Podcast 116: Herbs for Coronavirus Preparedness

The new pandemic coronavirus, COVID-19, is on everyone’s minds lately. As herbalists, we’ve been asked a lot about our thoughts on working with herbs for coronavirus preparedness, so that’s our topic today!

First, we try to understand the virus and some facts about the illness it causes. How does it compare to “normal” flu, to H1N1, to SARS? Estimates and projections are in flux and will continue to evolve, but we share what seems most clear so far about the potential risks & severity of corona.

There’s no benefit to be gained from a panic about pandemic. (Remember, the term “pandemic” doesn’t actually say anything about the severity of an illness – only its novelty and rapid spread.) The best way to avoid panic? Be prepared!

There’s a lot more than herbs for coronavirus preparedness, though. We discuss why handwashing is so important (and why masks aren’t), and why it’s good to be ready for a period of self-quarantine. To that end, we cover how to stock up with immune-boosting nutrition – more than just calories – while also avoiding things that’ll deplete immunity. And how to “stock up” on intangibles like sleep and community support.

And of course, we highlight our favorite herbs to build immunity, mitigate symptoms, and combat the virus at every stage of illness.

Mentioned in this episode:

Herbs discussed include: thyme, elder, elecampane, angelica, ginger, garlic, pleurisy root, marshmallow, cinnamon, licorice, sage, monarda, pine, peppermint, yarrow, catnip, boneset, codonopsis.

As you can see, there are really a lot of immune-supportive herbs that could be relevant in COVID! Our Immune Health course is a great way to learn them in detail and really understand how they work together with your own immune system to combat infections. The course also covers imbalances and dysregulations in immunity – allergies, autoimmunity, immune deficiency, etc – that affect an enormous number of people. Immunity is complex, but really worth understanding!

Immune Health

As always, please subscribe, rate, & review our podcast wherever you listen, so others can find it more easily. Thank you!!

Our theme music is “Wings” by Nicolai Heidlas.


Episode Transcript

Katja (00:00:01):
Hi, I’m Katja.

Ryn (00:00:15):
And I’m Ryn.

Katja (00:00:15):
And we’re here at the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ryn (00:00:20):
And on the internet everywhere. Thanks to the power of podcasts. All right folks. So this time, just like every time, we want to begin with our reclaimer. And we want to let you know that we are not doctors, we are herbalists and holistic health educators.

Katja (00:00:37):
The ideas discussed on this podcast do not constitute medical advice. No state or federal authority licenses herbalists in the United States. So these discussions are for educational purposes only. Everybody’s body is different. So the things that we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you. But we hope that they’ll give you some good information to think about and ideas to research further.

Ryn (00:00:59):
And we wish to remind you that good health is your own personal responsibility. The final decision when you’re considering any course of therapy, whether it’s discussed on the internet or prescribed by your physician, is always yours.

Katja (00:01:11):
Well now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about coronavirus.

Ryn (00:01:16):
Yes. You just promise to remember that the whole time. And that we don’t only say these things because we have to, we say them because we want to. All right. So let’s talk about corona.

Katja (00:01:29):
Yes. All right. Well, the very first thing, and really the most important thing is don’t panic. Panic doesn’t help anybody.

Ryn (00:01:36):
Just ask the hitchhikers. You know? Right?

Katja (00:01:37):
Yes. Carry a towel. And in this case, wash your hands, and don’t panic. Saying don’t panic doesn’t mean that everything will be fine. Some people will get sick and it won’t be very fun. But none of us will be able to do anything if we panic. So the first and most important thing is don’t panic. Let’s just keep a clear head. And be prepared.

Ryn (00:02:05):
Yeah. Right. And those are connected, right? Because the more prepared you are, the less apt you are to panic. It means that you’ve considered what may actually occur. You’ve considered how you could respond. And then you’re ready.

Katja (00:02:19):
And then you’re ready.

Ryn (00:02:20):
And at that point there’s no need to worry anymore.

Katja (00:02:24):
Yeah. Well, what we want to do is throughout this podcast, we want to throughout this episode, we want to talk about the current best medical advice that’s available. And today is March 3rd, 2020. So if you’re listening to this at some point in the future, some new information may be out that might contradict the information that we have today. But today we want to go through the best information and guidance that we have from medical professionals, like the CDC, The Center for Disease Control. And then we want to look at why are they making those recommendations, and also how we can as herbalists and people who think holistically, how can we add onto that so that we are adding on more layers of support for our bodies.

