Preventing side effects after vaccination

Vaccination for COVID-19 is currently underway in Singapore and many countries worldwide. While approved vaccines are considered safe, with very few recipients develop severe adverse events that required hospitalisation, many have complained of mild side effects such as pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, muscle pain, chills, joint pain, and fever.

Some common side effects of COVID-19 vaccines

A vaccine is, by definition, a substance used to stimulate the immune system to produce antibodies against a particular disease. The side effects are consequences from the natural reaction or over-reaction of the immune system triggering inflammatory responses towards an ‘assault’. In the case of COVID-19 vaccine, this ‘assault’ is a fraction of the virus’s genetic material (See my previous post on “COVID-19 vaccines – Evidence, risks, and unknowns“). 

How can we prevent or minimise the side effects then? Maintaining a healthy body and an efficient immune system can certainly help. Here is my choice of herbs and supplements to prepare the body for vaccination. They can be beneficial for moderating immune response to reduce inflammation and prevent side effects.

Rice bran arabinoxylan (Biobran/Lentin Plus)

Biobran is a product of rice bran enzymatically broken down with shiitake mushroom enzyme. It is a beneficial natural supplement for the immune system and commonly used by cancer patients to support their treatments (See “immune Support For Cancer“). Biobran’s immune-modulating benefits are supported by evidence from more than 30 years of research [1]. Biobran is known to reduce side effects of chemotherapy treatments by modulating the immune response [2]. A recent study by Tan and Flores [3] also showed that Biobran could reduce side-effects experienced by patients with head and neck cancer who underwent radiotherapy. The patients who received Biobran had better blood test results, improved quality of life, and lower treatment-related toxicities than the placebo group [3]. Biobran has also been shown in another clinical study to effectively prevent and improve symptoms of upper respiratory infections among older adults [4].

Biobran dietary supplement marketed under the brand name of Lentin Plus

Astragalus (北芪/黄芪)

Astragalus is a common herb in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It is best known as the herb for replenishing the qi (补气). For centuries, Astragalus has been used as an ingredient in herbal formulae and tonic soups to prevent and reduce flu and cold (风寒) [5]. Scientific research shows that Astragalus has anti-viral property and can regulate the immune system [6]. Not surprisingly, Astragalus is one of the recommended herbs by TCM authorities in China to prevent and treat COVID-19 [7]. However, it is advisable not to use this herb during the acute phase of infection [8]. It should be only used for the prevention of disease or restoration of the body after an illness.

Dried Astragalus


Echinacea is one of the most widely used Western herbal medicine for improving the immune system. Scientific research has confirmed that this herb has significant immunomodulatory activities, including activating many different immune cell types such as macrophage, natural killer cells, T and B cells [9]. A recent systematic review found that Echinacea preparation can reduce the risk of upper respiratory tract infections by 22% [10]. Hence, Echinacea is a recommended herb for preventing symptoms of acute respiratory infections and the common cold, particularly when administered at the first sign of infection [11]. As such, Echinacea can also be a choice to modulate the immune system for preventing overreaction to COVID-19 vaccines.

Echinacea flowers.


Curcumin is the active compound found in turmeric, a commonly used spice. It is the chemical that is responsible for the plant’s bright yellow colour. Curcumin is known for its anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties [12].  In cancer research, Curcumin has been shown to improve the cancer vaccine’s efficacy by lowering the activities of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are the immune signalling proteins [13]. This golden compound is tested to have anti-viral activities against various important human viruses like the influenza virus, hepatitis C virus, and human immunodeficiency viruses [14]. There is also evidence suggesting that the anti-inflammatory property of Curcumin can help to reduce pain due to injury or disease conditions [15]. No doubt, I will recommend Curcumin supplement to be taken before and after vaccination for its anti-inflammatory effect to minimise pain and any side-effects.

Curcumin is the bright yellow chemical within turmeric.


Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that keep the body well and healthy. It is well known that taking probiotics supplement can stimulate the whole body’s immune function via the gastrointestinal system [16]. The consumption of probiotics can also influence vaccine responses in general. A systematic review in 2018 found strong evidence to support the use of probiotics to improve influenza vaccination response [17]. Another meta-analysis of 20 clinical trials also found that pre-  probiotics can improve the protection rate of H1N1 vaccine by 83% and H3N2 vaccine by 185% [18]. 

Probiotics in capsule form.


Vaccines for COVID-19 can trigger unwanted side effects such as pain, fatigue, and fever. Even though these side effects are mostly mild and short-lasting, they can be a nuisance and affect productivity. These side effects are the natural reaction or over-reaction of the immune system against the vaccine. Taking immune-modulating herbs and supplements before and after vaccination can potentially help. Biobran, Astragalus, Echinacea, Curcumin, and probiotics are my nutraceutical choices to prevent immune side effects.


