Travel is being restricted. Schools are closed. People are being told to stay home from work. And it’s all because of something that none of us can see (without a microscope): Coronavirus Disease 2019, aka COVID-19.
I’m going to assume that you’ve all heard about COVID-19. In all likelihood, it’s all you’ve heard about for the past month or two. I know it’s all I’ve heard about. Facebook, Twitter, the news on television, newspapers: it’s everywhere.
In this article, we’re going to take a look at a few nootropics that affect the immune system. Now, I need to make it perfectly clear that none of these substances have been tested on people with COVID-19. I’m not suggesting that they will prevent you from getting it or fighting it off quicker if you do get it.
But several of the nootropics talked about on this website affect the immune system in various ways. We’re going to take a look at some of them and examine the research that has been published. But first, lets take a quick look at what COVID-19 is. I won’t go into much detail since there’s plenty of information about it available on the internet and in the news. But here’s a basic overview of COVID-19.
What Is The Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
COVID-19 is a disease caused by a virus named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2 for short. Viruses are small infectious agents that replicate inside living organisms including not just people but animals, plants, and even microorganisms.
Common symptoms of COVID-19 (which we’ll also refer to simply as “the coronavirus,” even though there are many different types of coronaviruses), include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. These symptoms may start to appear anywhere from 2-14 days after being exposed to the virus.
Fortunately, most people (more than 80%) who get the coronavirus only experience mild symptoms. However, it can potentially lead to multi-organ failure, severe pneumonia, and death. Certain populations, especially the elderly and people with certain preexisting medical conditions (including but not limited to heart disease, lung disease, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune diseases) seem to be at a much-higher risk for having serious symptoms.
To reduce your chances of getting the coronavirus, there are a number of things you can do. First and foremost, you should maintain good hygiene which includes frequent hand washing with soap. You should also practice social distancing. This means avoiding large groups of people when possible and keeping some distance between you and the people you interact with.
Additionally, it’s important to keep your immune system strong. Getting plenty of high-quality sleep, eating a healthy, balanced diet, and getting as much exercise as possible will all help to keep your immune system running at peak efficiency.
Now that we’ve taken a brief look at what the coronavirus is, we can discuss some nootropics that are known to affect the immune system.
Nootropics and The Coronavirus (COVID-19)
This nootropic substance has been getting a lot of attention over the past few years. Users often report that NAC can reduce anxiety, improve mood, and that it promotes clearer thinking. And in addition to its nootropic benefits, NAC may also be beneficial for respiratory and other health conditions.
N-acetylcysteine, or NAC for short, is used in medicine to treat acetaminophen (Tylenol) poisoning and for people with certain lung conditions (cystic fibrosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD], for example). It is a potent antioxidant that helps to replenish glutathione levels and reduce inflammation in your lungs.
Studies show that NAC is effective at reducing acute attacks of chronic bronchitis. A meta-analysis from 2000 looked at 8 different studies and concluded that NAC prevented acute exacerbations of chronic bronchitis. Another systematic review published in the same year showed similar results. It found that NAC significantly reduced the symptoms of chronic bronchitis compared to placebo.
Since one of the main symptoms of COVID-19 is a cough, it’s possible that NAC could help to reduce the severity of this symptom. It seems to help in a variety of lung disorders by affecting glutathione and reducing inflammation.
Vitamins and minerals usually aren’t thought of as nootropics. They’re essential nutrients that our bodies need to function properly. However, there are a number of vitamins and minerals that affect brain function. And supplementing with them can sometimes have a nootropic effect, especially if you have a deficiency.
Vitamin D is one such example. It affects just about every system in the body, including the brain and the immune system. And it’s estimated that as many as a billion – that’s right: one billion – people are deficient in this essential vitamin.
Some research suggests that vitamin D deficiency may increase your risk of getting influenza (the flu), respiratory tract infections, and other viruses. Although a link between vitamin D deficiency and increased risk of getting the coronavirus has not been studied yet, it’s definitely a possibility.
Supplementing with vitamin D, especially if you are deficient, may help to strengthen your immune system. And a stronger immune system means a better chance of avoiding the coronavirus and fighting it off faster if you get it. Fortunately, vitamin D supplementation seems to be very safe. I’ve been taking 2,000 IU of vitamin D a day for years. When I first started taking it, I definitely noticed an improvement in mood and more energy.
This is an essential mineral that the body needs for optimal brain and immune health. Zinc is known to play a role in immune function, protein synthesis, wound healing, cell division, DNA synthesis, and other biological processes. Deficiency of this essential mineral can cause a variety of problems including impaired immune function and depression, just to name a couple.
Zinc deficiency has been shown to increase the likelihood of getting a variety of infectious disorders. While a direct link between zinc deficiency and COVID-19 has not yet been established, it’s unlikely to be an exception. Being deficient in this essential mineral may increase the chances of getting the coronavirus and may reduce the body’s immune response to it.
Supplementing with zinc, especially if you are deficient, may improve the way your immune system works. However, you don’t want to take too much zinc. Zinc toxicity can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, decreased immune function, and reduces the body’s ability to absorb other nutrients. You can avoid zinc toxicity by keeping your dosage under 50 mg per day.
This is an essential vitamin that the body uses for a variety of biological processes. Vitamin C is involved in tissue repair, making several different neurotransmitters, and plays a major role in immune function. It’s also a potent antioxidant.
Vitamin C has been extensively studied for its ability to treat and prevent the common cold. Research shows that while it doesn’t reduce the likelihood of getting a cold, supplementing with vitamin C may reduce the duration of colds. A systematic review from 2013 showed that vitamin C supplementation reduced the duration of colds by an average of 8% in adults and 14% in children. It also found that supplementation reduced the severity of colds.
It’s impossible to know if taking vitamin C would have the same effect on the coronavirus. However, it’s not unreasonable to assume that it might. And since vitamin C has such an excellent safety profile, it’s probably not a bad idea to supplement with it. In addition to its ability to reduce the length and severity of the common cold, vitamin C may also have a similar effect on certain lung conditions like asthma.
This isn’t a single substance but rather a class of plants that are known to help the body adjust to stress and remain healthy. Several adaptogens are considered nootropics including ashwagandha, Panax ginseng (aka Korean ginseng), rhodiola rosea, bacopa monnieri, and others. They can improve mood, reduce anxiety, and increase overall cognitive performance. And several adaptogens may improve the way the immune system works.
A study from 2012 showed that rhodiola rosea, echinacea purpurea, and Panax ginseng all had an adaptogenic effect on the immune system. The way these plants worked on the immune system varied, but they all had beneficial effect on immunity. This study also showed that all three adaptogens had excellent safety profiles.
A 2015 study done on athletes supplementing with rhodiola rosea showed it to not only have adaptogenic properties, but also an antiviral effect. This study showed that taking rhodiola rosea might have a protective effect against virus replication, particularly after prolonged exercise.
It’s impossible to know if rhodiola rosea and other adaptogens have any effect on the coronavirus. Since COVID-19 was only recently discovered, no studies have yet been done to see if adaptogens are able to decrease its severity or the likelihood of getting it. However, it’s definitely possible that rhodiola and other adaptogens may help protect you from the coronavirus.