Health & Wellbeing

Coronavirus – A holistic herbalist’s approach

We are all feeling the heavy weight that is on the shoulders of the Chinese population and our thoughts go out to those that are affected or have lost loved ones. We here in New Zealand have now just had the first case so within 2 weeks we will probably see more cases and might see it spread. There is a certain unrest among us kiwis and I hear the talk of parents considering taking their kids out of school in fear of an infection. If you are afraid and this is affecting your everyday life, please consider talking to someone about it. Simply sharing your concerns with others or a medical professional is helpful to release this fear.

Cases in China have been declining steadily since the 2nd February and this gives us all hope. Please see the recent media report of the WHO director here.

For me as a herbalist I look at the symptoms and then go out into the herb garden to find herbs that support the immune system and the respiratory system. I also look at our health from a holistic perspective and there is a fair bit that we can do to support our bodies through this disease. With the absence of helpful pharmaceutical drugs we once again look at the plant world, which we have done for thousands of years.

“COVID-19 typically causes flu-like symptoms including a fever and cough. In some patients – particularly the elderly and others with other chronic health conditions – these symptoms can develop into pneumonia, with chest tightness, chest pain, and shortness of breath. It seems to start with a fever, followed by a dry cough. After a week, it can lead to shortness of breath, with about 20% of patients requiring hospital treatment.
Notably, the COVID-19 infection rarely seems to cause a runny nose, sneezing, or sore throat (these symptoms have been observed in only about 5% of patients). Sore throat, sneezing,and stuffy nose are most often signs of a cold.” (source)

Bear in mind that over 80% of the cases are mild with flu-like symptoms and patients can recover at home. 13% of cases are severe with patients developing pneumonia and shortness of breath. 4 % of the cases are critical and 2% fatal. Please note that these numbers are from 18th February. These numbers get updated on a regular basis as the disease progresses and new details become available (please see here for updates).

I have always found it empowering to take my health in my own hands and I now share with you my top tips to strengthen the immune system for the upcoming autumn/winter cold and flu period and our go-to herbs in case we find ourselves in the situation of having to deal with COVID-19 in this country.

Eat a varied, colourful diet.
It is best to eat a large variety of foods, not excluding any food groups unless you are allergic to it. Include a wide range of fresh fruit and vegetables, that are organically grown, nutrient-rich, seasonal and pesticide-free. Organic produce is important here because you do not want to weaken your body by agricultural poisons that may weaken your immune system and may put your organs under unnecessary stress. Eat fresh fish, eggs, some meat from free-range animals, animal fats, organic and raw milk, cream, butter and cheese. Limit the amount of industrial quick-rise breads and pasta and go with recipes where the flour has been adequately soaked and fermented. Please see our blog for details and recipes.

Eat the rainbow!
Add colour and therefore a wide range of nutrients and antioxidents to your diet. Include bone broths and fermented foods in order to nourish and replenish your gut microbiome. Remember 70% of your immune system resides in your gut and by supporting the microbiome you fortify your immune system. Include garlic, onions and plenty of herbs with their antiviral and antimicrobial properties in your cooking every day.

Drink plenty of fluids and enjoy a range of herbal teas throughout the day. There are plenty of delicious herbs that make a tasty beverage. My kids love lemon verbena for example. It reduces inflammation, boosts the immune system, calms the stomach, reduces fevers and clears up congestion. Its lemoney taste makes it a great choice to add other herbs to the blend. Thyme and plantain would add lung support and antimicrobial properties to the tea (read more below).

Remove the biggest toxins. Unfortunately being healthy and feeling strong is not a normality anymore. A lot of people struggle daily, feeling unwell, tired, have no energy, experience chronic pain, headaches and so on. My best advise to you is to look for toxins and trying to eliminate them.
Avoid alcohol, coffee, sugar and processed foods. Some of these suppress the immune system temporarily and it is best to avoid them.
Get rid of wireless devices, do not use wifi and simply wire your computer to access internet, keep your cell phone at a safe distance as directed in the operation manual and do not support the rollout of 5G.
Drink pure, mineralised and clean water without fluoride and chlorine to poised your body

Get plenty of sleep and eat less in the evening. While we sleep our body recovers. During sleep melatonin is released. It is not just a sleep hormone, it is also an immune priming hormone. So if you don’t get enough sleep your entire immune system is dysfunctional. Avoid having your main meal of the day before bedtime so your body can concentrate on detox processes in the body and not on digesting food. A light meal is best. My husband and I make a vegetable juice with beetroot, carrots, celery, fennel, parsley and one apple once or twice a week and have that instead of dinner. It gives us a “no-solids” time for 19 hours from 1pm – 8am and recharges our systems. I always feel rested and strong the next day.
Sleep is such an important topic that I have written a blog about it, sharing the latest scientific findings on sleep: Why Sleep is so Important for Health and Healing and Natural Ways to Improve it. It also includes a TED talk by sleep scientist Matt Walker where he shares the wonderfully good things that happen when you get sleep and the alarmingly bad things that happen when you don’t, for both your brain and body.

