Thursday, March 12, 2020

Potential Natural Options for Prevention and Treatment of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

My Integrative and Functional Medicine training has helped me to consider ways to naturally boost our immune system and fight infections. My family and I use many of these strategies to prevent the flu each year, however, there are several specific concerns and recommendations that I will cover that are specific for this virus.

In the case of this novel coronavirus, there are several goals. 

First, prevent exposure to the virus, Second, optimize the immune system, Third, help kill any virus in our nose and mouth if we have been exposed. Fourth, prevent the virus entering cells and replicating if an infection occurs (this is the way many antiviral pharmaceutical medications work). Fifth, prevent a “cytokine storm” in the event of infection which is an inflammatory response that may be so excessive that this it can be deadly.

Here is the protocol that my family and I are now following in response to this virus.

To prevent exposure - we try to avoid spending extended periods of time in poorly ventilated buildings, we wear masks regularly when we are away from home and we socially distance. We also wash and sanitize our hands regularly for any exposure outside our home. 

After any potential exposure, we try to decrease the virus in our nasal passages and throat. We use XClear Nasal Spray (Xylitol and Grapefruit Seed Extract) and/or Iotech International Molecular Iodine nasal spray as well as Iotech International Molecular Iodine mouthwash

To help our immune system we use a variety of supplements including Stephen Buhner's immune support herbal tinctures (see below). We also choose healthy foods, try to get enough sleep, exercise daily and use relaxation therapies (including meditation). See below for an expanded discussion of these options. 

At the first sign of symptoms, we start the Buhner herbal tincture formula, we increase our use of nasal spray and mouthwash, we steam with organic essential oils, drink fresh ginger tea throughout the day (see below for expanded discussion).  

On helping the immune system:

Choosing healthy foods - a low carbohydrate, moderate protein and high healthy fat diet. There is some evidence that this diet may help the immune system. On the other hand, eating sugar seems to suppress the immune system for up to 5 hours after ingestion. We have limited all sugar, grains and even dairy. 

Getting enough sleep - sleep deprivation is associated with decreased immunity. We are trying very hard to get to bed on time and maintain a regular schedule.  

Getting some movement/exercise - evidence suggests that movement may increase immunity. Even a 20 minute walk may be helpful. My family walks and/or runs every day. 

Calming our stress response
- evidence suggests that relaxation therapies like meditation and prayer (and exercise) can boost immunity.
Excessive stress, which we are all faced with right now, is associated with a decrease in immunity. This is a hard one given the level of anxiety that is surrounding us all. While it's wise to respect this virus, I believe the best way to reduce anxiety is to take wise action to mitigate our personal and societal risks. We will get through this and we should work to help each other and be a positive influence in each other's lives during this challenging time. Meditation and prayer can be very helpful to allow us to distance ourselves from our emotions and connect to something higher. Another thing that is helpful is having gratitude for all that is good in our lives. These days, it's not too hard to simply be grateful for toilet paper.  Expand on that and find the gratitude in your life, it is a very calming practice that can reduce anxiety and help us live every day in a better frame of mind. 

Vitamins and Minerals - Vitamin D, K, A, Zinc and Vitamin C may possibly be helpful in preventing infection and shortening the length of the flu. I am supplementing with a good multivitamin/mineral complex as well as extra A, D, C and Zinc. 
There are many other excellent supplement companies. The important thing is to look for supplements that are in capsules (or loose powder) and that have no added fillers or dyes. 

Please be cautious not to overdo any of this. Vitamins and minerals can be helpful but excessive doses for lengthy periods of time may not be safe.

Medicinal mushrooms - almost all mushrooms have immune boosting qualities. The more unusual “medicinal mushrooms” like Reishi, Cordycepts and Lions Mane may be even more helpful. 

A good company is Host Defense (or you can buy mushroom powder from some of the herbal resources I mention below). You can even just cook up mushrooms every day as part of dinner. Tasty and healthy.

At the first sign of any symptoms:

Organic Essential oils from plants - many essential oils demonstrate antiviral activity. These include Bay Laurel, Cinnamomum Zeylanicum (Cinnamon), Daucus Carota (Carrot), Eucalyptus Globulus and Rosemarius Officialis (Rosemary). These have been used in research to kill viruses like Influenza. 

Many other essential oils also have antiviral qualities. I always have Eucalyptus, Tea Tree oil and Lavender oil available at home.  Stephen Buhner has specifically recommended Bay Laurel essential oil for this novel Coronavirus. 

To steam, I pour boiling water into a bowl and add a couple of drops of several essential oils. I then take a towel and put it over my head and breathe in the steam. You must be careful not to burn yourself. I let some of the steam out until it is comfortable to breath deeply. I continue for as long as steam seems to still be rising. You can also use essential oils in a humidifier or in an essential oil diffuser.

Herbal remedies- Herbal remedies have been used for thousands of years to treat infection. Stephen Bruhner is an herbalist who specializes in the treatment of infectious disease.  He has written a book on herbal antivirals and a monograph specifically about this new virus.

Here is a link to Steven Buhner's book on herbal antivirals. 

Here is the link to Stephen Buhners monograph about the coronavirus specifically dealing with this outbreak.

Sage Woman Herbs carries the herbs bundled together that are recommended by Stephen Bhuner but you will need to call them to order. Woodland Essence also carries the herbs bundled together and you can purchase these online You can also order the individual herbs from other excellent companies like Mountain Rose Herbs

 unlike studies done on pharmaceuticals, very few studies are done on natural and herbal remedies. There are many reasons for this but the point is that we must discern from a combination of historical knowledge and modern research (that is available) what might be potentially helpful. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that anyone can have a negative reaction to anything. If you consider starting any of the things that my family are trying then I would recommend that you check with your physician(s) in case you have any contraindications. This is especially true if you have any preexisting medical conditions or are prescribed any pharmaceutical medications. Herbs and supplements tend to be quite safe but they are not benign. Some supplements and herbs are contraindicated in certain conditions and drug/herb and drug/supplement interactions definitely do exist and need to be considered before starting anything. Also, if you decide to start any of these treatments and suffer any kind of symptoms, it is imperative that you stop the treatment and consult with your physician immediately.

Wishing health and healing to you all.

Dr. Rebecca

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