Can Antioxidants Help Against COVID-19?

COVID-19, a new strain of coronavirus (CoV), was identified in Wuhan, China, in 2019. No specific therapies are available and investigations regarding COVID-19 treatment are lacking.

Update: WHO launches global megatrial of the four most promising coronavirus treatments

Do antioxidants work as a coronavirus treatment for sure? No, but the potential benefit may be good enough at this point as there is no specific proven treatment in the first place.

foods and fruits to boost immune system

Here, we have compiled and updated a few significant studies and related reviews on Coronavirus treatment with antioxidants. This list is a work-in-progress list as new evidence might be added from time to time.

Vitamin C

A large review of 29 studies in 11,306 people demonstrated that regularly supplementing with vitamin C at an average dose of 1–2 grams per day reduced the duration of colds by 8% in adults and 14% in children (PubMed).

Interestingly, the review also demonstrated that regularly taking vitamin C supplements reduced common cold occurrence in individuals under high physical stress, including marathon runners and soldiers, by up to 50% (PubMed, PubMed).

Additionally, high dose intravenous vitamin C treatment has been shown to significantly improve symptoms in people with severe infections, including sepsis and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) resulting from viral infections (PubMed, PubMed).

However, note that taking large doses of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) on a regular basis lowers your level of copper, so if you are already deficient in copper and take high doses of vitamin C, you can compromise your immune system.

Vitamin C Infusion for the Treatment of Severe 2019-nCoV Infected Pneumonia

2019 new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infected pneumonia, namely severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) has caused global concern and emergency. There is a lack of effective targeted antiviral drugs, and symptomatic supportive treatment is still the current main treatment for SARI.

Vitamin C is significant to human body and plays a role in reducing inflammatory response and preventing common cold. In addition, a few studies have shown that vitamin C deficiency is related to the increased risk and severity of influenza infections.

The researchers hypothesised that Vitamin C infusion can help improve the prognosis of patients with SARI. Therefore, it is necessary to study the clinical efficacy and safety of vitamin C for the clinical management of SARI through randomised controlled trials during the current epidemic of SARI.

VICTAS (Vitamin C, Thiamine and Steroids) - A Clinical Trial evaluating the treatment of Sepsis.

Although this is not directly related to the treatment of the novel COVID-19 virus, this treatment protocol could be repurposed as a possible option.

VICTAS is a clinical trial for hospitalized patients with sepsis, a life-threatening condition caused by a severe infection. Sepsis occurs when the body releases so much of certain chemicals into the bloodstream to fight the infection that it causes an overwhelming inflammatory response throughout the body. This reaction then damages major organs and tissues. Someone with sepsis is critically ill and they will commonly have a fever, a fast heart rate, a fast respiration rate and confusion but other symptoms of the infection may also be present. Sepsis is usually treated in an intensive care unit and patients may need oxygen or mechanical ventilation (an artificial lung machine), medications to raise their low blood pressure, or dialysis to remove toxins from their blood. There is a significant risk of death in sepsis patients so new ways of treating it are badly needed.

Sepsis is usually treated with antibiotics and intravenous fluids. Certain medications, such as “anti-inflammatory” steroids like hydrocortisone, have been tested many times. Recently, a researcher reported that a combination of medications may be more effective than any of them by itself. They reported that injecting high doses of vitamin C in combination with thiamine (vitamin B1) and hydrocortisone reduces the damage to major organs and increases the likelihood of surviving a severe episode of sepsis. These therapies are experimental and have not been tested in large numbers of patients nor approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). So, doctors do not know for sure that these therapies work or that they are safe enough to be used in large numbers of people. Early results look promising, but doctors must first perform a type of research called a clinical trial in order to collect data from lots of people before they can know for sure.