Current Best Understanding

Ryn (00:03:19):
Yeah, absolutely. So let’s start out with current best understanding of what’s really going on in terms of how widespread this is and how severe for the people who do get it. First thing to keep in mind here is that not everyone who encounters this virus will get sick. And this is a general truth about any kind of germ that you happen to name. It’s Ken sound kind of surprising, especially if we consider more severe illnesses. So if you hear like, okay, you’re in an elevator and somebody sneezes and they have a cold. And then you get the cold, or maybe you dont.

Katja (00:03:54):
Maybe you don’t.

Ryn (00:03:54):
Because sometimes you don’t get it. But this is really true about any kind of virus or any kind of infection that you may encounter. That the encounter alone doesn’t necessarily mean that you get sick. Getting sick alone doesn’t necessarily mean that you get the most extreme form of that illness. Yeah.

Katja (00:04:14):
And there are some things you can do to better your chances. Like even if you are a person who is going to get sick from that exposure, there are things that you can do holistically and early to make your recovery more efficient. And if you are a person who is having that exposure, there are also things, let’s say maybe you were maybe not going to get sick or maybe going to get sick. There are things holistically and herbally that you can do to sort of tilt the situation into your favor. Like, Oh, just to boost you over into tha not going to get sick from it category. We’ll be talking about those things obviously.

Ryn (00:04:58):
But you know around 80% of the cases are going to be mild.

Katja (00:05:06):
Of this particular virus. Up to corona now, not just a cold in general.

Ryn (00:05:09):
Right. Yeah, covid19.

Katja (00:05:13):
Oh right. You have to actually specify that because a corona virus. Right now, we were talking about THE corona virus. And when we say that sort of in the media, we are referring to one specific type of a coronavirus. But there are actually many types of coronavirus. And some of them just cause the common cold.

Ryn (00:05:39):
Yeah. It’s interesting how the way that this is being reported on lately is very much in the model of the apocalyptic plague movie, where the headlines just say things like new case of infection found, you know. And it’s not new case of novel coronavirus discovered in 2019 in Wuhan area has now been discovered in this country. It’s like, nope, this is THE virus.

Katja (00:06:04):
It’s THE infection. And that’s actually, you know, that’s important to think about because it’s still regular flu season. Like it’s still regular cold season. So yes. Okay.

Ryn (00:06:16):
Anyway so of this, again, current best estimates are that around 80% of the cases are going to be mild and require no particular intervention. The people who have this may not even realize that that is what is going on, because it can look like a cold or it can look like a normal flu and you’re sick. You deal with it. You get better. You move on with your life. 20% of the cases are going to be more serious. And around 5%, again, current numbers, more critical. Of those critical cases, so far less than half of them have been fatal. Now that’s small comfort to the families of the people for whom they were. But again, we’re trying to set our expectations here, and try to compare this.

Katja (00:07:01):
Yeah, they’ve been talking a lot in the first few weeks of this, about a 2% fatality number. But as more cases have been identified with testing, remember initially we didn’t have tests. And in the United States we’re still having some real problems with regard to testing technology. But in other countries their testing capability is really good. In fact Korea and England and some other places have set up literally drive through testing centers. You don’t even have to get out of your car. So hopefully that will be coming. But as they are able to test more cases and they’re recognizing, Oh, we had not identified that as a corona case, and now we see that it is. As we’re starting to get more complete data, it looks like the fatality rate is closer to 0.7%. Obviously all these numbers can change. And again, if you’re in that point some percent, it is still really bad. But in terms of the level of panic that we might be starting to feel based on what we’re seeing in the media, we can recognize that if we look at all of the numbers, there isn’t really a need for everyone to panic. There’s just a need for everybody to keep their head. And do what we can do to limit the spread. And maybe we can even get that 0.7% down.

