The search for a COVID-19 cure — ideally a pill or a vaccination — seems to be the most uplifting thing in the news these days.  For mild to moderate cases of COVID-19, treatments that allopathic medicine can provide include acetaminophen to reduce the fever, cough suppressants, and inhalers for the shortness of breath.  There are currently no medications to assist the body in fighting off the offenders, although some doctors in Wu-Han started using intravenous vitamin C with some success.  Another thing China used in their fight against COVID-19 were herbal medications.

Even a senior scientist of the CDC, Dr. William Thompson, said in 2014, “I shoulder that the CDC has put the research 10 years behind.  Because the CDC has not been transparent, we’ve missed ten years of research.”

There are no tools in allopathic medicine that help you get healthier.  The best they can do is prevent you from dying.  And lately, I’m sorry to say that’s not going too well either.  For the whole to survive, and even to thrive, we can’t think of killing just one organism, but of strengthening the whole.  This is how a body can fight it off.  Viruses are not going away any time soon, so we had better learn how to outsmart them.

Why are elderly people more susceptible to COVID-19?  Chances are, as the average American ages, they’ll find themselves on one or more pharmaceutical medication.  The typical medication for hypertension, for example, lists more than 10 possible side-effects.  And the average elderly American is on 15 separate medications.

Of course, hypertension, and other serious illnesses need to be addressed, but is more medication the answer?  The problem is not just that the blood pressure number is too high, it’s a problem of the whole organism:  lifestyle, stress levels, food and water intake, and exposure to toxins, and possibly other complicating illnesses. 

Even among people who advocate natural methods of health, there’s some hesitation.

“I’ve used an essential oil before and I liked it…”  “I like to drink mint/ginger tea…”  But when it comes to a serious illness, or sometimes even just a really bad headache, and all the natural rhetoric gets the boot.  “Time for some real medicine!”

Surely herbs couldn’t be strong enough to combat a disease that is ravaging our entire earth?  A simple plant?  It’s just not sexy enough.  Discovering something new – novel – that could net billions of dollars – now that’s sexy.

What if we’re looking at this all wrong, though?  What if we adapted the natural methods to work better for us?  Or adapt our healthcare system to take into account how people are eating; how they’re managing stress; and if they’re exercising, and make this a covered benefit by our insurance?

One herb that I’d like to highlight, arteminsia annua, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine from 168 BCE, or perhaps earlier, it’s hard to say.  Traditionally used for periodic fever and malaria, the new research found that it also has unique molecules with unique killing activities.  The head researcher, Tu Youyou, won the 2015 Nobel Prize.  Arteminsia is able to effectively combat viruses, fungi, and even several varieties of parasites.  (HO We, Peh HY, Chan TK, et al, Pharmacol Ther, 2014).

Because of the amazing abilities of this herb, pharmaceutical companies isolated the ART, chemically reproduced it, and patented it.  This is your anti-malarial drug, like chloroquine.  The problem with this approach is that the use of the whole herb vs the chemical isolate of the herb is twice as effective and less likely to develop into drug resistance.  (Elfawal MA, Towler MJ, Reich NG et al, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 2015 / PLoS One, 2012 / Weathers PJ, Elfawal MA, Towler MJ, J Enthopharmacol, 2014.)

New research shows that in one case with 18 patients who were unresponsive to the anti-malarial drug therapy, just taking a regular dose of the whole herb for 5 days, all of the patients fully recovered (Daddy NB, Kalisya LM, Bagire PG, et al, Phytomedicine 2017).

59 million Americans use some type of alternative medicine at a cost of approximately $30 billion per year.  Americans spend around $300 billion per year just on prescription drugs.  With the total medical costs in the US being over $900 billion, you can see that alternative medicine is a very small portion of that pie, around 3%.

You may read that experts warn against herbal remedies because they give patients a false sense of security, leading them to neglect proven medications or therapies.  This is what most articles on natural anti-viral treatments say, quoted by experts, who are usually medical doctors who have never studied herbology.

Herbal knowledge that acupuncturists, for example, study include:  combinations of herbs that work the best (we like to use a chief herb and a guiding herb and other herbs to assist the formula to work better); what dose of which herbs is right for your constitution; how long to take an herb (artemisia for example, you don’t want to take daily); and what results or side-effects you can expect from the herb.  It’s more complicated than just popping over to Walgreen’s and picking up a bottle of turmeric to try out.

Self-prescribing herbs works just as well as self-prescribing oneself pharmaceuticals.  There’s a reason why we can’t do that!  It’s not as effective and sometimes it could even be dangerous.  This is why we need licensed herbalists to lead their patients in the right direction.  A licensed herbalist is presumably also doing the due-diligence of ordering herbs from an herbal company that tests the quality and purity of the herbs. 

For herbs to work optimally, we also need a functioning immune system.  For deep infections, say, in the lungs, the herbs need to be able to access the tissues.  From a holistic standpoint, causes of pathogen susceptibility include toxicity of the internal organs (liver, intestines, etc); nutritional status (ability to absorb calcium in the gut; zinc or vitamin D or C deficiencies, etc.); stress, distress, and cortisol imbalances; and sleep or lack thereof.  We can’t isolate one part away from the whole organism.

Florence Nightingale, in 1860 is quoted saying, “Wise and humane management of the patient is the best safeguard against infection…Cleanliness and fresh air from open windows, with unremitting attention to the patient, are the only defense a true nurse either asks or needs.”

Even the father of the modern vaccine, Louis Pasteur, his last purported words were, “the pathogen is nothing.  The terrain is everything.”  The germ theory is that microorganisms cause certain illnesses.  Which is true, but doesn’t answer the question which is why are some people not getting the dis-ease from the coronavirus, and others are dying.  The answer is the terrain; the health of the body.  Unless they have a genetic problem, children are born healthy and perfect.  The dis-eases take place over time, slowly.

The current model of healthcare is this:  imagine a fish swimming around in a dirty fishbowl.  The fish is beginning to get sick so we give it medicines to not die.  Does the fish get better?  Of course not; it continues to slowly deteriorate.  Instead, why not focus on the environment of the fish?  Clean water to breathe and ideally, good quality nutrition should equal a healthy fish.  We need to be focusing on getting a healthier environment – in and out of our bodies – and not on more medications.

Pharmaceutical medications are doing nothing to correct those underlying issues; in this case, they can’t even target the virus.  Which is why people are scared and dying.  What we need now is a radical new approach, which is actually an ancient approach.  With modern technology that can ascertain the quality of the herbs, find qualified herbalists around the country, and use tele-medicine to avoid group contamination; we may have an actual solution on our hands.