COVID19: Natural Medicine Update
Updated: Aug 20, 2020
In the current outbreak of COVID19, many patients appear to be turning to complementary, natural, and traditional medicinal therapies in conjunction with western medicine. In addition, natural medicine is being used to guide the development of novel antiviral drugs and enhance clinical outcomes while researchers worldwide are working around the clock to find a vaccine against SARS-CoV-2. While some natural medicines in the form of vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other nutrients can help enhance immunity, such measures should not replace social distancing, quarantining when necessary, or any other recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention related to the novel coronavirus and COVID19 infection. Here is some natural medicine research and natural substances being studied for COVID19.
Melatonin and Children
Melatonin is being used in COVID19 protocols however it is not an approved treatment yet. Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland of the brain and regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin production is less in older adults. Melatonin exerts anti-inflammatory, antiviral, anticancer and antioxidant properties that protect against respiratory failure. Clinical studies have shown that melatonin exerts antioxidant and anti-inflammatory actions in the lungs of newborns with respiratory distress syndrome. Melatonin treatment reduces pro-inflammatory chemicals called cytokines, a hallmark condition in COVID19. Effective dosage is individual and unknown.
Melatonin is the reason why children under the age of nine seldom exhibit severe symptoms according to recent research. In fact, children may exhibit mild or even no symptoms at all, even though they have been infected by SARS-CoV-2. When compared to healthy adult seniors, a young child can easily have ten times the amount of peak melatonin levels. Children who are younger, have respiratory problems, or are immunocompromised are at greatest risk.
Pregnancy and COVID19
SARS-CoV-2 is not transmittable from pregnant mothers to their infants at birth according to the latest research. While infants born to mothers with COVID-19 have not tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2, virus-specific antibodies have been detected in neonatal blood sera samples which means the baby came in contact with the virus. More research is needed on this topic.
Blood Type and COVID19
A person's blood type might make them more susceptible to developing the disease. Data suggests that people with blood type A might have a higher risk of developing COVID-19, but people with blood type O have a lower risk. More research is needed on this topic.
Quercetin and Hydroxychloroquine
Quercetin is a polyphenolic compound present in onions, green tea, apples, berries, and other edible plants. Quercetin exerts anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antiviral properties and might improve immune function. It is safe, well-tolerated, and is already an FDA-approved drug ingredient. Although the compound has not been clinically tested against SARS-CoV-2, clinical trials are beginning, with outcomes expected in a few months. Quercetin glucosides, such as isoquercitrin and isoquercetin, have been shown to be much more bioavailable and more quickly absorbed. Quercetin is best absorbed with fat such as avocado, olive oil or coconut oil.
Quercetin may be beneficial in conjunction with hydroxychloroquine, an old, inexpensive anti-malarial drug with a known safety profile. Hydroxychloroquine is used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Hydroxychloroquine may be beneficial but it comes with a whole host of side effects affecting the liver, kidney, stomach, heart, and skin. When hydroxychloroquine and quercetin are used synergistically, they become ionophores, compounds that can transport ions across a cell's fat border called the lipid membrane. Zinc is an antiviral ion that can be transported into the cell and block the replication of viruses.
Vitamin D and Magnesium
Approximately 70 percent of people living in the United States are vitamin D insufficient. Vitamin D is protective against respiratory tract infections. Research suggests that daily or weekly supplementation of vitamin D reduced the risk of acute respiratory infection by more than 50 percent in people with low baseline vitamin D levels. Vitamin D deficiency leads to overexpression of renin (an enzyme produced in the kidneys) and subsequent activation of the renin-angiotensin-system, a critical regulator of blood pressure, inflammation, and body fluid homeostasis. Disturbances in this system due to the loss of ACE2 function in the setting of SARS-CoV-2 infection can promote neutrophil infiltration, excessive inflammation, and lung injury. Once lung infection progresses to hypoxia, renin is released, setting up a vicious cycle for decreasing ACE2. Lower levels of ACE2 promote more damage, culminating in acute respiratory distress syndrome, or ARDS.
Since vitamin D insufficiency is widespread, supplemental vitamin D may be beneficial. Effective dosage is unknown however some protocols are calling for 2000-5000IU per day. Vitamin D is best absorbed with proper magnesium levels. Most people are borderline deficient in magnesium too. The best way to get magnesium is through diet. Magnesium is found in kale, spinach, swiss chard, collard greens, brown rice, beans, and lentils. The best way to enhance Vitamin D is to get 20 minutes of direct sunlight daily. Vitamin deficiency testing is necessary to find out if an individual is Vitamin D or magnesium deficient.
