Scrolling through Facebook today and came across a post from a longtime colleague of mine, that has been practicing Naturopathic medicine and Acupuncture for several decades, lamenting on the lack of use of Natural medicine during this pandemic. Like myself, many practitioners of more traditional forms of medicine find themselves kicked to the curb during this pandemic as non-essential. My wife, who’s a Doterra sales rep selling essential oils used for many different health purposes including natural cleaning, immune boosting, and fighting off pathogens, has found that even though we tripled our spending on essential oils in the last month, her income from others purchasing has actually dropped considerably. I went to a health food store a few weeks ago to find some stuff that the big stores had run out of and was shocked to find at this store shelves packed with vitamins, supplements of all kinds and herbs that could be being used to help us build up immunity and battle viral pathogens. It doesn’t make any sense. So what’s going on?
Well I dug around a bit and have discovered clips of announcements and paragraphs in articles that seem to imply natural supplements aren’t helpful for this virus. Before I get started here I want to say I believe Western medicine is a powerful life saving medicine and I’m very thankful for the doctors and nurses that are on the front lines working to help people recover from this virus. That being said, there’s some things you should know about Western medicine. For starters it’s based on what it can understand, see and measure. Therefore, what it doesn’t have time to do a randomized controlled double blind study on, it won’t say is helpful. Since it hasn’t had time to study natural medicines ability to help in these situations, and especially here in the west it’s not being used on the front lines at all (so they won’t know from experience) they aren’t going to recommend using it. Not only that, but since they don’t know (beyond a reasonable doubt) about it, they’re going to want to push people to do the only thing they KNOW will work which is staying home, and decreasing likelihood of coming into contact with the virus. So they are strongly going to make statements that say there is No Proof that such and such natural medicine Works For This Virus, you should therefore Stay Home, and here is the things we recommend based on the very limited information we have. This is not the same as saying this stuff doesn’t work, though it sounds that way. They want you above all else to be so afraid that you will absolutely stay home because their knowledge tells them that as a country this is the best way to beat the virus. And I’m not arguing that here. But it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also use natural medicine.
Another thing you should know about Western medicine is that it’s a political Power. They can regulate what herbs and supplements are available to you. They can prevent practitioners of Natural medicine from using words that even imply that they can help certain things. Again, if it hasn’t passed the randomized double blind placebo controlled trial test then it therefore doesn’t work or doesn’t exist. Just imagine how slowly medicine would’ve progressed if it always worked this way. So I’m not going to tell you that Natural medicine can cure or absolutely prevent this virus. However we have plenty of information that suggests it could help.
First off, this is a virus. So regardless of how new of a virus it is, herbs that tend to have antiviral properties might be helpful. There are some things that a virus must have to be classified as a virus no matter if it’s a new unknown virus or if it’s an adaptation of a well known virus. Secondly, if an herb is known to aid the immune system in production of cells that are known to inhibit or fight viruses, then it’s likely that this herb could help your body prepare for a viral invasion. If a virus causes oxidation damage, and/or the body already has oxidation damage weakening it, then it would make sense to be taking things that have antioxidant properties. Again, not saying you should take these herbs and then you’re free to go out and expose yourself to the virus. No, listen to the medical community and do what they say. But why not also help your body boost it’s immunity?
Secondly, Natural medicine has different ways of diagnosing. Western medicine has to be able to see it and measure it and then study it in order to take action. Systems of Natural medicine have diagnostic techniques that help them read what to prescribe based on how the body is reacting to what’s happening. It had to be able to do this to react to new and changing pathogens without having the ability or the time to study the pathogen. I know the Chinese system the best so I’ll give you an example from there. Rather than say oh, this is a virus, so I’ll need to add antiviral herbs Chinese medicine will say…hmm, it is Winter, so it’s likely that things that spread in cold are abounding (like viruses surrounded by lipid layers that hold up well in cold and not so well in heat). But to be sure, that practitioner will still examine the patient. They find the pulse is tight and on the surface, an indication that Cold, which constricts, is on the surface. They find that the patient is chilled, another possible indication that cold is effecting them. The patient has a tight neck and shoulders consistent with Cold Wind entering the Wind points at the neck and shoulders. The patient is lacking the burning sore throat that may indicate a heat pathogen. So the practitioner will use herbs and acupuncture points that work well against things that tighten the neck, shoulders and pulse, and create a feeling of chills that is also on the surface (remember that the pulse was on the surface) as opposed to having cold deeper in the internal organs (indicated by a deeper pulse and different symptoms). So the herbs are tailored to the symptoms rather than the specific virus. The assumption is, any virus that causes these symptoms is likely to have qualities that this group of herbs will work better for. So the herbs used may have a direct impact on the virus that causes these specific symptoms, or help the body that’s responding in these specific ways to adapt to what’s happening. To do this the practitioner doesn’t need a microscope, or blood sample or permission from the WHO about what they are doing. Again, that’s not to say that the practitioner is going to cure the person, or prevent the illness. But perhaps we could except that maybe they give the person a better chance at not becoming a critical patient, and/or not having the illness last as long or be severe. You could just wait until years later when we do a full study with thousands of people, or you could try it now when it matters to you most.
