Spices to Control COVID-19 Symptoms: Yes, but Not Only…

Int Arch Allergy Immunol. 2021;182(6):489-495. doi: 10.1159/000513538. Epub 2020 Dec 22.


There are large country variations in COVID-19 death rates that may be partly explained by diet. Many countries with low COVID-19 death rates have a common feature of eating large quantities of fermented vegetables such as cabbage and, in some continents, various spices. Fermented vegetables and spices are agonists of the antioxidant transcription factor nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2 (Nrf2), and spices are transient receptor potential ankyrin 1 and vanillin 1 (TRPA1/V1) agonists. These mechanisms may explain many COVID-19 symptoms and severity. It appears that there is a synergy between Nrf2 and TRPA1/V1 foods that may explain the role of diet in COVID-19. One of the mechanisms of COVID-19 appears to be an oxygen species (ROS)-mediated process in synergy with TRP channels, modulated by Nrf2 pathways. Spicy foods are likely to desensitize TRP channels and act in synergy with exogenous antioxidants that activate the Nrf2 pathway.

Keywords: COVID-19; Fermented vegetables; Nuclear factor (erythroid-derived 2)-like 2; Spices; Transient receptor potential ankyrin 1; Transient receptor potential vanillin 1.

MeSH terms

  • Antioxidants
  • COVID-19 / physiopathology*
  • Diet*
  • Disease Resistance
  • Fermentation
  • Humans
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / metabolism*
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • SARS-CoV-2 / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Spices*
  • TRPA1 Cation Channel / metabolism*
  • Vegetables


  • Antioxidants
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2
  • NFE2L2 protein, human
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • TRPA1 Cation Channel