Glutathione is an important antioxidant in the body that is required by the liver to get rid of toxins. Oral and IV glutathione and glutathione precursors N-acetyl-cysteine and alpha lipoic acid may represent a novel treatment approach for blocking inflammation and addressing “cytokine storm syndrome” and respiratory distress in patients with COVID-19 pneumonia. Vitamin deficiency testing is necessary to find out if an individual is glutathione deficient.
Intravenous Vitamin C
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is an essential nutrient, widely recognized for its antioxidant properties. For the past several decades, intravenous vitamin C has been used as an effective antiviral agent for the treatment of multiple types of viral infections. Oral vitamin C uptake in the gut is limited. Intravenous vitamin C bypasses the gut and is 30 to 70 times more bioavailable. Intravenous vitamin C's effectiveness in treating viral infections is also likely due to its ability to enhance the immune system. Vitamin C is highly concentrated in immune cells. Furthermore, some studies have observed that in critically ill patients such as those with severe viral infections, plasma levels of vitamin C might be less than 25 percent of those observed in healthy people. It is noteworthy that there are no published studies on the effect of intravenous vitamin C on COVID19. However, some anecdotal evidence suggests that it might be beneficial in treating the disease.
Selenium has a critical role in the defense against viral infection through its antioxidant, redox signaling, and redox homeostatic contributions. Selenium deficiency is associated with increased risk of several virus infections. In the deficient state, the selenium supplementation is helpful for the prevention and treatment of viral infections. All forms of selenium are well absorbed, but absorption of selenomethionine is the best. Vitamin deficiency testing is necessary to find out if an individual is selenium deficient.
Zinc is essential for normal function and development of cells regulating nonspecific immunity, including natural killer cells and neutrophils. Zinc deficiency impairs the antiviral immunity, particularly to herpes simplex, common cold, herpes simplex virus, hepatitis C, and the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). A meta-analysis of oral zinc supplementation studies suggested beneficial effects on the shortened of symptoms and duration of common cold infection. Moreover, research has shown that zinc has antiviral effects; it improves immune responses and suppresses viral replication. Therefore, the consumption of up to 50 mg zinc per day may provide a protective role against the COVID-19 pandemic, likely by improving the host's resistance against viral infection. The three types of zinc supplements most easily absorbed by the body are zinc picolinate, zinc acetate, and zinc citrate. Zinc deficiency testing is necessary to find out if an individual is adequately deficient.
Increasing evidence suggests that sauna use stimulates heat shock proteins. These proteins activate the immune response and help the body's ability to fight off a disease that it has never been exposed to before. More research has to be conducted on this related to COVID19.
Cold showers can support immunity before getting COVID19. Scientific studies have found that taking a cold shower increases the amount of white blood cells in the body. These blood cells protect the body against diseases and infection. Researchers believe that this process is related to an increased metabolic rate, which stimulates the immune response. Complete cranial immersion in cool water can also stimulate the vagus nerve, an important nerve that can help reduce swelling and inflammation. More research has to be conducted on this.
Exercise plays an important role in immunity. Regular, moderate exercise reduces the risk of acute respiratory infections. Moderate exercise less than 60 minutes for 3-4 days per week is beneficial for the innate immune response against respiratory infections and protects from inflammation. By contrast, extreme exercise performed by professional athletes (e.g. bikers, rowers, marathon runners, soccer players) induces a tremendous increase of alveolar ventilation and susceptibility to upper respiratory tract infections.
The top 10 most commonly used TCM herbal medicinal products in China to treat COVID19 patients include Astragalus membranaceus, Glycyrrhiza uralensis, Saposhnikoviae divaricata, Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae, Lonicerae Japonicae Flos, Fructus forsythia, Atractylodis Rhizoma, Radix platycodonis, Agastache rugosa, and Cyrtomium fortunei.
Copper (Cu) is an essential micronutrient for both pathogens and the hosts during viral infection. Cu is involved in the functions of critical immune cells such as T helper cells, B cells, neutrophils natural killer (NK) cells, and macrophages. These blood cells are involved in the killing of infectious microbes, in cell-mediated immunity and the production of specific antibodies against the pathogens. Cu-deficient humans show an exceptional risk to infections due to the decreased number and function of these immune blood cells. Enrichment of plasma copper levels will boost both the innate and adaptive immunity in people. Due to its potent antiviral activities, Cu may also act as a preventive and therapeutic regime against COVID-19. Vitamin deficiency testing is necessary to find out if an individual is deficient.
