Monrovia, Liberia—While health officials worldwide are consumed with containing the Ebola outbreak in West Africa that has killed more 3,000 people as of press time, some individuals are looking into whether supplements like selenium can have any effect.

There is no known cure for Ebola, be it natural or pharmaceutical, and any affected individuals must seek medical help immediately. Physicians try to improve patients’ chance for survival by offering fluids, oxygen, blood transfusions and other therapies. Front Page Africa has reported that an ELWA2 Ebola Isolation Unit in Monrovia, Liberia, discharged 50 individuals who recovered from the disease in the past two months. One of the many supplies used to help patients has been selenium mixed with chloroquine, a malaria drug. Physician Rick Sacra, an American aid worker who was transported to the United States after contracting Ebola and who recovered, was given selenium as part of his treatment; treatment also included experimental Ebola drugs, electrolytes and other therapies, according to 90.9 Wbur, Boston’s National Public Radio news station.

Front Page Africa recently cited some information from WholeFoods science editor Richard A. Passwater about selenium, including an October 1996 Vitamin Connection column featuring an interview with Will Taylor, Ph.D., now a professor at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, discussing selenium research. The same column was also referenced in the August 31 edition of Modern Ghana. A 1997 review article by Dr. Taylor on “Selenium and Viral Diseases: Facts and Hypotheses,” (September 28, 1997), is available at

According to Passwater, “I have recently been contacted by researchers seeking additional information and even a supply of selenium supplements, which have suddenly become in short supply in much of West Africa. The Voice of America and church groups have called for selenium supplements to be sent to Africa.”

He adds, “We also remind readers that this is preliminary research and no clinical results or pharmaceutical claims are made or implied for this nutrient.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently sent warning letters to several companies claiming to offer supplements that treat Ebola, including nano-silver products and essential oils. Stated the agency on the “Emergency Preparedness and Response” section of its Web site, “There are currently no FDA-approved vaccines or prescription or over-the-counter drugs to prevent or treat Ebola. Individuals and companies promoting these unapproved and fraudulent products must take immediate action to correct or remove these claims or face potential FDA action.”


Published in WholeFoods Magazine, November 2014 (online 10/1/14)