By looking to natural plant remedies to help boost our immunity, we may have the potential to increase our resilience against COVID-19 and other viral strains, says medical herbalist Keren Brynes Maclean
We may not yet be able to stop the latest epidemic, but there are steps we can take to boost our immunity and lessen the frequency and severity of viral infections.
That’s according to medical herbalist Keren Brynes Maclean who warns that, with coronavirus now threatening to become a pandemic, it’s essential that we look to our own resilience and take simple measures to support our own health and wellbeing.
Keren, who has been working with herbal medicines for the last 30 years, suggests that as the medical world races to develop a vaccine, it could be time to look at how we face the challenges of the 21st century – in order to protect ourselves.
With a number of cases of COVID-19 now confirmed in Scotland, she is urging people to take a preventative approach to health and wellbeing to avoid contracting similar viruses and antibiotic resistant bacteria.
“People are frightened,” says Keren, who runs Fife Herbal Dispensary at Health Food & More in Kirkcaldy.
“We have already seen an increase in footfall in the shop with people asking for immune-boosting remedies and booking in for herbal medicine consultations to find out how to boost their resilience.
“While herbal medicine isn’t a substitute for orthodox medical care, it can certainly support our immunity and may have the potential to help us avoid infection.
Keren says plant remedies could have the edge over conventional single chemical drugs when it comes to boosting resilience.
“The main orthodox medical strategy for tackling viral infections is immunisation and, within conventional medicine, there are very few anti-viral medications.
“And while there are many immuno-suppressive therapies, there are very few immune-boosting therapies.
“But herbal medicine is different. Lots of plants have both strong anecdotal and clinical evidence for their immune enhancing benefits.
“There are lots of well researched, natural remedies proven to help fight infection, enhance immunity, increase resilience and reduce the severity and longevity of viruses such as colds and flu.
“It would be wrong to claim that these herbs can prevent or cure COVID-19 since we don’t have enough information yet, but their track record for being able to treat other viral infections means they could potentially be beneficial.”
Go-to herbs for immunity
Keren recommends using the following herbs, which may help to boost immunity and increase resilience against the likes of coronavirus:
Echinacea – this go-to immune herb has become a bit of a household name in recent years.
Native to North America, it has been extensively researched for treating colds and flu. Not only has it proved effective in preventing colds, but it can reduce the duration of infections too.
It works by increasing the number of white blood cells that help to fight infection.
Since coronaviruses are also responsible for the common cold and pneumonia, echinacea may have the potential to increase resistance against other emerging viral strains.
Elderberry – Scotland’s native elderberry has come under the spotlight in recent years after several positive studies showing that it can lessen the severity and longevity of viral infections. Unlike echinacea which stimulates host immunity, elderberry has been shown to reduce viral replication by inhibiting its ability to adhere to and penetrate cell walls in the body, thus shortening the duration and severity of upper respiratory tract infections.
Nigella sativa – another notable antiviral, otherwise dubbed the aromatic Black Seed, which was written about in the book of Isaiah in the OId Testament.
This ancient remedy, which has been used for over 4,000 years has seen a dramatic revival in recent years, because of the potent effects of its main chemical constituent, an aromatic compound called Thymoquinone which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and hepatoprotective properties.
It’s known to inhibit leukotriene synthesis and histamine release, two inflammatory mediators associated with lung infection.
“But, of course, good immune health is down to much more than taking medicines, regardless whether they’re natural or synthetic,” says Keren.
“We can’t change our genes, but we can influence our immune health through our diets and gut microbiome, both of which have a significant impact on us staying well.
“Getting enough vitamin D, taking probiotics and eating healthily are just some of the key foundations to building healthy immunity.
“By boosting our immunity and improving the condition of the ‘soil’ where viruses or bacteria can take hold, we may be able to increase resilience against new viral strains and antibiotic resistant bacteria and avoid contracting them in the first place.”
This information should not replace medical advice or preventative strategies such as hand washing. Not all supplements or herbal remedies are suitable for everyone. Always consult a medical herbalist.
If you are concerned you may have contracted COVID-19, follow NHS guidelines, self-isolate and phone for medical guidance.