VICTAS is a clinical trial to test the combination of Vitamin C, thiamine and hydrocortisone for the treatment of sepsis. It will be conducted across 30 to 40 major academic medical centers in the United States and will enroll at least 500 patients. All patients in the clinical trial will receive the regular best intensive care available for sepsis, and half of the patients will additionally receive vitamin C, thiamine and hydrocortisone. By testing a large number of patients, the doctors can then see if the group of patients that got the combination of medications did better than the group that did not.

Although this was published in 2017, the review was published as a response and in anticipation of future similar viral disorders. The review proposed hydrogen therapy as a possible treatment option for SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and other forms of viruses that are difficult to manage.

Although the study was not directly related to the treatment of the novel COVID-19 virus, the hypothesis, arguments and basis remain similar as most of these viruses are associated with the increase in oxidative stress and inflammatory response.

hydrogen molecule as a potential therapy for influenza and coronavirus

Until now, numerous studies have indicated cytokine storm and oxidative stress are highly associated with the pathological process when getting infected with these viruses. Although cytokine storm and oxidative stress probably try to eliminate theses viruses, they seem to generate multi-organ damage resulting in lethal clinical symptoms.  Moreover, when inflammation and oxidative stress damage tissue and organs, healing occurs with fibrosis, aggravating persistent multiple organ dysfunction. Therefore, timely elimination of these mass of cytokines and oxidative stress would presumably protect normal organs from the damaging effects of virus infection.

Given the theory that molecular hydrogen can both significantly down regulate expressions of inflammation-related genes and selectively reduce oxidative stress, the authors have reasons to consider that cytokine storm and oxidative stress can be suppressed when getting infected with avian influenza and other severe viruses.

Persistent tissue damage, MODS (Multi Organ Dysfunction Syndrome) and high death rate are highly associated with oxidative stress and cytokine storm induced by influenza and other severe viral infections. Since hydrogen can significantly reduce oxidative stress and restrain excessive production of cytokines, the authors hypothesise that hydrogen can be potentially effective for MODS induced by influenza and other viral infectious diseases.

Quercetin and Curcumin: Potential Inhibitor of COVID-19 Main Protease (Mpro) From Several Medicinal Plant Compounds by Molecular Docking Study 

A study published in 2020 by the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Labs used the most powerful IBM supercomputer to model which FDA approved compounds or supplements might interfere with the coronavirus binding to cells. To review, the coronavirus uses the ACE 2 (Angiotensin Converting Enzyme) receptor to enter cells. Once in a cell, the coronavirus virus empties its RNA contents and hijacks the cell to start producing more viruses. So preventing the coronavirus from binding to the ACE 2 receptor is a good thing as it means the virus can’t get into your cells. The study modeled various compounds and at number 5 on the list as those that has the potential to block the virus was Quercetin.

A 2004 study showed that Quercetin blocked the entry of another SARS coronavirus into cells. A 2012 study basically concluded the same thing (Trusted Source).

The latest coronavirus is called SARS-CoV-2 and is different from the others in its family. So has Quercetin been shown to do anything that prevents this novel virus from entering cells?

A lab study in 2020 (that has yet to be peer-reviewed) has demonstrated that Quercetin, Curcumin and other compounds showed promise in blocking the SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus from entering cells. However, further research is necessary to investigate their potential medicinal use.

Alpha Lipoic Acid

Lipoic Acid (often called Alpha-lipoic acid) is an organic compound found in all human cells.

It’s made inside the mitochondrion — also known as the powerhouse of cells — where it helps enzymes turn nutrients into energy (PubMed).

Most other antioxidants are either water- or fat-soluble (PubMed). Alpha-lipoic acid is both water- and fat-soluble, which allows it to work in every cell or tissue in the body. Meanwhile,

As of Mar 28, 2020, there were 2 new studies related to Alpha Lipoic Acid for COVID-19 on the Chinese Clinical Trial Registry. One on Mar 8, 2020 and another on Feb 15, 2020.


This list is a work-in-progress list as new evidence might be added from time to time.



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