Quercetin for Immunity
Our immunity is a vital part of our diet. We grow stronger through regular, simple exposure to small degrees of bacteria and viruses present everywhere, many of which are introduced to us in our developing years through natural foods. A healthy, regulated immune system is vital for the modern day, especially in recent times as the subject of natural immunity has risen drastically in importance. How can one acquire powerful immunity late in life or with a lacking diet? It’s never too late to make positive changes, and one of those changes may already be in reach in the form of quercetin.
What is Quercetin?
Quercetin is a “flavonoid”, a compound of plants which can primarily be found in pigments. As a chemical, it’s classified as an aglycone, a compound which lacks attached sugar compounds as an organic compound. This gives it the properties of an antioxidant, allowing it to bind to and detach free radicals from other molecules, but more than that, it’s also an antihistamine, antiviral and antibacterial defender in the body.
Where is it Found?
Quercetin is the most abundant of the flavonoid-type molecules in nature. Quercetin occurs naturally in a wide array of edible fruits and vegetables, such as apples, berries, capers, grapes, onions, shallots, teas and leaves, nuts and seeds, potatoes and tomatoes. Anyone with a varied diet will encounter it in some capacity. Organically grown plants such as tomatoes have up to 80% more quercetin than chemically grown or supplemented plants. It’s most potent and concentrated in capers but least potent in tea by the gram.
It’s harder not to get Quercetin in some small amounts throughout any day as long as something that comes directly from the ground is being consumed. The commonality in nature makes it hard to imagine how it can be at a loss in the average diet - but the average diet has shifted away from natural or home-grown foods towards chemically added and processed foods. Fast food diets may be at the worst loss for Quercetin, as are certain carnivore-style diets.
What does it Do?
As a molecular compound, Quercetin comes in a few different forms. The default form is the aglycone form with no sugar molecule chain attached. However, when combined with certain glycosyl groups it can change the absorption and metabolic properties. Basically, the way it’s absorbed depends on the source that it’s attached to, generally doing better with simple sugars or more complex chains that can be picked up by the body faster than when it’s alone. Once absorbed, it has a few health benefits which have been observed through research.
It’s most useful property is in its antiviral and antibacterial capabilities. It does this with a combination of immune modulation to boost regular immune defensive responses, viral entry prevention where it blocks viruses from reaching the cells they want to infect, and inhibition where it stops viruses from replicating altogether. This gives it a sort of “first layer” defensive protocol within the body, where it will act in tandem with other antiviral cells like natural white blood and t-cells to seek and destroy viruses directly.
This has been shown to stop flu symptoms from building up and even reduce the frequency of herpes outbreaks in infected patients, thus reducing the severity of their condition as the virus has less ability to spread itself. It was also given support as a potential supplement against Covid-19 - though research is incomplete. However, given that it is a SARS type virus, within the same category as the flu, there is reasonable conjecture that Quercetin in strong doses may help bolster the immune system against such diseases.
Aside from that, it helps with allergies by interacting with mast cells which produce histamine, the chemical that causes inflammation in response to outside triggers, causing allergic reactions. It pairs well with Vitamin C which does the same thing at a different degree. This lessens the symptoms and frequency of allergic rhinitis.
Blocking histamine also makes it an anti-inflamation chemical, which it does in more than one way. Another way it combats inflammation is through its work as an antioxidant, where it scrapes cells for free radicals throughout the body. This also leads to the theory that it may also help with mental oxidative stress diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer’s where stress is placed on the brain due to the abundance of free radicals. In addition, it supports the ability to produce new mitochondria, which allows for more cells to stay powered in lapsing or underpowered parts of the body.
How to Take It
Quercetin is harder not to take as long as you’re eating well, but supplemental doses can help bolster immunity and other effects if paired well with a complementary component like vitamin C from a natural sugar-based source like citrus fruit. Doses can range from 500 to 1,000 mg with basically no side-effects. However, as natural quercetin is poorly absorbed, it should come attached in supplement form with a phospholipid complex to prevent too much from passing through the body. If taken with other medication, a doctor’s advice should be sought to ensure it won’t impact other more pressing chemical interactions.
Aside from that, Quercetin is a nutrient that should be taken daily in some way. Either eat a whole onion with a side of healthy tree bark, or take a supplement with a glass of orange juice and be assured your body is under good care.
Li, Y., Yao, J., Han, C., Yang, J., Chaudhry, M., Wang, S., Liu, H., & Yin, Y. (2016). Quercetin, inflammation and immunity. Nutrients, 8(3), 167. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8030167
Livingston, M. (2020, December 30). Should you take quercetin for immune health? what you need to know. CNET. Retrieved August 1, 2022, from https://www.cnet.com/health/nutrition/does-quercetin-improve-immune-health/
Moday, H., & Eckelkamp, S. (n.d.). What is Quercetin & How can it help support the immune system? mindbodygreen. Retrieved August 1, 2022, from https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/what-is-quercetin/