A Herbalist’s View on Keeping Healthy and Positive during the COVID 19 Outbreak
A Herbalist’s View on Keeping Well and Staying Positive during the Covid 19 Outbreak
By Sara Rooney, BSc (Hons), Ba (Hons) Member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists
The current situation is unprecedented, although many initial facts are emerging, we are still unsure how the Covid 19 virus affects so many. I have held off writing anything to you until we have a slightly better understanding of this novel virus and the implications this global spread and the effects social distancing may have.
The following is merely my personal research and evaluation on the best we can do to prevent further spread and best support our health, wellbeing and immune system during this challenging time.
There is a lot of false information and fake news out there, so it is important to clarify and use trusted sources for valuable information. This is what I aim to do. I will keep updating the information I have on my blog page on my website www.sararooneyherbalist.com.
There is currently NO CURE, preventing infection is by strict hygiene practices (hand washing frequently for 20 seconds) and avoiding unnecessary contact with people and with infected surfaces. Social distancing is the BEST protection and isolation if you believe may have any symptoms, to protect the community as a whole.
These recommendations are suggestions to support your health and wellbeing through this challenging time.
• Good Hygiene and Strict Prevention of Infection is Vital
It is well recognized that good hygiene is fundamental to stop the spread of this virus, proper hand washing frequently with soap is the best protection… WHY you say – interesting question? Sometimes, it is good to really understand why we should do things. Go to https://www.sciencefocus.com/news/coronavirus-can-hand-washing-really-stop-the-spread-of-covid-19/
Use hand sanitizer if in an environments where it is not possible to wash hands. Why is hand sanitizer effective against enveloped viruses such as COVID 19 rather than unenveloped like NOROVIRUS…?
NB. Hand sanitizer MUST be 60 per cent alcohol base to be effective.
Specifically AVOID at all times, the sharing of food utensils, drinks, touching shared surfaces.
• Keep updated. Latest recommendations; with the NHS here https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/
Stress and the immune system:
1. Chronic stress suppresses our immune system by releasing cortisol. High Cortisol lowers our immunity, especially long term. It is super important to try and keep it in balanced as much as possible during this unprecedented time and reduce stress and tension.
Yoga, meditation, fresh air, gardening, chats with friends and LAUGHTER. If you are feeling you are in of extra support get in touch with a counselor, online or mindfulness practitioner or class. It really is okay to ask for help or support … it is pressure for everyone and it is best to feel as balanced as we can.
• Healthy sleep habits and keeping routines
Sleep is restorative and very important for overall immunity so try and benefit as much as possible from this. Consider early nights and getting up a bit earlier for some yoga and meditation now it is getting lighter. Also, restrict caffeine and alcohol, these can both affect our nervous systems and sleep pattern. Make a turmeric lattes in the evening before bed, with turmeric, coconut oil, black pepper, cinnamon and plant based milk. See my website blog for recipe.
Aim for between 7 to 9 hours sleep.
Restrict news media and social media
Although we all want to keep on top of what’s going on, beware of social media. Research has conclusively shown it can actually create higher cortisol levels and stress response – Be mindful on how and why you are checking updates. Use technology to keep in touch, have fun, do online activities like live yoga, Zumba or art classes. Lots is being offered online now. Audibles are offering free access to children and teens.
However, avoid general scaremongering, fake news, excessive Facebook and similar communications as they create anxiety, negative thoughts and emotions.
Keep an exercise routine
Online yoga, exercise classes, so much on offer right now… and often free! Make the most of it and build into a routine, your body and mind will really thank you for it. The body coach Joe Wicks, on his YouTube channel does a fun online 30 mins work out every morning with children at 9 am weekdays.
Many yoga studios are offering classes now through Zoom at regular times so you can still keep up your practice and in fact have more time to spend on it.
‘Let food be thy medicine’ Hippocrates
Nourishing nutrition: Basic principles, eat as well as you possible can. I profoundly believe this is fundamental to you and your families’ ongoing health.
The more nutrients you can give yourself at this time the better. 6 to 10 servings of veg. and fruit, a rainbow of phytonutrients is recommended daily. https://thechalkboardmag.com/best-nutrient-dense-food
See if you can support a vegetable box scheme, especially in times of social distancing.
