There has been much talk about Coronavirus (Co-vid 19) and how to prevent the spread. Clearly prevention is important. Less has been said about what to do to support the body should a person become infected not about preventative medicine. This is unfortunate. A healthy body is much less likely to suffer in the same way as someone chronically ill. There is much we can do to treat symptoms and prevent an infection getting serious enough to require hospitalization.
So, what is one to do?
It is imperative to understand how the virus works. That provides indicators of what herbs may be of most use. Herbs historically have been used as medicine for 1000’s of years. Western medicine, with a history of perhaps 200 years struggles to make headway in treating viruses. The main pharmaceuticals available are vaccines. These take about a year to develop and are only partially effective. The complexity of a plant’s constituents can make them more suitable for treating unknown illnesses. These synergistic properties have been scientifically proven, again and again, to be effective. Modern science has encouraged Medical Herbalists to evidence base the reasons for their choice of herbs providing reassurance and professional riggor.
With that in mind - Back to Coronavirus….
The symptoms of fever, coughing and difficulty breathing are well known. The virus can sit on surfaces for 72 hours and can cling to our clothing or be passed on by stealth in people unaware they are infected. Its relatives, the SARS and MARS virus have given us further insight into how it works. We know that Co-Vid 19 attacks the cilia of the lung epithelial cells. These cilia are responsible for creating a wave like pattern that allows the lungs to excrete and remove toxins or waste from the lung tissue. Killing off these cilia allows debris and fluid to build up. As the mucus can no longer be removed, the immune system triggers a coughing response to excrete the now multiplying virus out of the lungs and on to infect others. The toilet roll frenzy associated with this outbreak is connected to what we know of SARS and MARS. Both were capable of penetrating the digestive tract, causing diarrhea. The virus has been identified in both faeces and urine.
Inside the body, the immune system starts releasing cytokines in response to the arrival of this virus. Co-vid 19 is adept at hijacking the cytokines and using them to their own ends. If these cytokines can’t beat the virus more are released in a bid to fight the virus. This results in inflammation. It is a positive feedback loop that continues until the body finds a way to deal with the virus or gives up due to overwhelm.
How does our little viral friend do this?
All co-vid viruses are capable of latching onto Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme-2 (ACE-2). These are tightly associated with the Renin-Angiotensin System (RAS) which regulates the dilating and constricting the blood vessels. Infected cytokines travel through the organs such as the liver and kidneys. This is important; impeded to do its job properly, all organs of the body are affected. This effectively causes pneumonia in the lungs and flooding in all the other organs of the body, ultimately putting the heart and lungs under pressure. The elderly and immune compromised are more at risk because as we age, we produce less ACE 2 and therefore offer less natural resilience.
(So, what can be done?
The good news is that there are a number of herbs that protect ACE-2’s. These include: Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicanensis), Elder (Sambucca niger), Horse chestnut (Aesculus hipposcastanum), Cinnamon (Cinnamonum verum) and Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum). Yes, you read that right. Japanese Knotweed, a herb that is a pervasive weed, impossible to irradicate turns out to be an extremely potent plant against a number of viruses. It is also rich in reservatol which has been proven to be a wonderful antioxidant that lowers blood pressure, moderates insulin and protects the brain. Whilst it is available in blue berries and red wine its richest source is in this much derided weed
Cilia protective herbs include Codyceps spp, olive oil and olive leaf (Olea Europa) along with plants such as Berberis (Berberis vulgaris) or Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). Herbs that upregulate ACE-2 function for the elderly might include Kudzu (Pueria spp.), Salvia miltiorrhiza (Dan, shen) and Gingko (Gingko biloba). ACE inhibitors that indirectly increase the amount of ACE-2 include Hawthorn (Crataegus spp). Salvia miltorrhiza is an herb that is often used to normalize cytokine dysfunction. Japanese knotweed and Chinese skullcap along with Cordyceps have been shown to downregulate IL-1B which can reduce the impact of the disease and mortality. Rodiola (Rodiola) is an herb that protects the cells from oxidative damage and increases intracellular oxygen diffusion. Many of the above-mentioned herbs are also indicated to protect the lymph, spleen and in reducing autoimmunity.
(Credit to Stephen Buhner from whom much of this information is sourced).
For the foodie, there are a vast array of herbs that can help build both the immune system, respiratory system and in the fight against viruses. Elderberries have been used for millennia as an anti-viral. Whilst Elderberries and Elderflowers have historically been used in both food and medicine it is the Elder leaf and bark which is the most potent antiviral against Corona. Whilst poisoness, decocting the herb before tincturing it, ensures these toxins are denatured.
Other herbs in the kitchen or herb garden that help the respiratory system include elecampane, thyme, star anise, turmeric, echinancea, marshmallow, and yarrow to name but a few. I’ve included a couple of traditional recipes you may like to try below.
And finally, if you do catch the Coronavirus….
Guidelines are as follows: Avoid dairy and sugar as they increase the amount of mucus. Increase the amount of fruit and veg but limit foods to fruits, smoothies or juices during a fever. Stay hydrated, keep rooms ventilated and open the windows to ease breathing. Try not to lie flat as lungs clear much easier when sitting upright or leaning forward and catch any phlegm in a tissue and dispose. Diffusers can help with essential oils such as eucalyptus, rosemary, thyme or peppermint.
Failing all else – you can always contact your local herbalist for some of the herbal tinctures mentioned above. As coronavirus is a notifiable disease it is also imperative to inform your GP for further tests. If you have any questions you can contact me via www.thewildsage.co.uk for find me on facebook or Instagram as @thewildirishsage
I will have many of the herbs and tinctures stocked in preparation for people I know getting sick to coronavirus. Whilst I cannot list these blends as a cure for Coronavirus and am limited by my insurance and public liability I am happy to make these herbal tinctures availabe to people willing to purchase at their own risk. I cannot make promises about the herbs for legal reasons but if you would like to avail of them then please do not hesitate to contact me for more information.
100g dried elderberries
Cinnamon, Staranise, Black peppercorn, Cardamon, ginger can all be added to help give flavor.
Directions: Cover Elderberries and spices in water and simmer for 30-60 minutes. Add sugar in a ratio of Elderberry syrup to sugar of 2:1. This can be taken straight daily in tsp during the peak of virus season. Alternatively you can add a spoonful to a cup of hot water for a delicious drink.
Pontack: (Recipe from River Cottage).
500g elderberries (fresh or rehydrated)
500g apple cider vinegar
4 all spice berries
1 blade of mace
1Tbsp black peppercorns
15g fresh root ginger.
Place berries in a slow cooker with the vinegar and put on a low heat for 4-6 hours. Remove and strain berries crushing them to obtain the maximum amount of juice. Add the rest of the ingredients to the juice and boil for 20-25 minutes until slightly reduced. Strain. Return to pan and boild for 5 minutes and pour into warm sterilised bottles. Pontack grows better with age. Apparently tasting its best after 7 years. I’m not sure mine makes it that long. You can add this to stews, casseroles or to sauces and gravies.
6 parts elderberry
6 parts ginger
5 parts mint
3 parts tulsi
3 parts anise seeds/clove
2 parts orange zest
1.5 parts yarrow
1 part liquorice.
Add 1 dsp to a cup of hot water and infuse for 10 -15 minutes.
Alternatively for people who love black tea…
10 parts black tea
3 parts cinnamon
2 parts sage
2 parts thyme
2 parts winter savory
2 parts liquorice
2 parts rosemary.
Directions: As above.