Can Vitamins or Herbs Help Protect Us from Radiation? → Washingtons Blog
Can Vitamins or Herbs Help Protect Us from Radiation? - Washingtons Blog

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Can Vitamins or Herbs Help Protect Us from Radiation?

Preface: This is written for the millions of people around the world who are worried about radiation from the Japanese nuclear reactors. For those who are not worried about radiation from Japan, you can ignore this post, or save it for any future radiation scares closer to home.

How do we protect ourselves against radiation?

It is true that potassium iodide protects against high doses of a certain type of radiation. As the New York Times notes:

Fortunately, an easy form of protection is potassium iodide, a simple compound typically added to table salt to prevent goiter and a form of mental retardation caused by a dietary lack of iodine.

If ingested promptly after a nuclear accident, potassium iodide, in concentrated form, can help reduce the dose of radiation to the thyroid and thus the risk of cancer. In the United States, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommends that people living within a 10-mile emergency planning zone around a nuclear plant have access to potassium iodide tablets.

Indeed, virtually all suppliers of potassium iodide have sold out, especially after , the U.S. Surgeon General recommended that West Coast residents stock up.

But as I noted yesterday:

Keep in mind that iodide only protects against one particular radioactive element: radioactive iodine, technically known as iodine-131. Iodine-131 has a half life of only 8.02 days. That means that the iodine loses half of its radioactivity within 8 days.

The government hasn't stockpiled much potassium iodide. As the New York Times notes:

Congress passed legislation in 2002 requiring the federal government to supply potassium iodide capsules to people living within 20 miles of nuclear power plants in the United States.

But the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama have not implemented that provision, saying the law allows for alternatives.

Some states have given pills to people living within 10 miles of nuclear plants, or stockpiled the pills for those people.

But given that the government says that only minute amounts of radiation will hit the United States, and given that iodine-131 has such a short half-life, the whole issue may be moot (many, however, do not trust the government's assurances. See this and this). And taking high doses of potassium iodide can be harmful, especially for people with certain pre-existing medical conditions. So talk to your doctor before taking any.

Other Radiation Dangers

While iodine-131 poisoning can be prevented with potassium iodide, there are no silver bullets for other radioactive isotopes.

As I pointed out yesterday:

The New York Times noted last week that - in addition to iodine-131, the big danger is cesium:

Over the long term, the big threat to human health is cesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years.

At that rate of disintegration, John Emsley wrote in “Nature’s Building Blocks” (Oxford, 2001), “it takes over 200 years to reduce it to 1 percent of its former level.”

It is cesium-137 that still contaminates much of the land in Ukraine around the Chernobyl reactor.


Cesium-137 mixes easily with water and is chemically similar to potassium. It thus mimics how potassium gets metabolized in the body and can enter through many foods, including milk.


The Environmental Protection Agency says that ... once dispersed in the environment ... cesium-137 “is impossible to avoid.”

Cesium-137 is light enough to be carried by the wind a substantial distance.

There is no surefire prevention for cesium-137. As the EPA notes in a discussion entitled " What can I do to protect myself and my family from cesium-137?":

Cesium-137 that is dispersed in the environment, like that from atmospheric testing, is impossible to avoid.

Neither the EPA - nor any other government agency - gives advice on how to minimize the danger from cesium-137 poisoning. Some have theorized about

So does that mean that we're sitting ducks?

Well, the fact that there is no silver bullet (although some have theorized about potential approaches) does not mean that there is nothing we can do.

Some Foods and Herbs May Help

Many foods and herbs have shown efficacy in helping to protect against radiation poisoning. Indeed, antioxidants in general have been found by some studies to reduce the consequences of radiation exposure.

A leading alternative health authority - Dr. Andrew Weil, a medical doctor who runs the Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona - writes today in response to the question of how to protect ourselves against radiation:

I discussed other preventive strategies with Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., director of The Fellowship at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and an expert on botanical health. She said that there is reason to believe that taking two to four grams of curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, can help protect a number of body tissues. In addition, reishi and cordyceps mushrooms can protect bone marrow from toxic assaults, and antioxidants can help the body defend itself from radiation damage. Since radioactive particles may be carried by dust, having a HEPA filter in your home would also be a good idea in the event of a nuclear accident that is close enough to be of concern.

Dr. Tieraona Low Dog is a medical doctor who has impressive credentials in herbal medicine, and who has been tapped to fill a number of health related posts in government.

Retired neurosurgeon Dr. Russell Blaylock - on the editorial staff of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons - also recommends foods and herbs to help protect us from radiation:

“Most of the health risks are not going to be due to acute radiation poisoning,” he tells Newsmax. “It’s going to be a risk of increased cancer.” …

If radiation does arrive in the United States, people would need “to change their diet. They need to stop eating Western farm products,” Blaylock says. …

Among the supplements he cited, iodine can protect the thyroid gland if taken before the exposure to radiation.

Gingko biloba can be protective even after exposure to radiation. Beta-glucan protects the bone marrow. Curcumin also can offer protection after exposure, particularly against breast cancer. He also suggests garlic extract, ginger, melatonin, and magnesium. …

We understand if all of this sounds a bit flakey, crunchy, woo-woo and hippy-ish.

And none of these are 100% effective even against low doses of radiation.

But there are actually numerous scientific studies backing up the ability of some foods and herbs to help protect us from radiation. Admittedly, some scientific studies are good studies and some are of worthless quality. But the rest of this post will round up some of the scientific literature for your review.