Ryn (00:08:25):
Yeah. Right. And I mean, the things that shaped that number are going to be how many people get it, how many people are reported to have it or recorded as having it, and then how many of those people have serious experience with it or die from it. And so the more people who get it, but it’s mild, the more that that fatality number comes down. And that does seem to be the trend so far that the place where this first bloomed and spread was one of places that people were most severely affected by it. At least so far. Right. So these numbers are gonna continue to change. There’ll be days when they go up, days when they go down. It’s going to largely be based on the the populations that are exposed to it and what kind of host resistance they carry. Yeah. Okay. And by that, I’m not talking about like specific ability to already have the antibodies for this virus, because generally we don’t, and that’s why it’s a pandemic.

Katja (00:09:21):
Right. It’s a novel virus. You don’t already have the antibodies for it.

Ryn (00:09:25):
Yeah. So they’re talking about resistance that’s more generalized immune defense capability.

Katja (00:09:32):
And in terms of, we can lump into that resistance the overall efficiency level or the readiness level or the preparedness level of your personal immune system to produce antibodies as quickly and efficiently as possible. And again, herbally, there’s a lot we can do there to improve your personal, like internal immune preparedness level.

Ryn (00:09:55):
Yeah. But this also interfaces with your community or your societal preparedness level in a variety of ways as well. And so much of the advice coming out of the CDC and other kind of organizations does have to do with community defensive measures. Often around changing our habits a little bit to be more appropriate to an environment in which there’s a new virus moving around. Right. So what does that sound like? Well, it’s pretty basic stuff. It’s like washing your hands frequently, right?

Sanitation is Number One

Katja (00:10:29):
Right. Which so like if we think about the universal advice that we’re getting from the medical community, that is like the first thing that everybody says. Wash your hands and don’t touch your face. And I think that for a lot of people, especially if you’re watching the media, and you’re seeing a lot of fear hype happening, you can maybe get the feeling that, well, what on earth can washing my hands too? That’s just a placebo. It’s not actually, and we’re going to break down all of these recommendations and talk about why they’re important. But right off the bat, just to be clear, that sanitation is like the number one thing that prevents the spread of disease. And if we look back through history, even more important than antibiotics, even more important than advancements in lots of different types of pharmaceuticals, hygiene and sanitation are when historically we got a hold of cleanliness as a technology. That’s when disease rates started dropping faster than anything else.

Ryn (00:11:39):
Right. And you can see this in pulses too. Like there have been ancient civilizations that had better sanitation measures then certain medieval civilizations, you know what I mean? And you can see the way that that influences like the prevalence or the spread of pandemic illnesses in those places. Yeah. Okay. But from history to the present, right, right. Again, yeah. Mainstream advice. Right. Wash your hands frequently. Okay. What else? Self isolate. If you are sick, that means that to the extent you’re able, stay away from other people. Stay away from gatherings.

Katja (00:12:12):
And then also self quarantine if you think that you’ve been exposed to this particular corona stream. And to seek medical attention if you have symptoms that are relevant to coronavirus. Now that’s fever, coughing, shortness of breath, but that could also be the regular flu. So it will be great when we have actual testing capacity and then we can figure out, Oh, okay, this is a corona case and we need to treat that a little bit differently. In particular professor Howard Foreman of the Yale School of Public Health adds to the universal medical community advice a number five and number six: don’t panic, and be kind. And I think that those are important, as we get those first four all over the place. But I would love it if media was also talking about don’t panic and be kind. That’s really important.

Ryn (00:13:13):
Yeah. One quick thing to say, you know, those steps, they sound like you’re repeating the same thing in a minute. Like self isolate. If you’re sick, self quarantine. If you think you could have been exposed to this, what’s the difference? Well it basically means that if you are sick at all, then you should try to stay home. You should try to limit contact with other people. If you think that you’ve been exposed to this because you’ve traveled to an area where there’s been an outbreak or you’ve been in contact with people who traveled to an area where there was one, then that’s where you’d be bringing in that other step of being like, okay, I think I might’ve actually been exposed to this one. And at that point you should also be reaching out for help

Katja (00:13:54):
To a medical provider. Yeah. Just to identify yourself as, you know, you don’t have to have traveled to China anymore. There’s outbreaks all over. And we’ll talk more about that too. But just to identify yourself as, Hey, I fall into this group for these reasons. And so I want to identify myself and also I want to note that I’m staying home.

