Ken's Wellness Weekly

Iodine and COVID

I am such a big believer in the use of iodine that I end up recommending it to about 80% of all those I consult with. (For more information on why that is, see my blogs, How 3 Nutrients Can Heal Most Ailments, Iodine Madness, and Revisiting Iodine.) And, I devoted a full chapter to the subject in Health Secrets for the 21st Century: Volume 2. And even so, I only scratched the surface of what iodine is required for, and capable of. So, of course, I wanted to find out how iodine might fare in dealing with COVID, and what follows is what I discovered on the subject.

Iodine and Influenza

David Derry, MD, PhD, is the author of “Iodine: The Forgotten Weapon Against Influenza Viruses”, and one who believes iodine is underutilized in modern medicine. In his book he discusses research done, following the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which was to determine which agents were the most effective against influenza viruses. Such research found that the most effective agent was iodine, which was protective when used in hand washing, and when incorporated into aerosols (sprayed mists), masks, and oral forms of delivery.

As an interesting side note, in Dr. In Derry's book he mentions that the Japanese people did not fare any better during this pandemic than the rest of the world, even though they have a high iodine intake. He believes the problem was, during that time period the Japanese had some of the highest consumption rates of nitrates in the world. Nitrates (used as a preservative in cured and processed meats) “in high doses competitively block membrane transport mechanisms that move iodine from the blood into the thyroid gland, salivary glands, and stomach mucus glands. This nitrate effect would interfere with body defense systems.” This is something we should all be aware of if we are using iodine to improve our health. (Also, be aware that the natural “celery extract” now being used to replace nitrates in meats, contains more nitrates than the synthetic version used previously.)

In 1945, Nobel prize winner Sir Frank Macfarlane Burnet showed that mice with iodine rubbed on their snouts survived after being exposed to lethal doses of influenza, while the control group, with no iodine protection, all died. He then stated that, “it may be worth considering iodine vapor as a practical means of limiting indoor infection during an influenza epidemic”. (Source)

In 1943, scientists showed that the vaccinia virus could be killed with a 3% tincture of iodine, and, in 1955, it was determined that tincture of iodine would destroy the poliovirus. (Source)

Currently, a new study titled “Iodine, a preventive and curative agent in the COVID-19 pandemic?”, set out to encourage more research into the potential of using iodine for dealing with this new pandemic. The authors point out that the field of medicine has long been aware of the germicidal properties of iodine, and its ability to fight both bacterial and viral infections, and thus it has been used prophylactically to fight various forms of influenza. In fact, in 1957, during the Asian flu pandemic, a product called “Mandi’s Paint” appeared to prevent the development of that strain of influenza.

In a group of people treated with Mandi’s Paint, 2.8% developed the Asian flu, whereas in the untreated group 14% developed this flu. Even among those who already had this flu, using Mandi’s Paint iodine “after three days of illness reduced the number of cases significantly compared to the control group, the effect being clear after only two days of treatment”.  Still available today, out of India, Mandi’s Paint “is used as throat paint for the treatment of pharyngitis, laryngitis, tonsillitis and sore throat”. This product contains 1.25% iodine, 2.5% potassium iodide, along with water, alcohol, peppermint oil and glycerin (10%). The glycerine works to coat the throat (thus the term “paint”), holding the iodine compounds in place longer than a straight liquid solution would. Something worth keeping in mind, should you try making your own iodine concoction.

More modern research (2013) found that “in newborn lambs inoculated with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), iodine treatment resulted in less lung lesions and less pulmonary expression of RSV antigen. Also, in 3-week-old lambs it was demonstrated that iodine supplementation reduced the severity of RSV-infection.”  Such research has led researchers to take a closer look at using iodine for fighting and treating COVID-19. In further justifying their call for research into iodine and COVID, the authors point out that iodine deficiency affects as much as one third of the world population, and that iodine is simple, inexpensive, safe, and has limited side effects, as well as fast uptake via oral supplementation. (Study)

Iodine Mouthwash and Nasal Rinse

As far back as 1904, iodine had been used as a throat rinse to successfully reduce symptoms of pneumonia. And today new research is supporting the use of iodine in oral rinses to fight the COVID virus. An article I found on a dentistry website provided more evidence for the use of iodine in dealing with the COVID virus. Here they stated that: “In a recent study by the Institute for Antiviral Research at Utah State University, it was demonstrated that the COVID-19 virus can be completely inactivated with a 30-second exposure to a 100 ppm molecular iodine mouth rinse.”

