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Drugs & Immune System Boosters: What We Know and What We Don’t Know About COVID-19

Epidemiologists have recently said that if it were possible to wave a magic wand and make all American freeze in place for 14 days, while sitting six feet apart, the whole epidemic would sputter to a halt. The reality is we live in an ever-connected world with many essential workers who make up a vital part of it. There are many lessons to learn from this historical event. 

We have seen a rise in new cases of COVID-19 during the past few weeks, as predicted. This has to do with the spread of the virus and also from the increase in testing. Unfortunately, conventional medicine has little to offer for the treatment of COVID-19. The recommendation for those with mild, flu-like symptoms—including those who test positive—is to stay at home in isolation, if possible. In severe cases, patients are hospitalized, given oxygen, IV fluids, and possibly ventilation.


What we know about COVID-19

When a virus enters a cell, it creates reactive oxygen species (ROS) leading to inflammation. There are two virulence factors associated with COVID-19 that spark severe inflammation leading to a cytokine storm. This cytokine storm can lead to critical symptoms associated with COVID-19. In other words, inflammation produces cytokines, which recruit more white blood cells to make more inflammatory cytokines, and so on and so on. This sets the stage for a severe adverse health outcome.

Fortunately, oxidative damage and cytokine storms are reduced by various natural therapies and lifestyle decisions. Quality sleep and stress reduction techniques help to reduce these inflammatory cytokines, thereby decreasing inflammation. Digestive health influences our immune system, so healthy gut function and the microbiome is another helpful player here. Vitamins A, C, and D, along with turmeric and glutathione, also help to reduce the inflammatory response. 

In fact, the use of intravenous vitamin C to treat COVID-19 in China has shown some effectiveness. Fifty hospitalized patients with moderate-to-severe cases of COVID-19 were given 10-20 grams of intravenous vitamin C for 7-10 days. There were no deaths in the group that received IV vitamin C, and their hospital stay was shorter than those that did not receive IVC (Cheng, 2020). In New York City, where the majority of cases concentrate, the largest hospital system began using IV vitamin C for some of their sickest coronavirus patients. The physician overseeing the treatment with IV vitamin C reported patients who received the IV Vitamin C did significantly better than those that did not.

Humans do not make vitamin C, so we need to get it from food. When vitamin C gets used in the body, it can be recycled back to the usable (i.e. going from oxidized to reduced) with the help from glutathione. Not surprisingly, injectable vitamin C has been in short supply for the past month. Consuming foods rich in Vitamin C is often times just as effective as IV Vitamin C especially for keeping the immune system strong and in mild-to-moderate cases of developing COVID-19 flu-like symptoms. This is critical 


What we don’t know about COVID-19

Hydroxychloroquine has shown promise for the treatment of the novel virus. It is traditionally used as an antimalarial drug, but has found use in the treatment of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis (both conditions which have a significant amount of underlying inflammation). One possible mechanism of Hydroxychloroquine is that it helps zinc enter cells where it kills the COVID-19  virus. Zinc is necessary for the development and function of white blood cells, our first line of defense for an ensuing infection. 

Unfortunately, there is now a shortage of manufactured Hydroxychloroquine. Those individuals who previously had no trouble getting their prescription filled are now being asked to wait a little longer. However, many critical side effects are associated with taking Hydroxychloroquine which must be considered since the drug can easily damage the digestive system causing increased intestinal hyperpermeability (also called leaky gut)where toxins and antibodies contained with the digestive tract easily leak out into the bloodstream and trigger a huge inflammatory reaction.  Hydroxychloroquine causing and worsening leaky gut can tigger dangerous heart arrhythmias and compromise the immune system in the long run.  Improper use of Hydroxychloroquine in cases where there is no other alternative to treatment can have deadly consequences. 

Researchers at the University of Chicago reported promising results from a small study of another drug called Remdesivir in treating people with COVID-19. Remdesivir works by mimicking one of the genetic components that the virus uses to make more copies of itself. The substitute blocks the virus from replicating its genome, thereby jamming up the viral copy machine. 

Remdesivir was developed as a possible treatment for Ebola, but when early trials against that epidemic were disappointing, development was put on hold. Previous studies demonstrated that Remdesivir actually had much stronger antiviral activity against Coronaviruses like SARS and MERS than against Ebola. Thus, when Coronavirus COVID-19 emerged, scientists aware of the previous lab studies began using the drug to treat the new disease. 

Unlike Hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir is not approved for treating any disease, so doctors cannot use it “off label” to treat COVID-19 patients. Though, they can ask the manufacturer to provide the drug on a “compassionate use” basis to treat the sickest patients (i.e. those who have no other treatment options).

The University of Chicago results follow other encouraging findings from a study (published April 10th, 2020 in the New England Journal of Medicine) that followed 53 patients who were treated with Remdesivir in the U.S., Europe, Canada and Japan on the aforementioned compassionate use basis. In that study, 68% improved and 57% of those needing ventilators no longer needed mechanical breathing support after taking the drug for 10 days (Grein, 2020).


Bottom line: The goal of any therapy is to stop reproduction of the virus. 

The good news is that there are several compounds in food (revealed by molecular docking studies) which possess critical antiviral components. These include: 

For a review of the traditional Chinese Medicine approaches, check out our previous post here.

Based on recent computational and experimental studies by Utomo & Meiyanto (2020), hesperidin stands out for its high binding affinity to the main cellular receptors of COVID-19, outperforms any conventional pharmaceutical drugs (i.e., chloroquine, hydroxychloroquine sulfate, and Nelfinavir (an HIV antiviral)already recommended. 

Thus, eating an orange and apple (peel included), adding lemon zest, rosemary, thistle, fennel to your meals, and having a celery-kale-leafy green-red onion salad dressed with some capers plus a cup of green tea (not coffee or alcohol) most days are very promising for prophylaxis and treatment of COVID-19.

Prevention of COVID-19 is in YOUR hands:




There is a lot of concern, discussion, and confusion at the moment. We are here to support you during this healthcare crisis through both via videoconference, telephone, and in-person appointments. Read more about our services here.

Hopefully you are finding some peace and joy during these ever-evolving times. Remember, there is always a silver lining when we look closely. Families have the opportunity to spend more quality time together.  

There has been a dramatic decrease in traffic and pollution

The slowing down of life has helped ease the transition into developing mindfulness daily practices. All of these are good for your health.

Dr. Bhandari and the Advanced Health Team Are Here to Support Your Health and that of the Planet.

Our expert team of integrative holistic practitioners work with patients suffering from chronic health concerns.  We take the extra step to understand the root cause and how to optimize every organ’s functioning.  By better understanding how your environment directly fits into your overall well-being, we create personalized treatment plans which drive away sickness. To learn more and book an appointment, contact Advanced Health or call 1-415-506-9393.



Cheng, R. Covid-19, Vitamin C, Vaccinee and Integrative Medicine. Cheng Integrativee Health Cente Blog. Accesseed on 20 April from

Grein, J., Ohmagari, N., Shin, D., Diaz, G., Asperges, E., Castagna, A., ... & Nicastri, E. (2020). Compassionate Use of Remdesivir for Patients with Severe Covid-19. New England Journal of Medicine.

Meneguzzo, F., Ciriminna, R., Zabini, F., & Pagliaro, M. (2020). Hydrodynamic cavitation-based rapid expansion of hesperidin-rich products from waste citrus peel as a potential tool against COVID-19. Preprints, 2020040152.

Utomo, R. Y., & Meiyanto, E. (2020). Revealing the Potency of Citrus and Galangal Constituents to Halt SARS-CoV-2 Infection. Preprints, 2020030214

Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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