What Is Coronavirus (2019 nCov)?
Coronavirus (2019 nCov) is one of a family of viruses which we’ve encountered over the past few years, including SARS and MERS. The situation is changing so rapidly, you can keep up to date with the known figures here, but bear in mind that there will be many inaccuracies, even from official sources.
The race is now on to find a vaccine and fast track it to market, but in the meantime, we will need to try and protect ourselves using natural means.
Being Objective About Coronavirus
Whilst its important that we’re aware of what to look out for with coronavirus, we also need to be objective when listening to news stories about it. We are only hearing about those hospitalised or who have died from the virus, and not about the many more who have made a full recovery at home.
What Are The Symptoms Of Coronavirus?
The symptoms much the same as a cold/flu. The main ones are:
- Runny nose
- Sore throat
- Feeling generally tired and unwell
Pneumonia is a common complication but it can be difficult to diagnose. You can read what to look out for here, and get urgent medical help if you think you have it.
We know that conjunctivitis can also be a problem for some people as the virus causes inflammation in the mucous membranes. Get advice from your GP or 111 if this happens to you.
Following a bout of Coronavirus it can take up to 4 weeks to feel completely well again, so if you can convalesce for that period of time, please do.
How Dangerous Is Coronavirus?
For various reasons it’s very difficult to be clear on this. We don’t have widespread testing in the UK, so many more will have had the virus than we know of and we can’t keep a tab on numbers. We also need to bear in mind that some of those who have died were already very poorly, so the exact cause of death, even if they tested positive for the virus is unknown.
Those who appear to be at highest risk of complications from the virus are older men, particularly if they have other health conditions. There’s no clear evidence either way regarding pregnant women, although it would seem sensible for them to take extra care, as we know they’re at higher risk from related viruses like Influenza. Older people, those of all ages with other health conditions, and those with low immunity should likewise take extra care.
Complications include pneumonia and long term damage to the respiratory system. If you consider yourself to be high risk, it would be wise to start taking measures to protect yourself now. Please be aware that this is uncharted territory both for mainstream and naturopathic medicine, so this is general advice based on previous coronavirus outbreaks, and the experience of Medical Herbalists from around the world.
Prevention Of Coronavirus – Building Your Immunity
When we get into a car, we put our seatbelt on as a safety measure, but we don’t then spend the entire journey terrified that we’ll be involved in an accident. The same applies with Coronavirus: we need to take sensible measures to protect ourselves, but otherwise carry on without worrying. Outbreaks like this give us the perfect opportunity to review how well we’re caring for ourselves in every sense, and what we’re doing to help make ourselves more robust against all kinds of infection. So for general good self care you could:
- Make sure you’re treating food as medicine by ‘eating a rainbow’ of fruit and veg every day. Around 1/2 your food intake should ideally be made up of fruit and veg, but mainly veg.
- Top up your nutrients with extra Vitamin C. A small study in 1999 found that megadoses of Vitamin C prevented viral respiratory tract infections when compared to a control group (1). You will need to take several grams a day if you’d like to follow this protocol, and it can cause mild diarrhoea if you don’t build the dose up gradually. Other studies looking at Vitamin C and SARS have also shown promising results in preventing the development of pneumonia, a known complication of Coronavirus (2)
- Make sure you keep tissues and hand sanitiser with you.
- Wash your hands thoroughly several times a day, and air your home well once or twice daily.
- Get plenty of sleep and some daily outdoor exercise to help keep your immune system healthy.
- Take a good quality probiotic, which will help to ‘train’ the immune system, and some evidence suggests can be effective in helping to prevent and treat respiratory tract infections (3)
Herbs You Could Use To Help Improve Your Immune Function
In general, good herbs you could take to help protect yourself would include:
- Garlic. As an absolute minimum use 1 clove a day in your food, but 2-3 is better if you’re at high risk. Onions, which come from the same family also have protective properties for all kinds of respiratory illnesses.
- Turmeric – the main active ingredient is fat soluble, so this is best taken in curries, milk, or tablets made with coconut oil and black pepper to aid absorption.
- Ginger – is a powerful antiviral and since in Chinese medicine the Coronavirus causes dampness when we look at it energetically, it may be helpful to include small amounts of spices like Ginger which have a drying effect.
- Echinacea and Elderberry – are both strong antivirals and Elderberry in particular helps to protect the respiratory system.
If You Think You Have Coronavirus
- Ring 111 or your GP Surgery for advice (don’t go to the surgery) particularly if you think you’re at high risk of complications.
- Continue following the prevention advice above.
- Take higher doses of vitamin C. Gradually increase your dose until your bowels become loose, then reduce slightly until they return to normal.
- Supplement with good amounts of Vitamin D.
- Have plenty of warm drinks, preferably with some warming spices like Ginger, Cayenne or Cardamom.
- Keep family and friends at a distance as much as possible, and encourage them to wash hands regularly.
- Book a mini appointment with me by telemedicine to get a personalised plan in place, and some herbal medicine through the post.
- Take aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen or other NSAIDs as they supress immunity and make the virus easier to spread (4)
- Eat sugary or junky foods as they reduce immune function.
- Eat dairy foods as they are mucous forming.
- Return to work/college/normal life until you feel completely well, and even then, take it easy.
Herbal Treatment Of Coronavirus Infection
As with all health conditions, its important to use the correct herbs at each stage of the illness. In China where this strain has originated, Doctors who use Traditional Chinese Medicine have a deep understanding of how it affects the body, and which herbs to use depending on how the symptoms are presenting at the time. This knowledge has now been translated for Western Medical Herbalists to use, and we already have herbs in stock to care for those affected by, or worried about the virus. Over the past few weeks, some Western Herbs have shown interesting results in preliminary trials. These include Ginkgo and Stinging Nettle, although tests are still ongoing.
Herbs containing a group of constituents called Saikosaponins have been shown effective against Coronavirus (5). These herbs are not generally available on the high street and need to be used with care, although Medical Herbalists do stock them and have expert knowledge on how to use them safely and effectively.
Steam inhalations using certain essential oils may also be helpful in strengthening the immune system and killing the virus at the same time. Bay essential oil has been shown active against other forms of Coronavirus in the past, but any with an affinity for the respiratory system, including Thyme or Eucalyptus may be helpful. Smoke inhalations of herbs using smudge sticks have been traditionally used to relax the smooth muscle in the lungs, making it easier to breathe.
There’s a lot you can do to help care for yourself at home if you think you have Coronavirus. Treatments should ideally be tailored to your personal needs, so please get some guidance from a Medical Herbalist.
Are you worried about, or have you been affected by Coronavirus?
It’s likely that there will be other Coronavirus outbreaks in future, so it’s worth thinking about your long term health as well as the immediate risk.
Message me now to book your mini appointment, and we can look at your options together.