By Jonathan Evans
Herbal Information Specialist for the Herbarium
I hope this column finds you all in good health and spirits. Remember when walking into a store wearing a mask would get you arrested? Those were the days.
One thing I have noticed is the loss of the cliche “have a nice day.” It has been replaced with “stay safe” or “keep safe” and it is said with an actual concern and conviction. I have also noticed people recognizing and appreciating “the little guy”, you know, the cashier, grocery stockers, delivery and clean up people. It is nice to see some civility and care for each other being demonstrated. It will be nice to finally be able to sit down with a friend and have a cup of coffee or a beer, get a haircut (I haven't looked this shaggy since the 70s) and all the little things we took for granted.
As was mentioned in previous columns, the amount of misinformation and conspiracy theories is still going strong, and people are taking anything they read online or hear from someone who knows someone who told someone else about another cure or conspiracy is mind blowing.
One such story, which had a grain of truth had to do with elderberry causing something called a “cytokine storm.” Cytokines are proteins secreted by specific cells of the immune system that act as signaling molecules and play a role in the inflammatory process. There are both pro and anti- inflammatory cytokines. The theory was elderberry could overstimulate the immune reaction.
Cytokine storms only occur when one is in an advanced state of infection and is probably in hospital or ICU on life saving interventions.
As Dr. Aviva Romm said, “the association with elderberry and a cytokine storm is implausible; elderberry is not able to cause cytokine storm whether used for prevention of infection or during infection. Were one to be experiencing cytokine storm, one would be far too sick for herbal therapies.” And besides which, doctors are probably not going to be using herbal therapies in hospital.
Botanicals and COVID-19
Two bits of information have come forward recently that may help with our present crisis. Check out DrFeuerstein.com for some excellent information on botanicals for your health. Dr. Joe Feuerstein is an integrative medical doctor at Stamford Hospital in CT. and one of my
wife’s students. Feuerstein also had COVID-19 and recovered. He is a great source of information. Two botanicals he spoke about recently were Astragalus and Quercetin.
In a nutshell Quercetin is a bioflavonoid that helps prevent viral replication and reduces the inflammatory response of cells. It has been widely used for allergy sufferers but can possibly play a role in the present crisis.
Astragalus is showing help in protecting the lungs by attaching to ACE2 receptors. In theory, the coronavirus needs these receptors to enter your cells and replicate. Astragalus fills the receptors, thus blocking the pathways. Check out his website for full details.
Herbal help with COVID-19 stress
With everything going on with sheltering in place, too much time to do nothing, worrying about 401K’s, eating lots of foods we shouldn’t be, and putting undo strain on all of us, let me offer some herbal suggestions to help with the stress.
Adaptogenic herbs help moderate the harmful effects of physical and mental stress. When you are under stress your adrenal glands get a workout and too much stress just exhausts them. This can result in a weakened immune system, chronic tiredness, irritability, and weight gain to name a few.
One of the best adaptogens is Eleuthero, more commonly known as Siberian ginseng. It is not a true ginseng, but it has the same adaptogenic qualities without the normal side effects of Panax or American ginseng.
Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticoccus) enhances general health, mental and physical vitality, stamina and general resistance to disease.
Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum) helps reduce stress, enhances immune function, relieves anxiety, high cholesterol and it moderates the production of cortisol, the stress hormone linked to weight gain.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) helpful for burnout tiredness and general debility.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) nourishing to the vital (chi) force in traditional Chinese Medicine. Helpful for weak immune systems strengthening lung tonic increases production of undifferentiated immune cells.
Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) a mushroom which has adaptogenic qualities to enhance general health and resistance to physical and mental stress according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Reishi enhances immune function, improves adrenal function and is an antiviral.
Of all the medicinal mushrooms Reishi is considered the most beneficial for the most conditions. If you had to choose one mushroom to use, it would be Reishi.
Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) Sometimes called “Russian ginseng”, Rhodiola been used by Russian athletes for many years to improve performance. It is an adaptogenic tonic for physical and mental stress and fatigue.
As we are all looking for protection against viral infections, we should not forget the other herbs that will work as adjunct therapies. This is the essence of “holistic” health - considering body, mind and spirit. We are not separate systems, we are whole and we are one.
Send questions on botanical remedies to: Natures Rx: Jonathan Evans at email@example.com, or by regular mail to: The Herbarium, 264 Exchange St., Chicopee, MA 01013. If requesting additional info, include a self-addressed stamped envelope.