Updated: Mar 19, 2020
Hi friends. Let’s be honest, we are all scared. There’s a virus running around our world that has overwhelmed our resources, people are getting sick at rapid rates, hospitals and countries alike are scrambling to come up with a plan and we still aren’t sure exactly how COVID-19 works. I’m scared, too. And as things becomes more serious, myself and the two other parents involved in the raising of my stepkids are facing another reality: we are three healthcare professionals that may soon be called upon to join the battle ranks, and with the possibility of schools closing and our increased risk of spreading the virus between kids and patients, we are making tough decisions about where our children should land. In fact, I think the scariest part of life right now is making those sorts of choices, as we all are in our own ways.
My purpose with this post is mostly twofold: first, I think its important that folks know where the symptoms of coronavirus come from and how the virus itself manifests in the body. It’s difficult to know how to help or even what our goals are if we don’t understand at least what we can about what happens when people get sick. Second, I’m hoping to give some ideas for support. Keep in mind, these are ideas based on what we know about viral respiratory infections and previous corona viruses, the way they work and the way they are spread. I will go over my protocol for viral infections and some added Materia Medica for the special considerations of COVID-19.
One thing I’m going to keep coming back to during every section of this post is this: human bodies seem do well when we can keep the virus from moving from the upper respiratory tract to the lower one. So we are going to talk about that. We’re also going to chat about what to do if it does sneak down to the lower lungs, especially in the cases of our elders and other folks whose immune systems or lungs are compromised. At that point, however, the hope is that they will have access to emergency and critical care services, so most of our discussion will also be centered around prevention. So let’s get right to it.
According to what we know about these sorts of viruses, the effects start in the mouth and back of the throat. While scientists have gone back and forth about whether COVID is airborne or transferred through droplets (which makes a big difference), we do know that it gets inhaled through the mouth and nose. After that, it hangs out in the back of the throat and trachea for a while. This is when people tend to get symptoms first, and those symptoms make sense for a virus affecting those areas. Let’s review:
-This happens because of inflammation in the upper respiratory tract. Your body is smart, and sends an immune presence to the affected areas. This can cause swelling and constriction in the tube that leads from your mouth to your lungs.
-The cilia in your respiratory tract work hard to get stuff out that isn’t supposed to be there. This applies to viruses that have been trying to make your trachea their home or products of inflammation that are no longer serving a purpose. When the cough is wet, your body is getting this stuff out.
-However, COVID-19, most people seem to be reporting a dry cough. This is usually due to irritation in the throat and upper trachea or because stuff doesn’t come up as well when the infection has moved farther down.
There are other symptoms as well, most of them similar to the flu. I am not going to go into depth with those now, but the protocol I will share later covers many of them.
As I mentioned, when these symptoms first kick in, our big goal is to keep the virus from moving further down. We do this by aiding the fighting capacity of our immune systems, making good decisions about lifestyle and also giving symptomatic support. So let’s get to the protocol, then ill post my suggestions for extra herbs to consider specific to the COVID symptoms we’ve already discussed. Recipes for Fire Cider and Winter Wellness syrup can be found in the “Viral Respiratory” document listed under the “Writings” heading of my website.
Viral Respiratory Illness
A Basic Protocol
Keeping Healthy During the Winter
1. 1 tbsp Winter Wellness Syrup daily
2. Wash hands frequently – do not touch hands or face and then touch others
3. Eat sensibly – high protein, warming, nutritive foods appropriate for the season:
a. Meats and clean animal fats
b. Cooked vegetables
c. Plant based fats such as olive oil, avocados and nuts
d. Nourishing carbohydrates such as sweet potatoes, beans, and starchy vegetables
e. Food should be cooked and hot – stay away from large amounts of raw, cold foods
4. Get regular exercise – sweating helps rid the body of toxins and keeps blood moving, decreasing risk of infection.
At the Onset of Illness (First 1-2 days)
This is when we have a narrow window of time to use Echinacea, and it has to be used in big doses. 1 tsp tincture every 2 hours.
