Coronavirus: An Herbalist's Response, Part II
So now that we have the basics of what COVID-19 is, let’s look at what we can do with herbs to help strengthen our immune systems and serve as natural allies in this situation. Just for safety’s sake, I’m going to reiterate what I’ve said in my initial post about Coronavirus- that I am not attempting to diagnose, treat, or cure any illness, and I highly recommend using herbs and natural health components in conjunction with your conventional medicine practitioners. It’s a collaborative effort.
I also mentioned in my previous post that we have to be very selective about what herbs we are choosing for this situation because we do not want to aggravate the potential ‘cytokine storm’. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, go back and read my initial post- An Herbalist’s Take on the Coronavirus. It’s got a lot of good information on what the virus is, and how it works in the body.
I cannot emphasis enough how much real food and the nutrients they contain can improve the terrain of your immune system, and body as a whole. Vitamin C, for example was a huge factor in being able to turn around the SARS virus in patients, and those with pneumonia. We all immediately think of oranges, but you may not know that rosehips (Rosa canina and Rosa rubiginosa) contain a significantly higher amount of vitamin C- a key factor in including them in our Elderberry Syrup! Magnesium, zinc, vitamin D3, selenium, B-complex, and vitamin A all play into the balance of the immune system, but vitamin C is the one I’m really going to push home here.
Antivirals and adaptogens are going to be foundational in addressing the support of the immune system as well. Antivirals are exactly what they sound like. Medicinenet.com defines an antiviral as “an agent that kills a virus or that suppresses its ability to replicate and, hence, inhibits its capacity to multiply and reproduce”. In other words, really good juju for viral infections. Now, we’ve been feed the idea that there’s nothing you can do for a viral infection, and that’s only partly true. No, there’s not an over-the-counter pill the pharmacy can hand you to kill the virus. Vaccines are another story there, that I’m not going to get into at this time, because at this present moment, there is no vaccine available for the COVID-19 strain. However, there are herbal options for viral protection, and I’ll be sharing a couple of the top ones in relation to COVID-19. Adaptogens are herbs that help your body adapt to and process stress. Can I get an amen here? Stress is a real thing, whether we can see it or not, and it has a very real impact on our bodies. Stress in the form of sickness can overload our system as well, so we will be looking at some of my favorites here too.
Our first antiviral is one you’ll probably recognize- elderberry. Sambucus nigra is high in vitamin C, is anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial, with an emphasis on helping kick bronchitis in particular. It not only makes it difficult for the virus to attach to the cell, but even more importantly impedes the replication of the virus through the neuraminidase enzyme using Cyanidin-3-sambubioside. Does that look suspiciously similar to cyanide? Yes- but the potentially toxic chemicals are neutralized through proper processing of the berries by a trained herbalist. Let me add a note in here though, that stands for all herbs. There are contraindications associated, and special instructions. If your herbalist does not know these, they could be exposing you to a less-than-safe product. Again- know your herbalist!
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is a close second for me because of it’s action as a secretolytic expectorant. That is to say it loosens sticky mucous that is being stubborn and not moving out of the lungs like we need it to. It is antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and slows replication of SARS, MERS, and COVID-19 viruses.
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) is a go-to for immune support, but in this case, we value it just as much for it’s lymphatic support and a specific proclivity for influenza in its antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal actions.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is probably the easiest of the herbs to incorporate into your diet. We’re including it here for its effectiveness against influenza A & B, but also viral pneumonia and rhinovirus. My favorite thing to make with garlic is Fire Cider. Fire cider has a long history in folk medicine (and recent controversy). We shared an entire blog post recently about how to make it, and how to incorporate it into cold & flu season- find it here: https://arcanemoonapothecaria.com/blogs/news/fire-cider-the-history-the-recipe-and-the-controversy
In the adaptogen field, I would focus on ones like ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) for it’s anti-inflammatory action, but as much for it’s antispasmodic action on coughs, and the ability to modulate (aka balance out) the immune system response. This really kicks in when you’re looking at a cytokine storm problem. Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris) improves lung function, while schisandra (Schisandra chinensis) is high in vitamin C, works as an expectorant, anti-inflammatory and an immune tonic. Last but not least, I favor tulsi, or holy basil (Ocimum gratissimum) for it’s anti-viral, anti-bacterial, expectorant and immunomodulation action similar to ashawandha and schisandra.
Remember, coronavirus is essentially a lower respiratory infection, with a side of immune system overreaction. We need to keep the lymphatic system moving and cleaning up the mess, so we don’t find ourselves in an official state of inflammation. Echinacea is one of those herbs that supports lymphatic function and supports immune response.
The cough that accompanies the infection will be the next part to address- you need something that will soothe the cough so the person can get some rest, but you also need a balance that encourages the expectorant action of the lungs clearing themselves- again, the definition of natural health and holistic medicine is the idea that the body can heal it’s self, it just needs a little support sometimes! My favorite blend for this is our Wracked Tea Blend made with passionflower (Passiflora incarnate), valerian (Valeriana officinalis) and mullein (Verbascum thapsus).
So, to summarize- support your body by giving it good food, good exercise, and good rest. Keep the lymph flowing with purposeful movement, and build up your immune system with herbal allies. If you do become ill with a cold, the flu, or any variation of those, give your body what it needs in herbal support to move the congestion out of the lungs to improve recovery. All of the herbs and suggestions I’ve laid out in this post are available on our website, and we are available to answer questions at any time through our contact points. (www.ArcaneMoonApothecaria.com)
Of course, if you are sick, it’s always a good idea to seek the advice of your physician or other healthcare practitioner.
Calhoun, L. D. (2019, December 24). Fire Cider: The History, the Recipe, and the Controversy... Retrieved March 3, 2020, from https://arcanemoonapothecaria.com/blogs/news/fire-cider-the-history-the-recipe-and-the-controversy
Elderberry and interferon could cure Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) infection. (2020, February 4). Retrieved March 3, 2020, from https://www.sentinelassam.com/editorial/elderberry-and-interferon-could-cure-novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-infection/
Jr., W. C. S. (2017, January 25). Definition of Antiviral. Retrieved March 3, 2020, from https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=10211
Little, C. (2020, March 1). Coronavirus and Herbs ~ a two part plan! Retrieved March 3, 2020, from https://www.studiobotanica.com/coronavirus-and-herbs/
Noveille, A. (2020, February 28). Coronavirus, Herbalism, and Pandemic Preparedness. Retrieved March 3, 2020, from http://blog.indieherbalist.com/herbalism-coronavirus-pandemic/?fbclid=IwAR1VW11yOwxAukCF4drdjPAVr8Gp7s_8yzfSCvVVYneIHtqusOuv-k2Fcxo