Quercetin finds itself in a number of Sanctuary protocols due to the multiplicity of benefits it has to offer. The natural substance boasts among its most well known functions effects in ameliorating allergies, preventing oxidation of LDL cholesterol, assisting in metal detoxification, and providing anti-oxidant protection. Lesser known benefits include in prostatitis and very mild effects on lowering blood pressure and blood sugar. 2020 has highlighted its anti-viral effects as many use it in COVID 19 protocols.
Summaries of effects:
Allergies: The easiest and most common use of quercetin comes up when helping patients overcome a variety of allergies. Whether suffering from sinus issues, food sensitivities, or mast cell activation, quercetin can help shift our bodies away from the histamine which underlies allergic reactions. On one hand, it can inhibit release of histamine from mast cells (immune cells). On another hand, it can also lower IgE reactions which trigger histamine release.
Controlling mast cells and their subsequent release of histamine ranks high in the therapy for mold toxicity. Quercetin serves this otherwise difficult hurdle to therapy. It stabilizes mast cells so that they are less likely to release histamine or other immune stimulating chemicals.
In regular, old-fashioned allergies, many long-term allergies sufferers who have been dependent on anti-histamines and nasal steroids find that they can often wean off these pharmaceuticals partially or entirely.
Cholesterol: Oxidation of LDL cholesterol appears to underlie advancing atherosclerosis. Once oxidized, this LDL then triggers the immune system to cause arterial wall inflammation. By reducing LDL oxidation, atherosclerosis can be prevented. In a study by Graf et al, cardiovascular mortality was even reduced with quercetin intake. This seemed to be related to its scavenging free radicals and chelating metals.
While not confirmed, given that some research links mast cells and histamine to non-cholesterol related heart attacks, I wonder if quercetin is also acting through this mechanism as well.
Metals Detoxification: Quercetin remarkably finds a way to also protect animals from lead and cadmium toxicity through a variety of mechanisms. These include methallothionein, nitric oxide synthases (NOS), COX-2, MAPK, and NF-kappaB (see acronym key below)>
Antioxidant: Quercetin boasts major antioxidant capacity. It is comparable to curcumin in its scope.
Prostatitis: In one study, men who took quercetin 500mg twice daily for 1 month had a statistically significant improvement in prostate symptoms. 67% noted improvement versus only 20% of those on placebo therapy. Pain and quality of life improved but some urinary symptoms did not improve.
Blood Pressure and Blood Sugar: The effects on pressure and sugar are modest at best, but should be kept in mind when prescribing. The decrease in blood pressure was only 2-3 points in one study. The decrease in blood sugar was barely noticeable in another study while another did not show changes at lower doses.
Viral effects: With 2020’s excessive attention to anti-viral therapy thanks to COVID 19, several studies relating quercetin’s anti-viral effects deserve attention. A few studies indicate that quercetin may be preventive or therapeutic with a variety of viral infections.
Other areas being researched but without adequate support for recommendations:
Memory and Brain Function
How To take quercetin:
- Many sources of quercetin exist in food, yet effective dosages for our symptomatic patients are rarely reached through food alone. The highest concentration can be found in capers but also moderately in the outer layers of onions. It is also found in apples, apricots, blueberries, cranberries, black plums, kale, alfalfa sprouts, green beans, broccoli, black tea, and chili powder. Be aware however that supplementation is necessary for clinical disease treatment. Food sources serve more for prevention.
- For symptomatic allergies: Quercetin only works to prevent the release of histamine, meaning that once a reaction has occurred, quercetin has no immediate effect. Most find that twice daily dosing for 3 to 4 days is necessary before noting clinical benefits. By 7 days, the majority of benefit has occurred. At that point, dosing could be increased if symptoms remain. Infrequently, patients may need three times a day dosing or a higher dose.
Potential side effects:
- Allergic reactions: As with nearly any therapy, any one can develop allergies to any chemical we give them. Severe reactions are extremely rare with quercetin, but low grade subtle effects may occur. Blood tests can reveal these sensitivities.
- In mold toxic patients, nearly all bets are off in terms of reacting to chemicals or therapies. Mold patients are possibly the most sensitive patients we see. In such patients, the normally allergy-decreasing quercetin may trigger very unusual reactions. With detox of mold, these usually resolve but at times we are not able to use quercetin in normal dosages.
- GI symptoms: Even when taken alone, many patients have sensitive stomachs and find quercetin to cause a little nausea. Usually this can be prevented with simultaneous food ingestion.
- COMT interference: At one point in the recent past, many in functional medicine and nutrigenomics expressed concern that quercetin might hinder already slowed COMT function. Catechol O methyl transferase, COMT, processes many neuro-transmitters, estrogen, and other metabolically important chemicals. The concern centered around whether an individual with COMT 158, 62, or 199 SNPS, which already greatly reduced the enzymes function, might suffer negative consequences from a further interference. Studies later indicate that while quercetin does slow the enzyme down considerably, the effect would only occur in a laboratory test tube where concentrations were high enough. The amount of quercetin which a human would need to ingest in order to reach these active concentrations is unlikely without a major overdose. Therefore, we do not restrict quercetin for patients with COMT SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms).
- Renal: A study suggested that quercetin may cause renal decline in patient already suffering from renal insufficiency. This is not clear but caution should be taken in those individuals. In patients with normal renal function, there does not appear to be any risk of kidney harm.
- OATP1B1 transport: Quercetin may increase uptake of the following drugs, increaeasing their concentrations: Statin drugs for cholesterol, Estrogens, valasartan, enalapril, methotrexate, fexofenadine.
- CYP2C9 inhibitor: Quercetin may slow the breakdown of chemicals metabolized by CYP2C9 and thus raise their levels: diclofenac, Fluvastatin, celecoxib, glipizide, ibuprofen, losartan, phenytoin, piroxicam, warfarin, and tamoxifen.
- CYP3A activator: Quercetin may speed up the activity of this enzyme and thus lower the levels of: midazolam.
NF kappa B – Nuclear Factor kappa B. This protein plays a central role in promoting inflammation. A wide variety of triggers set off a cascade of downstream processes that all begin with NF kappa B. Once NK kappa B is triggered, these downstream processes carry out the metabolic pathways which produce what we perceive as inflammation.
COX-2: Cyclo-oxygenase 2 enzyme. This enzyme plays an important role in the inflammatory pathway. By converting arachidonic acid, an omega 6 fatty acid associated with inflammation, into prostaglandins, COX-2 sets off a cascade of processes leading to prostaglandins which cause inflammation. While a similar enzyme called COX-1 is always working at a relatively consistent low level, COX-2 is activated with inflammation.
NOS: inducible Nitric Oxide Synthase. This is one of the three enzymes responsible for producing nitric oxide in the body. NOS2 is the gene which produces this enzyme. This form is found in immune cells that are used to attack invaders like bacteria with oxidation. NOS is inducible because it is turned on when a need for immune defense is identified but turned down when the perceived threat is over.
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Sanctuary Functional Medicine, under the direction of Dr Eric Potter, IFMCP MD, provides functional medicine services to Nashville, Middle Tennessee and beyond. We frequently treat patients from Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, and more... offering the hope of healthier more abundant lives to those with chronic illness.