RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Prevention and treatment are still the focus as the world waits for a variety of COVID-19 vaccines.

De-Yu Xie has studied plant microbiology for decades. The North Carolina State University professor said green tea, muscadine grapes, and dark chocolate have chemical compounds that can bind to or block a specific SARS-CoV-2 enzyme.

“One of our lab’s focuses is to find nutraceuticals in food or medicinal plants that inhibit either how a virus attaches to human cells or the propagation of a virus in human cells. I know green tea has the richest level and we know their structures and we know that everybody can drink green tea,” Xie said.

Computer simulations conducted by Xie and his team of researches show how the virus reacts with plants already known to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Xie said the simulations show the skin and seeds of the muscadine grape and dark chocolate inhibit the enzyme or protease in the virus. Green tea shows to be the most effective.

“M pro in SARS-CoV-2 is required for the virus to replicate and assemble itself. If we can inhibit or deactivate this protease, the virus will die. I am convinced green tea can have those functions to help everybody,” Xie said.

N.C. State Pd.D students like Yue Zhu had similar results in vitro lab experiments, the university said.

Xie’s research and empirical data are in the early stages. He is not saying it’s a substitute for other safety measures. Xie said people must continue to social distance and wear masks. However, this discovery gives him great hope.

“Every day, my wife, my son, when I go home, we have tea,” Xie said. “Go out, come home, and have another tea.”

The findings appear in Frontiers in Plant Science. Zhu is the paper’s first author. The research was supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.