Dietary Supplements and COVID-19
Notification from ANSES (French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety)
https://www.anses.fr/fr April 17th, 2020
Certain plants contained in food supplements can disrupt the body’s natural defenses by interfering with the inflammatory defense mechanisms useful for fighting infections and, in particular, against COVID-19. The plants targeted by the opinion of the ANSES are willow, meadowsweet, harpagophytum, turmeric, echinacea, birch, poplar, licorice …
Dietary supplements composed of plants with anti-inflammatory properties
Some food supplements contain herbs with anti-inflammatory properties that may act like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These plants are likely to disrupt the body’s natural defenses useful for fighting infections and, in particular, against COVID-19. Also, with regard to the epidemic evolution of COVID-19, the ANSES has self-assessed the risks related to the consumption of food supplements containing plants that may interfere with the immune and inflammatory response, useful to fight against infection by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
An Emergency Joint Expert Group was established and reviewed the latest scientific evidence on the immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory mechanisms of plants and their ability to disrupt the immune response during infections. In addition, steps have been taken by the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products to ensure the safe use of medicines containing paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, in particular by removing them from over-the-counter presentation in pharmacies.
Plants that disrupt the immune response
Several plants have been identified as having counter-productive effects in the defense against coronavirus. These are plants containing salicylic acid derivatives (aspirin analogues), such as willow, meadowsweet, birch, poplar, goldenrod, polygalas but also plants containing other plant anti-inflammatory drugs, such as harpagophytum, echinacea, turmeric, cat’s claw (also called Peruvian liana), plants of the genera Boswellia and Commiphora (known for their gum-oleoresins called “incense” and “myrrh” respectively).
Although the level of knowledge available is uneven for these different plants, experts at the ANSES believe that they are all likely to disrupt the immune response and the beneficial inflammatory response developed by the body at the onset of infections. They point out that an inflammation should only be fought when it becomes excessive.
Based on this expert work, ANSES recommends
People consuming these food supplements for preventive purposes to immediately suspend the consumption of food supplements containing these plants as soon as the first symptoms of COVID-19 appear.
People consuming these food supplements in the context of chronic inflammatory pathologies to discuss imperatively with their doctor the relevance of continuing or stopping their use.