DISCLAIMER: This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease. It is solely for informational purposes only. Any use or misuse of the information contained in this article is solely the responsibility of the reader. The author cannot be held liable. Before trying any new supplement or herb, check with your physician. If you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medication, check with your physician before making any change.
By now, there are thousands, or hundreds of thousands of articles on the topic of coronavirus, aka sars-Cov-2. Nonetheless, many patients, family, and friends have contacted me asking questions, and wondering if there are any steps they should take. This article will present what is, hopefully, useful information in an easy to read format. I will tend to oversimplify things so as to make the article as short as possible.
About the virus itself……
So, scientists so far have determined that the novel coronavirus uses a protein spike, found on its surface, to bind to an ACE2 receptor on your cells. This is like a key fitting into a lock. Where are the ACE2 receptors? They happen to occur in plentiful numbers in your lung and digestive tract. This should come as no surprise then, that symptoms of this novel coronavirus can occur in the lungs and/or the digestive tract. I saw one estimate that as many as 20% of patients were presenting with digestive issues. That number will probably be constantly changing. At any rate, for those of you who don’t know, the virus isn’t technically alive, Its a fragment of RNA protein that needs the machinery in your cells to replicate itself. This really makes it pretty narcissistic. It breaks into your cell, it then uses your cell to duplicate itself as much as possible, and then makes you sick.
What might we be able to do……..
All of us would like to feel like we are protecting ourselves, and feel some sense of control over our situation regarding this virus. I will share with you some ideas beyond hand washing, isolation, and mask wearing. (PLEASE KEEP DOING THOSE THINGS HOWEVER). I’ll explain a couple different approaches and things people could consider trying.
There are two ways to approach things. One is basing actions on scientific findings, the biomedical model if you will. The other is a traditional or indigenous model. The biomedical avenue is like this: use an antiviral for a viral infection, use an antibacterial herb for a bacterial infection, use an anti-inflammatory herb for inflammation. It is totally logical and valid. The traditional or indigenous approach, which is equally valid and has its own inherent logic, includes things like traditional Chinese herbal medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, and other systems used by indigenous cultures around the world. The traditional model treats a patient by matching the specific pattern of symptoms and the constitution of the patient with a suitable, possibly modified, herbal formula. And a third options, would actually be a combination of the two.
The Chinese have chosen to use both approaches. In China, the government actually provided herbal decoctions for patients at hospitals throughout the epicenter of the coronavrus outbreak in addition to using conventional medical treatment strategies. Dr John Chen and his family business, elotus, have shared the herbal strategies being used there. Here is a link to a video Dr Chen has presented on the topic. It is quite good, and even though some of the jargon will be foreign to you, most people will gain some understanding and insight.
The main thing to take away is that the Chinese government used a couple modified herbal formulas to prevent doctors from getting sick, or at least reduce the severity of the illness in the event they got sick. These were basically a classic formula called Yu Ping Feng San, sometimes translated as Jade WIndScreen, or Jade Screen. It has 3 herbs, one of which is huang qi (astragalus) which has been extensively researched for its immune enhancing capabilities. They took this and added other herbs to the formula. The added herbs are based on the two approaches I mentioned earlier. They are herbs with both a traditional use in certain patterns of symptoms, AND they have modern research indicating they have anti SARS (coronavirus)properties.
Back in 2013, during the SARS outbreak, a somewhat similar herbal formula was given to 1063 healthcare workers, while a control group of 15,374 healthcare workers did not receive any herbs. In the treatment group, none of the healthcare workers got sick with the SARS virus (a cousin of the current coronavirus), while 64 of the healthcare workers who did not take the herbs did get sick with SARS. To be clear, I am NOT saying that if you take herbs you can be 100% bulletproof and escape this current virus. What I am saying is it certainly seems like it could be worth trying herbs out. Currently, some models are predicting as many as 50-80% of the US population could become infected. While some 80% of those infected will likely have mild to moderate symptoms , no one can predict which of us will fall into the 80% of mild cases, and which of us won’t.
For those who are curious, the formula Yu Ping Feng San ( Jade Screen) is often available on Amazon, and a wide variety of websites. You wont be getting the modified version with the addition of herbs being used in China during this pandemic , but it would seem to be better than nothing. IF you have a relationship with an acupuncturist who practices Chinese herbal medicine, you can likely get the modified version, or one similar.
Another Road to Protection
The biomedical approach to using natural therapies may include certin supplements. Certain phyto-chemicals have been found to have the ability to prevent the coronavirus from attaching to your ACE2 receptors, which were mentioned earlier as a keyhole on your cells. Some of them are bioflavonoids including quercetin, and a number of bioflavonoids, like hesperidin, found in citrus and some others, and natural phytochemicals like chlorogenic acid found artichokes, apples, pears, sweet potatoes and some coffee beans and tea, and also rutin found in buckwheat, unpeeled apples and other fruits. This approach is based on computer modeling and in vitro studies, not human clinical trials, so it can’t be known with certainty if it is effective at inhibiting the virus. At the same time, I would say this: some of those flavonoids occur in herbs that had anti-SARS activity and have been used for hundreds of years for a variety of viral infections in Chinese herbal medicine. So, again, it is something to seriously consider. I have some on hand for myself. However, check with your doctor before taking supplements. And please note that you can get quercetin and other phytochemicals from a variety of fruits and vegetables including common things like apples.
Combining both overall approaches, we get this: modern research confirming traditional use of herbs. What that looks like in this case, is that certain Chinese herbs used for viral illnesses have been shown to have anti-viral activity against SARS viruses including, but not limited to licorice (gan cao) , scutellaria (huang qin), yu xing cao ( houttuyniae), lonicera (jin yin hua). Some of these were the herbs added to the Yu Ping Feng formula to make up the formula used in China for healthcare workers to help them not get seriously ill from the coronavirus. The best of both worlds
Once a person is infected, and actually manifesting symptoms, things get a little more complex (NOTE: if someone already is sick, they should discontinue using Yu Ping Feng). This is because, in the traditional approach used in Chinese herbal medicine, its not just, “have a virus, treat with antivirals”. Nope!! What the herbalist (acupuncturist) seeks to do, is to match up an herbal formula, with the pattern the patient presents with. In other words, each person’s body is unique. Therefore, the way each body responds and interacts with the virus will be different. Thus, there is not ONE herbal formula that would fit everyone. The guidelines from the Chinese government therefore list various formulas it recommends based on the set of symptoms the patient presents with. This customizing herbs to the specifics of the patient is the heart of Chinese herbal medicine. If you watch the youtube video by Dr Chen (link provided earlier in this article) you will get a keener idea of what this looks like relative to the coronavirus. To reiterate that: people getting the novel coronavirus are presenting with varying sets of symptoms. sometimes including diahrrea and abdominal pain, sometimes dry cough and wheezing with fever, sometimes severe body aches and fever, and so on. In each situation, the patient is given an herbal formula designed for their specific pattern of symptoms. Each body responds differently to the virus. Each body gets a different formula!!
For those of you who have questions about herbs, supplements and so on, phone consultations are available. I block off about 2-3 hours per week for this. If you are not already a patient at the clinic, this consultation will be considered as being for eductional and informational purposes and will not constitute an acupuncturist-patient relationship. Two options exist:
- $20 for a 15 minute consultation
- $30 for a 30 minute consultation
Payment can be made via PayPal, or by credit card. Payment is made prior to the consultation. For those of you who wish to schedule, you may contact me at ryanacupuncture@gmail,com