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Herbal Medicine and COVID-19

I have been  inundated with people asking me what they can do and which supplements they should be taking and to prevent contracting Covid-19.  This virus is new so any herbal strategies can not guarantee to cure. We do know that the virus affects the lung mucosa, causing a build up of sticky mucus within the lung tissues, this provides an ideal cold/damp enviroment for the virus to replicate. The only thing we can all do is build up our immunity so we have a healthy immune response and support our lungs and respiratory health. We are able to contribute to this with herbs and supplements, there are a number of other factors that are key to support our well-being at this vulnerable time.  I don’t have all the answers but I’m happy to share what I know and to help you  stay well.  Here I’ve listed some of my suggestions: 1. Ensure you are getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep will significantly lower our body’s ability to fight infectious diseases. If you are anxious or suffer from a racing mind or get up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep, consider using bespoke herbal teas such as Chamomile. You may need a more tailored medicinal tea, depending on your constitution or other medical history.  2. Eat warm food. Do not have cold food and drink from the fridge or freezer. Ensure you warm everything. Cold foods will contribute to dampness and mucous production in your lungs and sinuses. If you have mucous build up or are susceptible to this then use mucolytic herbs like marrubium or garlic. Taking it as a tablet or part of a herbal mix is the easiest way.  3. Avoid or limit dairy (milk, yogurt and cheese). These foods are known to increase mucous production. Bananas also will make things worse. Instead have more vegetables in your diet in the form of soups, stews, steamed veg and generally eat your food whilst still warm. Take in the steam through your nose and mouth and savor your warm nutritious meal rather than eating in front of the tv or other screens.

4. Add warming spices to you food. To counteract the dampness or mucous, add spices like cinnamon, ginger, cloves and star anise to your food. Not only will you awaken your taste buds but these spices have been proven to either boost immunity, improve circulation and/or inhibit viruses. In fact star anise was used to create the drug Tamiflu.  5. Suggested supplements - The key ones are Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Zinc. Dosage will depend on age and your medical history.  Vitamin C in high doses may be antiviral and supports your immune cell development. You can also get it from Rosehip or Amla powder. Many of us are deficient in Vitamin D as our diets are low in fat and this means we can’t absorb our fat soluble vitamins like A, D, E and K.  Zinc prevents viral replication so it will lessen the severity and duration of infection.  6. The use of propolis lozenges once a day will help to keep your throat antiseptic. 7. Taking probiotics or including probiotic/fermented foods in your diet will not only help with some of gastrointestinal symptoms that some patients have experienced, but it will support your overall immune health. 8. Drinking warm water or and cordials with fresh lemon slices, or herbal teas through the day, will help prevent Dehydration as this will NOT help.    9. Cut out or significantly reduce sugar and simple carbohydrates. That means white flour goods such as biscuits, pastries, rice, pasta, breads etc switch to whole meal varieties.  10. Avoid shallow and deep fried foods and snacks. Once oil is heated to high temperatures, it becomes oxidised and can affect your throat making it easier for pathogens to attach to the membranes in your throat.  11.  Improve your lymphatic drainage. This can be done through keeping active in simple ways. For example skipping or rebounding on a mini trampoline. Certain herbs can also help lymphatic drainage such as the mild marigold or potent poke root (use under Herbalist supervision ONLY). Your lymphatic system is a vital under-valued detoxification system and supports your immune cells.   12. Step up hygiene. Wash your hands frequently and properly. Wear disposable gloves when possible. Use hand sanitizer when proper washing facilities are not available. Clean high contact areas frequently such as keyboards, mobile phones, door handles, taps and light switches. Wash clothes at 60 degrees or steam iron your clothes to kill any lurking viruses. Avoid touching your face, shaking hands and kissing.  13. The Coronavirus has a fat layer surrounding it which allows it to adhere to us so using soap, alcohol and perhaps also acidic things like vinegar and lemon juice  can make it inactive. Drink warm water with some lemon in it or add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to your food.  Let me also tell you about a few specific herbs: 1. Thyme: antibacterial and antiviral specific for respiratory health, with expectorant action. It’s also an immune stimulant.  2. Elecampane: lung warming and decongestant. 3. Elderberry: antiviral properties and rich in Vitamin C and bioflavonoids.  4. Echinacea: immune support. More useful during the early stages of infection to prevent complications like pneumonia or bronchitis.  5. Dong quai:  supports cilia (the fine hair-like structures in your respiratory system.  6. Sage: an excellent herb with antibacterial and antiviral properties specifically for the throat. It dries up mucous and relieves congestion. You can make a simple gargle by adding hot water to one sage leaf. Allow it to cool a little then gargle.  7.  Licorice (Caution for anyone with high blood pressure). Licorice root (not the sweets) is an excellent antiviral herb and also has a demulcent quality meaning that it will soothe sore throats. It’s a good one to include if you don’t have high blood pressure as it also supports our adrenal glands which are currently in overdrive with worry and fear.  8.  Garlic improves circulation, thins sticky mucous, dilates bronchioles and boosts immunity.  9. Chinese Skullcap improves lung function and prevents inflammatory cytokines filling and clogging the lungs. In other words, this herb stops the viruses action of lung tissue damage.  Adaptogen herbs also have a crucial role to play in supporting us at times of great stress.  The most apt one in my view is Tulsi (Holy Basil). It has the ability to support respiratory health as well as relieve general anxiety which a lot of us are feeling at the moment. What to do if you have fever or other symptoms indicating possible Covid-19 infection!   Follow the NHS guidelines on self isolation and if your symptoms worsen get in touch with the NHS 111 service. Avoid use of anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen.  Social distancing is also going to help prevent transmission of the virus so continue to use other ways of working and minimize contact even with family members if they are unwell. This may seem drastic and could impact our mental and emotional well-being, especially if we continue this way for a while. Think about exercise to increase your endorphins, find different ways of staying socially involved such as video calling (FaceTime, WhatsApp, Skype and Zoom) and distance meetings. Remember that this is not forever and there will be an end to it. If you’re stuck at home it can be isolating so make the effort to stay in touch with family and friends. At times like this we also release oxytocin as well as stress hormones like cortisol and Adrenalin. Oxytocin helps us to bond and now more than ever we should bond with our loved ones and neighbours. Help those that are self isolating or are vulnerable. This will in turn support your own mental wellbeing.  Finally I am able to offer a over the counter 2-4week medicine (depending on dosage) that is anti viral, immune and respiratory supporting. I am offering this at a cost of medicine ONLY at £33, plus post and packaging as required. This will be tailored to any specific needs as required. ANY NEW PATIENTS I have not seen before i am required to carry out a consultation to obtain relevant health questions, to collect specific information regarding  present medications, illness, presenting conditions and previous health history, this will not have an additional cost and will be included in the price.  The virus itself is opportunistic, so it makes sense that we need to minimize giving it opportunity.  Remember we are all unique and have very different medical histories so please ensure you get specific advice about your health from a qualified health professional.  You deserve to feel better - Willow Tree Medical Herbalist.

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