Herbs for Good Health During the COVID 19 Pandemic
Resilience * Nourishment * Flexibility * Movement
Guest Blog by HeartFelt Herbs – I read this a few weeks ago and found it really informative and really comforting. Hope you like it too.
COVID – 19 is a novel virus which means that prior to 2019, there had been no human exposure to it.
There is no known cure for this virus, via herbal medicine or otherwise.
What we know is that people react very variably to the virus and those with underlying health conditions are particularly vulnerable to much stronger symptoms that can be life-threatening. It makes sense then to ensure to the best of our abilities that our bodies are functioning at their optimum during this pandemic.
As herbalists, we look at the body like an eco-system. When all areas of the system are running well, there is a free flow of nutrients, hydration, energy and oxygen throughout the body and waste material is eliminated efficiently. The body has everything it needs to be vital and function the way it is designed to. Medicinal herbs offer a wealth of benefits to our bodies that can support us in this way.
The suggestions here are based on what I am doing in my own home and reflect the herbs that are available in abundance to me living in Cornwall, UK. For the sake of sustainability, wherever possible I focus first on herbs that grow abundantly in the wild or I can grow in my garden, then I look to herbs that are readily available as part of the kitchen herb cupboard. There are many, many other herbs that would serve as alternatives, particularly those which are staple remedies in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine. You will find some of these if you explore the resources section at the end of this document.
Here is how Heartfelt Herbs is approaching herbs for good health at this time:
Take advantage of the abundant wild greens available to you at this time.
Unfortunately, intensive agriculture has meant a diminishing number of minerals in our food supply as the soil in which most vegetables are grown are depleted. Eating organic fruit and veg and incorporating wild greens into your diet make a much more diverse selection of vitamins and minerals available for your body. This translates into healthy
function on a cellular level.
Chickweed, cleavers, dandelion leaves, nettles, nasturtium, miners lettuce, wild garlic, wild mustard, alexanders, plantain and three-cornered leek are all examples of wild greens that are abundant in spring. Make yourself a side salad to go with each meal using a few of these greens and a squeeze of lemon. Add them to your juice or smoothie. Stinging nettles can be cooked in dishes where you might use spinach.
Another rich source of minerals is seaweed. Heartfelt Herbs is based by the sea in Cornwall and each full moon, we go down to the waters edge at low tide and harvest, kelp, sea lettuce, pepper dulse, dulse and carrageen to dry and add to broth, immune syrups, stews and stir fries. If you can’t forage your own seaweed, getting hold of some good quality dried kelp or dulse and adding it to any cooking that you plan to simmer for a long time ( soups, stews, broths ) will infuse your food with
added B vitamins, calcium, magnesium and iodine.
Include fermented food like sauerkraut, kimchee, kombucha and kefir in your diet to maintain a healthy gut biome.
Your liver is the power house of your digestive system. It works tirelessly to maintain homeostasis in the body. Your liver has over 1000 known functions including the metabolism of blood sugar, fat and hormones, so supporting your liver function has wide reaching health benefits.
Eat bitter foods like dandelion leaves or chicory at the beginning of your meals.
Incorporate your own bitter mix into your daily routine, taking drops of bitter tincture 15 minutes before you eat a meal to encourage efficient and full digestion of your food.
Herbs you could use include: Dandelion root, burdock root, yellow dock root, dandelion leaf, wormwood, chamomile, rosemary, lavender, bitter orange.
Drink milk thistle leaf tea and add powdered milk thistle seeds to your smoothies or take them in capsules.
Make a dandelion root and yellow dock root decocted tea and drink a cup a day to help balance liver function and regulate blood sugar.
Supporting the Immune System
All the dietary suggestions above will support your body’s immune function. In addition:
- Get lots of sleep
- Minimise or avoid stimulants like caffeine, alcohol and sugar
- You can add vitamin C, D, A and zinc to your diet also.
- Stay hydrated – drink lots of water.
