Eat Food – Antivirals are found in common foods.

Chloroquine medications are dangerous, many medications are dangerous especially if taken in too large a dose. Chloroquines are typically used to treat malaria, a condition caused by a parasite. The mechanism of action is that the chemical can hold onto the mineral zinc and carry it into an infected cell where the zinc disrupts the replication of proteins, causing less virus replication. (6) It has been mentioned as a medication that potentially may be helpful for treating patients with the novel coronavirus that is currently causing a pandemic.

The chloroquine medications are also used by autoimmune patients and supplies of the drug are limited. Increasing production is a goal but will likely take some time. (7) There are other safer alternatives available in foods or phytonutrient extracts (1, 8, 9) that have an immune modulating effect – promoting removal of infected or damaged cells while also inhibiting an overactive immune response.

People with a heart condition may also be at more risk of dangerous side effects if taking chloroquines. The medication also needs to be given with zinc to be as effective as possible. The food or phytonutrient alternatives would also need to be used with zinc in the diet or added as a supplement. (1, 8, 9)


***** ONLY EAT FOOD *****

Someone is dead because they consumed a household product containing chloroquine because they thought it might protect them from coronavirus infection, (10), – dead is not infectable by a virus, but dead is also dead.

Quercetin plus zinc is also an antiviral that works as a zinc ionophore, (1), however it is readily available in some common foods or as a supplement and is nontoxic to cells. (1, 2) The zinc is disrupting protein replication within the infected cell so the virus can not be replicated to spread to other cells, for more replication, more infecting other cells, more replication, etcetera.

Onions are the richest source of quercetin (4) and citrus peel is also a very rich source. (3) Pumpkin seeds are the richest source of zinc in a vegetarian diet and is commonly available in meats in a non-vegetarian diet.

Pomegranate peel extract or the inner white membrane of a pomegranate is also a source of quercetin and another phytonutrient that acts as a zinc ionophore (epigallichatechin-gallate). (1) It also would be nontoxic to healthy cells and low risk compared to the chloroquine medications. (2) However it can have some side effects, acting as a diuretic and has COX2 inhibition activity. (recent post, older post) A tablespoon or two of the liquid extract or inner white membrane can be enough to provide some health benefits for an adult. (G13: Preparation & Benefits of Pomegranate)

Onions, citrus peel, pomegranate peel – we have choices, safe choices, to help our body’s own defense system stop the coronavirus. Chloroquines do not kill coronavirus – it helps our own defense system do its job – but with more risk to healthy cells, and normal function than onions, citrus peel or pomegranate peel or quercetin supplements. Zinc is a trace mineral which we need in small amounts, a larger dose taken for a week or two would be unlikely to build up to toxic amounts but please be aware that in large doses a zinc supplement could become toxic.

Eat food – that is what our body is designed for. If the GI tract is inflamed and the idea of eating food is no longer appealing due to pain or constant diarrhea than please see the recent post: ACE2, Diarrhea, & COVID19 – it gets complicated. and try to eat small servings of something that might help heal and stop the inflammatory reaction in the intestinal tract.

If nausea and vomiting are also symptoms, hold off on the food and just sip water that has a dash of lemon or lime juice or apple cider vinegar. Those all have a type of acid that is similar to stomach acid. In cases of severe nausea even plain water can be unsettling and larger amounts of anything can be a problem. Start gradually with small sips of the lemon water, or a lime or lemon popsicle may be soothing and not cause more vomiting.

Once feeling better some of the mucilaginous or hydrolyzable tannin foods mentioned in the recent post (ACE2, Diarrhea…) can help replace the mucous lining that coats the intestinal tract during times of health. It also serves as a defense system, helping to prevent entry of virus or other pathogens into the body between intestinal cells. And white blood cells patrol the area and actively defend against pathogens.

