Many people are looking up antibacterial herbs these days, perhaps because stores can’t keep enough cleaners in stock. Although viruses are not bacteria, some antibacterial sprays can kill both types of baddies.

Disinfecting with herbs

For example, my nearly depleted all-purpose cleaner and a just purchased peroxide type both list viruses on the list of what they eliminate, along with harmful bacteria. For complete disinfecting, though, the instructions specify that the all-purpose cleaner should be left on surfaces for two minutes and the peroxide one for ten minutes before the surfaces are wiped. Those are called “dwell” times.

The all-purpose cleaner contains chlorine, which probably is why it works faster. One of the first antibacterial herbs that comes to mind for disinfecting is thyme (Thymus vulgaris), since many alternative cleaners have replaced chlorine with thymol.

thymeThe thymol used reportedly is manufactured from thyme essential oil. And, although it will kill bacteria and viruses, some sites specify that it—like peroxide—requires a 10-minute dwell time to do so. Other plants which contain thymol include oregano (Origanum vulgare), marjoram (Origanum majorana), cilantro (Coriandrum sativum), lemon (Citrus x limon), and bee balm (Monarda spp).

During the present crisis, I'm sticking to commercial disinfectants as much as possible because I assume that their effectiveness has been tested. If you don’t have access to those or are allergic to them, you easily can find online recipes for cleaners which include thyme and/or lemon oils.

Using essential oils for cleaning

Because essential oils can be toxic when undiluted and usually are mixed with much larger amounts of vodka or vinegar in the recipes, you’ll want to keep your oils and homemade sprays out of the reach of children and pets and avoid inhaling their mist. (Natural does not necessarily mean harmless. I'm guessing that sprays made from concentrated oils can be just as irritating to some people as chlorine is.) Although you won’t be able to tell how effective such homemade products are, almost any cleaning apparently works better than none when it comes to getting rid of viruses.


Boost your immune system to combat disease

Another way herbs can battle corona is by boosting your immune system to help it fight off invaders. For example, my sister made my 91-year-old father some elderberry tincture to help him get through the current crisis.

However, according to Dr. Andrew Weil's web site, elderberry is more likely to shorten the duration of an illness caused by a virus rather than preventing it altogether. But even that shortening might make all the difference to someone Dad’s age. He also takes garlic capsules every day and claims to have virtually eliminated colds by doing so. I tease him that the reason he doesn’t get colds anymore is because he has had them all already.

But it probably would do us all good to add more garlic, which is both antiseptic and antiviral, to our diets just now. Even if it doesn't help in other ways, our reeking breath might keep possibly infectious other people at an antisocial distance! A few more culinary favorites which reportedly can rev the immune system as well as spice up our meals are green tea (Camellia sinensis), oregano (Origanum vulgare), and sage (Salvia officinalis).

Echinacea (coneflower)One of the best known and widely available antiviral herbs is coneflower, AKA Echinacea purpurea. According to Dr. Weil, it is most effective if not taken for longer than two weeks at a time. He prefers to use Astragalus membranaceus, a milkvetch also known as Huang-Qi. But he cautions that any use of immune-boosting herbs could cause problems for people with autoimmune diseases.

Another antiviral, St. Johnswort (Hypericum perforatum), might help lift your depressed mood as well as your immunity. Some more obscure wellness promoters are andrographis (Andrographis paniculata), olive leaf (Olea europaea), and pau d’arco (made from Tabebuia species). Please be sure to look up the possible side effects of any herb before you begin taking it on a regular basis.

Seek professional medical attention if you develop corona symptoms

And, if you develop severe corona virus symptoms despite all your precautions, you need to get to a hospital as quickly as possible. Even those of us who like to use herbs for minor ailments have to concede that too many people died of major diseases back when such natural remedies were the only ones available.

Most herbs work gently, after all, and that can be a good thing when you simply are trying to treat indigestion or a cold--not such a good thing for maladies which can kill you. In those cases, you may need a medication that kicks in fast and hard or a machine that can keep you breathing.

Photos: The coneflower photo is my own. The other images are stock photos.