Grow your own if you can, this can even be produced in a flat – all you need is a sunny spot, some seeds, water and compost. Herbs and salad greens, all grow quickly.
Try sprouting – sprouts are full of goodness, digestive enzymes and only take 5 days! Mung beans and lentil sprouts are great in stir fries and salads. https://draxe.com/nutrition/sprout/
Lots of steamed vegetables. Cooked dark leafy greens/foraged greens
Try making vegetables broths such as Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) and medicinal mushroom such as Reishi and Shitake used extensively in China, where Astragalus is added to soups as soon as someone feels ill. One teaspoon per 500 mls. It has a neutral taste and you buy as small bits of the root or in slices. However, it is only used in Chinese medicine in the prevention of illness NOT in an acute stage of illness.
You can use chicken or beef bone broth if you eat meat.
Baked fruit such as baked or sauced apples, cooked berries adding spices such as ginger, cinnamon and cardamom.
Include herbs and spices with all your food such as garlic, cumin, coriander, oregano, basil, cinnamon, bay, sage.
Lots of Garlic and Ginger!! A clove of garlic uncooked if possible in salad dressings, pesto’s, sauces (and lots in food).
Fermented foods, sauerkraut, miso, kimchi, natural yoghurts. Start fermenting now, learn a new skill. These contain natural beneficial bacteria and digestive enzymes. They are love food that support our overall health and immunity. Delicious fermented food that supports your gut health will be ready in 5 days. https://www.organicauthority.com/buzz-news/10-fermented-foods-you-can-easily-make-at-home
Infuse herbs like thyme, rosemary and sage into organic apple vinegar. Have one to two teaspoons daily or on salads. You can make an oxymel which is vinegar infused with raw honey for a healthy shot.
Go foraging if you can get out and avoid close social contact
Chickweed, greens, dandelion, nettles, plantain wild rocket are all out now! These all contain high levels of nutrients and are easily accessible and nutritional rich.
Learn more about these: on My Spring foraging and nettle soup blog
Checkout ‘Foraged by Fern’ on Facebook a great foraging resource.
Eat weeds by Robin Hartford
Herbal and supplement support
Supplements. The BIG 4 Recommended
Vitamin D: especially important towards the end of the Winter I suggest up to 3000iu daily for adults. Vitamin D plays a significant role is supporting immune health. Take with a meal with fat if possible as better absorbed. I often find in with patients that symptoms of getting frequent respiratory infections, this can be linked to low vitamin D status.
Vitamin C: useful at preventing respiratory infections, 1000 mg daily. A free radical scavenger that protects against infectious disease.
Zinc; Zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system and has been shown to help prevent respiratory infections, 15 to 30 mg a day.
Probiotics: gut health and a balanced gut flora is essential for immune heath; I recommend a broad spectrum either Biokult, Nutri advanced, Udos choice probiotics or if budget prevails, Symprove liquid probiotic which is the best probiotic I have found. (Also at least a teaspoon of fermented foods daily).
Herbs to Support Immunity
There are lots of herbs out there from different cultures and traditions. Here are some of my favourites and I have also tried to include ones that are more easily accessible at this time. Remember this a novel virus, there is no definite clinical research as yet on it, therefore we are using past information on herbs with known anti viral properties against a range of other viruses.
Hopefully some of these are easily accessible for you, you may be able to pick and dry, and incorporate into your daily routine.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus radix) Astragalus root is traditionally used for its immunostimulating effects, provided by Astragalus polysaccharide (APS). Astragalus polysaccharides are also purported to have potent antiviral properties.
Olive leaf (Olea europea folia) In clinical trails this has shown anti viral effects against a number of viruses.
Calendula: (Calendula officianalis flores): anti-inflammatory and anti-viral: In terms of Calendula’s mechanism of action, it is likely that its antiviral potential emerges from its triterpenoid saponins, compounds that have demonstrated inhibitory effects against various pathogenic microbes.
Saponins have the ability to break down fats (like soap on hands, where the word soap comes from) therefore the potential to break down the structure of viruses. You can have dried flowers as an infusion with thyme and sweetened with raw honey.