Third, Natural medicine thinks of everything as connected. Western medicine takes a virus and studies it. Then it takes it later and studies how it’s changed. Natural medicine assumes that the virus is not changing randomly, but in reaction to it’s overall environment, including human hosts, weather patterns, seasonal changes, and many many other micro and macro environmental shifts. We also know that plants live and adapt to these environmental shifts as well and will have this information programmed in to themselves. This is why one of the reasons we use whole herbs rather than just extracting and concentrating one particular chemical compound in an herb. The whole herb will reflect coming changes in the environment and will be more able to handle an virus that has grown, developed, and set it’s trajectory from the same environment. There’s a famous Chinese story about a village that gets struck with a horrible illness. the villagers send an representative to a famous herbalist off in the mountains. He hears of the symptoms and prepares several batches of herbs and sends them back. The herbs help to end the devastation of the illness. The next year, the same thing happens, and the people, instead of consulting the herbalist, use the herbs from the previous year. But this time nothing happens and the illness spreads and worsens. They send an representative to the Mountain again to explain that his herbs no longer work. Upon hearing this the herbalist gets a shocked look on his face, and says of course they won’t work, those are for last years illnesses.
Of course there is acupuncture and other manual therapies that can also help, unfortunately since our medicine isn’t integrated into the Western medical system at all, these other techniques are generally not available at this time. Perhaps in the future our world will except Natural medicine more and in another pandemic Acupuncturists and Herbalists could be working together on the front lines with MDs like they did in China with good results.
So what can you do right now to help yourself? I always recommend a professional consult, since herbs, just like medications, have side effects and which herbs and what dosages should be tailored to You. However, I also believe in empowering people, so, if you’re willing to look up information of how to use the herbs, here’s some of what I’d recommend in general based on what I’ve heard from case studies going around. My family and I have been taking Shi’itake and Reishi for improving immunity and also to help reduce allergies during the spring. We take zinc to help our immune systems. We are also taking a Chinese medicine formula based around the herb Astragalus which is an immune tonic, adaptogen (helps the body cope with stress) and a digestive tonic. Other herbs in the formula help improve digestion, circulation, energy, and enhance immune functions. We use Lemon Balm as needed to help to cope with stress and anxiety and also has some antiviral properties. We also use Ashwaganda as another adaptogen. We have Cat’s Claw on hand in case there is a severe viral issue that results in infection. We have another Chinese medicine formula based on blupleurum root (Chai Hu) that has strong antiviral properties while boosting the body’s immunity with immune tonics and adaptogens. We drink a lot of tea; Green Tea for the antioxidants, Rose Hips for the vitamin C, Gypsy Cold Care for the antiviral and warming herbs, Holy Basil as an adaptogen, and Chai for it’s warming properties. I’ve also recommended to friends and family that don’t have access to herbs or herbal formulas: thyme, cinnamon, ginger, licorice root, basil, and raw garlic (preferably taken with honey). If you don’t feel actively sick, you might want to consider doing a detox to get rid of stuff the body might be holding onto that could inhibit it’s ability to fight off any sort of infection. There are lots of detoxes out there, so find one you like. I personally did a juice fast (took in nothing but a juice blend of celery, apple, kale, and carrot juice), and took some detoxing herbs. But it’d help even if you just ate clean for about a week…avoid stuff you know your body doesn’t care for, highly processed and fatty or excessively sweet foods…mostly fruits and veggies. Lastly, wind cold feeds on Fear, so do what you can to reduce your stress like mediation, Yoga, Tai Chi, Walks in the woods. Also, do what brings you Joy like dancing, playing, and creating…Hope this article is helpful and finds you and your family well.