The 16 Best Antiviral Herbs and Supplements To Boost Your Immune System and Keep You Healthy

  • Medical Reviewer: Mahammad Juber, MD
Medically Reviewed on 11/10/2022

What 16 herbs and supplements have antiviral properties?

Many different herbs and supplements have been used as medicinal treatments for years. The best antiviral herbs and supplements to boost immunity include NAC, lemon balm, garlic, and other remedies.
Many different herbs and supplements have been used as medicinal treatments for years. The best antiviral herbs and supplements to boost immunity include NAC, lemon balm, garlic, and other remedies.

Since ancient times, humans have used herbs and supplements to treat every conceivable illness. Even today, neither influenza nor coronavirus vaccinations are 100 percent effective, so your immune system can use all the help it can get. Let's look at some of the best antiviral herbs you can take to stay healthy.

Many different herbs and supplements have been used as medicinal treatments for years. Some of the best antiviral herbs and supplements have even been used therapeutically to manage symptoms of coronavirus.

NAC to astragalus

1. NAC

Your body naturally produces the amino acid N-acetylcysteine (NAC). When this amino acid is metabolized, it becomes the powerful antioxidant glutathione. NAC can kill viruses and reduce inflammation. It thins mucus in the lungs of those with upper respiratory illnesses, and it's even attracted attention as a COVID-19 treatment. A study found that NAC treatment stopped the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID) virus from spreading. 

NAC may inhibit the "cytokine storm" caused by hyper-inflammation. This "storm" can cause significant tissue and organ failure, possibly resulting in death. 

Another study discovered that NAC suppressed replication of the human flu A virus. As part of a study, NAC was given to breast cancer patients for two to three weeks. NAC decreased quantities of MCT4, a "transporter" cell that transfers energy from neighboring cells to cancer cells. As a result, NAC slows cancer cell proliferation.

2. Lemon balm 

Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) is a part of the mint family. Lemon balm has:

  • Antioxidant properties
  • Antihistamine properties
  • Anti-cancer properties
  • Antibacterial properties 
  • Anti-fungal properties 
  • Antiviral properties 

Lemon balm also relieves muscle spasms, and lemon balm extract may slow down the Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). A study also indicated that lemon balm essential oil helped treat the influenza virus H9N2.

3. Garlic

Allium sativum L. (garlic) has been an ingredient in food and medicine for centuries. Garlic may heal viral infections in humans, animals, and plants. Randomized studies indicate that garlic can help treat the common cold, flu, viral hepatitis, and even warts.

4. Astragalus

Astragalus root is a medicinal plant from Asia that is also an antiviral agent. For example, astragalus root extract has been used to treat avian influenza H9.

Licorice to black elderberry

5. Licorice

Licorice, sometimes known as "sweet grass," has been used in traditional Chinese medicine. The plant's root is the primary source of its antiviral and antibacterial properties. Specifically, one of its components, called glycyrrhizin (GL), has been used to treat Hepatitis C. On top of that, glycyrrhetinic acid (GA) from licorice root has helped combat MRSA.

6. Zinc

People use zinc to boost their immune systems. Zinc is the second most prevalent mineral in your body after iron, and certain amounts of zinc are necessary for proper development and growth. Zinc has widely effective antiviral properties, helping to protect the body from:

  • HPV
  • HIV
  • Picornavirus
  • Togavirus
  • The flu
  • Coronavirus
  • Herpes  

7. Fresh ginger

Ginger is a spice packed with antioxidants that are good for your immune system's health. Ginger also has antimicrobial properties, and it can fight off various viruses such as the human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV).

8. Black Elderberry

Black elderberry, also known as Sambucus nigra, has been a popular medicinal shrub in Europe for many years. Sometimes taken as a supplement, black elderberry has antioxidant properties and boosts the immune system. In the lab, black elderberry has proven capable of slowing the spread of influenza A and B, as well as some bacterial lung infections.

Turmeric to oregano

9. Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice and an essential component in curry powder. One of the main components of turmeric, called curcumin, is known to kill bacteria and viruses. Studies have also shown that turmeric can slow cancer cell growth.

