Nutrition can help support the immune system against all kinds of external threats, from cancers to infections, including the novel coronavirus. We have already seen, in previous articles, the beneficial role of vitamin D, zinc and some antioxidants such as quercetin. Today, thanks to a very recent research published in the journal Computer in Biology and Medicine by a team of Swedish, German and Egyptian scientists, we know that, at least on the basis of computer simulations, substances coming from sage, turmeric and saffron can help inhibit virus multiplication (Ibrahim et al, Comput Biol Med, Oct 2020).
We have heard a lot about the famous spike protein S, the protein that has been found on the surface of the virus and that, by binding to an enzyme, called ACE2, determines the entry of the virus into the cell of the host organism. Studies have observed that this spike protein S of novel coronavirus forms a much stronger bond with ACE2 than that formed by other infections such as SARS and this would explain how COVID-19 is so infectious and spreads so rapidly. However, there are other proteins that characterize the new coronavirus and that determine its replication but also its resistance to the host's immune system. Scientists have therefore tried to understand if, in the spices that we commonly consume, there are substances capable of binding and inhibiting this protein responsible for the replication of the virus and responsible for its resistance to immune defenses. To do this, computer simulations were performed taking into account the active ingredients of some spices, including the salvialonic acid of salvia officinalis, the curcumin of turmeric, crocetin and safranal of saffron, piperine of black pepper, capsaicin from chili pepper, carnosol from rosemary, gingerol and shogaol from ginger and other substances contained in garlic, cinnamon and cloves. Well, what emerged is that the substances that have the greatest ability to bind to the new coronavirus and to inhibit its replication are the salvialonic acid of salvia officinalis and the curcumin of turmeric, immediately followed by crocetin from saffron. As for the other substances, they have progressively less affinity and therefore a lower ability to bind to the coronavirus protein.
This research is certainly preliminary as it takes place through computer simulations and not in vivo. Not only that, this research does not take into account the bioavailability of the active substances, which often struggle to overcome the stomach barrier. Certainly other studies will follow to shed more light on this very important protective action of spices. In the meantime, however, we can certainly include these foods in our diet, always without exaggerating and within a varied diet that can offer our body a wide range of substances capable of modulating and supporting the immune system. Sage is excellent chopped on fish or in culinary preparations such as bread, turmeric, when mixed with extra virgin olive oil and black pepper to increase its availability and its capacity to overcome the stomach barrier, is perfect as a dressing for salads. The saffron added at the end of cooking gives taste and health to sauces and risotto recipes.