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Which Foods Have a Natural Antiviral Effect?

Laura M. Sands
By Laura M. Sands
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Foods with natural antiviral properties include garlic, onions, honey, dandelion greens, and a variety of sea vegetables. Natural medicine practitioners have used these foods for centuries, as it is believed that each one can guard against infection and, in some cases, even help individuals recover from illness when these foods are used in organic therapies. Beverages believed to also have antiviral properties include herbal teas, in particular peppermint, lemon balm, and green and white teas.

Garlic is amongst the most widely regarded of all antiviral foods. Many antiviral supplements contain garlic extract as a primary ingredient. Research indicates that garlic is effective as an antiviral due to the presence of sulfur naturally found in garlic cloves.

Another natural antiviral food that has been widely touted by natural medicine practitioners is onions. In their natural state, onions also contain high concentrations of sulfur, which is deemed to be useful as a natural therapy against viral infections when the vegetable is eaten raw. While both onion and garlic are known for very pungent odors and a spicy taste, scientists believe that humans actually developed a taste for such foods because their antiviral properties can kill dangerous microbes that developed in spoiled foods before refrigeration techniques were discovered.

When honeybees combine their own natural secretions with plant resins collected while foraging for food, they produce a substance known as propolis used to build and repair hives. This substance also happens to have natural antiviral properties. Considered to be the original creator of Western medicine, the ancient Greek philosopher and physician Hippocrates used honey as a natural medicine to treat various conditions. Often, honey is combined with garlic in certain natural medicine therapies.

Sea vegetables, such as certain types of sea algae and seaweed, are also believed to have an antiviral effect. It is believed that this is due to the presence of sulfated polysaccharides. Like garlic and onions, these particular polysaccharides contain sulfur.

Green tea, black tea, and white tea all contain tannins, which have a natural antiviral effect. Peppermint tea is believed to contain antiviral properties as well, and research performed using raw peppermint has discovered that it effectively destroys certain viral and bacterial strains. Another member of the mint family, lemon balm, has a similar antiviral effect due to the tannins it naturally contains.

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Discussion Comments

By anon341609 — On Jul 13, 2013

Hummus is a great way to get your raw garlic and even raw onion. It tastes great and is healthy too. Hopefully even the kids will eat it.

By anon329015 — On Apr 07, 2013

Eating garlic raw can be hard (but you get maximum benefits that way), so I usually get the garlic stuffed olives from a grocery store or chop up some raw garlic in salsa when I think I am getting sick.

Also, shiitake mushrooms have an antiviral effect as well. They are also prescribed in Japan as part of a treatment plan for patients with cancer.

By scifreak — On May 14, 2011

Garlic can be taken as a capsule if you don't like to eat it. It is one of the natural antiviral remedies, and can be found in almost any health food store.

I take the odorless capsules, because I don't like having garlic breath. I love the taste of garlic on foods like garlic bread and in pasta. But the odor it leaves behind is not pleasant.

By liveoak — On May 13, 2011

I know white tea has antioxidants, but I had no idea it was also considered a natural antibiotic. I like to drink it with a little honey in it, which is also considered a natural antibiotic. Guess I was drinking something great and did not know it.

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