Pomegranate peel also provides hydrolyzable tannins if the white membrane is used in prepared foods like a bean soup (G8: Cookies & Bean Soup/recipes) or sweet potato dish. Pomegranate peel and citrus peel and onions (less so) are also sources of vitamin C which also helps our body’s natural anti-viral defenses. (5)

Addition: Table of drugs and phytonutrients that are being investigated for use as a COVID19 treatment, (@rubbersoul23,Eric/table) based on A SARS-CoV-2-Human Protein-Protein Interaction Map Reveals Drug Targets and Potential Drug-Repurposing, March 23, 2020, (

Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of Fair Use. It is not intended to provide individual guidance. Please seek a health care provider for individualized health care guidance.

Reference List

  1. Husam Dabbagh-Bazarbachi , Gael Clergeaud, Isabel M Quesada, et al., Zinc Ionophore Activity of Quercetin and Epigallocatechin-Gallate: From Hepa 1-6 Cells to a Liposome Model. J Agric Food Chem, 62 (32), 8085-93 2014 Aug 13.
  2. Houston DMJ, Bugert JJ, Denyer SP, Heard CM. Potentiated virucidal activity of pomegranate rind extract (PRE) and punicalagin against Herpes simplex virus (HSV) when co-administered with zinc (II) ions, and antiviral activity of PRE against HSV and aciclovir-resistant HSV [published correction appears in PLoS One. 2017 Nov 20;12 (11):e0188609]. PLoS One. 2017;12(6):e0179291. Published 2017 Jun 30. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0179291
  3. Shafiya Rafiqa, Rajkumari Kaula, S.A. Sofia, et al., Citrus peel as a source of functional ingredient: A review. J of the Saudi Society of Ag Sci, 17;4, Oct. 2018, pp 351-358
  4. Quercetin, Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutical Science/Quercetin,,
  5. Kim Y, Kim H, Bae S, et al. Vitamin C Is an Essential Factor on the Anti-viral Immune Responses through the Production of Interferon-α/β at the Initial Stage of Influenza A Virus (H3N2) Infection. Immune Netw. 2013;13(2):70–74. doi:10.4110/in.2013.13.2.70
  6. Xue J, Moyer A, Peng B, Wu J, Hannafon BN, Ding W-Q (2014) Chloroquine Is a Zinc Ionophore. PLoS ONE 9(10): e109180.
  7. Eva Schrezenmeier, Thomas Dörner, Mechanisms of action of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine: implications for rheumatology. Nat Rev Rheumatol 16, 155–166 (2020).
  8. Wang T1, Men R1, Hu M, et al., Protective effects of Punica granatum (pomegranate) peel extract on concanavalin A-induced autoimmune hepatitis in mice. Biomed Pharmacother. 2018 Apr;100:213-220. doi: 10.1016/j.biopha.2017.12.110. Epub 2018 Feb 9.
  9. Hou L, Huang H. Immune suppressive properties of artemisinin family drugs. Pharmacol Ther. 2016;166:123–127. doi:10.1016/j.pharmthera.2016.07.002
  10. Anne Flaherty, Sophie Tatum, Man dies after ingesting aquarium product containing chloroquine: Hospital network. March 23, 2020,,

L-Serine, hope for Alzheimers and ALS

Misshapen proteins that collect in the brains of patients who eventually are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s dementia or in patients with ALS may be due to a substitution being made by BMAA a toxin in some types of cyanobacteria (a blue-green algae) in place of the amino acid L-serine.

Trials have begun with dietary intake of L-serine amino acid powder. The powder is readily available for purchase and is non toxic, (available online from bulk supplement companies that may market to weight lifters). Varying doses have been tried and 30 grams per day, slightly more than an ounce, have been found helpful. See: Alzheimer’s Disease – Could New Approach Lead to Breakthrough? (

The main researcher, Dr. Paul Cox, has a team or researchers involved now and has been focused on Alzheimer’s or ALS, however this is a breakthrough that might also help patients with autism as similar misshapen proteins are often found to be involved in that condition too. A review of research on levels of certain amino acid that have brain neurotransmitter roles in patients with autism diagnoses had some mixed results as there is a D-serine and L-serine form and levels of each can vary and whether a research study measured them separately of together was inconsistent, but several did find lower levels for patients with autism compared to the control group without an autism diagnosis.

