COVID-19, the novel coronavirus currently plastered all over the news, becomes a real concern for all of us if it slips its leash and containment fails. Right now, governments around the globe are striving to contain the virus, which is by far the best strategy to save lives. But if that fails, then what? Here are some natural strategies to prevent COVID-19 and possibly shorten the duration of symptoms.
Basic Facts About COVID-19 As We Understand It Now.
According to a briefing given by the Director-General of the WHO on March 3, 2020, Here’s what we know:
- New cases in mainland China are declining, while they grow in other areas of the world.
- COVID-19 is spread via droplets of fluid from the nose and mouth of infected persons (think coughing and sneezing).
- COVID-19 DOES NOT transmit as effectively as influenza from the data so far – this is good news.
- With the flu, people who are infected but not yet sick are major transmitters, with the novel coronavirus this does not appear to be the case. Also, good news.
- Evidence from China suggests that only 1% of those infected do not have symptoms, and the majority of people develop symptoms within 2 days. This is also good because it means we are more likely to know who is sick (and contagious) and who isn’t.
- The sickness caused by COVID-19 is more severe than typical flu.
- Globally, about 3.4% of the known cases of COVID-19 have resulted in deaths, where the flu kills less than 1% of those infected.
- We have no vaccine for COVID-19.
- Since it is a new virus, we also have no previous immunity. This means that most people have never had a virus like this one and so our bodies do not have any previously-acquired defenses.
- From a different source, research has shown that COVID-19 could live up to 24 hours on some hard surfaces.
“While many people globally have built up immunity to seasonal flu strains, COVID-19 is a new virus to which no one has immunity. That means more people are susceptible to infection, and some will suffer severe disease.”– Tedros Adhanom, Director-General of the World Health Organization. March 3, 2020
So, How Do We Prevent A NEW, Unstudied Virus?
This is the question of the day, quite possibly, the question of the year. We have two types of suggestions today. One set is the commons sense suggestions from the CDC and similar organizations around the world. The other, are natural anti-virals and immune boosters to keep you as safe and healthy as possible during this time.
- Wash Your Hands – Your hands touch dirty things constantly. They also touch your mouth constantly so WASH YOUR HANDS. Use soap and water and wash for at least 20 seconds. After you go to the bathroom, before you eat, first thing when you return home (because you’ve probably been exposed to germs outside of your house.) If you can’t wash with soap and water, then an alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be helpful.
- Stay Home if You’re Sick – Except to get medical care. This protects you and your community. If you have COVID-19, then you’re preventing the spread and also taking care of yourself. If you don’t, then you’re avoiding other sick people (who might have it) when your own immune system is compromised. Remember, the same dog can have fleas and ticks at the same time, so when you’re sick it’s most important to protect yourself from other sicknesses.
- Clean the Surfaces People Touch The Most – I don’t know about you, but I don’t polish my doorknobs regularly (ahem.) Maybe it’s time to start – also think about the handles on the refrigerator, kitchen table, bathroom faucets, etc… I typically use more gentle, natural products, but here is a list of household cleaners that are recommended for “enveloped viral pathogens, ” which includes COVID-19. Many can be bought at your local grocery store and it is sensible to stock up. Remember, this virus is hardy and could live upwards of 24 hours on hard surfaces (that is unusually long) so disinfect!
- Keep Your Six Foot Bubble Of Safety – the CDC suggests staying six feet away from others if possible to minimize the spread of germs.
Natural Suggestions for Preparedness:
These suggestions are unproven, because none of us have encountered COVID-19 before, but they’re an educated guess toward keeping yourself and your family safe.
- Take Care of Your Body – I hate to be a drudge, but there are some things about health that you already know without me telling you. Like… Sleep. Chances are we could all sleep more, exercise regularly, eat less sugar, and do some things to reduce our stress levels. I won’t belabor a point, but when there is the potential of a pandemic, it’s probably even more important to do these things. I’m just sayin’.
- Take Zinc – In a year-long study published in 2007, zinc supplementation was shown to decrease the incidence of infections in the elderly over a period of one year. So, the people who took zinc for a year had fewer infections of all types in that year than people who didn’t take zinc. Since then, dozens of other studies have refined our knowledge, including this review published in 2019, reviewing the use of zinc for both viral prevention and treatment.
- Stock up on Elderberry Syrup – Again, COVID-19 is an unknown, but elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra) has been shown to be effective in inhibiting bacterial growth of several common types of bacteria (Staph, Strep, and both Gram-negative and -positive type bacteria), as well as inhibiting viral replication. Additionally, a study of people already infected with influenza A and B showed that taking 15 mg of elderberry syrup four times daily decreased the severity and duration of disease. Elderberry syrup has been used safely in children and adults, and it can be taken preventatively, or to manage symptoms and severity. It is untested in COVID-19, but when extracts from elderberry show benefits across so many diverse pathogens, it stands to reason that it has a shot against this one too.
- Talk to a homeopath – there is a long and successful history of homeopathy being used in epidemic disease. Already homeopaths, like myself, all over the world are sharing information and collaborating on findings. Here is a wonderful summary article to bring to your own homeopathic practitioner. Homeopathic remedies are gentle and effective and can be used to PREVENT infection as well.
- If you think you have COVID-19 (or any other upper respiratory tract illness) Take Echinacea – Echinacea has been shown in many clinical trials to shorten the duration of URTI-type illnesses if you start taking it when symptoms start. It is not a preventative, and it hasn’t been tested with coronavirus (to my knowledge), but it is well-tolerated and certainly worth a shot.
- Herbal Extracts that show activity against other coronaviruses – Remember SARS? MERS? Yup, those were also coronaviruses. So while we don’t know much about COVID-19, there is some information out there specific to coronavirus. This fantastic review of antiviral herbs lists some herbal extracts that have been effective against coronavirus in research studies. These include extracts from Lycoris radiata (fire lily), Houttuynia cordata (chameleon plant), Torrea nucifera (nutmeg yew), Artemisia annua (wormwood), Pyrossia lingua (tongue fern), Lindera aggregata (Japanese evergreen spicebush). Many of these herbs are used in traditional Chinese, Japanese or other traditional medical systems. With the exception of Artemisia annua, most aren’t commonly used in the west. My experience with them is limited, but will I be ordering some from Amazon? Yes.
- Take a general immune booster – Many of the products that are designed to boost your immune system are designed with a variety of bacteria, viruses and immune defenses in mind. It stands to reason that boosting immunity in a number of different ways could potentially protect against new viruses too. Some of my favorites are Immuno Plus from Priority One, which has zinc, echinacea and animal-derived immune factors from thymus, spleen and lymph. ThymuPlex Immune Formula from Nature’s way is a similar product that is more widely available. Immune glycerite by Wise Women Herbs is an herbal liquid option for people who don’t like taking capsules. These are all available through Fullscript at the button below (Please note that I do earn a commission if you purchase from this link.)
What Else Can We Do To Be Ready?
It’s important to plan ahead. If a full-scale outbreak occurs in your area, what will you do? What will happen to your job, your child’s school or daycare, your family members? If someone in your household gets sick what are some ways you can protect others in your household? Is there a separate room and bathroom that could be isolated as a “sick” room? Think through some of these questions with your family, your friends and the people involved in your life. It’s important to have a plan in place so that if something does happen, you’re ready.
These statements have not been evaluated by any health authorities, nor have these therapeutics been tested in humans with COVID-19 outside of the cited research. Please talk to your doctor immediately if you suspect COVID-19 and discuss these options with them.