Certain Teas May Inactivate COVID-19 Virus, Study Finds

A cup of tea could be a powerful weapon in the fight against COVID-19, according to a new study that found that several common varieties can effectively inactivate the SARS-CoV-2 virus in saliva.

The research offers a glimmer of hope that something as simple as your morning brew could help curb the spread of the pandemic virus.

Popular Teas Found to Drastically Reduce SARS-CoV-2 Levels in Just Seconds

Researchers studied 24 commercially available teas and identified five that significantly reduced SARS-CoV-2 levels in saliva. These were raspberry zinger, eucalyptus mint, mint medley, green tea, and black tea.
The team prepared a drinkable tea infusion using one tea bag steeped in a cup of water for 10 minutes, without any additions such as milk or sugar. They then tested each tea either as a beverage or as a gargle.

The findings, published in Food and Environmental Virology, showed that all five tea varieties reduced the amount of the virus by at least 96 percent within just 10 seconds when used in the mouth and throat. When gargled, the teas were even more effective, eliminating 99.9 percent of the virus in the same timeframe.
Black tea proved the most potent. This matters because COVID-19 primarily infects and replicates in the oral cavity before spreading to the lungs, according to the study authors.

“Inactivating SARS-CoV-2 in the mouth and throat potentially reduces the introduction of the virus to the lower respiratory system,” Malak Esseili, a virologist with the University of Georgia Center for Food Safety in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, said in a statement.

Tea is not a replacement for medical care, and clinical trials are still needed to fully assess its effect on COVID-19 patients, Ms. Esseili said. The study was conducted using cell cultures, not human participants.

Study Adds to Growing Body of Research on COVID-Killing Potential of Oral Rinses

In a 2021 study, published in Pathogens, researchers found that two types of mouthwash could disrupt the COVID-19 virus under laboratory conditions, preventing it from replicating in human cells.

Specifically, the researchers determined that Listerine and a prescription mouthwash containing chlorhexidine could disrupt the virus within seconds when diluted to concentrations mimicking actual usage.

Two other types of mouthwashes—Betadine, which contains povidone-iodine, and Colgate Peroxyl, which contains hydrogen peroxide—were also found to potentially be effective at preventing viral transmission.

However, only Listerine and chlorhexidine were able to effectively disrupt SARS-CoV-2 while having minimal effects on the delicate skin cells inside the mouth that form a protective barrier against infection.

“Both Povidone-iodine and Peroxal caused significant skin cell death in our studies, while both Listerine and Chlorhexidine had minimal skin-cell killing at concentrations that simulated what would be found in daily use,” Daniel H. Fine, chair of the school’s Department of Oral Biology and the study’s senior author, said in a press release at the time.

Building on these findings, a recent double-blind, controlled trial, published in 2023 in Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, found that COVID-positive patients who gargled and performed nasal rinsing with a simple warm saltwater solution four times daily for 14 days experienced significantly lower hospitalization rates than a control group.

Green Tea Extract (EpiGalloCatechin Gallate) and Zinc Ionophore

EGCG is a powerful plant compound and immune nutrient primarily found in green tea. The beauty of green tea is that it also contains quercetin, another zinc ionophore. Both are known for its many health benefits. EGCG is rich in polyphenols and antioxidants. It may help to lower oxidative stress, decrease inflammation, improve heart health, support brain health, aid weight loss and help you live longer.

EGCG also acts as a zinc ionophore (PubMed 2014), the same mechanism of action that hydroxychloroquine has via helping zinc pass the cell wall and get into cells where it might halt viral replication. Conversely, zinc helps to make EGCG more bioavailable, meaning the two nutrients work hand in hand to enhance each other’s therapeutic potential.

An Indian study found that EGCG has the ability to target numerous key structures inside the virus, disabling its functional capacity.

“EGCG showed a very high binding affinity and a low inhibition constant among all the phytoconstituents screened, especially in the case of 6vw1, which is a potential target of SARS-CoV-2,” the paper found.

“EGCG exhibited better binding with the viral proteins and hence, is expected to show better antiviral activity than the reference drugs, remdesivir and chloroquine,” it added.

It is important to remember, though, that by itself, EGCG is both unstable and bio-unavailable unless coupled with nutrients like zinc that studies show help to maximize its transport into cells.

Lab Results Don’t Always Translate Into Real-World Benefits: Expert

Laboratory findings don’t always translate to real-world benefits.

“There are lots of times that we will test something in the petri dish and it looks fantastic,” Dr. Sharon Nachman, chief of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital, told The Epoch Times.

The fact that something kills a microbe in the lab doesn’t mean it will be effective in a patient, she said. While test results may show a substance killing bacteria, viruses, or fungi, sometimes an equivalent dose in a human is toxic, it doesn’t stay in the right space long enough, or other problems arise, she said.

An issue with the tea study is that it didn’t replicate how quickly tea passes through the mouth, Dr. Nachman noted. “It’s in your mouth for nanoseconds,” she said. “In the lab, they put the tea in with the virus and it sat there and it could continue to act for more than microseconds, which is quite different than your mouth.”

COVID-19 infects the nose and lungs, not just the mouth. “Even a single cough is going to throw out much more virus than would be killed in the mouth by gargling for 20 minutes,” Dr. Nachman said.

So although a hot drink such as tea may provide some benefits, “whether it will actually get you healthier faster or cut down on how much virus you’re transmitting, that’s a little bit on the iffy side,” she said.

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