See: Zheng HF, Wang WQ, Li XM, Rauw G, Baker GB. Body fluid levels of neuroactive amino acids in autism spectrum disorders: a review of the literature. Amino Acids. 2016;49(1):57-65.

More recent research has not replicated or reinforced the theory that BMAA is involved in development of Alzheimer’s disease.

The role of the non-essential amino acid BMAA as a causal agent of Alzheimer’s or ALS may involve other factors in addition to chronic buildup of BMAA over time as a review of research about the topic did not conclude a causal relationship of the amino acid with neurodegenerative disorders.

  • See: A critical review of the postulated role of the non-essential amino acid, β-N-methylamino-L-alanine, in neurodegenerative disease in humans. Chernoff, et al, 2017, (
  • Reanalysis of samples of the suspected source of BMAA from the initial research did not find significant amounts, see: The analysis of underivatized β-Methylamino-L-alanine (BMAA), BAMA, AEG & 2,4-DAB in Pteropus mariannus mariannus specimens using HILIC-LC-MS/MS. Foss et al, 2018, (
  • β- N-Methylamino-l-alanine (BMAA) Not Involved in Alzheimer’s Disease. Rauk, 2018, (

The prevailing theory that Beta amyloid protein is a causal agent in Alzheimer’s disease is now being questioned as almost 200 experimental drugs designed to decrease levels of the protein have been found ineffective as treatments for the disease. The protein is involved but likely isn’t the initial problem — regarding Beta amyloid in Alzheimer’s disease: “Brain amyloid is therefore generally accepted as being essential for disease progression but not sufficient on its own to drive disease. The next observable change in brain is impaired glucose metabolism within AD brain,” … “Based on these imaging and biomarker studies it is emerging that brain glucose
(reduced glucose metabolism) and tau toxicity (increased phosphorylation of the Tau protein making it malfunction) likely reflect central events in the progression of AD (1,2,8).”  – Zhu et al, 2014, The emerging link between O-GlcNAc and Alzheimer’s disease, (

So if BMAA is not a causal agent and Beta amyloid itself also isn’t the primary factor in development of Alzheimer’s disease – that leaves us asking what is involved? The answer is likely multifactorial – multiple issues that may vary somewhat for different patients.

Causal Agent versus Multifactorial Disorder.

Causal roles of a toxin traditionally look at toxins individually and as a toxin that would have the same risk for all people or animals if an animal study. Multifactorial disorders however may involve increased risk for some people based on genetic differences from average, or also require nutrient deficiencies to be present or other infectious or inflammatory conditions to also be present chronically.

Cyanotoxins including BMAA and a metabolite, DAB, have been analyzed for risk of cell death or inflammation in murine (aquatic rather than land based species) brain cells. Low doses of some of the cyanobacteria toxins were found to be a concern but not the BMAA or DAB.

  • See: Cyanotoxins at low doses induce apoptosis and inflammatory effects in murine brain cells: Potential implications for neurodegenerative diseases. Takser, et al, 2016 (

The research by Dr. Paul Cox with BMAA in Alzheimer’s found that the risk association was with concentrated doses over decades,
(, so lower doses may not be a significant risk or possibly risk may also require other factors to be present such as a chronically low intake of L-serine.

Many factors have been associated with increased risk for autism spectrum disorder some involving the early prenatal time of conception and implantation of the fetus and later stages of fetal development. Infants may seem to be developing typically and develop symptoms later as a toddler when rapid changes generally occur in the number of connections between brain cells. Genetic and environmental and nutrient deficiencies may also increase risk for the child later developing symptoms of autism or other cognitive conditions such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD).

