Combating Covid Globally at Low Cost

Good news about Covid is uncommon, but here is some: a recent study has demonstrated the efficacy of cruciferous vegetables in fighting the Covid virus.  One might logically conclude that they would also reduce the chances of hospitalization, as has been noted in another study

Cabbage, kale, and other vegetables of the family Brassicaceae contain sulforaphane – a compound long known for its anticancer properties.  Scientists are now realizing its powerful effects against Covid.

One study tested the impact of sulforaphane on viral replication in vitro for six strains of Covid, including Delta and Omicron.  The results were promising — sulforaphane inhibited viral replication in all six strains.  It was also tested in mice as a preventative.  When mice were given sulforaphane prior to intranasal Covid infection, there was a significant reduction in lung and upper respiratory tract viral load compared to untreated mice.  Lung injury was also significantly reduced. 

The other crucial benefit is somewhat counterintuitive.  Sulforaphane also causes a decrease in immune cell activation in the lungs, thereby preventing the lung inflammation that so often kills Covid patients because they cannot breathe.  

Vaccines have saved millions of lives, but Covid keeps mutating, reducing their efficacy.  Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 variants are so sophisticated at spreading they created a surge in South Africa despite 97% antibody protection in the population.  And BA.5 has now become the dominant strain in the U.S.

In the chess game against Covid, vaccines have armed us with knights and rooks.  With vaccines, when the virus does penetrate, the body has some familiarity with it.  It has a familiar face to fight, not a new enemy, and antibodies are ready to attack.  

But is this always enough?  With the old strains, usually, yes.  But not always.  And as the virus is constantly mutating, who knows what is in store for us next year, or even next month?  And armed as we are with rooks and knights, supposing if we could have a queen also on our side, wouldn’t we want one?  And supposing this queen does not have the side effects that accompany antivirals, for it is a natural remedy.

Scientists performed an intriguing study, revealing that in countries where people consumed a good portion of cabbage (rich in sulforaphane) or cucumber each day, there was a significantly lower hospitalization rate.  Even the elderly were much less likely to be hospitalized.  And this study was performed in a pre-vaccine world. 

For those of us who are facing the onslaught of BA.5, or the even more recent BA.2.75 strain, sulforaphane can only help.  It can help those of us who are vaccinated but susceptible to the new mutant forms, and is crucial to keeping the most vulnerable unvaccinated segment of the population out of intensive care.  This would help to lower the strain on our healthcare work force too.

As noted earlier, sulforaphane is found in many cruciferous vegetables including cabbage, broccoli, kale, etc.  To receive its benefits, however, it is important to chop the vegetables and chew them well.  Raw is best, but gently steamed is also okay.  Pickling too can be particularly beneficial as well.  Sulforaphane capsules made from broccoli seed extract are also easily available in vitamin stores.  Thanks to the many varieties of Brassica vegetables, this is one remedy that is available all over the world.

If you attend a party and breathe in a Covid droplet as you dance, the best outcome would be to not catch Covid despite the exposure.  This is one reason vaccines are so important – they decrease the chances that you will become infected.  But with Omicron’s new variants, the vaccinated are not totally immune – as the South African study has shown.

So get vaccinated.  Get boosted.  But don’t forget those veggies.  Just remember, chew them well, don’t cook them too long, and you’ll have a queen on your side protecting your lungs — and next time perhaps even walk onto that dance floor without worry.

Meena Miriam Yust
Meena Miriam Yust
Meena Miriam Yust is an attorney based in Chicago, Illinois. Educated at Vassar College and Case Western Reserve University School of Law, she published a draft Migratory Insect Treaty with commentary in the Case Western Reserve Journal of International Law.