And then there are herbs. When I think of the immune system, my mind jumps in a few herbal directions…
Add ample garlic, onions, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, allspice, star anise, rosemary, sage and thyme to your cooking for their anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, anti-viral and circulatory properties.
It’s important to remember that the we’re dealing with a novel virus, so there is no evidence that these herbs will be anti-viral against SARS-Cov-2, however they are effective against other viruses, so I’ve been incorporating an immune syrup into my daily routine. Anti-viral herbs that are easy to access include elderberry and flower, lemon balm, St Johns wort, garlic.
Our lymphatic system is integral to healthy immune function. Our lymphatic fluid is what transports the antibodies and lymphocytes we need to resist incoming pathogens. Cleavers and calendula are both herbs that support lymphatic flow.
Specific immune boosters
The polysaccharides in medicinal mushrooms offer incredible support to the immune system. The ones I find most abundantly in the wild to make my own medicine from are turkey tail and birch polypore. Reishi, maitake and cordyceps are also useful.
Rosehips are high in vitamin C. Astragalus and echinacea also support immune function, but I save echinacea for acute use at the beginning of an illness or when I am feeling rundown.
Don’t forget your kitchen herbs! Fire cider is a potent immune booster that includes the antiviral properties of onions and garlic. (Again, to clarify, anti-viral against flu and colds, but we do not know if the same holds true for SARS-CoV-2 ).
Stay Calm – Herbs to support the nervous system during anxious times
When we are stressed over a long period, our bodies produce hormones that suppress our immune system. Herbs can support your nervous system in many ways and herbalists call these herbs nervines.
Lemon balm, oatstraw, lime blossom, passionflower, hops, lavender, California poppy and valerian and wild lettuce can help to calm anxiety, encourage good sleep, release tension in your muscles and body.
Herbs that you can take over a long period of time that nourish and balance your nervous system. My favourites are oatstraw, vervain, skullcap and rose.
Adaptogens and Tonic Herbs
Adaptogens are herbs that support our bodies to return to balance when they are used over time. Tonic herbs can be used
daily to promote general good health and vitality. My favourites that are abundantly available in the UK are hawthorn, nettles
and borage. If you do not have any issues with blood pressure and are not pregnant, licorice is also a useful adaptogen, particularly since in addition to supporting adrenal function, it overlaps with some of the symptoms of COVID-19 by
being antiviral, and expectorant and calming to the guts.
If you get sick…
Expectorant herbs support the body to thin and expel mucous from the lungs. My favourites are stimulating expectorants like elecampane and hyssop and soothing expectorants like marshmallow, plantain and licorice. Ground ivy and thyme are also
anti-microbial and useful in dispelling catarrh in the upper respiratory tract while also supporting the digestion.
Herbs for Fevers
The classic herbal tea to help move and break a fever is a combination of elderflower, mint and yarrow. Diaphoretic herbs like these relax blood flow and encourage the body to sweat, which encourages the heat of the fever to move through and out of the body.
Warming, stimulant diaphoretic herbs like ginger, cayenne, cinnamon and horseradish have the dual action of boosting circulation in the body, which is useful during the chills of fever, and drying and dispelling mucous. They can be used as a compress for chest congestion and drunk infused with lemon juice to stimulate the heat of a fever which makes the body more inhospitable to viruses.
Pour boiling water over a bowl of herbs and cover. Leave to infuse for 10-15 minute.
Inhale the steam for a few minutes at a time over 15-30 minutes. Steaming is a way to hydrate and deliver herbs directly to the mucous membranes of your nose, throat and lungs, keeping them moist and releasing mucous flow.
Herbs to consider for a steam bath could include: Thyme, lavender, sage, rosemary, cinnamon, eucalyptus, chamomile, cloves, pine, basil, lemon balm.
Important: If you have underlying health conditions, have trouble breathing or are at all concerned for your health and safety GO TO SEE A DOCTOR. The suggestions here are for straight forward, manageable symptoms with no other health conditions.
They are not a replacement for medical advice.
Hope you enjoyed this information blog. For more information on dealing with health and emotions during the pandemic click here.