Add Elderberry syrup, stop winter wellness syrup or make it without astragalus. Take 1 tbsp pure elderberry syrup every hour.
Continue diet as described above. Sleep and rest paramount. Decrease exercise to low activity level – walking, yoga, etc.
Option to start 1 8z cup of Fire Cider daily.
Formula for a Fighting Immune System:
-2 parts Rosemary tincture
-1/2 part Calendula tincture
-1 part Peppermint tincture
-1 part Yarrow tincture (do not use in pregnancy)
-15 drops cayenne tincture
Take 1 dropperful 2-3 times daily.
When Illness Has Progressed
Stop Echinacea tincture. Continue Elderberry syrup, OK to also continue Winter Wellness syrup without astragalus.
Continue Fighting Immune Tincture. Consider adding the following formula if fever is present and causing symptoms. Take ½ dropper twice daily to start.
-1 part yarrow
-1 part peppermint
-1 part Elder flower
Fire Cider 1 cup daily
Rest is paramount – stop exercise, promote sleep. Use sleep tonics as needed:
-passionflower, California poppy, Valerian, Kava Kava
Diet: Bone Broth with nutritive carbohydrates and meats as tolerated. Emphasize protein. Do not “fast” unless unable to keep food down. Large amounts of water as tolerated.
When Illness is Resolving:
Stop Fighting Immune Tincture. Stop Elderberry syrup. Continue Winter Wellness Syrup.
Stop Fire Cider. Resume warming, easy to digest proteins in the diet as tolerated.
Continue symptomatic support as needed.
Do not return to full exercise until recovered.
This is my basic viral respiratory infection protocol and everything listed above is appropriate for COVID as well. But as I mentioned, there are some extra considerations. Folks who find themselves short of breath with a dry cough can use the following as symptomatic aids:
*Elecampane and Coltsfoot (see previous blog post). These herbs are expectorants that help our bodies get stuff out of the lungs that shouldn’t be there. They also have antispasmodic properties that can help with shortness of breath and swelling in the airways. Furthermore, they are appropriate choices for when the virus moves further down, possibly causing pneumonias which are particularly dangerous for our older populations.
*Thyme, Usnea. These herbs anti-septic, anti-microbial herbs that have a special affinity for the respiratory tract. Again, they are also helpful in bronchitis and pneumonia, both of which can result from worsening COVID infections and are usually why the virus ends up requiring an ICU level of care for those at the highest risk.
*Lobelia, Eucalyptus, Peppermint, Cayenne. These are warming, anti-spasmotic herbs that help open the airways, open the circulation to the lungs and an help brings down a high fever. They are helpful with shortness of breath, congestion, fever and a great support when the circulatory system and lower lungs are affected by pneumonia, as it is with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). However, I would add a word of caution that lobelia is more helpful before the infection moves to the lower lungs, since it can make it harder for the lungs to expel secretions. It is, however, a great ally in relaxing the muscles during spasmotic, unproductive cough.
*Mullein, Plantain. These are membrane soothers. They help you feel better when that cough has you at the end of your wits, they inject moisture into hot, raw, tissue and mullein in particular helps lungs perform their air exchange functions more efficiently. These are great supportive herbs for any lung, throat or bronchial condition.
I hope some of these suggestions are helpful as you and your families continue to work hard to protect the yourselves and make decisions about how best to manage during this time. Remember that there is still a great deal about this virus we don't know, and this every practitioner's first time dealing with it. No one can say with any certainty what will work and what won't, and data is changing by the hour. Keep in mind that my protocols are suggestions based on our current level of knowledge about respiratory infections and about what this virus seems to be doing, but are not based on my own treatment of this novel, new pathogen or a replacement for emergency medical care. Any questions about specific plants or how to make them into formulas, please feel free to comment or shoot me an emai