  • For more information see: Causal Agent versus Multifactorial Disorder, which I am modifying into an easier to use format from a long series of posts on another of my sites, Believing is the First Step Towards Change.
  • An excerpt from that earlier document – Mice bred to be genetically defective in their ability to produce L-serine, a component of sphingolipids, all died as embryos – they never made it to birth. And: “As expected, all brain L-serine-derived lipids such as phosphatidylserine, phosphatidylethanolamine, sphingomyelin, and GD3 ganglioside are greatly reduced in Phgdh knockout mice.” – See: Hirabayashi Y. A world of sphingolipids and glycolipids in the brain–novel functions of simple lipids modified with glucose. Proc Jpn Acad Ser B Phys Biol Sci. 2012;88(4):129-43.
  • Sphingolipid and serine synthesis are somewhat dependent on each other – inhibiting or increasing one or the other can inhibit or increase production of the other. This may help in treatment of cancer and help with better understanding of intellectual disability conditions as sphingolipid is important for a type of cell common to both. “Sphingolipid levels are tightly linked to serine synthesis, and inhibiting either serine or sphingolipid synthesis can specifically impair the fitness of aneuploid cells “– “Deciphering these mechanisms is important because aneuploidy is associated with diseases including intellectual disability and cancer.” — Hwang S, Gustafsson HT, O’Sullivan C, et al. Serine-Dependent Sphingolipid Synthesis Is a Metabolic Liability of Aneuploid CellsCell Rep. 2017;21(13):3807-3818.

So is metabolic problems in serine metabolism or lack of protein in the diet an initial problem? or O-GlcNAc?

Serine is considered a non-essential amino acid because it can be made out of the amino acid glycine in normal health, or it can be converted back into glycine. (ScienceDirect/serine) Both glycine and serine are used in large amounts within myelin, the protein used to form the white fatty coating around the connecting channels between nerve cells. There are 18 molecules of serine within a molecule of myelin protein (172 amino acids long per an older source). See: Amino Acid Sequence of the Basic Protein of the Myelin Membrane, Eylar, 1970, ( – an old source but the graphic is viewable.

O-GlcNAc is a type of sugar/amino acid linkage that may have protective effects against Tau protein, another type of protein that seems to collect in the brain tissue of patients with Alzheimer’s disease. “O-GlcNAcylation is a dynamic form of protein glycosylation which involves the addition of β-d-N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc) via an O-linkage to serine or threonine residues of nuclear, cytoplasmic, mitochondrial and transmembrane proteins.” – Wani, et al, 2017, O-GlcNAcylation and neurodegeneration, (

(*N-Acetylglucosamine is a type of monosaccharide that can be formed from a molecule of glucose in times of normal health. It is available as a supplement marketed for arthritis pain as glucosamine, generally derived from chitin found in shellfish. It is not typically found in common foods in the human diet.)(Health is a miracle of complex chemistry, in my opinion.)

Food Sources of L-Serine.

The research on BMAA and trials providing extra L-serine as a possible treatment for ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, a degenerative nerve condition which causes muscle paralysis) is discussed on another site in an article that includes a list of food sources of L-serine. Animal products such as dairy foods and a variety of meats are good sources but sesame, sunflower, and pumpkin and squash seeds are also sources along with hemp kernels, soy products and other beans, and peanuts and pistachio nuts. See: What is L-Serine and What is Research Telling Us? (

This very exciting as there is no shortage of L-serine, it is non-toxic commonly available in foods or as a bulk powder supplement, there would be no wait for a drug approval process. The clinical trials help prove efficacy, safety, and dosage recommendations.

Pumpkin seed kernels, raw, unsalted, with a standard size teaspoon.

