National order of pharmacists: the consumption of food supplements affects our immune defenses
Certain plants contained in food supplements can disturb the body’s natural defenses by interfering in particular with the inflammatory defense mechanisms useful to fight against infections and, in particular, against COVID-19.
The plants covered by the ANSES opinion are: willow, meadowsweet, harpagophytum, turmeric, echinacea, birch, poplar, licorice …
Food supplements composed of plants with anti-inflammatory properties
Some food supplements contain plants with anti-inflammatory properties that can act like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). These plants are capable of disturbing the body’s natural defenses which are useful in fighting infections and, in particular, against COVID-19. Also, in view of the epidemic evolution of COVID-19, ANSES self-seized on the risks linked to the consumption of food supplements containing plants which could interfere with the immune and inflammatory response, useful to fight against infection by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
A Collective Emergency Expert Group has been formed and has reviewed the most recent scientific data on the immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory mechanisms of plants and their ability to disturb the immune response during infections. In addition, measures have been taken by the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products to secure the use of medicines containing paracetamol or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, in particular by withdrawing them from the open access presentation in pharmacies.
Plants that disrupt the immune response
Several plants have been identified as having counterproductive effects in defense against the coronavirus. These are plants containing salicylic acid derivatives (analogues of aspirin), such as willow, meadowsweet, birch, poplar, goldenrod, polygalas but also plants containing other plant anti-inflammatory drugs, such as harpagophytum, echinacea, turmeric, cat’s claw (also called Peruvian creeper), plants of the genera Boswellia and Commiphora (known for their gum oleoresins called respectively ” frankincense “and” myrrh “).
Although the level of knowledge available is uneven for these different plants, ANSES experts believe that they are all likely to disturb the immune response and the beneficial inflammatory reaction developed by the body at the start of infections. They point out that an inflammation should only be fought when it becomes excessive.
In view of this expert work, ANSES recommends:
– people consuming these food supplements with a preventive aim to immediately suspend the consumption of food supplements containing these plants as soon as the first symptoms of COVID-19 appear;
– people consuming these food supplements in the context of chronic inflammatory pathologies imperatively discuss with their doctor the relevance of continuing or not their consumption.