Ryn (00:14:14):
Right. Yeah. And you know, that’s also different from saying run to the hospital anytime that you have respiratory illness symptoms, because that is a great way to overwhelm the hospitals with cases that may not need that degree of intervention. And to draw resources away from ones that do. And also potentially to expose more people to more mixtures of more germs, which is not necessarily a great thing either.

Self Isolation & Quarantine

Katja (00:14:40):
All right, well let’s break down these recommendations and then we’re going to add into them holistic and herbal approaches that can help them be stronger. And again, like I don’t want anybody to think that I’m saying that like, Oh, this herb will cure corona. First off, we don’t do that. Herbs don’t cure things. They support your body in getting healthy. And also we’re not trying to do that. What we’re trying to do is make sure that our bodies are as strong as possible so that whatever we’re exposed to we have the best fighting chance against it. So let’s start off with the advice from the CDC and the mainstream medical community, the conventional medical community, that says to self isolate and self quarantine. So that is like, don’t go to group events if you don’t have to. If you’re sick, make sure you stay home. If you’ve been exposed or if someone is in your house is sick, then voluntarily quarantine yourself. Voluntarily stay home. It’s possible that schools may close, although it’s worth noting that this particular virus doesn’t seem to affect children very strongly.

Ryn (00:15:58):
Yeah, that’s interesting. But they’ll probably still do that anyway just because you can be a vector and all of that. But the idea here is just to slow down the spread, right? To limit the number of people who are infected. And especially to limit the number of people who are infected and sick at the same time. This is, these measures may not necessarily reduce the ultimate spread of the virus through the population. What they can do though is slow it down to the point that the hospitals don’t get overwhelmed, especially with, you know, more severe cases that need beds in the ICU or something like that.

Katja (00:16:32):
And more attention. Right. All right. So what does this mean? Some of it is practical. So it might mean that you will need to plan for childcare, and for time off of work or work from home arrangements. And right off the bat we have to identify that some people have that ability and some people do not. And some people will lose their jobs if they don’t go to work, even if they’re sick. So right off the bat we’re stuck with a social justice aspect of this. And some countries have been providing citizens with funding to stay home so that they can still buy food and whatever. I don’t imagine that we will see the United States do that. But I think that is something important to make it available for people. So if you are in a position to stay home or work from home, then take advantage of that privilege to help protect others. But also if you are in a management capacity or any kind of position of authority in a place that you work, then right now, today is the time to start talking about changing your company’s policies. So that people who feel sick are able to stay home without being penalized, and to communicate that broadly so that people also know it. That will be important.

Ryn (00:17:59):
Yeah, absolutely. Right. You know, when we look back at pandemics of the past, 1918 looms large. If it’s new to you, this was a particular bout of influenza that made its way around the world, and killed off a bunch of people. It was pretty serious. But the single biggest contributor to successful recovery during this most famous pandemic of, well, I guess recent history, was that more people could stay home and rest. The more that they had someone to care for them, the more likely they were to survive. Literally everything else being equal. What kind of treatment they got, their socioeconomic status going in. Of course that influenced whether they were likely to have that care or not. But you know after that point, if you actually had that ability to stay home, to get rest, to be cared for. Things like changing the sheets, you know, and keeping people hydrated, and all of that. That made the single biggest difference there. And this is not a flu only situation, not a 1918 flu only situation here. This is generally true. So staying home isn’t just good for other people, but it’s good for for you as well if you are sick. But again, it’s not just like to be home alone. In our immune health course, we have a whole segment on how to take care of yourself and ways to make that easier, ways to make that actually possible when you’re feeling cruddy. It’s not the easiest thing. It’s not the ideal situation.

Katja (00:19:30):
Right. Especially if you’re home and you don’t have somebody else at home to take care of you. Or if you’re home and everybody is sick at the same time. Thinking ahead about how you will prepare and make the things that you want to do easier to accomplish if you feel terrible is important.

