There is a way to control COVID that, in combination with essential strategies like vaccination and masks, may help make a greater difference: this strategy is to coat the inside of your nose with a broad-spectrum agent that will kill the virus. For example, people have come up with a virus-killing polypeptide spray, which when applied in the nose, protected ferrets from getting COVID. That is super exciting, and I would pay money to get my hands on it if it ever cleared human trials and got marketed widely. But the world is a graveyard where great solutions go to die every single day, and I KNOW I’m likely never going to see that on the market.
Mid last year, I came across a ridiculously exciting study showing that a 5% glycerol monolaurin gel could be applied safely in the nose of human volunteers, and also had the capacity to kill bacteria and enveloped viruses (the coronavirus and flu virus are both enveloped).
While I practically vibrated with excitement on reading that, I had no dire need for it at that point. Later that year, my father fell ill, and was hospitalized (not with COVID, thank god). I wanted to travel internationally to see him, and that’s when I thought of the monolaurin gel again. I wrote to the scientist on a mad lark, and he very kindly responded, and taught me how to make the gel (all ingredients are available on Amazon).
I used that gel for my journey, and oh so thankfully left the ingredients with my parents in India so they could make more. I never shared what I had learned because though I had evidence that the gel was safe to use (unless you had an allergy to an ingredient in it), I had no idea whether it worked against COVID or anything else. The scientist had told me he had been giving it to his friends and family, and anecdotally, it seemed to work (eg: autoshop worker in Iowa using it daily was the only person at his workplace to NOT get COVID). But his research on this in COVID had never taken off for many of the same reasons all ideas like this eventually never make it to market – there is insufficient interest.
Then last week, a friend’s daughter w/ COVID cases in school fell ill. Her symptoms included stuffed sinuses and ears, rattling cough, totally raw nostrils (this is also a child prone to nose bleeds), very sore throat, headache, and low-grade fever. A COVID test came negative, & the doctor refused to start antibiotics. Since this child was totally miserable, I figured why not try the monolaurin gel and monolaurin pills to take orally, since this was a *maybe* viral infection? I gave these to the mom at 9 at night, and was FLOORED by the messages I saw the next morning.
Well, I don’t totally know what this magic in a bottle is that you gave me, but we have had a very peaceful night. I gave her the little pills and the nose cream. No coughing, no bloody noses, no drowning in her own snot sounds. We were nowhere near rounding a corner when we went to bed, so I’m shocked.
Oh, M’s raw red nose is a completely normal color this morning. Wow. That gel is amazing.
The child, who had been miserable with an infection for 3-4 days and was nowhere near getting better when she started the monolaurin, felt better super fast after she did. Whenever anything like this anecdotally works, you can never be sure if it is a coincidence or not. But this does not seem a coincidence. I also had a somewhat similar experience where I felt a sinus infection coming on, a while before my friend’s experience. I was sneezing, and my sinuses felt inflamed and achy. I applied the gel, and poof, it just literally all went away. This seems to work really fast.
But you can’t go by anecdotal experience to make a claim. The only way you would know is if someone did the rigorously controlled and well-designed research. I can tell you that based on frustrating experience, no one will. I spoke about its to a family member who is a doctor – she seemed intrigued, and I asked her, can you do a clinical study? That was a no-go – at the end of that day, everyone’s hands are tied in ropes of practical and logistical concerns. I could ask a dozen doctors if they wanted to study this and get nowhere. But when I or someone in my family have a respiratory infection, I’ll know what to take. I’ve debated long and hard whether to share my experience, but I think sharing it is the right thing to do, especially with the situation in India. I am so, so glad my family has this.
Adding to the meager evidence suggesting that monolaurin can maybe protect, a study published in Nature, which examined 51 health care workers in Italy all at high risk of catching COVID, showed that those who did not get COVID had higher blood levels of monolaurin. Monolaurin blood levels correlated strongly with protection against COVID. Now, correlation is not causation, but since there is a theoretical mechanistic path to monolaurin being protective, these results become more intriguing. And since it does not hurt and is inexpensive, here we are, taking monolaurin orally and applying the gel daily. Since the anterior nares are very vascular, it is likely that the applied monolaurin is absorbed and maybe accumulates in the nasal epithelial and other cells, which would be the first cells to encounter the virus, producing a more robust form of protection. This however is mere supposition on my part.
Here is the recipe to make the gel:
Ingredients: Lauricidin and K-Y Warming Jelly
You will need a kitchen scale to weigh out the lauricidin. Mix 2.5 g of Lauricidin with 50 mL of K-Y Jelly in a small 1-cup measuring cup. Preheat your oven to 175 F (about 78 C) and heat for about an hour till the lauricidin is completely solubilized. Mix with a spoon, and distribute into glass or plastic jars – I used these. I apply to the nose using a cue tip, going all the way up to the bone. The gel should be fine at room temperature as long as it is kept tightly sealed.
Monolaurin is “generally recognized as safe” by the FDA, and god knows, KY Jelly is widely applied to mucosal surfaces. Yet, anyone could suffer reactions on using this gel if they were allergic to any of the ingredients in either. While I am disclosing the formulation of the gel I have personally used and that has been tested in human volunteers in a small study, I do not recommend this be used before consulting an appropriately licensed professional, such as your doctor – please proceed after talking to them, if you wish to try this.
I want to emphasize that this can never ever be a substitute for vaccination against COVID. In an unprecedented situation like this, it is extremely sensible to have multiple layers of protection. Vaccination is the strongest, most robust layer, and should not be skipped. Masking is also a strong layer of protection that should not be forgone, but you need to make sure your fabric mask fits CDC guidelines and is good enough, or check if the KN95 mask you are using is legit – lots of fakes out there. Then you add something like this as extra insurance. Vitamin D in the normal range also matters as an extra layer of protection.
General disclaimer: This blog provides general information and serves as a forum for discussing about medicine and health in the context of the latest studies. The words and other content provided in this blog, and in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice. If the reader or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately licensed physician or other health care worker. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or an emergency number immediately. The views expressed on this blog and website have no relation to those of any academic, hospital, practice or other institution with which the authors are affiliated.