Double up on immunity: zinc and quercetin

Double up on immunity: zinc and quercetin

At Agent, we fully believe that there has never been a more empowering time to take control of your own health, healthcare and wellness regime.

We previously spoke about the superstar power of Vitamin D in the battle against COVID-19 (head here for the article). Today, we continue with our immune-boosting series by sharing with you the easily accessible, cost-effective and insanely powerful duo that is our newest favorite - zinc & quercetin.

Let’s start with Zinc.

Whilst not getting as much airtime as Vitamin D and Vitamin C, Zinc is vital for propping up and powering our immune systems. In fact, Zinc is known as an “essential micronutrient” for the human body.

Zinc is the second most abundant trace metal in the entire human body (with iron being the most abundant) and is both critical and crucial for many functions and processes within the body - including immune function and so much more.

How does Zinc help our immune system?

Zinc is powerful. It acts like an engineer in a control room and controls communication between and within all of the cells in your body. It is also a powerful antioxidant, with strong anti-inflammatory properties, helping to reduce inflammation all over the body and fight against oxidative stress and damage to our DNA (that can provoke and promote aging). But? Its power doesn’t stop there.

On top of its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, Zinc is also critical to preserve and maintain the tissue barriers found in the respiratory lining of the body. Healthy tissue and strong tissue barriers in the respiratory tract acts as part of the immune system - reducing the likelihood of a respiratory virus entering the body, or, getting in through a weak lining. 

Zinc and viruses

On top of reducing the likelihood of contracting a virus by strengthening the airways, once inside the body, Zinc has also been proven to actually stop viral replication and reproduction within minutes (yes, really) - specifically of RNA viruses such as the coronavirus.

If that isn’t pretty powerful, then we don’t know what is.

In summary, zinc:

  • Increases the strength of the respiratory lining;
  • Reduces the likelihood of a virus entering the human body via the respiratory tract;
  • Reduce the overexpression of ACE-2 activity (this means that the body can potentially block SARS-CoV-2 from entering into a cell by reducing the binding affinity of the virus to the receptor it uses to get into the body);
  • Directly inhibits viral replication if a virus does get in (Zinc has been shown to inhibit SARs-CoV RNA polymerase as well as slowing the RNA replication of different RNA viruses)
  • Balances an immune response in relation to infectious diseases (so no overly intense cytokine storms as some people are seeing with COVID); and;
  • Can reduce the frequency, severity and duration of symptoms related to the ‘common cold’.

On top of this, and the power that Zinc holds for antiviral activity, it is also a critical component in fertility and also the balancing of our hormones so the importance of zinc does not just stop at its immune-boosting powers.

A zinc deficiency may mean you are more susceptible to viruses making your body’s terrain their home, and your immune system response may be weaker, so the viruses might hit you harder than they otherwise would, as well as potential fertility and hormone complications too.

The list goes on!

Ok, so Zinc is important. Are you getting enough of this ESSENTIAL mineral?

Many people struggle with zinc deficiency - and research is now suggesting that, like with Vitamin D, a zinc deficiency may be classified as a factor that actually increases the likelihood of someone contracting a COVID infection. 

On top of this, a zinc deficiency may:

  • Lead to increased inflammation levels in the body;
  • Increase levels of oxidative stress that the body is under;
  • Make it harder for your body to fight off illness; and
  • Exacerbate the symptoms of any illness that is contracted.

Zinc deficiency and a weakened immune response

A zinc deficiency can also lead to increased inflammatory cytokines in the body when it goes into an immune response. This cytokine storm can be particularly dangerous when it involves
specific cytokines and can lead to things like hypotension (low blood pressure), increased risk of haemorrhage, and also organ failure (across not just one organ, but many). We have seen these things happening with severe viral infections such as COVID-19 and so it is interesting to understand that these more dangerous cytokines can be suppressed with sufficient levels of zinc intake.

Zinc deficiency affects both natural and inherent immunity - and we are seeing more life-threatening viral cases in older individuals who are more likely to be deficient in Zinc. We have to ask ourselves - should Zinc be a routine wellness supplement for people of all ages, but perhaps particularly the older generations, to support the normal immune response and combat against the increased likelihood of getting COVID19?

How do I know if I’m low in Zinc?

Good question.

Symptoms of zinc deficiency include:

  • Low stomach acid levels (meaning you can’t absorb the nutrients in your food properly)
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of smell
  • Lack of appetite
  • Poor wound healing
  • Hair loss, greying hair
  • Mental health challenges (such as depression)
  • A generally low immune system, and more.

As we age, our body becomes less adept at absorbing zinc, so this raises an interesting point of whether older generations that have been hardest hit by COVID perhaps have been most deficient in this mineral too.

So, can I just take a zinc supplement?

It is not recommended to supplement something forever (we always ask - why aren’t you getting it from your diet, or why isn’t your body absorbing it?) and, with zinc, supplementing in the long term can lead to a deficiency in other minerals including copper. Therefore, it’s good to try and incorporate zinc into your wellness regime and day to day life with organic, whole foods, high in zinc, including:

Red meat


Pumpkin seeds





And more.

To ensure that you are absorbing the nutrients you are ingesting, it’s also important to also ensure your body is producing enough stomach acid so that the stomach and digestive tract can do what it is meant to.

And what about quercetin?

Ok, quercetin is an interesting one too.

For zinc to work most effectively and do its best job, the zinc needs to effectively get *into* the cells of the body (think - right to the middle of the cell). And, how does it best do this?

Meet the concept of an ‘ionophore’.

What is an ionophore?

An ionophore is a vehicle, or substance, that essentially helps with movements of other substances across the barrier on the outside of a cell, helping to take substances into the centre of the cell.

There are a couple of types of ionophores and they work differently.

One type of ionophore creates a channel for substances to flow through into the cell.

Another type of ionophore carries the substances across the cell wall by combining with the substances.

And quercetin is an ionophore?

Right. You got it.

Quercetin is a plant pigment (not dissimilar to something like chlorophyll that gives some plants their green colour) - and also acts as an ionophore. Unlike chlorophyll, quercetin is more often found in red wine, red grapes, berries, apples, onions and also green tea.

Together with zinc, quercetin acts as an ionophore to push zinc into the middle of the cells so that it can get to work.

Without quercetin, zinc may not make it to the centre of cells, making the body and its immune system less powerful in the fight against daily life and the trillions of viruses that we come into contact with on the regular.