Ryn (00:19:51):
Right. And so much of that is based around preparing when you don’t feel terrible yet. You know, things like have we got a stock or a stash of some broth available that we can cook up quick and I know some other things that we’re going to…

Stocking Up

Katja (00:20:03):
Yeah. Well let’s dig into that. So one of the things that they’re talking about is make sure that you have some food and water and supplies that you might need in case you have to stay home. And sometimes when people think about stocking up, their first thought goes to like nonperishable stuff, but kind of in the emergency ration category or like, I’ll get a big box of ramen or something like that. And if you’re having to stay home because you’re sick or if you’re having to stay home because you’re trying not to get sick, either one of those, we want to make sure that the food that you have available is going to support immune health. So you know, we don’t just want calories to keep you alive. We want nutrients that will also keep your body strong. So this is a good time to get extra frozen vegetables. Have plenty of chicken broth or bone broth on hand, whether you made it yourself and you’ve got it frozen, or whether you buy it as a nonperishable staple. Either one of those is fine. But having that as you’re thinking about what things should I stock up on, that’s critical. And then also things like seaweed and medicinal mushrooms. You can get those dried to put into the broth. And in the immune health course, but also there’s another recipe on our website in the blog, we’ve got information about how to make bone broth. But having that around and having a lot of it is really good. Also other foods that will support your family and health that are non-perishables. So I’m thinking here of things like sardines and tuna, frozen, good quality meats. Fruits and vegetables are going to be important, but if you’re trying to stock up a two week supply, then having them frozen is probably going to be the most effective way to do that.

Ryn (00:22:02):
Yeah. And it’s easiest to kind of dole them out from frozen as well. You can just take what you’re going to eat right now, or what you’re going to prepare for this one meal. So it’s a little better in the long run that way. Yeah, this is also a good time to check in on your herb supplies, right? So if you don’t really have a big apothecary at home, but you kind of like shop at your local herb store, or wherever you pick your herbs up, as you procure the things you want as you need them. This is a good idea to just project forward a little bit and say, okay, imagine everybody in the house is sick. And also, you know, the neighbors are asking for something too. Or your family or whoever else you may be called on to take care of. What would you want? What would you need to be able to take care of people? And so we’ll be talking about particular plants. We’ve already mentioned Thyme steams and seaweeds and mushrooms and so on. So, you know, it’s good to sit down and write out a list for yourself and say, what do I want to have? What have I got? What’s the difference? And just to make that up and have that there. Be ready with that.

Katja (00:23:07):
Now, another really big factor in immune health is whether or not you’re getting enough sleep.

Ryn (00:23:14):
This is stocking up too.

Katja (00:23:16):
Yes. Stock up on sleep. So if you are not quarantined or isolated right now, still stock up on sleep. This is a good time. Like first of all this is happening now. So like if you’re in the United States, we’re not waiting for it to get here. It’s here.

Ryn (00:23:40):
Since at least sometime in January, right?

Katja (00:23:43):
Right. The CDC actually has had limited testing capacity. And the individual state boards of health have had even more limited capacity. So current estimates are that many more people are already infected and experiencing mild cases than we realize. So at some point the testing is going to catch up. And at that time the reporting is going to look like there has been a sudden explosion. And that might feel scary, but that won’t actually be what’s going on. That will simply be the testing catching up to the reality that right now it is much more widespread than we have the testing to be able to report. So in terms of making your decisions about staying home or not going to optional events. It’s time to start making those decisions now. But it’s time to start stocking up on sleep now. So as you are saying, Oh, I was going to go to the movies tonight, but I think I won’t. The next thing to say is, and I think I’ll go to bed early. Like instead of I won’t, I’ll just watch Netflix until midnight. Right? So, so always be turning things into can I get a little extra sleep? And as we start to opt out of going to things, going to events that we maybe had planned to go to, that actually creates space in our schedule for more sleep. If we are thinking about that. And if we say I need to look for every place in my schedule that I can fit more sleep in. Sleep is just critically important to having a healthy, well-functioning, efficient immune system. And right now every person who is listening to this or watching this probably is short on sleep. Basically, if you live in the United States, you’re probably short on sleep. Probably anywhere. I don’t know. Maybe everyone is short on sleep in the whole world. But certainly all of the, what they would call westernized countries. I find that a very problematic term, but whatever. We’re all working too hard and we’re not getting enough sleep. So this is the time to stock up on sleep. Or actually you’re not even stocking up yet. You’re backfilling for the sleep that we haven’t been getting. So at any rate, this is the time to be focusing on sleep so that your immune system can function at its peak capacity and be really efficient in dealing with whatever comes across your path.

