Coronavirus has been our main news story for weeks now, and although it still appears to manifest as mild symptoms in most people, those who are considered high risk are becoming increasingly worried. Despite the absence of any vaccine or mainstream treatment, the WHO until recently were actively discouraging people from using herbal medicines and supplements in order to protect themselves. Some cancer patients are also being told that they’re at high risk, but nothing can be done to help them, and again being discouraged from using herbs or vitamins. This puts them into a terrifying, hopeless and risky position, I believe unnecessarily.
The thing I love most about herbal medicine is that there’s always something you can do. Never in 20 years of practice have I felt helpless and hopeless, and patients soon feel much better simply for doing something proactive. Whilst currently we can’t be certain which western herbs (the kind that I use) are active against this new strain of Coronavirus, we do know which have been helpful in other Coronavirus epidemics over the past few years. Doctors working with Covid 19 in Hubei, China have noticed a significant improvement in outcomes in patients treated with herbal medicine (1) (2). Western Medical Herbalists including myself have been stocking up on both Chinese and Western Herbs over the past few weeks which we feel would be helpful.
However, focussing on which herbs are active against Covid 19 is rather missing the point. Herbal medicine does not work in the same way as mainstream medicine, because we’re more interested in the person’s response to invading viruses than the virus itself. How robust a person is can depend on their genetics, age, any other health problems they have, the medication they take, how stressed they are, and a whole host of other factors. Experience tells us that herbal medicine can be very helpful in strengthening the skin which lines the respiratory system, and encouraging the immune system to work at optimum levels. This works best as part of a wider regime which would include eating highly nutritious foods, supplementing, daily outdoor exercise and plenty of sleep. I’ve used herbal medicine for years with those travelling abroad, and patients with other health problems to help them become more resilient against infections, and it’s proven very effective.
What To Do If You’re High Risk And Worried
If watching the news is upsetting you, the NHS website is an excellent alternative source of information about preventative measures and what to do if you think you have the virus. Whilst it’s interesting to see what’s going on in the news, if it leaves you feeling worried or depressed, that will inevitably be affecting your overall health. So take care about the information you’re feeding yourself, and the effect it’s having on you.
Just as watching negative news stories can affect your wellbeing, affirming that your body is strong is equally powerful. Your mind and body are closely linked, and the way in which you think and speak can make a big difference to how well you feel. By cultivating happiness and telling yourself consistently that your immune system is bombproof, you are helping yourself to build resilience (3). Laughter also strengthens your immunity (4) and I’ve met a number of cancer patients whose white blood cell counts have increased dramatically after having fun with friends and family.
Eat plenty of nutritious food, with at least 1/2 your diet as fruit and veg, and cut out sugar. Aim to get at least 8 hours sleep a night, and/or do some deep relaxation during the day as well as a little exercise.
Follow all the hygiene advice about handwashing, using tissues etc and if you suspect you have contracted Coronavirus, ring 111 for advice.
Some children are becoming worried about Coronavirus, especially where their parents are also concerned, so it’s important to be mindful of what you say and do in front of them. As well as taking a suitable probiotic (5) and potent children’s multivitamin, they may benefit from additional vitamin c and zinc. Use good quality supplements as the ones available on the high street tend not to be potent enough. Give plenty of reassurance and make handwashing fun by singing a 20 second song with them. If they have an underlying health problem or you’re especially worried, consider seeing a Medical Herbalist for a prescribed herbal medicine and/or diffusing suitable essential oils.
Breastfed babies will benefit from any probiotic supplements that their mother takes, or sachets of probiotic powder can be added to food or formula. Herbal medicine can be safely used with newborns but again, seek professional treatment from a Medical Herbalist.
Pregnancy will often weaken the immune system making it harder to fight off invading viruses, and this is partly why the flu vaccine is offered during pregnancy. It’s a good idea to take a probiotic during pregnancy anyway in order to populate baby’s microbiome during and after birth. Chinese Doctors have found that patients suffering with Covid 19 Coronavirus have had relatively low amounts of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains in their gut (6) and most general probiotic supplements will contain these strains. It would also be safe to take Vitamin C, D and zinc in addition to a high quality multivitamin, although you may need some professional guidance on dosage. A Medical Herbalist would be able to make up a herbal mix suitable for use during pregnancy if needed.
Those With Underlying Health Conditions
There are a number of options here depending upon the condition, person’s age etc. Some Doctors research herbs and supplements extensively before advising their patients, and others advise against using any because they feel that they’re ineffective and/or unsafe. Often this is based on assumption rather than firm evidence, and it’s for you to be your own health advocate and seek specialist advice about your herbal/nutritional options. You can always ask your Doctor why if they’re advising against herbal/nutritional treatment and for references of any articles they’ve read so that you can find out more.
The use of probiotics is controversial in those who are on immunosuppressant drugs, but if you’d prefer not to use them, there are still plenty of other things you can do to help yourself. High doses of Vitamin C have proven effective in preventing pneumonia (7) and it may be possible to have IV Vitamin C if you feel that’s appropriate. This would only be available from private Doctors, but well worth considering certainly if you do become infected (8). Cancer patients can safely take prescribed herbal medicines alongside mainstream treatment and in China this has been shown to significantly improve outcomes. It’s important to have your herbal medicine made up for you by a Medical Herbalist who can check for any interactions, prescribe the correct herbs and advise on correct dosage.
If you have a chest problem, or become infected, there are ways of getting medicine directly into the chest where it’s needed most. This could be using steam or smoke inhalations, aromasticks with essential oils, or making up a chest rub. These would ideally be used on top of an internal mix, but there’s nothing to stop you from getting your own diffuser to use at home with some essential oils. (See my previous blog for more information about those)
For the elderly, preparing healthy nutritious foods, getting fresh air exercise is often more difficult, and they may need family and friends to help. However, they may be happy to take vitamins and probiotics and possibly some personalised herbal medicine to help protect them. Liquid vitamins or plant juices may be easier to take, and many probiotic foods can come in liquid form such as kombucha, kefir, miso soup, and raw apple cider vinegar. Diffusing essential oils at home may also be helpful.
Are You Concerned About Being At High Risk From Coronavirus?
Having a personalised medicine made for you by a Medical Herbalist is better than using an ‘off the shelf’ remedy because:
- It can target the areas you’re most worried about, with several herbs mixed into one bottle.
- I can check that any herbs used are not going to interfere with your medication beforehand.
- I can take into account other health conditions which may make certain herbs unsuitable for you.
- I can offer you moral support, keep a close eye for any early signs of infection, and support you accordingly.
- We can work by telemedicine to negate any risk of spreading infection.
Get in touch now to discuss your options.
Please note that Coronavirus is a notifiable disease and you need to contact your NHS Doctor or 111 if you suspect you have it. All advice regarding containment and hygiene practices should be followed.