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

Additional notes 2/19/2018:

  1. Suspected Link between ALS and Head Trauma (focus on sports trauma like soccer and football)
  2. Links on brain injury and increased free glutamate
  3. L-Serine deficiency elicits intracellular accumulation of cytotoxic deoxy-sphingolipids and lipid body formation, when L-alanine and L-serine levels are out of balance, when an external source of L-serine is limited, sphingolipid production changes and
    1-deoxy-sphingolipids (doxSLs) are created
  4. Localization of 1-deoxysphingolipids to mitochondria induces mitochondrial dysfunction, “1-Deoxysphingolipids (deoxySLs) are atypical sphingolipids that are elevated in the plasma of patients with type 2 diabetes and hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathy type 1 (HSAN1). Clinically, diabetic neuropathy and HSAN1 are very similar, suggesting the involvement of deoxySLs in the pathology of both diseases ” suspected mechanism of deoxySLs: “localized to mitochondria, causing mitochondrial fragmentation and dysfunction” which then may lead to neuropathy

Pumpkin seeds – rich in zinc

Pumpkin seed kernels, raw, unsalted.

Pumpkin seed kernels are a good source of protein, essential fats, fiber, magnesium and other vitamins and minerals – and a great source of zinc which may be lacking in vegetarian or vegan diets. (Pumpkin Seeds – Benefits, nutrition and dietary tips.) (Other vegetarian sources of zinc.)

Work is progressing on the development of pumpkin seed flour for use as a food thickening substance for use in gravies or other sauces or stews. It would increase the protein, essential fatty acids, and other trace nutrient content of the resulting foods. (10) The use of pumpkin seeds in the diet may also prove to be protective against cancer and liver or kidney injury; and as a good source of antioxidants such as carotenoids (vitamin A family of nutrients) the use of pumpkin seeds in the diet may prove to be helpful against many conditions that involve excess oxidative stress. (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9) They are also a source of vitamin E (tocopherols), other phytosterols, and linoleic acid, a beneficial polyunsaturated fat. Pumpkin seed oil may be helpful in wound healing. (15) Pumpkin seeds are also a good source of phospholipids, (16), which are important for skin and membrane health.

Pumpkins are considered a drought tolerant plant for gardeners. Adequate water is needed to grow larger pumpkin and squash but the vines can survive limited water conditions. The seeds of other summer and winter squash are also nutrient rich and also may be more drought tolerant plants. (11, 12) Enough but not too much water at the right times are critical. Flooding or severe drought may both harm the garden yield. Mulching and drip irrigation or other watering methods applied at optimal stages of growth can be the water thrifty solution for best yield. (13, 14)

The seeds of butternut squash and some types of winter squash can be collected when trimming the squash and later toasted and eaten as a crunchy nutritious snack. India grocery markets may also have shelled squash seeds available for sale. They are slightly smaller and paler in color than the shelled pumpkin kernels in the image above.

Magnesium is one of the beneficial nutrients found in pumpkin seeds. It is a mineral that is needed in greater quantity during pregnancy and high blood pressure/hypertension can be a symptom of deficiency. Preeclampsia and the more severe eclampsia are complications characterized by high blood pressure and edema/swelling that can occur during pregnancy. Toxins collect in the excess fluid buildup and can risk a brain condition similar to hypertension encephalopathy in the more severe eclampsia. Seizure activity can result and death for the woman and expected infant are risks. Magnesium is used as an intravenous or intramuscular injection to reduce risk of the seizures during eclampsia. The mineral seems to help protect the blood brain barrier and reduce swelling in the brain during eclampsia. It’s role as an antioxidant to reduce free radical toxins may be involved but the exact mechanism for its benefit in eclampsia is not known. (2, page 139)

More information about preclampsia is available in a previous post, and more information about food sources and supplement sources of magnesium is also available in a previous post.

I have several writing projects in draft mode however they overlap – pumpkin seeds, a good source of magnesium and zinc, helped my previous prenatal clients who had a history of preeclampsia or high blood pressure in a previous pregnancy prevent a reocurrence of the problem. Why? Possibly because of the magnesium and other beneficial nutrients which could be protecting the blood brain barrier and might then also be helpful for preventing harm to oligodendrocytes and protect against demyelination – a risk that can occur with some types of encephalopathy (3).

Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.