Ryn (00:26:19):
Yeah. Now when we’re stocking up, whether it’s on sleep or supplies or herbs or whatever else, we need to know how long we are going to be drawing on our stock so we know how big of a stock to build for ourselves. And so you know, each illness or each virus that one encounters is going to have a different time that it plays out. You know, a common cold can be just a few days. The flu is usually at least seven days. With this covid19 situation, it seems that the mild cases take about two weeks to recover from the time that the symptoms begin. And that the severe cases take three to six weeks to recover. So that’s the window of time that we’re going to be planning around.

Katja (00:27:03):
And also to be thinking that you have somebody to check in on you, to help take care of you. And so this is a good time not just to be stocking up on things that you might need, but stocking up on community relationships. And just talk to your neighbors and say, Hey, how you doing? Do you need anything? And are there ways that we can support one another? Because you might feel terrible for two weeks, but your neighbors maybe aren’t. And they could leave some stuff at your door or something like that. So when we check in with our neighbors, with our family, our friends, our community, this expands the capacity that we have to take care of ourselves, because we can take care of one another.

Ryn (00:27:48):
All right, cool. So we’re going to start to think about this now. And we’re going to think, not even think, we’re going to act on it immediately if we start to feel somebody coming around with a cold, yourself or someone in your house. We’re going to get moving on that kind of stuff. Okay. While we do it we’re going to keep in mind a couple of other comparisons about severity, right? So a lot of comparisons have been made between covid19 and H1N1. So that was a strain of influenza, a different kind of virus. But a lot of comparisons are being made because this was the last

Katja (00:28:23):
The last pandemic. Yeah. That was swine flu in 2009.

Ryn (00:28:28):
Cool. So yeah, so that got about 60 million people sick in the US and there were about a half a million deaths from that one worldwide.

Katja (00:28:37):
Right. So not a half a million deaths in the United States. Worldwide, a half a million deaths.

Ryn (00:28:43):
Right. So the World Health Organization says that the coronavirus here in 2020 has potential to be as widespread as H1N1, but it’s not quite there yet.

Comparisons & R0 (R-Nought)

Katja (00:28:56):
Yeah. If we look at the infectious rates, there’s a phrase that you’ll see called R-nought. And it is a capital R and a zero, so nought is like N-O-U-G-H-T, like the old word for zero. And that represents like if one person is sick, how many other people get infected or can be infected from that one person. So obviously you think about if you are sick, you one person, you encounter lots and lots of people. But of that lots and lots of people, a certain number of them will actually get sick with the same thing that you have. So with H1N1, that was swine flu, that number was one to two people. So if you were the sick person then of the people that you encountered, one to two of them would also become sick. SARS was actually much worse. SARS wasn’t so widespread in the United States because there was really good containment in that case. But the R0 for SARS was between two and five people. So if you were the one sick was SARS, then two to five people who came across your path, who encountered you, we’re also going to get sick.

Ryn (00:30:15):
Right. So for a covid19, coronavirus here, the R0 is not yet known because we’re not at the other side of the pandemic yet. Right. So just like the fatality rate or the rate of severe illness for this one, we’re still sorting this out. This number is still subject to change and it’s not going to be, you know, really established for, I don’t know, a while. It’s going to be awhile. You know, we can say these things about about the H1N1 that came in 2009, so that’s 11 years ago. So certainly by then we’ll have a clearer metric for this. But anyway, R0 for covid19 right now is somewhere between one and three. So again, it may change and may go up. It may go down. But based on current places that it’s spread, and what we’ve been able to track around that, it’s like somewhere in that range.

