- ANSES warns against the use of food supplements during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- Some contain plants that can alter the body’s immune response.
- Plants sometimes have an anti-inflammatory effect, the consumption of which is not recommended by health authorities.
As the pandemic of Covid-19 is still rampant in France and all over the globe, herbalists may be tempted to rely on the powers of plants to boost their immune defenses. But
the National Health Security Agency (ANSES) strongly advises and alerts him to the dangers of food supplements in the midst of a coronavirus epidemic. Some are said to contain plants that may affect the immune system and the body’s response to infection.
Plants with over-the-counter anti-inflammatory properties
The first natural ingredient in the pharmacopoeia, plants should not be consumed without moderation. Certain food supplements thus contain plants having anti-inflammatory properties which can act like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Concerned about the health risk associated with Covid-19, ANSES self-entered “on the risks linked to the consumption of food supplements containing plants that may interfere with the immune and inflammatory response, useful for fighting infection with SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. ” The health agency has thus set up a group of emergency collective expertise which has reviewed the most recent scientific data “on the immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory mechanisms of plants and their capacity to disturb the immune response during infections” .
And among the plants most commonly used in the composition of food supplements acclaimed by the general public and available over the counter, several have been identified as having counterproductive effects in the defense of the organism against the coronavirus. Willow, meadowsweet, birch, poplar, goldenrod or polygalas are all plants “containing salicylic acid derivatives, analogues of aspirin”, warns ANSES, which also warns against other plant anti-inflammatory drugs, such as “harpagophytum, echinacea, turmeric, the cat’s claw [appelée aussi liane du Pérou], plants of the genera Boswellia and Commiphora [connues pour leurs gommes-oléorésines appelées respectivement « encens » et « myrrhe »] “
Food supplements likely to disrupt the immune response
Why worry about natural anti-inflammatory drugs in food supplements? “We have noticed that a number of food supplements contained plants which have anti-inflammatory or immunomodulatory properties, answered this Saturday on Franceinfo the doctor Aymeric Dopter, deputy to the head of the unit of risks related to the nutrition of ANSES. These plants can interfere with natural defenses. This is true in normal times but more particularly in times of an epidemic. ” Since the start of the Covid-19 epidemic in France, several doctors have alerted health authorities to the case of young infected patients whose condition worsened after taking ibuprofen to lower their fever.
An observation quickly relayed by the health authorities. “Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have a reputation for promoting or worsening certain infections,” said the National Academy of Medicine. In the treatment of fever due to Covid-19, their use is formally discouraged, for the benefit of paracetamol which is also effective and does not interact with infectious phenomena. ” And in intensive care, there is no question of using it. “Covid-19 attacks the lungs, kidneys and other organs, and this phenomenon will generate an inflammatory response of the organism,” describes Professor Azoulay, head of the resuscitation department at Saint-Louis hospital in Paris. To fight this, we give patients other types of anti-inflammatory drugs, especially not NSAIDs. “
Consumption to be limited to strictly necessary cases
The aggravating effect of the infectious phenomenon caused by NSAIDs has been uncovered before even the start of the Covid-19 epidemic, and led to a warning from the ANSM (National Medicines Safety Agency), which prescribes consumption when strictly necessary. Thus, since January 15, NSAIDs are no longer sold over the counter in pharmacies. A measure which did not however concern food supplements.
After its work on food supplements, ANSES recommends that people who take it for preventive purposes “immediately suspend the consumption of food supplements containing these plants as soon as the first symptoms of Covid-19 appear.” And, in the same way as patients whose state of health requires the taking of anti-inflammatory drugs, the health agency recommends to people consuming these food supplements “in the context of chronic inflammatory pathologies to imperatively discuss with their doctor relevance of whether or not to continue their consumption ”.