Many of my patients have been asking about what steps can be taken to boost their immunity surrounding the fears of the coronavirus spread.
My recommendations are very similar to what I usually suggest to protect yourself from the ‘flu, however there are some specific herbal medicines which I have listed below that would be most helpful in the prevention of this specific virus. These herbs have not been studied against this particular virus and I am in no way claiming they can be used as a treatment nor offering complete promise of prevention, but rather sharing information about herbs that have been used in previous instances against similar viruses.
It goes without saying that limiting the spread of infection is one of the most important considerations of reducing any viral threat, so I suggest be prepared with remedies at home to take at first sign of any infection.
As with any viral infections, it is kind and wise not to intentionally share your germs.
What do we know about coronavirus
The virus is thought to have originated from a seafood market in Wuhan, a central Chinese city. Currently, all confirmed cases of the virus in Australia are in individuals who have recently visited Wuhan with minimal human-human transmission occurring in Australia, although such cases are expected, and have occurred in China.
In all the cases of those who have died from this virus, the individual has suffered from an underlying condition, was elderly or frail, and therefore had reduced ability to mount an appropriate immune response. Currently, there are no available effective medical treatments.
Thankfully many natural preventative treatment options are available. Please read this information to learn how you can improve your immune system.
The main causes for concern relate to what is not known about the virus:
- It is not known how virulent this strain of coronavirus is.
- It is not known how it is transmitted or how long it lives on surfaces; however, it is thought that coming within a 1 metre radius of an infected person increases the likelihood of transmission
- It is not known if the person is able to transmit the virus before symptoms appear
The Corona Virus Family
This current coronavirus is part of a family of viruses, named as such because they have crown like spikes on their surface. There are seven coronaviruses that affect humans, the most well known of which is the SARS virus.
Thankfully, the 2019-nCoV recently named as COVID-19 appears to have a much lower fatality rate than previous coronavirus outbreaks such as SARS and MERS, or other deadly viral diseases such as Ebola. The current estimated fatality rate of the 2019-nCoV is variable, approximately 1-3% for those who are not classed in an ‘at risk’ group.
Individuals who have died from this coronavirus are individuals who would have been at similar risk from a common seasonal influenza, which helps to contextualise the lethality of this outbreak. However, it is possible that the virus could mutate and become more deadly.
For perspective, the mortality rate of SARS was 10%, MERS was 36%, whilst the Ebola virus killed half of all individuals infected.
Those at most risk:
- The elderly
- The very young
- Those with compromised immune systems or other severe health issues
The main symptoms include:
- Difficulty breathing.
Other symptoms can be a sore throat, runny and stuffy nose.
Viruses are deeply interwoven into our planet and are highly adaptable. They can alter their structure rapidly based on their analysis of the environment that surrounds them. Viruses are highly intelligent and so if we are to adapt to improve our own resilience, a novel approach to viruses is called for. Natural medicine provides many answers here.
Arming yourself with knowledge and natural medicines to help support your immune system and respiratory health can help you to feel prepared.
Tips for Prevention
Common Sense Tips to Reduce the Spread of Viruses
- Regularly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- Cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing with a tissue or flexed elbow. Avoid coughing into your hands. Throw the tissue into a closed bin after use.
- Avoid close contact with individuals who display cold and flu-like symptoms
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth when out and about.
- Avoid travel if you have a fever or a cough
- Avoid travel if you are immunocompromised or have a chronic illness, or if you are regularly in close contact with individuals who are immunocompromised.
- If you have symptoms that you suspect may be the coronavirus, it is important to seek medical care early, but first notify your health authorities before attending a medical practice.
- Eat only well-cooked food while travelling
Natural treatment options
As yet no medications or vaccinations are available for the coronavirus. There are a range of herbal medicines which have shown efficacy against similar viruses such as SARS that can be used in a preventative manner.
Excessive stimulation of the immune system may be detrimental. In the case of the SARS-CoV / COVID-19 it is not known whether the virus itself is the causal fatal agent, or whether macrophages recruited to the lungs in response to infection with COVID-19 cause fatal immunopathological changes, leading to acute respiratory distress.
Given what we know about the structure of this coronavirus, a formulation of herbs the below may be helpful. It is best to take these herbs in a preventative manner at first thoughts of any exposure, or at least at first signs of any symptoms. The Coronavirus is an encapsulated virus with a positive aspect, and the herbs that are most effective against this form of virus are what have been chosen for this formula.
The other consideration I have with the choice of herbs in this instance is that the virus thrives in what we refer to as ‘damp’ constitutions. You might recognise the signs of a damp constitution as symptoms such as a thick coating on the tongue, feelings of stagnancy and congestion and sluggish bowel movements.
Also included are herbs which do not overly stimulate but rather modulate the immune system are beneficial as the overactivity in response to the virus, also known as a cytokine storm can be responsible for harmful effects. Herbs such as Andrographis which can be valuable for regular infections may be too stimulating if this virus were to take hold.
Lung supportive herbs are also valuable to include, as the virus can cause damage to the lungs.
In addition to the formula I suggest that if a fever occurs, herbal teas that support sweating and reduce the aching can also be helpful, such as Boneset or YEP tea.
If this is something you are interested chat with your herbalist and naturopath about obtaining a personalised herbal formula that consists a version of the following herbs to reduce cytokine dysfunction, look after the lungs, strengthen the immune system and provide anti-viral activity.
- Baical Skullcap
I repeat that these herbs have not been studied against this particular virus and I am in no way claiming they can be used as a treatment nor offering complete promise of prevention, but rather sharing information about herbs that have been used in previous instances against similar viruses.
Please seek advise from health care practitioner before taking if you have high blood pressure.
Individualised herbal formulas are available with consultation.
The amino acid n-acetyl cysteine helps to reduce biofilm formation and is widely used in many mucous based respiratory conditions.
Zinc, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Vitamin D and selenium are beneficial for immune health.
- Reduce intake of sugar which can impair immune activity.
- Include spices in your diet, as these have antimicrobial properties. Examples include garlic, thyme, oregano and sage.
- Mushrooms especially medicinal mushrooms (i.e. shiitake) have a lot of benefit. Supplemental forms of mushrooms are available in consultations.
- Broths and wholegrains provide nutrients that support immune health.
- Foods which warm you and reduce ‘dampness’ are helpful too. Ginger, garlic, chilli, cinnamon, clove and other warming foods and spices should be incorporated liberally into your diet.
- Wash hands well.
- Stay well hydrated.
- Try to minimise stress.
- Avoid smoking and exposure to second hand smoke.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Enjoy moderate exercise.
If you would like extra support in this area chat
with your Naturopath or Nutritionist who can discuss what is best for you.
- Buhner, S, H. 2013. Herbal Antivirals. Storey Publishing.
- del Rio C, Malani PN. COVID-19—New Insights on a Rapidly Changing Epidemic. JAMA. Published online February 28, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.3072