One family of compounds that demonstrate antiviral activity across a number of studies is the polyphenols. Compounds that show promise for the inhibition of coronavirus in humans include scutellarein, silvestrol, tryptanthrin, saikosaponin B2, quercetin, myricetin, caffeic acid, psoralidin, isobavachalcone, and lectins such as griffithsin. Griffithsin is found in red algae. Silvestrol, a natural compound from the bark of Aglaia Foveolata tree, is an effective antiviral against Ebola infections. Plant compound tryptanthrin has strong viricidal activity against the S protein that targets the ACE2 receptor. Sambucus formosana known as elderberry has been shown to be anti-viral and safe. A compound in elderberry called caffeic acid was found to inhibit the attachment of coronavirus (HCoV) to host cells, indicating potential binding to S proteins. Plant lectins may inhibit SARS-CoV. Lectins have shown promise as antiviral agents against viruses such as influenza and herpes simplex virus, as well as Ebola. Stilbene based compounds resveratrol and pterostilbene can be promising anti-COVID19 drug candidates by disrupting the virus' spike protein. Stilbenes can be found in grapes and berries.
Plant Based Diet
Nutritional support is paramount to improve the chances of recovery in COVID19 patients. Studies suggest: eat vegetables, with soluble and insoluble fiber, limit salt and sugar intake, refrain from processed oils, including olive oil, especially coconut oil and even medium chain triglycerides. Studies in human patients led by Ralf Linker at the University of Erlangen demonstrated that processed oils increased inflammation, while short-chain fatty acids (propionic acid and butyrate) were found to do the opposite. Eating a predominantly plant-based diet rich in many types of antioxidants sets up an antioxidant cascade, which also helps to fight viral infection. For example, broccoli sprouts have also been demonstrated to increase the ability of immune T cells to produce a virus-killing chemical called granzyme B. In another study, blueberry consumption for 6 weeks increased viral killing immune cells and reduced inflammation. Even if one’s traditional diet includes meat, dairy and processed fats, the inclusion of fiber alone can improve adaptive immune cell function.
Alcohol and Smoking
Alcohol and smoking disrupts ciliary function in the upper airways, impairs the function of immune cells, such as alveolar macrophages and neutrophils and weakens the barrier function of the epithelia in the lower airways. Both of these habits increase inflammation of the organs and create a more acidic and toxic environment. Recent research suggests that both drinking and smoking weaken immunity and increase risk of COVID19.
The composition of balanced gut microbiota is known to have a major influence on the effectiveness of lung immunity. The gut microbiota has been shown to affect pulmonary health through a vital cross-talk between the gut microbiota and the lungs which is referred to as the “gut-lung axis”. In fact, several studies have demonstrated that respiratory infections are associated with a change in the composition of the gut microbiota. One of the serious clinical manifestations of COVID19 is pneumonia and progression to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) especially in elderly, immune-compromised patients. Numerous experimental and clinical observations have suggested that the gut microbiota plays a key role in the pathogenesis of sepsis and ARDS. Gut microbiota diversity is decreased in old age and COVID19 has been mainly fatal in elderly patients which again points to the role the gut microbiota may play in this disease. Improving gut microbiota profile by personalized nutrition and supplementation known to improve immunity can be one of the prophylactic ways to support high risk individuals. In multiple studies, mice who do not have intestinal microbiota can not get rid of pathogens in their lungs. Disruption of gut microbiota with widespread antibiotic use can also have a similar effect in humans.
Diet plays an important role in shaping the composition of the gut microbiota thereby influencing the host’s health status. High fat or high sugar diets are more prone to circadian rhythm disruption which reduces melatonin production. These diets include consumption of sweets, fried foods, and processed meats. Conversely, systemic stress, tissue injury and sustained inflammation can also produce acute changes in the gut microbiota. Dietary fibers are good food source of microbiota which provide the host with energy and improves intestinal health. Many people do not eat enough fiber. Prebiotics have also been studied in the context of modification of the human gut microbiota. Prebiotic compounds such as inulin, polydextrose, maize fibre have been shown to improve immunity, gut diversity, and digestion. It was observed that consumption of non-digestible carbohydrates present in whole grains led to reductions in the proinflammatory cytokine IL-6 and insulin resistance. Experimental results have shown that a fiber rich diet changes not only the intestinal microbiota, but can also affect the lung microbiota, indicating influence of nutrition on lung immunity. Gut health testing is crucial in enhancing immunity and understanding the gut microbiota.
