11 March, 2020

Naturopathic immune support during the Coronavirus outbreak

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About coronaviruses:

The current coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak originated in China’s Wuhan province in late 2019. The virus responsible for COVID-19 has been identified as ‘severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2’ (SARS-CoV-2), previously known as “2019 novel coronavirus”.

SARS-CoV-2 is a member of a broader family of coronaviruses (CoV) that cause a range of illnesses, from the common cold to more severe diseases including Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). Coronaviruses are transmitted between animals and people (‘zootonic’) and SARS-CoV-2 is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. SARS-CoV was transmitted to humans from civet cats and MERS-CoV from dromedary camels. There are a number of coronaviruses circulating in animals that have to date not been transmitted to humans.

Signs and symptoms of COVID-19 infection vary greatly from mild respiratory symptoms, fever and cough, to more severe symptoms such as shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more serious cases, it can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death. According to the CDC, symptoms can develop 2-14 days after exposure.

The Department of Health has published a Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage and a health alert that is updated every day with the latest medical advice and official reports. There is also a Government webpage with information for people with a suspected case of COVID-19.

Basic tips to help avoid exposure:

Following are basic concepts to help avoid exposure and exposing others to any virus including this one:

– Avoid large crowds and places with poor ventilation.

– Prioritize regular handwashing with soap and water for at least twenty seconds, especially before eating.

– Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

– Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers when handwashing is not possible.

– Limit handling doorknobs and other public surfaces without gloves. Wash gloves daily.

– Avoid people who are sick.

– Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and discard or sneeze into your bent elbow.

– Isolate yourself at home if you are sick.

Naturopathic tips:

To optimise your immune response to exposure, should it occur:

– If you are feeling run down, rest and refresh.

– Eat a diet that supports optimal immune function, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats.

– Alkalise your diet as much as possible.

– Stay hydrated: drink water, herbal teas, coconut water, bone broth.

– Support immunity by ingesting food and drink cultured to support an active and robust gut microbiome. Foods high in fibre is essential for this process.

– Avoid sugars, alcohol, and refined, overly processed foods.

– Regular and appropriate exercise also helps support immune function.

– Ensure adequate sleep, which is essential for the immune system to function properly.

– Avoid smoking, which can worsen viral-like symptoms and susceptibility. This also protects others from the effects of second-hand smoke.

– Reduce stress. Excess stress is associated with elevated cortisol levels, which negatively impacts immune function.

– Continue to manage underlying illnesses and chronic disease. Often it is those who are chronically ill, the very young and the very old who have worse outcomes with acute viral infections.

Natural medicines:

A number of natural medicines and other measures promote enhanced immunity and that create and help maintain healthy mucous membranes (the body’s first line of defense against germs).

Research has shown there are botanical medicines that help support immunity during the cold and flu season, including Andrographis, Ginger, Peppermint, Licorice root, North American Ginseng, Elderberry, Echinacea, Olive leaf and Calendula. Many such herbs have a long traditional history of use across many cultures.

Common and affordable kitchen herbs with antiviral properties include Onion, Garlic, Basil, Sage, Rosemary, and Oregano, which can be drunk as teas (if appropriate) and/or used in cooking.

Likewise, nutritional supplements can be taken to help ensure optimal immune system function. These include zinc, selenium, vitamin C, probiotics, and seaweed extract.

Practical home tips:

Research shows that the use of a humidifier reduces virus survival for other viruses, so may be usefully employed here too.

The following approaches can be comforting to people during acute illness and assist during recuperation:

– Epsom salts: 1-2 cups of Epsom salts (magnesiun sulfate) in a warm bath for a good soak and to help to draw out inflammation, as well as decrease muscle soreness and joint pain.

– A hot water bottle can be comforting, especially if the patient is chilly and sore.

– Vegetable or chicken broth (‘Jewish penicillin’): to help to replenish electrolytes, as well as having other health benefits.

If you suspect you have been exposed:

If you suspect you have been exposed to the 2019 novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), consult your doctor.

The Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) webpage advises:

If you become unwell and think you may have symptoms of coronavirus, seek medical attention.

Call ahead of time to book an appointment. Tell your doctor about your symptoms, travel history and any recent close contact with someone who has coronavirus.

If you must leave home to see your doctor, wear a surgical mask (if you have one) to protect others.

If you have serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, call 000 for urgent medical help.


Naturopathic Recommendations – The 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Amy Rothenberg ND. Blog, 29 Jan 2020.

Australian Department of Health. Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Coronavirus. World Health Organisation (WHO).

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