Katja (00:31:07):
Which is actually helpful to know. Because if you think back to 2009 and swine flu, that can help you to gear your mental, like panic barometer. And help you to say like, okay, well, when swine flu was in my town, the grocery stores didn’t close, you know, like work didn’t stop. And maybe it should have, maybe it shouldn’t have. But at any rate, life pretty much went on. Yes, some people got sick. Those who did, it was miserable. I was one of the people who had swine flu. And at the time I was overworking. I was working at two different really intense jobs. And and I was really, I had set myself up to get it. But it was awful. I will acknowledge it was really, really miserable. I didn’t have to go to hospital or anything, but it was definitely the worst flu ever. But, and so I want to acknowledge that if you get sick, it’s not fun. It’s awful to get sick. It’s miserable. But on the other hand, there wasn’t like no toilet paper available. You know, like the stores, it wasn’t the zombie apocalypse. There wasn’t looting and stuff like that. So it can be hard because sometimes in the media it sounds like it’s going to be like that. Like there’s going to be Martial Law. And you won’t be able to leave your home or anything else. And we know in 2019 we didn’t have as much home delivery yet. I mean in 2009. So, even if you aren’t able to leave your home, the likelihood that you can still get things delivered will be high. Anyway, so, it’s just important to recognize that you don’t need to buy up the whole grocery store. You don’t need to like panic stock, big boxes of things in the middle of your living room. Just have what you need. And that will be good.

Move the Lymph

Ryn (00:33:12):
And if you do end up staying home and avoiding groups, it’s still a good idea to think about getting movement in your day, right? Because that’s how your lymph moves around your body. And if you listen to this podcast, you know that we love to talk about moving lymph. Moving your muscles and how important those are, especially for immune function. Because a large part of your immune system and your immune response cells live in lymph. They move through your body through the lymphatic channels. And so we need to keep that moving around. So if you are self quarantined or even externally quarantined, to be thinking about moving your body. Whether that’s just doing body weight exercises in a small room. If you can go outside into the yard and walk all around in there, then that’s going to be great. If you can go up and down the steps. If you can do some stretching. Whatever is appropriate for your body, whatever feels good, whatever you know, after you do it, you feel better than beforehand. That thing, that kind of movement. Find what that is for you and do that several times in a day.

Katja (00:34:09):
You can invent, I’m waiting for somebody to come up with a parody song of My Sharona.

Ryn (00:34:16):
Oh, they’re out there.

Katja (00:34:18):
Are they already? Right. So, okay, so we need dance moves to go with it and that can be your movement or whatever. It is worth noting that so far, corona seems to have a pattern that is similar to H1N1 back in 2009 where it started initially in the spring, but it wasn’t actually really serious until October. And when we got to October, like in the spring, people weren’t talking about it. And in general for H1N1 the publicity was nowhere near like what it is now. But it wasn’t really until October and people were saying, well, flu season started early, but what that really was, was that H1N1 had kind of gotten a foothold in the spring, which was late in the flu season. And then it sort of like struggled through the summer because flu doesn’t do as well. Like flu is an entity that’s nominally alive, because it’s a virus. So it’s not like it’s a bacteria who’s all the way alive. Okay. But, like those viruses have a survival rate and that goes down through the summer. But then October came and people got hit with it. And that was when I got sick with it was in the fall. So recognizing that all the things that we’re doing right now, because corona is big in the news, we likely need to be thinking about that still when it comes to fall of this year, even though that seems like pretty far away. And of course fall for a lot of people is a really stressful time. Kind of like back to school. Maybe you’re not getting as much sleep or relaxation. So as we’re thinking about preparedness for this, just that we think ahead into the future too. Doesn’t mean you have to buy groceries that are going to last you till October by any means. But just to be thinking about, like to keep our awareness as we move in, you know, through the summer and into fall that this might be with us for awhile. That’s okay. We can just sort of get into these habits of thinking, Oh, I’m sick. I should maybe stay home.

Ryn (00:36:28):
It’s the changing face of cold and flu seasons, you know? Yeah. All right. Just like everything else in our world, things are changing. All right, so let’s move on to another major recommendation from your CDC and your WHO and all of your favorite acronyms. So this one is wash your hands, wash your hands frequently, wash them thoroughly. Wash all of the surfaces of your hands.

Washing Hands and Smells Good

Katja (00:36:52):
Yeah, there are so many videos out there that show how to wash your hands. My favorite comes out of Iran, actually. This woman, it was using paint to demonstrate hand-washing techniques. And so it became really clear the areas of her hands that didn’t have paint on them. And how much washing she had to do to get the paint to cover the full surface of every part of her hands. It’s a really good video.