While the authors of this article are trying to encourage further research into the use of iodine, they are particularly interested in “molecular iodine”, which they state is the “only species of iodine that is antimicrobial”. They then point out that: “Hospitals and medical facilities worldwide use povidone-iodine. (PVP-1, also known as Betadine) as a standard of care in infection control, even though it contains very small amounts of molecular iodine.”

Molecular iodine only occurs in trace amounts in PVP-1 (2 -3 parts per million), but nonetheless this product has proven highly effective at killing bacteria, fungi, and viruses.

Now, PVP-1 is used in medical environments “as a scrub for surgeries as well as hand disinfection for surgical personnel, and it has been an integral antiseptic as a wound disinfectant”.  Furthermore, PVP-1 “is a valuable antiseptic in its treatment of periodontal disease and a variety of other oral infections. Research has shown that it kills all periodontal pathogens in vitro within 15–20 seconds”.

So, using iodine to disinfect the oral cavity is a powerful preventative approach to dealing with all dangerous viruses, including COVID. There are however, some drawbacks from using PVP-1, those being its bad taste, and potential for staining, or toxicity if overused. However, a new generation product is now on the market which contains 100 times more molecular iodine than PVP-1, while eliminating the potential side effects that povidone-iodine has. This new, patented formulation is available in hand sanitizers, mouthrinses, and nasal sprays, from IoTech International.

Given that, as pointed out at the beginning of this section, molecular iodine showed a complete viral inactivation of COVID-19 after 30 seconds of gargling and swishing, “it seems prudent that it be used in medical and dental environments”. (Source

Internal Use of Iodine

Iodine for Covid” is the title of an article published in March of 2020, on ResearchGate, written by Dr. Gary Warren. Dr. Warren states, “it is reported in the literature that sufficient iodine supplementation makes the nasal mucus replete with iodine which then kills virus on contact, thus reducing the chance of infection”.  Therefore, he suggests that the daily iodine intake should be raised from 150 mcg (the Recommended Daily Allowance) to 1100 mcg (the UL, the upper tolerable limit), which “shows good probability to both reduce Covid-19 infection and mortality”.

He goes on to say, “Iodine is known to destroy Covid-19 at a concentration of .023% iodine. That corresponds to 230 mcg of iodine per gram of mucus, more than the RDA, less than the UL. More precisely, the UL is 14 mcg per pound of weight, which provides a range from 1000 mcg to over 3000 mcg, allowing for more iodine-replete mucus for larger people.” (Source)  This recommendation from Dr. Warren, that we take between 1 and 3 mg of iodine daily, matches my current belief. My research has concluded that the Japanese average iodine intake is between 2 and 3 mg daily, which puts Dr. Warren’s recommendation within the normal food intake of humans, always a safe place to reside.

This intake level requires a lot of seaweed daily, or the use of Lugol’s Solution (5% = 1 drop every two days; 2% = 1 drop, 5 days a week), or Nascent iodine (5 drops providing 2 mg of iodine, 5 days a week). Since iodine is ideally diluted in water before ingesting, we also get a bit of a rinse as we swallow, allowing for killing off any bacteria or virus that may be hanging out in the oral cavity.

More on the Oral Cavity

When using iodine as a gargle or rinse, whether from a commercial product, or from making your own solution at home, it appears that a certain frequency is required for optimal protection.

One study “aimed to review publications on local control measures that contribute toward the reduction of SARS-CoV-2 viral load in patients with COVID-19, with the intent of making the host oral cavity and nasopharyngeal mucosa less contagious, controlling droplet transmission mainly to healthcare providers.”  
On the basis In our opinion, PVP-I could be considered an adjunct to personal protective equipment during this pandemic. However, as the viral load of the mucosa in the oral cavity, throat, and nose is high and anatomically integrated, recontamination will occur soon after rinsing. Thus, the literature recommends applying PVP-I every 2-3 hours, up to four times per day.” (Source)

Just remember, if you are using your own iodine mixture for the purposes of gargling and rinsing, be sure to spit it out afterwards. It is okay to quickly swirl around the mouth the iodine in water that you are ingesting, before swallowing. However, when gargling and rinsing for 30 seconds or more, this mixture will pick up bad bacteria and viral matter, and should not be swallowed thereafter.


Ken Peters has been in the health and nutrition field for over 30 years as a researcher, writer, and nutritional consultant.  He works in product research and development for NutriStart Vitamin Company, among others.  
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