I have been getting a lot of emails from people wanting to know what natural treatment options there are for the Coronavirus that has been rapidly spreading around the world.
While there is no “magic” treatment for this Coronavirus, whether that is natural or pharmaceutical there are a lot of things that you can do to boost the immune system to help prevent getting a viral infection and reducing the severity of a viral infection like Coronavirus.
I won’t go into detail about the facts about the Coronavirus or how many people have been affected as there is plenty of information out there from places like the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the information is getting updated daily.
There is no specific research into the Coronavirus and herbal treatments or natural solutions because the virus is so new, but there is a lot of research into natural solutions for viral infections.
In this article, I will discuss the herbs and nutrients you can take to boost the immune system but it is important to remember to not to forget the basics like good hygiene, sleep, diet and something which is new for most people - social distancing.
Remember there is no natural treatment for COVID-19 and the recommendations in this article is based on research into what has helped with improving immunity and treating viral infections like influenza.
Washing Hands - This needs to be taken to another level than most people are currently practicing, especially kids who can be known to wash their hands so quickly they hardly get wet.
Ideally wash your hands for 30 seconds after sneezing or coughing, visiting shops or public places and avoid touching your face with your hands until you have been able to wash them.
While kids seem to be less affected by the Coronavirus they can still get the virus and spread to other people so we need to help them be more diligent with hand washing (without making them anxious)
If you are unable to wash your hands you can use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol until you have a chance to wash your hands, generally, I am not a fan of hand sanitizer but in this situation, it is ideal if you are out and about and cannot wash your hands.
If you are in the U.S a good hand sanitizer is from 100% Pure
Studies show that washing hands thoroughly can reduce the transmission of viral infections by 70%
Social Distancing - like washing hands this is focused on reducing transmission of the virus which is the most effective way of preventing its spread.
If you have a fever or a cough avoid other people and self-isolate, don’t go to work or be around other people - even if you don’t think you have the Coronavirus nobody wants to be near anybody who is sick right now.
Testing for Coronavirus is currently limited so there are many people out there who have the virus and don’t know, this is why it is important to avoid crowds of people and close contact.
When I Google “Coronavirus and Diet” most of the articles focus on the fact that Diet Coke may be in short supply as Coca Cola is having trouble getting the ingredients from China - and that may be a good thing as it is not at the top of my list of immune-boosting foods.
What you eat won’t prevent you from getting a viral infection but it can help to boost the immune system so you don’t get so sick.
Focus on eating a “real food diet”, especially a wide variety of fruits and vegetables - eat from the rainbow as the different colored vegetables and fruits have different antioxidant qualities, as well as a wide range of vitamins and minerals.
If you are stuck at home as you have to self isolate it might be tempting to stock up on junk food, but studies show that sugar will dampen the immune response and increase inflammation which can worsen the severity of an illness or leave your immune system vulnerable to getting sick.
Stuck at home and tempted to stay up late binge-watching Netflix? This may not be a good idea if you are trying to boost your immune system.
While washing hands is the number one way to prevent a viral infection getting optimal sleep is probably the number one way to boost your immune system.
Try and stick to a good sleep routine and get at least 7 hours of sleep and ideally 8+ hours is optimal for most people.
It is also not ideal to stay up late and sleep in late as this can deprive you of important deep sleep which occurs in the first few hours of the night.
A good night’s sleep will help to boost T-cells and antibodies to help you fight infections and this has been backed up by a number of studies.
Stress is part of life but when it gets out of control it can weaken your immune system.
There have been a lot of studies into how stress affects our immune system, and one of the mechanisms is high cortisol levels can lead to lower levels of lymphocytes which are an important defense for preventing viral infections.
What can be done?
While it is important to be informed, these days with social media and 24/7 news coverage it can get overwhelming and increase stress levels if you are constantly checking the news. Try and limit the amount that you check social media or get news updates.
Meditation is a well-researched way of reducing stress and boosting immune function, there are a lot of great apps like Headspace out there or programs like Ziva meditation that can help you get started.
Sleep, exercise and walking in nature or a local park can all help to reduce stress levels.
The best way to test stress levels is the DUTCH Hormone test.
There are no “magic” supplements to prevent or treat Coronavirus and the FDA has cracked down on companies claiming to sell supplements that prevent or cure Coronavirus.
So let’s stick to the facts so we don’t get in trouble with the FDA!!
There are a number of different vitamins, minerals, and herbs that have been shown to improve immune function to help prevent getting a viral infection or reducing the severity of illness.
Vitamin D - many studies are showing that Vitamin D deficiency increases the risk of autoimmune conditions and infections in general. If you have optimal levels of Vitamin D it won’t help to take extra but many people are deficient in Vitamin D or low in the reference range and would benefit from a quality Vitamin D supplement.
Vitamin C - is probably the most well known immune-boosting vitamin, and while the research shows that it won’t prevent illness it can prevent the severity and duration of being sick. Taking 1-2 grams of Vitamin C a couple of times a day would be beneficial.
Vitamin A - is another important vitamin to boost your immune system and this may explain why Cod Liver oil has been used for centuries to boost your immune function. There is even research to back up the benefits of Cod Liver oil and it also has the bonus of containing Vitamin D
Zinc - is another well researched natural option to boost your immune system and it has been shown to reduce the severity of viral infections as well as inhibit rhinovirus replication. Zinc gluconate lozenges are one of the best options for viral infections or Zinc Citrate capsules.
Probiotics - studies show that probiotics can reduce allergies, eczema and help boost the immune system, there are many strains of probiotics available so every probiotic on the shelf may not have the necessary beneficial strains. I recommend the Seed Probiotic which does contain immune-boosting beneficial bacteria.
N-acetylcysteine (NAC) - this is one of my top recommendations for preventing and reducing the severity of viral infections. Studies show that N-acetylcysteine can inhibit viral replication of the highly pathogenic Influenza A virus.
One of the main problems with the Coronavirus is that can lead to pneumonia and NAC has been shown to be a highly effective treatment for reducing the severity of pneumonia.
Astragalus - has been my herb of choice for a long time to boost immune function, it is great for people who tend to get every sickness going around in winter, or take weeks to get over an illness. It is a famous Chinese herb and there are also many studies showing that it can boost your immune system and fight viral infections.
Chinese Herbs - have been used for centuries and while herbal medicine is on the fringe in the Western world they are a common part of medicine in China. Reports from China show that people treated with traditional Chinese herbs had a lower death rate compared to people who did not use herbs.
Melatonin - this may seem like a strange recommendation as many people think of this as a sleep remedy, but the immune enhancing effects of melatonin have been known for a long time. Very few children have shown symptoms of the Coronavirus and one of the theories is that children have higher levels of melatonin and these levels decline as we get older, this article explains this in detail.
It makes sense to me and I have added 3 grams of melatonin to my evening routine
If you still have some questions or want to improve your health levels, don't hesitate to schedule a consultation.
Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions. As Seen