10. Holy Basil

Holy basil (Ocimum sanctum) is an herb that people with various skin diseases may be able to use. Holy basil's antiviral capabilities combat:

  • Herpes simplex virus
  • Flu A subtype H9N2
  • Newcastle disease

11. Reishi Mushroom 

Ganoderma lucidum, also known as the reishi mushroom, is a fungus that has been used as medicine for more than 2,000 years. This mushroom has antibiotic properties and is, in fact, more effective against S. aureus and E. coli than some medications. In addition, reishi mushroom extract demonstrated antiviral effects when exposed to herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2 and vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV).

12. Oregano

Oregano is from the mint family and is a popular herb. It is commonly used as a spice and has medicinal properties. For example, you can use oregano oil to treat wounds. A study on oregano oil's main active component also found that it possessed antiviral properties that could allow it to treat murine norovirus (MNV).


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Myrrh to artemisia annua

13. Myrrh

Myrrh is a resin or gum that comes from the Commiphora tree. Various ancient healers made extensive use of myrrh. In fact, myrrh may be one of the first treatments for inflammatory diseases. Myrrh is antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory. It also raises your white blood cell count safely during healing. 

14. Nicotinamide 

Nicotinamide is a supplemental form of vitamin B3, also known as niacin. You can get nicotinamide from many different foods. Nicotinamide slows down the spread of viruses like polio, HIV, enterovirus, and hepatitis B.

Recent research indicates that physicians may also be able to use it to treat COVID-19 since it may decrease inflammation.

15. Echinacea

Echinacea (coneflower) is a flower found in North America. Echinacea purpurea extracts have displayed antiviral effects against COVID-19 in one study, with another indicating that an Echinacea extract helped prevent respiratory problems like coronaviruses from progressing. Treatment with Echinacea has led to a decrease in coronavirus exceeding 98% in samples that were taken.

16. Artemisia Annua

Artemisia annua, more often known as wormwood, is a medicinal plant with a wide range of applications. For one thing, Artemisia annua extract fights COVID-19. Its extract has also been shown to work well as a drug to treat HIV.

Discuss new herbs with a healthcare provider 

There's a good reason why some of the best antiviral herbs have been used for hundreds and hundreds of years: They work (or at least, help). However, not all herbs and vitamins work for everybody. Consult with your healthcare professional before starting to take any new herbs or supplements. Also, if you are already taking prescription drugs, you should ask your doctor about potential interactions.

Medically Reviewed on 11/10/2022

Acta pharmaceutica Sinica. B: "The antiviral and antimicrobial activities of licorice, a widely-used Chinese herb."

Advances in nutrition: "The Role of Zinc in Antiviral Immunity."

Biochemical Pharmacology: "N-acetyl-l-cysteine (NAC) inhibits virus replication and expression of pro-inflammatory molecules in A549 cells infected with highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza A virus."

International Journal of Pharmaceutical Research: "Amazing Benefits of Myrrh."

International Journal of Pharmaceutical Research: "Ocimum tenuiflorum as an antiviral agent."

Journal of Ethnopharmacology: "Fresh ginger (Zingiber officinale) has anti-viral activity against human respiratory syncytial virus in human respiratory tract cell lines."

Journal of traditional and complementary medicine: "Antiviral natural products and herbal medicines."

Journal of virology: "Oregano Oil and Its Principal Component, Carvacrol, Inhibit HIV-1 Fusion into Target Cells."

Maturitas: "Be well: A potential role for vitamin B in COVID-19."

Mayo Clinic: "Curcumin: Can it slow cancer growth?"

Microorganisms: "Echinacea as a Potential Force against Coronavirus Infections? A Mini-Review of Randomized Controlled Trials in Adults and Children."

Pakistan journal of pharmaceutical sciences: "Antiviral, embryo toxic and cytotoxic activities of Astragalus membranaceus root extracts."

Therapeutics and clinical risk management: "N-Acetylcysteine to Combat COVID-19: An Evidence Review."

Trends in food science & technology: "Antiviral potential of garlic (Allium sativum) and its organosulfur compounds: A systematic update of pre-clinical and clinical data."

Wachtel-Galor S, Yuen J, Buswell JA, et al. Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi or Reishi): "A Medicinal Mushroom." Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011.

Virusdisease: "Antiviral activity of the oseltamivir and Melissa officinalis L. essential oil against avian influenza A virus (H9N2)."