The List of Supplements to Be Avoided During the Pandemic

The ANSES (French National Agency for Food, Environment, and Health at Work) warned of the effects of certain herbal supplements such as Willow, meadowsweet, devil’s claw, and turmeric on the immune system. These can interfere with the body’s inflammatory defense mechanisms, which are useful in fighting infections. A risk that must be taken into account even more during this period of the coronavirus epidemic.



The current epidemic of COVID-19 has led health authorities to ban the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in patients with or suspected of having COVID-19. The reason for this is the risk of ‘serious adverse effects following the use of these drugs. As a result of this warning, consumers may be tempted to use natural solutions, such as food supplements containing herbs with anti-inflammatory properties. ANSES fears this and has decided to carry out an inventory of the risks to which consumers of these food supplements are exposed.

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The Agency would indeed like to remind consumers that some food supplements contain plants with anti-inflammatory properties and that these are likely to act as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Thus, these plants can interfere with the body’s natural defenses, which are useful in combating infections and especially COVID-19. For this reason, in view of the current situation, the latter has announced that it has “carried out a self-assessment of the risks associated with consuming food supplements containing plants that may interfere with the immune and inflammatory response, useful in combating infections caused by SARS coronavirus CoV-2.

What plants disturb the immune response?

Therefore, a joint group of emergency experts reviewed the latest scientific evidence on the immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory mechanisms of plants and their ability to disrupt the immune response during infection. The results of their analysis suggest that several of them actually have counterproductive effects on the defense against the coronavirus. “They are plants containing salicylic acid derivatives (aspirin analogs) such as willow, meadowsweet, birch, poplar, goldenrod, polygala. “Health authorities say.

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Plants containing other herbal anti-inflammatory substances such as devil’s claw, Echinacea, turmeric, cat claw, plants of the genera Boswellia and Commiphora (known for their gum oleoresins, called ‘frankincense’ and ‘myrrh’ respectively) are also mentioned. Although knowledge is unevenly distributed among plants, experts believe that “all plants are likely to interfere with the immune response and the beneficial inflammatory response that the body develops at the onset of infection”. “They also point out that in all cases, food supplements are not medicines.

A List of Plants to be avoided during the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Willow
  • Meadowsweet
  • Devil’s claw
  • turmeric
  • Echinacea
  • Birch
  • Poplar
  • Licorice
  • Cat’s claw
  • Polygala
  • Goldenrod
  • speedwells
  • Figwort
  • Boswellia
  • Commiphora

Always talk to your doctor

ANSES, therefore, recommends that persons taking supplements containing these plants as a preventive measure discontinue their use as soon as symptoms of COVID-19 appear. People who use them in relation to chronic inflammatory diseases should discuss with their doctor whether or not their use can continue. In all cases, precautions for use must be observed and the sources of exposure to these plants must not be multiplied: this may indeed cause an ‘addition of effects which may lead to adverse effects and disturb the immune response’. “, notes ANSES.

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ANSES experts also conclude that inflammation is “a natural defense process” which, in reality, does not need to be fought unless it is excessive. Health professionals also have a role to play in reporting all adverse effects that occur in this particular environment to the concerned Health Authority.


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