Use of vitamin/zinc supplements, medicinal plants, and immune boosting drinks during COVID-19 pandemic: A pilot study from Benha city, Egypt

Heliyon. 2021 Mar;7(3):e06538. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2021.e06538. Epub 2021 Mar 15.


Background: The COVID-19 infection is characterized by a wide spectrum of severity that ranges from mild to severe lethal symptoms. The optimal status of vitamins and minerals in the body is important to maintain proper immune response to overcome infections including COVID-19. Certain foods and medicinal plants have been shown to boost the immune system.

Objectives: In the current study, the use of vitamin and zinc supplements, medicinal plants, honey, garlic, and immune-boosting drinks among Egyptian living in Benha city were investigated during the corona pandemic.

Methods: An online questionnaire was distributed through Google forms. A total of 301 adult participants (age range: 18-82) from Benha city, Egypt were included in the study. The Chi2 goodness of fit test was used to determine the differences in the distribution of the participant responses.

Results: The use of vitamin C and D were reported by 27% and 17.7% of participants. About one-third of participants reported the use of immune-boosting drinks, honey, and garlic during the pandemic to strengthen the body immunity. The use of Zingiber officinale and Curcuma longa was reported by 47.2% and 31.6% respectively. Concerning zinc supplements, only 5.6% of the sample reported using it during the pandemic. The use of examined nutrients was found to be associated with age (P < 0.05) and the fear score from the virus (P < 0.05), but not with other factors such as sex, income, and educational level.

Conclusion: The uses of supplements, medicinal plants, and immune-boosting drinks to strengthen the immune system during the pandemic were common among the participants. The present findings may help comprehend some health practices related to the COVID-19 pandemic that might be considered by health policymakers.

Keywords: COVID-19; Egypt; Garlic; Honey; Immune system; Medicinal plants; Vitamin; Zinc.