As we reach the end of 2020, I can honestly say I’m as shocked, bewildered, saddened, and confused as everyone else! It was a year ago that we first heard of the Covid19 outbreak in China and the extreme measures being taken to contain it there. My global herbal family wasted no time in getting the low down from the Chinese TCM Doctors as to how the virus was manifesting in patients at each stage, and which herbs they were finding effective. Just as there was a panic buy of toilet rolls in Sainsburys, there was a panic buy of those herbs by Herbalists. Online forums publishing the latest studies from around the world became too overwhelming to follow, whilst slowly, slowly, Covid patients began coming to us for help. 

Why People Turn To Herbal Medicine For Help With Covid19

To begin with, most were existing or past patients whose natural inclination was to return to their trusted Medical Herbalist. The news of ICU wards filled with patients gasping for breath, and makeshift mortuaries terrified them. Many were convinced that if they went into hospital, they’d never come out, and were desperate to stay home at any cost. We started to see case studies from Herbalists in the UK and US supporting patients who were going rapidly downhill but not yet in need of hospital. We were quickly thrown back into the old traditional way of working: observing the patient (as best you can online!), asking lots of questions, and treating accordingly. Although a handful herbs are now being researched into their effects on Covid, in the absence of any science at all, we had to rely on observations from the Chinese hospitals, gut instinct, and our usual skills and experience.

The first case study I read about a lady with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and elderly parents to care for, was impressive. Her Herbalist, a good friend of mine, used medicine made only from herbs you may well have growing in your garden, along with mustard poultices and footbaths. She felt the first footbath changed the course of her illness immediately, and she began to recover from that point onwards.

A friend was treated by a colleague who she swears saved her life, and I’ve heard countless similar stories. Patients of mine who were being treated for other conditions had their herbal prescription altered when they contracted Covid, and so far all have made a quick and full recovery. I’m now seeing more patients with ‘Long Covid’, which appears far harder to treat certainly than the early stages of Covid itself! One chose to return home from hospital, where she said goodbye to her family, convinced she was going to die. Thankfully she’s now recovered from the physical damage thanks to the herbs, but the trauma will take much longer to heal. 

Traditional Herbal Medicine And Covid19

Early on I felt the urge to make Rosemary smudge sticks, which in 21 years of practice I’d never done before! Rosemary is not the most obvious choice for Covid, and although medical fumigation has been used to treat chest infections for centuries,  I had no idea why I felt it had to be Rosemary. Later I discovered that Rosmarinic acid in Rosemary helps to stop the virus entering the body via the ACE2 receptors in the lungs.  Intuition is still alive and well in the world of herbal medicine!

I have every faith in herbal medicine to help in all circumstances, and despite being a novel virus, Covid is no exception. This year the herbal community has silently done its bit in taking the pressure off our healthcare system, both by helping patients to stay out of hospital, and caring for exhausted medical staff. Of course, for those times when a person is desperately ill, hospital is the best place, and thankfully mainstream medicine has also been able to find effective treatments during the course of the year.

How Herbs And Nutrition Can Help Protect Against Covid19

In terms of prevention, there’s always something we can do but many of us think of it in the wrong way. It’s a mistake to think in terms of ‘boosting your immune system’. That sounds more like a quick box ticking exercise when actually Covid calls on us all to step up and take the best care of ourselves in the long term.

Immunity isn’t just about your immune system. First, the virus needs to enter your body via the mucous membranes (slimy skin) in your respiratory system. When we’re tested, the swab picks up mucous from the nose and throat, and the Covid virus will sometimes be found even when a person has no symptoms. How does that happen? It’s likely that their mucous membranes are working well enough to trap the virus without allowing it into the body, where it would kick off an immune response and some noticeable symptoms. There’s a lot to be said for looking after your mucous membranes and maybe it would be more accurate to call these people ‘carriers’ rather than ‘cases’. Nonetheless, these people can still pass the virus on to someone more vulnerable via droplets from their mouth, or contaminating surfaces with dirty hands. That’s why hand hygiene and face coverings are so important.

In terms of general herbs and nutrition for the immune system I’d recommend:

  • Making sure at least 1/2 your diet is a rainbow of veg, and a little fruit.
  • Taking a good probiotic, or a probiotic food/drink every day (1)
  • Supplementing with Zinc,  1000IU’s Vitamin D, and 1-3g vitamin C daily. Both C and D can be increased dramatically if you become unwell, but seek advice from a qualified practitioner about dosage.
  • Drinking elderberry (or elderflower) cordial to care for your mucous membranes.
  • Taking small doses of Echinacea and Fire Cider every day. I can make a bespoke tonic for you following a mini appointment if you prefer.

If you feel you have Covid and are worried about your symptoms, start by getting tested and seeking appropriate medical help in the usual way.  Whilst home herbal remedies are generally safe, they need to be used correctly, so please get advice from a Medical Herbalist before using them. We’ve learnt that Covid doesn’t behave in the same predictable way that other viruses can, and a Medical Herbalist may be able to spot a warning sign which may not be obvious and help you get appropriate treatment quickly. Even in otherwise healthy individuals, the illness can still change very suddenly, and the treatment will need to change just as fast. With the exception of very mild cases, I’d suggest getting professional advice from a Medical Herbalist.

And as for the effects of Covid on your mental health, herbs can help you to feel calmer and more in control. With herbal medicine there’s no need to feel helpless and hopeless, because there’s always something you can do. I’ve honestly never been more grateful to work with herbal medicines, and I think over time more and more people will want to reconnect with the old ways of treating illness. Keep an eye on the ‘Learn With Me’ page on here for new online courses coming up, and message me if you ever need help.

Image courtesy of evgeni-tcherkasski on Unsplash.

References:

(1) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32430279/

 

 

 

 

 

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