  1. Ware, What are the health benefits of pumpkin seeds?, July 24, 2018,
  2. Mehmet Kaya, Bulent Ahishali, Chapter 9: The role of magnesium in edema and blood brain barrier disruption, page 139, in the book edited by Robert Vink, Mihai Nechifor, Magnesium in the Central Nervous System, University of Adelaide Press, 2011,, free ebook pdf,  (2
  3. S. Love, Demyelinating Diseases, J Clin Pathol. 2006 Nov; 59(11): 1151–1159. (3)
  4. Scientific Studies collection on a commercial website by Pepo Farms, (4) which includes:
  5. M. Gossell-Williams, A. Davis, N. O’Connor, Inhibition of Testosterone-Induced Hyperplasia of the Prostate of Sprague-Dawley Rats by Pumpkin Seed Oil. Jun 2006, Vol. 9, No. 2 : 284 -286. 
  6. C. Z. Nkosi, A. R. Opoku, S. E. Terblanche, Antioxidative effects of pumpkin seed (Cucurbita pepo) protein isolate in CCl4-Induced liver injury in low-protein fed rats.
  7. Fahim AT Abd-el Fattah AA Agha AM Gad MZ
    Effect of pumpkin-seed oil on the level of free radical scavengers induced during adjuvant-arthritis in rats.
    In: Pharmacol Res (1995 Jan) 31(1):73-9 ISSN: 1043-6618
  8. Suphakarn VS Yarnnon C Ngunboonsri P, The effect of pumpkin seeds on oxalcrystalluria and urinary compositions of children in hyperendemic area. In: Am J Clin Nutr (1987 Jan) 45(1):115-21 ISSN: 0002-9165
  9. Matus Z Molnar P Szabo LG [Main carotenoids in pressed seeds (Cucurbitae semen) of oil pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo convar. pepo var. styriaca)] Olajtok (Cucurbita pepo convar. pepo var. styriaca) magjabol nyert presmaradek ossz-karotinoid-tartalmanak es karotinoid-osszetetelenek meghatarozasa. In: Acta Pharm Hung (1993 Sep) 63(5):247-56 ISSN: 0001-6659 (Published in Hungarian)  * The main carotenoids included per the Pepo Farms site: “The main components of the press-residue were lutein [3,3′-dihydroxy-alpha-carotene = (3R,3’R,6’R)-beta,epsilon-carotene-3,3′-diol; 52.5%] and beta- carotene (beta,epsilon-carotene; 10.1%). In addition to the above- mentioned pigments it was successful to reveal the presence of violaxanthin, luteoxanthin, auroxanthin epimers, lutein epoxide, flavoxanthin, chrysanthemaxanthin, 9(9′)-cis-lutein, 13(13′)-cis- lutein, 15-cis-lutein (central-cis)-lutein, alpha-cryptoxanthin, beta- cryptoxanthin and alpha-carotene (beta,epsilon-carotene) in small quantities.”  (4)
  10. Initial food technology research on the preparation and use of pumpkin seed flour for use in more nutritious gravy type sauces: Sharma G, Lakhawat S., Development, Quality Evaluation and Acceptability of Pumpkin Seed Flour Incorporated in Gravy. J Nutr Food Sci 7:613. doi: 10.4172/2155-9600.1000613
  11. EllenB, Growing Drought Tolerant Vegetables, June 9, 2009,, (11)
  12. Troy Scott, Drought Tolerant Vegetables for your Garden, July 9 2018, (12)
  13. Joan Morris, Vegetable Gardening in a Drought,, April 1, 2015, (13)
  14. Extension Utah State University, Vegetable Irrigation: Squash and Pumpkin, Horticulture/Vegetables/2015-4, (14)
  15. Bardaa S, Ben Halima N, Aloui F, et al. Oil from pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo L.) seeds: evaluation of its functional properties on wound healing in rats. Lipids in Health and Disease. 2016;15:73. doi:10.1186/s12944-016-0237-0. (15)
  16. Zh.Y. Petkova, G.A. Antova, Changes in the composition of pumpkin seeds (Cucurbita moschata) during development and maturation. Grassas Y Aceites, 66 (1), Jan–March 2015, e058. (16)