Herbs Against Cor*navirus, An Update
By Kelsey Conger, Herbalist
This year has been a whirlwind for all of us. Hopefully you’ve been able to hunker down with your loved ones and stay safe together! Here at Remedy we’ve been diligently reading and researching to learn everything we can about this virus and what we can do to prevent infection, fight off the virus, and successfully recover.
In March we shared an article on Herbs Against Cor*navirus that explored the ways in which the virus works in the body and how herbs can help. This article is meant to serve as an update to that article with some new information on what we have learned. As you all know we are big fans of infectious disease herbalist, Stephen Buhner’s work and we have included information in this article from his most recent publication. You can find his entire 80 page article on our C*VID page if you want even more detail.
As more research has been done, we’ve found that our original virus formula #1 still holds strong! This is an excellent formula to take preventatively in low amounts, then especially at the onset, for the duration of, and for two weeks following an infection.
Before we move on, it would be irresponsible for us to first not mention that above all else, the 4 MOST effective ways to reduce your risk of getting and spreading C*VID are:
1. Washing your hands regularly,
2. Wearing a mask,
3. Remaining 6 ft apart from others, and
4. Refraining from touching your eyes, ears, and mouth.
The Basics + New Info
One thing that clinicians and researchers have learned after months of gathering data is that people who have the infection and recover from their initial acute illness, may develop new symptoms at a later date or otherwise have symptoms that remain for a longer period of time. These non-specific symptoms range from fatigue, shortness of breath, fever, congestion, digestive issues, to brain fog and is becoming dubbed as ‘post-cor*navirus syndrome’. This has been a concerning and important development in our understanding of the illness this virus causes. There is now even some evidence that the virus may have the ability to go dormant by sequestering itself somewhere in the body, then after an indeterminate period of time, can become active again and cause a wide multitude of symptoms.
In our first article, we discussed special cell receptors referred to as ACE-2 receptors. These receptors are the sites at which the SARS-Cov-2 virus attaches and enters our cells thus infecting the cell. These receptors are found on cells throughout the body, including in the lungs, digestive tract, heart, kidneys, liver, lymph nodes, brain, and blood vessels to name a few (1). This is important because it is how this infection can become systemic - infecting the cells of these organs - and have far-reaching impacts on the body beyond the respiratory system.
Herbs with Antiviral Activity
To start off, let’s look at just a few herbs that have antiviral properties. There are many powerful antiviral herbs out there, but we wanted to find herbs that have shown evidence specifically against the SARS group of viruses. The strongest antivirals for this group of viruses include: Chinese Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis), Forsythia (Forsythia suspensa), and Licorice (Glycyrrhiza spp.). Another potent antiviral, but slightly less effective than those previously mentioned is the Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) (1).
All of the above herbs are included in our Virus Formula #1! These herbs work by both strengthening and protecting ACE-2 receptors to block viral attachment. Others that have this effect include Elderberry (Sambucus nigra), Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), and Cinnamon (Cinnamomum spp.). As the infection moves onto later stages, it suppresses ACE-2 receptors which can have a dramatic impact.
You may have heard about a dangerous inflammatory response called ‘cytokine storm’ (also mentioned in our previous article). There are numerous effects when these inflammatory cytokines begin flooding the body. One of which is increased permeability of the epithelium tissue layers in the lungs, allowing the virus to penetrate and worsen the infection (1).
Astragalus (Astragalus spp.), Chinese Skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis), Cordyceps (Cordyceps spp.), Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis), and Isatis (Isatis spp.) are all medicinal herbs that help regulate the cytokine response. Again, these are included in the Virus Formula #1 at the appropriate ratios.
One of the ways this virus becomes prolific inside the body is by modulating immune function. During the initial stages of infection, it suppresses immune function, while in later phases it stimulates immune function and causes high levels of inflammation.