Gingko (Gingko biloba) Some anti-viral research but (in vitro) of anti-viral activity (consult with an herbalist if on medications). https://www.pharmaexcipients.com/news/ginkgo-terpenoid-against-covid-19/
Nettles (Urticia diocia folia) I have seen some research which indicates that Nettles may be effective in prevention of virus replication, I will add link as soon as I find this again. This may be taking in food as nettle soup, or nettle tea, or capsules or tincture. Nettle has also so many nutritional benefits, with high iron and vitamin C levels.
Green tea (Camellia sinensis) : a polyphenol from green tea has been shown to have broad antiviral effects. It been proposed as a promising agent for preventing and treating viral infections. Easy to incorporate into your daily routine.
Echinacea: (Echinacea purperea/ angustifolia radix) traditionally used for the prevention of the common cold, however if you have an auto immune condition consult with herbalist first.
Liquorice. (Glycyrrhiza galabra radix) This has shown to protect against a number of viruses. However, care must be taken if you have high blood pressure (or if you don’t know your current blood pressure) as can have the potential to affect these levels and also alter potassium levels.
A note about Elderberry, (Sambucus nigra fructus). I have not included it here as I don’t feel it is the most indicated. Furthermore, it is somewhat controversial in the natural medicine world at the moment during this outbreak. There is some evidence that giving high strength elderberry during viral illness and fever is not the best approach and potentially could aggravate symptoms, so I prefer to avoid use until we know more. There are many more indicated herbs for better prevention.
Elecampane (Inula helenium radix) this is a specific for the respiratory system with anti-microbial qualities. Soothing yet strong acting.
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis radix) Tea, dried or fresh, this can be used as is an antiviral/ and high in volatile oils (Paul Bergner). Simple but effective and accessible.
Cinnamon (Cinnamonium verum cortex) add as much as possible to foods and hot drinks. High in mucolytic volatile oils and heating energetically. Traditional medicine reports from China suggests that Covid 19 is a damp and cooling virus therefore heating remedies may be very beneficial in prevention.
Thyme (Thymus officinalis folia) super easy to grow and dry. Again, a heating remedy. You may well have lots on the garden. Have as a hot tea with ginger and lemon, is delicious. Full of volatile oils to break down mucus. Self-sufficient garden herbalism at its best.
Nervous system support: Ashwaghanda, (Withania somnifera radix), Chamomile (Matricaria recutita flores), Verbena (Verbena officinalis folia) and Tilia (Tilia cordata flores) are herbs that I particularly value for stress release and to support the adrenals and nervous system through these challenging times.
To reiterate at this point – there is no cure at this time and if you suspect you have symptoms of Covid 19, you should self- isolate and contact the NHS helpline or local health system and follow their guidelines.
The above herbs are merely recommendations and are alternative ways in which you may want to support your immune system, but they are not cures.
They are also not to be TAKEN during active infection without consultation with a professional… You must speak with a medical professional, if you suspect you have Covid 19 symptoms.
This is a good resource from a very experienced US doctor, herbalist and midwife to address symptoms:
Clinic and Herbal Medicines
I will be working hard to ensure I can keep everyone’s herbal tincture and medicines on a regular supply with hopefully no disruptions.
However, there will be no face to face consultation in clinic or at Vale de Moses until further notice and I will be using Skype, Zoom and What’s app for my consultations.
I will be continuing all my online consultations so we can continue to have regular check – ins, possibly adapting your herbal needs or recommending additional herbs and supplements, if necessary.
What’s app 00 44 791 9922533
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With much positivity and good health,
Aviva Romm’s COVID-19 article series: COVID-19: An Integrative MDs Commonsense Approach, which includes multiple post on topics such as COVID-19 Symptoms, COVID-19 If You have Autoimmune Disease, Pregnancy, Breastfeeding and COVID-19, What You Can Do to Protect Your Immunity Practically and Naturally, and What Natural Approaches Do – and Don’t Work
Herbal Academy: Herbal academy: https://theherbalacademy.com/coronavirus-scare/
Institute of Functional medicine: