammatory cytokines are found to be abnormally raised in the body of these people experiencing severe COVID-19. Many of these spices have been shown to lower inflammatory cytokines associated with COVID-19. The authors of this review suggest that the increased use of anti-inflammatory herbs in India is the reason individuals have fared better from COVID-19 than those in Western countries such as the USA. They thought we should be considering herbal spices to prevent serious outcomes in COVID-19 associated with cytokines.

COVID-19 and Herbal Spices Shown to Normalize Various Inflammatory Cytokines

These following spices were shown in vitro or in vivo (or both) to normalize inflammatory cytokines including some seen raised in COVID-19. If you look up the research review article you can get the specific data on each herb.

  • Asafetida
  • Basil
  • Bay leaves
  • Black cumin
  • Black pepper
  • Cayenne - they list this under the latin name Capsium
  • Cardamon
  • Celery seed
  • Cinammon
  • Coriander
  • Cumin
  • Curry leaves
  • Fenugreek
  • Garcinia
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Ginseng
  • Long pepper
  • Mint
  • Mustard
  • Nutmeg
  • Onion
  • Rosemary
  • Saffron
  • Sesame
  • Star anise
  • Tamarind
  • Turmeric

Spices They Included With Clinical Studies

Many spices have been studied in clinical trials in regard to their ability to normalize various cytokines and decrease inflammation. These herbs are the ones they investigated in greater detail.

  • Cardamom
  • Cinnamon
  • Coriander
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
  • Ginseng
  • Saffron
  • Sesame seed
  • Turmeric

These Herbal Spices Are Used For Comorbidities Seen With COVID-19

I would also point out that many of these spices additionally have studies to show they may be beneficial in preventing or treating various comorbidities associated with COVID-19 severity. Holistic practitioners are known to use some some of these spices as well as other herbs to treat some of the comorbidities that have been associated with worse outcomes in COVID-19. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has listed specific comorbidities that are associated with a worse outcome if a person has COVID-19.

These are the chronic illnesses and conditions implicated as comorbidities on the CDC website, last updated on October 14, 2021:

  • Overweight and Obesity
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Chronic liver disease
  • Diabetes (type 1 and 2)
  • Dementia and other neurological conditions
  • Down Syndrome
  • Heart conditions
  • HIV infection
  • Immunocompromised state – this can be due to being on drugs, health conditions causing immune suppression, being elderly, or being under 1 year of age
  • Mental health conditions
  • Pregnancy (not considered a disease, but on their list)
  • Immune compromised status
  • Smoking
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Cancer
  • Solid organ or blood stem cell transplant
  • Stroke or cerebrovascular disease
  • Substance use disorders (alcohol, opioids, or cocaine)

Herbal Spices Could Help Preventatively

It might behoove individuals with one of these above comorbidities to consult with a naturopathic physician, functional medicine physician or some other alternatively minded practitioner, that can assist them in picking out a spice, or spices that would help them lower their specific risk in COVID-19 by becoming healthier. There are many additional herbs that are used medicinally to lower inflammation and have been shown in vitro and in vivo to act as anti-inflammatories, some with clinical research that were not included in their lists. You can also find lists of anti-inflammatories in most herb books. I include a rather long one in my book, "Herbal Medicine From The Heart of The Earth".

An earlier article on comorbidities and reducing severe COVID-19 effects can be found on this website.

Growing Spices Is Easier Than You Think

I hope you get a renewed interest in spicing up your food now that you realize these spices do more than make food taste better. The great thing about spices are that most of them are easy to grow and even if you don't have a green thumb you are likely to be able to grow them. They more readily take neglect and mistakes without dying. This means you can grow them in a small area of your yard, window box or as a potted plant and have them availalbe to add to your meals as needed.

What We Covered

  • In this article we looked at the idea that India may have lesser fallout and death from COVID-19 per capita due their use of herbal spices.
  • We examined how these spices decrease inflammation in general and specifically reduce some of the inflammatory cytokines associated with COVID-19 and cytokine storms.
  • For those who like to act preventatively, and have comorbidities associated with COVID-19 severity, we suggested examining the use of herbal spices that are known to assist in those specific comorbidities by seeking guidance from  your holistic practitioner.
  • You can look up the individual spices and see which cytokines they are known to increase or read about clinical trials here.
  • You can look up other details about these and other herbs on this website in the herbal monograph section called herbs A-Z. Here you can look up herbs by either their common name or their latin name.

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