Immune modulating herbs can help with this nasty imbalance by promoting long-term balanced immune function and a healthy immune response. Herbs that have these properties, as well as an affinity for supporting lung tissue, are Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Astragalus (Astragalus spp.), and Licorice (Glycyrrhiza spp.). Read more about immune-modulating and respiratory tonic herbs on our blog here and here.
Another especially important immune-modulating mushrooms is Cordyceps. This virus specifically inhibits maturation of immune cells called dendritic cells, which launch an adaptive immune response, thus preventing our body’s natural immunity. Cordyceps (Cordyceps spp.) mushrooms help to stimulate dendritic cell maturation, counteracting the virus.
You may have noticed that Astragalus, Licorice, and Cordyceps have been mentioned several times now! Their dual actions in fighting this virus are part of the reason why we selected them as part of our Virus Formula.
Lung + Respiratory Support
It goes without saying that encouraging healthy and happy lungs is of utmost importance. Whether you haven’t had the virus yet or you’re recovering, these lung supportive herbs are especially useful. The lungs are filled with ciliated-cells that are heavily affected by this virus. Herbs that support the health of lung tissue include Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Mullein (Verbasum thapsus), and Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea).
Another simple way to soothe your respiratory passages is to do an herbal steam with herbs such as Mullein, Sage, and Rosemary. Essential oils that help open up the airways, such as pine needle, rosemary, and eucalyptus can also be especially useful and healing.
Supporting lymphatic function is another important aspect of preventing and recovering from this virus (and really any infection for that matter). Lymphatic system supporting herbs such as Red Root (Ceanothus spp.), Cleavers (Galium aparine), Calendula (Calendula officinalis), and Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) are strongly recommended. Eleuthero and Chinese Skullcap (in the Virus Formula #1) are two more herbs that protect and support endothelial cells in the lymph system.
Another little-discussed aspect of this viral infection is its effects on the lung microbiome, which can allow room for opportunistic bacteria to proliferate. This impacts the gut microbiome as well, which is interconnected with the lung microbiome. We recommend taking a probiotic to support a healthy microbiome and immune system - aim for at least 10 billion CFU per day. We have several highly potent options here at Remedy!
GI + Liver Support
As we mentioned earlier, the virus can attack cells with ACE-2 receptors - which are found throughout the digestive system, including in the liver. Herbs that soothe inflammation and heal the gut lining can be consumed in tinctures, capsules, teas, or even added to foods. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis), and Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) are excellent choices. Stephen Harrod Buhner, a respected herbalist who studies infectious diseases, suggests in his most recent protocol the use of standardized Milk Thistle seed to protect the liver and normalize its functioning (1).
Another important factor with this virus and the intense respiratory symptoms it causes is hypoxia.
Hypoxia occurs when we do not get enough oxygen to supply all the tissues of the body. As Buhner says it, “Protecting the cells from the induced hypoxia can help reduce the damage in the lungs. Rhodiola is specific for this. It prevents hypoxia-induced oxidative damage, increases intracellular oxygen diffusion, and increases the efficiency of oxygen utilization”. Rhodiola (Rhodiola graveolens) and Cordyceps (Cordyceps spp.) are two herbs that increase oxygenation in the body that we have here at the pharmacy.
Further Recommendations for Post-Virus Syndromes
Here’s some examples of herbs to address these ongoing symptoms.
For chronic fatigue, try our Ashwagandha or Adrenal Rx capsules (deeply rejuvenating to the nervous system).
For shortness of breath, try our Breathe mushroom capsules or liquid Chlorophyll (increases oxygenation).
For digestive issues, try our Smooth Move tea (constipation) or our Fennel capsules (gas + bloating).
For ongoing lung congestion, try our Bronchial Syrup. If you aren’t sure what to take depending on the symptom, please give us a call and we’d be happy to help!
Always check with your doctor before making any changes to your health routine. This information is meant for educational purposes only and is not meant to be taken as medical advice or treatment for any condition. If you are experiencing symptoms of C*VID-19 please call your doctor!