Kitchen Warfare for Kung-Flu Fighting!
In recent years, there has been a lot of talk of the overuse of antibiotics and unnecessary prescribing of antibiotics in the absence of a bacterial infection. We are more aware now that antibiotics do not kill a virus and doctors are reluctant to prescribe antibiotics to treat viral infections, unless there is a secondary bacterial infection or the patient’s underlying health warrants antibiotic therapy. General treatment advice for common viral infections include resting, stay hydrated, keep warm and take paracetamol for fevers, aches and pain associated with a viral infection. That’s all sound advice, but perhaps there is something in the kitchen that can offer added protection from a viral attack or at least curb its severity if it takes hold. The good news is that there is, and you might be surprised that many of these foods are about as common as the common cold!
Tea leaves contain naturally occurring compounds—including polyphenols, catechins, and alkaloids such as caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline—that defend the plants against invading bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Research shows that black tea can inhibit the infectivity of influenza virus. And in one study, black tea extract rich in flavanol compounds called theaflavins inhibited herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1) infection.
Try these: Whizz in a blender strong-brewed black tea with grated ginger, mango, and natural yogurt for a flu-busting breakfast. Steep black tea bags in hot water, then use as a broth to cook brown rice, garlic, and onions.
Its powerful compound including allicin fight viruses, including influenza, rhinovirus, herpes simplex, HIV, viral pneumonia, and rotavirus. In one study, people who took allicin extract over a 12-week period had significantly fewer colds than a placebo group, and those who did get a cold recovered faster.
Try these: Roast whole heads of garlic, skin-on, until cloves are soft, then let cool and peel off skins. Eat as is, add to mashed potato or infuse a broth with it. Finely mince raw garlic and add to a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, and chopped thyme. Mash raw garlic cloves and mix with minced rosemary and coconut oil, then refrigerate until firm for a pungent dairy-free spread.
Loaded with beta-glucans, antiviral compounds that have been shown to inhibit viral replication and enhance immune function. In one study, people who ate shiitake mushrooms for four weeks showed improved markers of immunity, as well as reduced inflammation. Other studies have shown that shiitake mushrooms have significant antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Try these: Usually sold as dried shiitake, rehydrate by placing a handful in a mug of boiled water. Allow to steep for 15 minutes. Drain but keep the soak water for stock or hot drink. Thinly slice shiitake mushroom, toss with melted coconut oil and minced garlic, and roast in oven until cooked. Sauté whole shiitake mushroom and leeks in olive oil, then finish with balsamic glaze. Stir-fry shiitakes, slivered carrots, broccoli, sliced red peppers, and minced ginger in sesame oil and tamari, then toss with cooked soba or rice noodles.
Has long been used in traditional medicine to treat colds and flu, and modern studies show that it has measurable antiviral benefits. In one study, fresh ginger protected against HRSV (human respiratory syncytial virus, a major cause of lower respiratory tract infections), by blocking the virus’ ability to attach to cells and stimulating the release of compounds that help counteract viral infections.
Try these: Cut peeled ginger root into matchsticks, sauté in olive oil until cooked, and use as a topping for soups or salads. Simmer ginger slices in milk or coconut milk, strain, then whisk in turmeric and honey for a creamy, soothing beverage. Combine finely grated ginger, dates, walnuts, and tahini in a food processor, process to make a paste, then roll into balls for quick energy treats.
Apple Cider Vinegar
A favourite traditional medicine, yet a number of modern studies have established the antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against a variety of pathogens. Researchers suggest that apple cider vinegar may work by a variety of mechanisms, including the antiviral properties of apples and the presence of probiotics that occur during the fermentation process.
Try these: Steep dried elderberries and sliced ginger for a few days in apple cider vinegar, then strain and add honey for an easy oxymel (herbal tonic), take 10ml three times daily. Whisk together apple cider vinegar, honey, mustard, and olive oil for a sweet, creamy dressing to use daily. Stir apple cider vinegar and honey into hot water and pour over sliced onions and ginger for quick pickles to add to salads and stir-fries.
Has been used in herbal medicine for generations, and chemical profiling shows that its active compounds have antiviral, antimicrobial, immunomodulatory, and anti-inflammatory effects. In one study, cinnamaldehyde, the compound that gives cinnamon its characteristic flavour and smell, inhibited the growth of the influenza virus. Cinnamaldehyde also inhibits Listeria and Escherichia coli in foods, and protects against a variety of yeasts and fungi, including Candida albicans.
Try these: Add cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla extract, and coconut milk to oatmeal for a chai-spiced breakfast. Toss sliced apples and pears with cinnamon and honey, sauté in coconut oil, and top with toasted pecans. Add cinnamon and cocoa powder to your morning coffee.
Researched and written by Irene Ní Fhlannúra, published in West & Mid Kerry Live, issue 171, December 2019
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