quercetin-help-150x150For some, the flu causes more than the classic symptoms of sneezing, coughing, fever and aching joints – on occasion, it can turn deadly.  For example, during the H1N1 pandemic of 2009-2010, the CDC reported that the virus hospitalized over a quarter of a million people and claimed over 12,000 lives in the United States alone.  Sadly, most conventionally-trained physicians know little about how good nutrition – like the power of quercetin – can help protect us from harm.First, as  a little background: Western medicine already acknowledges that genetic variations of the influenza virus make it virtually impossible to produce an effective treatment to prevent outbreaks.  But, scientists now have a piece of welcome news to report: research on quercetin showcases the potential of this natural plant substance against viral infections.

Quercetin, a plant pigment found in fruits and vegetables, has been found to boost immunity and interfere with the process of viral replication.  In fact, some forward-thinking physicians are beginning to hail quercetin as both safer and more effective than Tamiflu – the “gold standard” of medical therapies for influenza.

It’s official: Quercetin is a natural antiviral that can help us avoid pandemics

In a review published in Viruses in 2016, the authors concluded that quercetin could inhibit viral infections in the early stages –particularly during viral attachment and vital-cell fusion.

The scientists cited a study in which quercetin protected patients against dying from severe complications associated with H1N1 infection – and referred to cell studies in which quercetin showed an “obvious” inhibitory effect for both the H1N1 and H3N2 viruses.

In addition, the team noted that animal studies had shown that quercetin helped to protect against the H1N1 strain.

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And, here’s more good news!  Both the influenza A and B viruses seem to be incapable of becoming resistant to quercetin – a crucial “plus” in these days of growing drug resistance.

Finally, there is evidence that quercetin can enhance the efficacy of pharmaceutical antiviral drugs, raising the possibility that these drugs could be used in smaller doses.

The authors lauded quercetin as a “novel antiviral agent that is effective, safe and affordable for the prevention and treatment of flu” (quite a ringing endorsement).

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Groundbreaking study of quercetin shows how it helps the immune system

Quercetin’s therapeutic potential hasn’t escaped the notice of the United States government.  A Department of Defense (DOD) study conducted at Appalachian State University showed that quercetin reduces viral illness and improves mental performance in athletes after extreme physical stress.

To conduct the placebo-controlled, double-blind study, researchers asked participants to exercise vigorously by bicycling for three hours a day for three days in a row – an activity that exposed the athletes to high oxidative stress and elevated stress hormones.

Note: Although vigorous exercise can be highly beneficial for the body, the “downside” is that it can temporarily lower immunity to disease.  But the quercetin seemed to minimize the loss of immunity.

While 45 percent of the placebo group contracted a viral illness, only 5 percent of the quercetin group fell ill.  And, as an added bonus: the athletes in the quercetin group also scored better on a mental alertness test.

Calling the results “ground-breaking,” a study co-leader noted that the research was the first ever to show that a natural plant compound can prevent viral infection. The DOD was so impressed by the results that the agency has developed a quercetin supplement (Q-Force) for military personnel.

Drug WARNING: Over 250,000 cases of neuropsychiatric adverse effects have been reported from Tamiflu

Tamiflu (oseltamivir), the “go-to” flu treatment favored by Western medicine, only succeeds in cutting the duration of flu symptoms (at best) – and this by less than a day!  It does not reduce viral transmission, and does nothing to lower the risk of complications from influenza.

Along with these dubious benefits, Tamiflu seems to serve up some frightening risks.

According to research published in Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience, Tamiflu can cause dangerous psychological side effects, including mood swings, insomnia, hallucinations and suicidal thoughts and feelings. Convulsions, brain infections and psychosis have also been reported.

To date, over a quarter of a million neuropsychiatric cases from the use of Tamiflu have been reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Adverse Event Report System.

Young males aged 10 to 19 are most at risk for adverse psychological effects.  In fact, one study reveals that a shocking 36 percent of boys who took Tamiflu exhibited abnormal behavior after taking the medication, and 20 percent experienced hallucinations.

In light of these statistics, one thing is abundantly clear.

When it comes to safety, quercetin – a non-toxic, natural plant compound with no reported side effects in studies – certainly stacks up well against Tamiflu (a pharmaceutical drug associated with terrifying psychological side effects).

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Boost dietary intake of quercetin with brightly-colored fruits and vegetables

Because quercetin is a pigment, it reveals its presence in foods that are (naturally) intensely colored. It is found in particularly good supply in apples, dark cherries, red grapes, cocoa, leafy greens and green tea.

Health tip: Despite the romantic plea in the sultry song “Peel Me a Grape,” you shouldn’t peel grapes – or apples, for that matter.  Because the highest levels of disease-fighting quercetin are found in the skins, the best way to present them to someone – or eat them yourself – is unpeeled.  But, if you’re looking to avoid excessive amounts of sugar intake – grapes would not be a good source for your quercetin.

You can also take quercetin as a supplement as part of your daily health regimen. A typical dosage is 500 mg of quercetin taken twice a day – but, as always, consult with your own integrative physician before supplementing.

As if quercetin’s powers against the H1N1 strain of influenza weren’t enough, this powerful flavonoid can also inhibit the replication of other viruses, including hepatitis B and C, the herpes simplex virus, the polio virus, respiratory syncytial virus and HIV.

No doubt, as the encouraging research continues to accumulate, quercetin is taking its place as a rising “superstar” in natural disease prevention.

Lori Alton

Sources for this article include:

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