Go outside. Get outside in the sun and ground yourself to the Earth. Take off your shoes, lie down in the grass and feel the connection to our Mother Earth. Listen to the birds and take off as many clothes as you can and let the sun restock your vitamin D levels before the winter comes. Breath the fresh air and let nature recharge you.

Reduce stress. As hard as it may sound in our busy world, do take some time for yourself. I enjoying a walk in nature, at the beach and by a river. Especially flowing water, like waves crashing, waterfalls and streams, is charging us with energy. Taking a moment to sit next to a mighty tree or observing some birds can work wonders on our mental and physical health.

Herbs and Herbal Remedies for Immune and Lung Support. One of our most valued herbs is elderberries and it is used in all of our immune support remedies (Health Elixir, Throat Sprays, Elderberry Syrup). Elderberries have a role to play in the health and integrity of our mucous membrane barriers. They have been used for winter ills and chills for centuries and recent scientific studies have shown that it contains phenolic acids, sialic acid and myricetin, providing excellent support for the body’s first line of defense against a broad spectrum of viruses and making it a good choice to use in preventing infections. It is also high in vitamin C and there has been some successful trials with patients given high doses of vitamin C. If treating COVID-19 always consult your health care professional before taking herbal supplements to ensure they are safe for you.

With this in mind we have done everything to harvest as much as possible so we can have the berries available for our immune products throughout the whole year. 280 kilos have been juiced, frozen, dried and tinctured at KoruKai Herb Farm this season. The berries are at their peak now in New Zealand (Feb/Mar depending on where you are in the country) and are widespread on the South Island. We encourage you to harvest some for your personal supply. Read this article for more info on the harvest and use of elderberries.

It seems that the lungs are particularly affected by COVID-19 and we grow a range of “lung herbs” on the herb farm and offer seedlings for sale (see our category Grow Your Own) every winter so you can grow your own at home, too. We highly value root herbs like elecampane, marshmallow (image above) and licorice as they relief dry, unproductive coughs and bronchitis due to their inflammation and pain relieving properties. They are soothing and protecting the mucous membrane tissue of the nose, throat and mouth. We also use easily accessible and wild herbs like thyme, hyssop, mullein and plantain. They are featured in products like our Chest Ease for kidsImmune Boost Tea and Health Elixir for adults.

In regard to fever my top tip is get a thermometer and closely monitor the fever. Fever is the body’s response to fight disease and is a great sign that the body is doing its best. In general I do not suppress it with fever and pain reducing drugs when it stays below 39 degrees and lasts less than 2-3 days. For a common cold I actually enhance the fever by a hot foot-bath before bedtime and the cold gets sweated out overnight. Fever can be reduced by cold and wet wraps around the ankles and the forehead. Simply use small towels and soak them in coolish water. Wring out and place around ankles. My kids love that extra attention when those are exchanged on a regular basis and it gives them some relief.

A possible vaccine: I am cautious of a vaccine that gets pushed out in a number of months and which possibly lacks thorough research and testing. I for one do not want my children to be guinea pigs for an untested vaccine. Besides the benefits it may or may not bring, it definitely will have a negative impact on our natural immune and defense system, but at the end of the day it is of course your decision.

Prepare yourself. The WHO recommends getting disposable face masks and it’s probably not a bad idea to have some on hand. Also some hand sanitiser is valuable when washing hands with soap and water doesn’t work. It can also be used to wipe down doorknobs and shopping trolley handles. Grow, harvest, forage and store some immune and lung support herbs (see above) or get some ready-made herbal remedies from us.

At the end of the day my best advise is to stay positive, laugh, enjoy time with your kids, family and friends.

I hope you found this information valuable. If you have something to add or a question please feel free to reach out to us (info@korukai.co.nz).

Published: 26th February 2020
Updated: 1st March and 1st April 2020

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