It’s safe to say there is no shortage of Coronavirus news. When the novel 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) started in China, the Chinese government quarantined 50 million people living in two cities and sent an additional 6000 medical professionals to help local professionals including some traditional Chinese medicine practitioners. Like China, the USA has a very robust natural/ alternative medicine industry with an estimated $30 billion annually spent on alternative medicine.
The virus (novel 2019 coronavirus/ SARS-CoV-2) which causes the COVID-19 disease is in the same family of viruses that can have cause a variety of illnesses from simple colds to severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). These viruses are not well understood and currently there is no vaccine or cure for COVID-19. 80% of people that get COVID-19 will only get mildly ill, but the 20% that get sick are likely to require some sort of hospitalization. Older people and people of all ages with underlying health conditions are at greatest risk for developing advanced cases.
The current breakdown of deaths by age group indicate how serious COVID-19 is to our elderly populations:
The most common COVID-19 symptoms:
Cough (46-82%, usually dry)
Myalgia or fatigue (11-44%)
Shortness of breath at onset (31%)
A recent Lancet publication by a team of doctors working at the center of the COVID-19 outbreak details the course of the disease and is being used by doctors around the world to better identify and address it. They reported the highest number of fatalities occur in patients with COVID-19 who became critically ill with pneumonia and entered ICU. As the world’s medical community learns more about the virus and from early medical interventions, the death rate has dramatically reduced from the initial exposure.
Comorbidity of the following conditions will dramatically increase the risk of death from COVID-19:
Additionally, 88% of those that have passed away have been obese.
For up-to-date stats visit the COVID-19 Situation Dashboard from the World Health Organization.
Reduce Your Risk of Contracting COVID-19 Beyond Hygiene and Avoidance
The best ways to reduce your risk of getting COVID-19 remain good hygiene and avoidance. Many news outlets and health organizations are providing excellent information to help with conventional/ basic avoidance information. The World Health Organization COVID-19 Summary Page is a great resource.
The next best thing is to support your immune and lung health, so you can fight off respiratory infections. Below is a list of lifestyle tips and supplements known to support immune and lung health.
Wash Hands: Reducing exposure starts with removing the virus from your skin and preventing the spread of it. If you don’t already, you need to start washing your hands more over the next 30-60 days than you have at any other time in your life. At this time of year, skin is already dry, so don’t forget hand lotion.
Diet: Avoid eating large amounts of sugar. Eating or drinking too much sugar weakens the immune system cells that attack bacteria. This effect lasts for at least a few hours after consumption. If you feel yourself getting ill, stop eating dairy. For many, dairy causes mucus to form, causing even more congestion.
Simple Foods: Our body’s immune systems work best with wholesome and simple meals. This is why chicken/ vegetable/ pho soups are great meal options when you are sick or looking to stay strong. Think fresh vegetables, home-made broths and home-made meals.
Reduce Alcohol Consumption: Your immune system is severely impaired by alcohol. An occasional drink is likely not going to impact you much, but heavier drinking should be avoided. Consider this during this upcoming St. Patrick’s Day. Drink a lot more water and keep the libations to a minimum.
Sleep: While sleep won’t prevent you from catching the virus, sleep loss reduces your overall immune response. Sleep is even more important if you have chronic condition, e.g. diabetes or heart disease. Sleep loss worsens these pro-inflammatory states.
Hydration: Keeping your cells hydrated will keep them working optimally. If you consume caffeine, drink extra water to compensate for the diuretic effect. If you do get a high fever, you will require additional water and electrolytes to replace those “burnt up” by the fever. Dehydration is commonly seen in people going to urgent care with the regular seasonal flu.
Immune Boosting Supplements
Vitamin C: Take vitamin C to support several cellular functions of both the innate (cellular mediated) and adaptive (antibody) immune responses. Vitamin C accumulates in immune cells, specifically phagocytic cells, that destroy viruses and other unwelcome guests. The additional vitamin C can enhance the movement of these cells, their ingestion of bacteria and other foreign materials, generation of chemicals produced to kill foreign or infected cells, and their overall ability to kill germs. You can take 1 gram 2-3 times daily.
Echinacea: This herb has immune boosting (alkamides and polysaccharides) and good antioxidant (caffeic acids) properties. It works best when used with other herbs.
Nutritional IVs: The vitamins and minerals in these IVs provide a boost to your immune system and help maintain good health. This is especially important if your gastrointestinal health is not optimal.
Supplements to Reduce General Viral Activity
Zinc Lozenges: 15 mg will coat the mouth and throat providing antiviral activity for up to 5 hours. Never take more than 75 mg daily. Coronaviruses enter through the nose and coating your mouth and throat can be very beneficial. You do not get this benefit from swallowing the zinc. It must be a lozenge.
Andrographis paniculata: A bitter-tasting herb that contains compounds known as andrographolides which are thought to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antioxidant properties. Commonly found in traditional Chinese medicine formulas for respiratory and viral treatments.
St. John’s Wort: St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) has been in use as a medicine dating back to ancient Greece, where it was used for nervous system disorders. St. John's wort has known antibacterial, antioxidant, and antiviral properties. Hypericin is a natural derivative of the St. John’s wort plant proven to have in vitro activity against several viruses.
Licorice Root (Glycyrrhiza glabra): A very useful and diverse herb, commonly used to support cortisol levels, helping with adrenal fatigue. Licorice root also has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-mutagenic and antiviral properties. It can provide relief from airway constriction and pulmonary inflammation. Caution: Consumption of licorice can lead to increased blood pressure and should not be used by patients with hypertension.
Methods for Increasing Intracellular pH Levels
Chinese doctors have been aggressively using the anti-malaria medications hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine with success against COVID-19. It is thought that these anti-malaria medications increase intracellular pH levels, interfering with viral replication.
Artemisinin (from Wormwood): Artemisinin is the compound found in the botanical Wormwood that is a natural anti-malaria treatment. Artemisinin’s mechanism of action may not have the same effects as hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, but its actions are not fully understood.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Take 1 TBS, 2-3 times daily to help reduce acidity in the body and therefore increase intracellular pH levels. You can also drink more lemon or other citric juices.
High pH Diet: Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in animal fats and proteins.
Supplements for Lung Health
Andrographis paniculata: Numerous studies have shown Androgaphis reduces inflammation of lung tissue. This is one of our favorite respiratory herbs for combating any respiratory virus.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC): NAC reduces mucous formation and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. NAC is a precursor to glutathione (GSH), a key antioxidant for detoxification. Studies have shown that oxidative stress resulting from lung inflammation can be supported with NAC. 600-800 mg is recommended three times daily.
Guaifenesin: This expectorant helps thin and loosen mucus in the lungs, making it easier to cough up. It is commercially available as Mucinex but can also be found in natural products.
COVID-19 is a viral disease that will not severely hurt most people it afflicts. However, it will likely result in hospitalization for 20% of those infected and lead to severe health consequences and high death rate for our elderly. If you do develop a fever, dry cough or shortness of breath, please self-quarantine or seek testing with your primary care provider.
Please think of it as your civic duty to limit the spread of the virus and keep your health optimal by taking the time for additional self-care and keeping your immune system strong and resilient.