Luckily, or maybe not so much, we live in a time where antibiotics are a phone call away.
But what about viruses?
We’re told there’s no cure for viruses, and are even given antibiotics (like a “Z-pack,” which sounds like something a hip millennial wears while going on a hike, but it’s really azithromyacin, an antibiotic) for the flu or other short-term infections.
The problem with using antibiotics for every type of infection, even fungal or viral, is that they weaken your immune system, and promote antibiotic resistance. They really should used only if absolutely necessary, after all else has failed.
So if there’s a new, deadly virus on the loose, what do we do? First: don’t panic.
Second: do what you can to protect your immune system. Rest, drink water, and avoid sugar. Get fresh air and sunshine. Play and have fun. Stress is the worst thing, next to sugar, for your immune system. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Third: stock up your natural medicine cabinet.
Lots of herbs have antiviral and immune-enhancing properties.
When you’re taking herbal medicines, keep in mind that traditionally, herbs are not taken in solitude. They’re normally taken in a formula that balances the nature of the main herb. For example, if one herb is very cold-natured, we use hot herbs like ginger to balance it. Some herbs are contra-indicated for pregnancy or if you’re on certain medications as well. Always consult with a licensed herbalist before self-prescribing herbs.
But I also believe that plants are here to help us, and we have the power to choose how we address our own health. So here’s some useful info on plants that can help you treat, or even better, AVOID, the plague.
Helps with bacterial and viral upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs). It can help prevent URTI and the common cold. It can treat bowel infections.
CAUTIONS – Not recommended during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester. High doses may cause vomiting or diarrhea, but it’s not toxic. Very high doses in HIV patients in one trial reported adverse affects.
The normal dose for andrographis is 3-6 ml of a 1:2 tincture per day during the infection. It’s not recommended for long-term use. It’s also a cold-natured herb, so it’s good to take with warm herbs like Ginger, Astragalus, or Holy Basil.
My favorite! You can use echinacea to treat upper respiratory tract infections, or any type of infection. It enhances the immune response in healthy individuals. It’s OK to use long-term and it’s unlikely that someone is allergic to it, if the root is used instead of the aerial (pollen-generating) part of the flower. It’s safe for pregnancy, even.
CAUTIONS – It’s not recommended if you’re on immune-suppressant drugs. It may reduce the efficacy of those drugs.
The normal dose per day is 3-6 ml of a 1:2 liquid extract. 8 of 9 clinical trials found echinacea reduced the severity and duration of acute URTIs.
The 3 wise men knew what was up. Myrrh stimulates uterine contractions and is antimicrobial, so for a post-partum Mary, it was the perfect herb. You can use it as a mouth rinse for ulcers or a sore throat. It’s great for treating urinary tract infections and some herbalists have even used it to reduce tumors.
CAUTIONS – Since it stimulates movement of the uterus (if you have one), it should definitely NOT be used during pregnancy. Myrrh is an herb that should only be used for a short-term.
It’s usually “pulse-dosed,” meaning you take it for 1 week, then take a break for 1 week and repeat if necessary.
A normal dose is 1.5-4.5 ml of a 1:5 tincture per day.
Another antimicrobial herb is neem leaf. It can be used to enhance immunity, reduce a fever, treat a cough, or topically for eczema or scabies.
CAUTIONS – It’s best avoided during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester, and for both sexes during fertility treatments. It should also not be taken for a long-term and not at a high dose. It is slightly toxic over time.
The recommended dose is 1.5-3.5 ml of a 1:2 extract.
Do you remember back in ’98 when St. John’s was all the rage? Whole Foods stocked it in huge bins and it would still sell out. I guess a lot of people were/are depressed. It’s not as popular now, but it still works just as good.
It’s traditionally prescribed for depression, alcohol addiction, anxiety, nervousness, herpes, SAD, psychological symptoms of menopause, PMS, aerobic endurance enhancement for athletes (!), sleep disorders, and chronic or acute viruses.
CAUTIONS – Not advisable in cases of known photosensitivity (sun sensitivity). It also may interact with a number of drugs: immune suppressants, digoxin, HIV drugs, a chemo drug called Camptosar, warfarin, and phenprocoumon (blood thinners). Caution should be taken if you’re on a SSRI (anti-depressant) because of potential effects on serotonin levels. Women on birth control may experience break-through bleeding or unwanted pregnancies. But if you’re not on any drugs, you should be fine to try it!
The recommended dose is 2-6 ml of a 1:2 liquid extract per day.
Another antimicrobial and antiviral to try for URTIs, especially in combination with echinacea root.
CAUTIONS – Not for use during pregnancy or lactation. Thujone is slightly toxic.
Dose is 1.5-3 ml of a 1:5 tincture.
If taking herbs is not your jam, essential oils (EOs) come in handy:
- Bergamot oil
- Eucalyptus oil
- Red thyme
- Cinnamon leaf
- Tea tree oil
- Lemon balm
All of these oils have been shown in studies to have antiviral properties. You can diffuse EOs in your house with a diffuser or putting 10-12 drops of oil in your humidifier. You can also make hand soap or lotions infused with these oils.
The best defense for viruses are your daily habits. Eating healthy, exercising, and staying calm make the biggest difference.
Nutrition to optimize for your immune system:
1. VITAMIN C – Not to be confused with “ascorbic acid.” Eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies.
2. CALCIUM – Calcium is more than bone food. It’s an essential part of your immune system.
3. ZINC – Zinc is essential for the health of your immune system, digestive system, and for your hormones.
4. VITAMIN D – Go out in the sun and take a good quality fish oil.
Was this helpful? What do you do to stay healthy when there’s viruses all around you?