Green Tea Fights Covid: Why Not Use It in Medicine?

Green Tea Kettle with a Clocker overlaid on it

(Photo illustration by Emily Faith Morgan)

It’s time for tea: More than 30 research papers published between 2000 and 2022 have confirmed that a chemical component found in green tea can help fight various types of coronaviruses, including variants of COVID-19.

A trio of scientists including Manikarna Dinda, a research scientist in the University of Virginia School of Medicine, compiled the takeaways in a review article published this month in the journal Phytomedicine Plus.

The goal of the collaborative report was to pave the way for tea’s translation into antiviral medications. The chemical compound found in green tea – epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG for short – has been of interest to medical researchers for many years. Now, the interest has grown.

“Recently, EGCG’s strong antiviral activity against SARS-CoV-2 infection in in vitro models [outside of a living organism] potentiates EGCG’s use in the treatment of COVID-19 patients,” Dinda said.

However, because of its low availability to the whole body, due to poor absorption in the gut and extensive liver processing, it’s use as a therapeutic agent has been limited.

The researchers see a greater role for the use of EGCG in mouth and throat wash formulations that reduce the viral load in the salivary glands, and in precision medicines “if its bioavailability in human plasma is enhanced with drugs with least toxicity or in nanoformulations,” Dinda said.

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