Getting support during COVID-19

What you can do to support your health during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you’re feeling healthy and have no symptoms of COVID-19, you don’t need to take anti-viral herbs. Many anti-viral herbs (note: there are beyond trillions of viruses on the earth, so know that ‘anti-viral’ can mean very different things from herb to herb) have actions that include clearing heat, dispersing congestion, thinning secretions, promoting sweating, among others. But if you don’t have any of those problems, then some herbs can actually interfere with your body’s balanced systems of maintaining health.

Instead, here are some other approaches you can take to maintain your health and be prepared for possible infection by COVID-19:

1. Manage your stress. Stress is a proven factor in susceptibility to infectious illness, and staying calm can be a lot easier said than done. Luckily, numerous herbal remedies are available to assist in many ways and most are readily available. Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) tea with a bit of dried lavender can help relax the person who gets a nervous stomach when they are stressed out. Milky oats (Avena sativa) tincture, taken in small doses (10-30 drops) throughout the day can have a steadying and calming effect on people feeling shaky. Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora) tincture can be a supportive tonic for anxious thinking. A clinical herbalist or acupuncturist can provide you with a custom formula or suggestions for how to prepare your own remedies based on your specific needs.

2. Eat well and support healthy digestion. Eat foods that make you feel good after you eat them. Add in plenty of seasonal vegetables and fruits when you can. As it’s early spring, this is often the leanest time for most small farmers, but your local producers may have plenty of winter greens, alliums, beets, and spring essentials are coming soon, like asparagus, strawberries, peas, and more. (Note that many small farmers sell a good deal of produce to restaurants, which are now closed, and so many are looking for new home-delivery customers. Search for local CSA farms in your area and sign up for the season!) If you are having digestion problems related to stress, there are many potential remedies that can help, from basics like peppermint (Mentha piperata) tea to blends of bitters that stimulate digestive enzymes to more complex formulas to improve digestive function.

3. Drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration is often overlooked, as so many of us enjoy many beverages throughout the day that can have diuretic effects, including coffee, black and green tea, and alcohol. Make sure that you are drinking plenty of water, whether on its own, or touched up with a squeeze of citrus or coconut water. A great habit to get into is to set yourself up with a tall glass next to your bed right before you turn out the light at night, so it’s there for you to drink first thing. Another wonderful way to get more fluids and enjoy the benefits of plants is to drink infusions of simple, nourishing herbs like oat straw (Avena sativa) and nettles (Urtica dioica).

4. Take care of chronic and ongoing health issues. If you are dealing with long-term, chronic, or mild but persistent health conditions, now is a good time to focus on treating them. Many conditions are managed through prescription medicine, but there are additional therapies that can be supportive, from herbal remedies to dietary changes and meditative exercises. Taking care of your health in all ways will improve your body’s ability to respond strongly to infectious disease.

5. Get the appropriate care if you do get sick. Most of us will likely end up getting COVID-19 at some point in the next year, and most of us will have mild or moderate cases that we will recover from. Many people will be told to remain at home in self-isolation, resting and recovering outside of the hospital setting. It is imperative that you be in touch with your physician or local clinic if you are having symptoms of COVID-19, so that you can be assessed and receive hospital care if appropriate. If you are told to remain at home, acupuncturists and clinical herbalists will have resources to provide support to you as you move through the stages of illness. It can also be very comforting to have another care provider who can help alert you if you do need to go back and seek hospital-based care.

Acupuncturists and clinical herbalists are well-resourced second-line providers, and we are here, ready and able to support those who are not required to enter the hospital system by maintaining health in well people and supporting recovery in the mild-moderately ill population. Our goals are to keep people as healthy as possible, to reduce the number of people needing hospital care, and to support our colleagues on the frontlines, those nurses, physicians, and allied healthcare providers who are working so hard to get people through this crisis. Please reach out, take care of yourselves, and be well!