[1]         M. Ghoneum, From bench to bedside : The growing use of arabinoxylan rice bran (MGN-3/Biobran) in cancer immunotherapy, Austin Immunol. 1 (2016) 1006.

[2]         S.L. Ooi, D. McMullen, T. Golombick, S.C. Pak, Evidence-based review of BioBran/MGN-3 arabinoxylan compound as a complementary therapy for conventional cancer treatment, Integr. Cancer Ther. 17 (2018) 165–178. doi:10.1177/1534735417735379.

[3]         D.F.S. Tan, J.A.S. Flores, The immunomodulating effects of arabinoxylan rice bran ( Lentin ) on hematologic profile, nutritional status and quality of life among head and neck carcinoma patients undergoing radiation therapy: A double blind randomized control trial, Radiol. Journal, Off. Publ. Philipp. Coll. Radiol. 12 (2020) 11–16.

[4]         H. Maeda, K. Ichihashi, T. Fujii, K. Omura, X. Zhu, M. Anazawa, K. Tazawa, Oral administration of hydrolyzed rice bran prevents the common cold syndrome in the elderly based on its immunomodulatory action, BioFactors. 21 (2004) 185–187. doi:10.1002/biof.552210138.

[5]         黄芪【中药】, 【中医百科】. (n.d.).黄芪 (accessed February 15, 2021).

[6]         Y. Zheng, W. Ren, L. Zhang, Y. Zhang, D. Liu, Y. Liu, A review of the pharmacological action of Astragalus Polysaccharide, Front. Pharmacol. 11 (2020) 349. doi:10.3389/fphar.2020.00349.

[7]         Y. Yang, M.S. Islam, J. Wang, Y. Li, X. Chen, Traditional Chinese medicine in the treatment of patients infected with 2019-new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2): A review and perspective, Int. J. Biol. Sci. 16 (2020) 1708–1717. doi:10.7150/ijbs.45538.

[8]         K. Bone, The Ultimate Herbal Compendium, Phytotherapy Press, Warwick, QLD, 2007.

[9]         B. Barrett, Medicinal properties of Echinacea: a critical review, Phytomedicine. 10 (2003) 66–86. doi:10.1078/094471103321648692.

[10]      S. David, R. Cunningham, Echinacea for the prevention and treatment of upper respiratory tract infections: A  systematic review and meta-analysis, Complement. Ther. Med. 44 (2019) 18–26. doi:10.1016/j.ctim.2019.03.011.

[11]      M. Aucoin, K. Cooley, P.R. Saunders, J. Carè, D. Anheyer, D.N. Medina, V. Cardozo, D. Remy, N. Hannan, A. Garber, The effect of Echinacea spp. on the prevention or treatment of COVID-19 and other respiratory tract infections in humans: A rapid review, Adv. Integr. Med. 7 (2020) 203–217. doi:10.1016/j.aimed.2020.07.004.

[12]      M. Catanzaro, E. Corsini, M. Rosini, M. Racchi, C. Lanni, Immunomodulators inspired by nature: A review on curcumin and Echinacea, Molecules. 23 (2018) 2778. doi:10.3390/molecules23112778.

[13]      M. Singh, I. Ramos, D. Asafu-Adjei, W. Quispe-Tintaya, D. Chandra, A. Jahangir, X. Zang, B.B. Aggarwal, C. Gravekamp, Curcumin improves the therapeutic efficacy of Listeria(at)-Mage-b vaccine in correlation with improved T-cell responses in blood of a triple-negative breast cancer model 4T1, Cancer Med. 2 (2013) 571–582. doi:10.1002/cam4.94.

[14]      D. Praditya, L. Kirchhoff, J. Brüning, H. Rachmawati, J. Steinmann, E. Steinmann, Anti-infective properties of the golden spice curcumin, Front. Microbiol. 10 (2019) 912. doi:10.3389/fmicb.2019.00912.

[15]      J. Sun, F. Chen, C. Braun, Y.-Q. Zhou, H. Rittner, Y.-K. Tian, X.-Y. Cai, D.-W. Ye, Role of curcumin in the management of pathological pain, Phytomedicine. 48 (2018) 129–140. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2018.04.045.

[16]      C. Maldonado Galdeano, S.I. Cazorla, J.M. Lemme Dumit, E. Vélez, G. Perdigón, Beneficial effects of probiotic consumption on the immune system, Ann. Nutr. Metab. 74 (2019) 115–124. doi:10.1159/000496426.

[17]      P. Zimmermann, N. Curtis, The influence of probiotics on vaccine responses – A systematic review, Vaccine. 36 (2018) 207–213. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2017.08.069.

[18]      W.-T. Lei, P.-C. Shih, S.-J. Liu, C.-Y. Lin, T.-L. Yeh, Effect of probiotics and prebiotics on immune response to influenza vaccination in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, Nutrients. 9 (2017). doi:10.3390/nu9111175.

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