Covid-19: anti-inflammatory herbs may be negative for immune response

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The current COVID-19 epidemic has prompted health officials to ban the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in patients with or suspected of having COVID-19. The reason is the risk of "serious adverse events" occurring after taking these medications.

Following this warning, consumers may be tempted to turn to "natural" solutions, such as plant-containing food supplements with anti-inflammatory properties. This is what he decided to take stock of the risks that consumers of such food supplements run.

Willow, queen of the meadows, harpagophytum, turmeric ... The French National Agency for National Food Safety warns of the effects of certain herbal food supplements on the immune system. In fact, these can interfere with the body's inflammatory defense mechanisms, which are helpful in fighting infections. A risk that needs to be further considered during this period of the coronavirus epidemic.

The agency wants to point out that certain food supplements contain plants with anti-inflammatory properties and that these are likely to act as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Therefore, these plants can alter the body's natural defenses that are useful in fighting infections and, in particular, against COVID-19. This is the reason why, in view of the current situation, this latest announcement is "self-capturing the risks linked to the consumption of food supplements containing plants that can interfere with the immune and inflammatory response, useful to combat the infection by Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. "

Which plants interrupt the immune response?

Therefore, a group of collective emergency experts has reviewed the latest scientific data on immunomodulatory mechanisms (which interfere with the various stages of the immune response) and the anti-inflammatory mechanisms of plants and their ability to disrupt the immune response during infections The results of their analyzes indicate that several of them have counterproductive effects on defense against the coronavirus. "These are plants that contain salicylic acid derivatives (aspirin analogs), such as willow, queen of the meadows, birch, poplar, goldenrod, and polygalae." Specifies the health agency.

Plants containing other plant anti-inflammatory drugs are also mentioned, such as harpagophytum, echinacea, turmeric, cat's claw (also called liana from Peru), plants of the genus Boswellia and Commiphora. It is true that the level of available knowledge is uneven depending on the plant, but experts believe that "all of them are capable of altering the immune response and the beneficial inflammatory reaction developed by the body at the beginning of infections." They also point out that, in all cases, food supplements are not medicines.

Always talk to your doctor

As such, the agency recommends that people who consume dietary supplements containing these plants for preventive purposes discontinue their use as soon as symptoms of COVID-19 appear. People who consume it in the context of chronic inflammatory diseases should discuss it with their doctor to find out whether or not it is possible to continue consuming it. In all cases, precautions for use should be observed and sources of exposure to these plants should not be multiplied: this may cause an "addition of effects that may lead to undesirable effects and interfere with the immune response."

Its experts also conclude that inflammation is "a natural defense process" that, in fact, does not need to be combated when it is not excessive. Health professionals also have a role to play, declaring to the health agency's nutrivigilance system the undesirable effects that occur within this specific framework.

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