Antibody Testing and Convalescent Plasma
An antibody test is a screening for things called antibodies in blood. The body makes these when it fights an infection, like COVID19. The same thing happens when we get a vaccine, like a flu shot. Antibodies are how we naturally build immunity to a virus. The antibody tests look for IgM antibodies, which develop early in an infection, and IgG antibodies, which are more likely to show up later after you’ve recovered. Why do we need antibody testing?
We could have SARS-CoV-2 and not know it. 50% of people are asymptomatic. These tests may also help with an experimental treatment for COVID19 called convalescent plasma. Plasma is the liquid part of blood. Researchers are studying how antibodies in plasma donated by people who’ve recovered from COVID19 might help those who are ill with the virus. One theory is that this plasma may help sick people get better faster but more research is needed. You can order antibody testing through Dr. Felty's offices. You can also volunteer to donate plasma through the National COVID19 Convalescent Plasma Project.
It is a simple, primary preventive measure that most people can do independently. Hand washing with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds or the use of alcohol‐based hand sanitizers when soap and water are not available is the first line of defense in stopping the spread of infection. The frequent use of hygiene products, particularly harsh soaps and other potent detergents, can be associated with irritant contact dermatitis and eczema.
Ample sleep supports the immune system, which reduces the risk of infection and can improve outcomes for people fighting a virus. On the other hand, sleep deprivation weakens the body’s defense system, increases inflammation, and makes people more vulnerable to contracting a virus.
Chronic stress suppresses protective immune responses and promotes pathological immune responses, including inflammatory responses. Chronic stress, anxiety, and depression lead to slower wound healing, impaired responses to vaccines, and progression of infectious and immune-mediated diseases. Stress management is a vital intervention in all diseases.
Tai Chi and Yoga
Tai Chi and yoga could also be helpful to the immune function. A study found that 5 months of tai chi/qi gong could influence the immune response to influenza vaccination in older adults. They found significant increases in the magnitude and duration of antibody responses of tai chi/qi gong participants. A recent systematic review on the effects of yoga concluded that yoga might be beneficial for those suffering from diseases with an inflammatory component. This may be a beneficial therapy for prevention.
Natural medicine therapies and substances can enhance immunity, reduce severity of COVID19 symptoms and reduce duration of illness however, social distancing, and proper hygiene practices are the best way to protect against COVID19 until a vaccine is created. This article is meant for education purposes only and this information will continue to change. Vitamin deficiency testing, COVID19 antibody testing, gut health testing are all available through Cresencia Felty ND. Dr. Felty is a holistic naturopathic doctor that works as a natural medicine consultant to help people of all ages get rid of symptoms and feel better naturally. She has worked with several clients with COVID19 who have all recovered. Want to enhance your imunity at home? Get Dr. Felty's 3 week guide. Learn more at www.drfelty.com. Email her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The First, Holistic Immunological Model of COVID-19: Implications for Prevention, Diagnosis, and Public Health Measures: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32359201/
An Update on Current Therapeutic Drugs Treating COVID-19: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7211915/
Stilbene-based Natural Compounds as Promising Drug Candidates Against COVID-19: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32345140/
Natural product-derived phytochemicals as potential agents against coronaviruses: a review: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7190535/
Griffithsin, a Highly Potent Broad-Spectrum Antiviral Lectin from Red Algae: From Discovery to Clinical Application: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6835697/
Silvestrol, a Potential Anticancer Rocaglate Derivative From Aglaia Foveolata: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17695501/
Nutritional management of COVID-19 patients in a rehabilitation unit: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7237874/
Gut microbiota and Covid-19- possible link and implications: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7217790/
Better preventing and mitigating the effects of Covid-19: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7238752/
Prevention and Control Strategies for SARS-CoV-2 Infection: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7189388/
Is Copper beneficial for COVID-19 patients: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7199671/
Efficacy of glutathione therapy in relieving dyspnea associated with COVID-19 pneumonia: A report of 2 cases: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7172740/
Individual risk management strategy and potential therapeutic options for the COVID-19 pandemic: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7139252/
Melatonin protects lung mitochondria from aging: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11357-011-9267-8
COVID‐19 reinforces the importance of handwashing: https://doi.org/10.1111/jocn.15313
COVID-19 Pandemic – Let’s not forget surfaces: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7238988/
COVID-19: Prevention and control measures in community: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7195988/
Sleep and immune function: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3256323/
Effects of a Taiji and Qigong Intervention on the Antibody Response to Influenza Vaccine in Older Adults: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17708626/
Yoga and Immune System Functioning: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29429046/