As the Journal of Clinical Biochemical Nutrition noted in 2007:
The results obtained from in vitro and in vivo studies indicate that several botanicals such as Gingko biloba, Centella asiatica, Hippophae rhamnoides, Ocimum sanctum, Panax ginseng, Podophyllum hexandrum, Amaranthus paniculatus, Emblica officinalis, Phyllanthus amarus, Piper longum, Tinospora cordifoila, Mentha arvensis, Mentha piperita, Syzygium cumini, Zingiber officinale, Ageratum conyzoides, Aegle marmelos and Aphanamixis polystachya protect against radiation-induced lethality, lipid peroxidation and DNA damage.
Many inexpensive foods have protective properties against radiation, including:
  • Garlic (one Indian tribe living in the desert of Nevada used to eat bulbs of raw garlic to help protect against radiation from the above-ground nuclear tests)
  • Curcurim (and see this) - the active ingredient in turmeric which, in turn, is in yellow curry (available in Indian and Thai dishes).
  • Miso (when it has been "long-fermented", instead of fermented for a shorter time)
Many herbs and supplements available at health food stores and drugstores pharmacies have protective properties against radiation, including:
  • Vitamin E (see this and this; the natural form is probably much healthier for you than the synthetic form)
  • Holy basil (and see this; also called tulasi; this is the top herb in traditional Ayurvedic - i.e. Indian - medicine)
  • Chlorella, a blue-green algae (see this and this)
  • Spirulina, a blue-green algae available at health food stores

  • Sesamol (an extract from sesame seeds)
  • Thiol family of antioxidants, such as N-acetyl cysteine, glutathione and thioproline

And many herbs commonly available in some parts of the world have protective properties against radiation, including:

  • Aloe arborescens (commonly known as "Krantz Aloe", a lesser-known member of the aloe family)
Note: Just because herbs are "natural" does not mean that they can be swallowed in large doses without side effects. Herbs can have powerful effects, just like medicine. As such, you should treat them with respect and study proper dosage and potential side effects before taking them.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a health professional, and this should not be taken as medical advice.
Nothing contained herein is intended to diagnose or treat any condition. You should consult your doctor before making any decisions about whether or not to take any of the foods, herbs, supplements or substances mentioned herein.


  1. You cannot protect yourself from radiation. It's everywhere. HELLO? It's like trying to avoid air.

    Taking Potassium Iodide can be worse that radiation exposure. This is completely irresponsible.

  2. If you did a proper scientific literature search you would see that things such as Ginko Biloba and Ginseng are supposed to cure everything under the sun.
    Is this real research, or simply wasting of public research funds?
    You decide.

  3. What do you know about Modifilan?

  4. It's important to find supplement sources that are reliable too... SO many of the biggies fail lead testing. I was up in Woodstock last weekend talking to a very seemingly knowledgeable man about which companies test reliably and which don't. I bought a whole food multi from the brand he recommended most strongly, but I haven't quite finished my old, Vitamin Shoppe multi (I hear they have an iffy track record). So I don't remember this touted brand. I'll come back & post the name again so anyone interested can do some googling.


    US: Would you like to know if radiation levels in the U.S. begin to rise above normal? Here is a map featuring Geiger counter readings in almost every state. It updates every 3 minutes. RadiationNetwork 2011 posted Mar 18

  6. I did this experiment to find a Gamma/Beta detector that could be built by someone with only some knowledge of physics.

  7. I find the potassium iodide shortage comments funny. I have over 400 extra tablets that I put on sale on eBay and Craigslist, about $1.50 tablet. A little pricey, but not exhorbitant. Not a single bite.

    There's others selling KI on eBay, too. A lot of people. George, you need to do more research before publishing things, but otherwise, good article.

    Maybe somebody out to report THAT!

  8. Ginkgo really is effective for a number of things, with good scientific documentation especially in areas like circulation (increases pain free walking distance by almost 50% in claudication). The dementia prevention claims are hard to study but effects are somewhat iffy, and in established dementia nothing really does much good.

    A study in 2009 showed some protection of human lymphocytes from the effects of radiation:
    But oddly enough it increased the effects of radiation on mouse tumor cells, probably by increasing blood flow:

    And for what it's worth (sympathetic magic?} there was a very old ginkgo at almost the exact hypocenter of the explosion at Hiroshima that eventually grew back from the root.

  9. Kelp itself or Kelp Tablets or Liquid Form, seaweed, strawberries, green tea also can help too from what I read and heard from a nutritionist and nuclear physicist but again nothing is for sure but at least any protection is better than none.

  10. Nowadays оnly for VIP Japanese doing cleaning of blood from radionuclides (hemodialysis with activated carbon removes about 10% of radionuclides from the body) and enterosorption with activated carbon and Clinoptilolite-zeolite (removes approximately 30% of radionuclides).
    After Chernobyl, such methods of treatment are used only for KGB officers.
    I'm curious:
    "Does that progressive methods use for the treatment workers in the Fukushima nuclear power plant ?"

  11. The radioprotective compounds are so :"flakey,crunch,woo-woo,and hippy-ish" that the US military has a chapter on their use in :
    "Textbook of Military Medicine-Medical Consequences of Nuclear Warfare,1989"(available at Amazon and other locations. I have them in my medical chest,next to my Geiger counter and track shoes.

  12. why do we even bother believing any thing any one of our government say the head honcho is now famous for lying

  13. Taking Potassium Iodide can be worse that radiation exposure. This is completely irresponsible !so eric ,all of america are idiots then right because all of the pills are sould out and all of the cowards have ran question are they coming back and when

  14. can you say censer sure you can

  15. Thanks for the blog! this is very informative!

  16. has the products that are addressed in this Blog. Check it out!


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