Ryn (00:37:21):
I liked it a lot, but yeah, so we’re trying to wash the whole hands. Right. And some other stuff too, like surfaces that you’re going to come into contact with, including doorknobs and laptops and telephones. Okay.

Katja (00:37:33):
Yes, countertops, Yep.

Ryn (00:37:33):
All that kind of stuff. To politely cover your coughs and sneezes and redirect them away from the orifices of your friends.

Katja (00:37:42):
I dunno. Maybe not even polite, vigorously cover. And if you haven’t caught onto the covering with the crook of your elbow, like by putting your face kind of in your arm instead of using your hand to cover your face. Because if you use your hand to cover your face now those terms are all over your hands and you’re going to touch something and yeah.

Ryn (00:38:04):
Yeah. And then along with this, trying to not touch your face, because it turns out people touch their face a lot.

Katja (00:38:13):
Okay. So it doesn’t mean that you’re never going to touch your face. But if you try to have awareness about touching your face and then like if you need to itch your eye or whatever, use a clean cloth instead of using your hand to directly do it. Or if you really have to itch your eye, go wash your hands first. You know, something like that to kind of build that awareness. It doesn’t mean that you’re like literally never going to touch your face, because that’s impossible.

Ryn (00:38:43):
Yeah, but as much as possible, we want to reduce that. Okay. So some notes on this soap and water is actually better than hand sanitizer. Okay. So hand sanitizer, it comes in a couple of types. One of them is antibacterial specifically, and that means it can kill bacteria specifically, but it cannot do much for viruses

Katja (00:39:02):
And it won’t kill all bacteria because a lot of bacteria are resistant to the antibiotics that are put into antibacterial hand sanitizers.

Ryn (00:39:12):
Yeah. So some other ones are more broadly antimicrobial. And they’re going to have some effect on viruses, but it could be kind of limited and it’s going to depend a lot on what sort of virus we’re talking about.

Katja (00:39:23):
Also hand sanitizer only works if your hands are already clean. If your hands are visibly dirty, then the grease and dirt will protect the microbes on your hands. So hand sanitizer is not like a substitute for actually washing your hands if your hands are visibly dirty. So why is soap so effective? Because it might sound like soap. It’s so simple. You might be like, that’s not really gonna protect me. Actually it is. Soap is particularly effective at dissolving fat. And it dissolves that lipid bi-layer, that protective envelope around the virus, which exposes the virus to the things it was trying to protect itself from. If a virus has gone to the trouble of making that membrane to surround itself, then it’s kind of putting all of its protective eggs in the basket of I have created armor for myself. Once you break that armor open, that virus is pretty vulnerable to things that could damage it. So that’s pretty exciting. And that is why something as simple as washing your hands can really have so much beneficial effect. And then of course when you combine the soap with the actual action of scrubbing, so that you are also removing, like letting it wash away. And this is part of why it’s so important to wash your hands for Oh, an amount of time. So, I’ve seen like sing the alphabet twice, sing happy birthday twice. I mean you can count for 20 seconds. It’s longer than you think. But recognizing that you do want to get every single surface, and to do it for a long enough period of time so that the soap has time to dissolve that fatty membrane, that lipid bi-layer. And so that you really are thoroughly rinsing everything off. Now if you’re working with soap and water or hand sanitizer, both of these are going to cause dryness in the skin. Ultimately, if you’re washing your hands once an hour, that’s probably way more than you wash your hands right now. If you’re washing your hands twice an hour, you are going to dry out the skin on your hands. And hand washing is important, but dry skin is a risk. So this is where we can really help herbally with this situation. You can create for yourself a salve or a lotion. Preferably if you’re going to make a lotion, don’t let there be any alcohol in it. And if you make a homemade lotion, you wouldn’t put alcohol in any way because it’s really hard to emulsify a lotion with alcohol in it. But you can make a salve or a lotion that has like Sage, Thyme, Pine resin.

Ryn (00:42:24):
Pine resin, yeah.

Katja (00:42:28):
Yeah. Any of these antimicrobial herbs. And then so we don’t want to not wash hands just because that dries out your skin. We want to protect the skin after washing hands. So you can wash your hands and then put on something to moisturize your hands. Something to protect them. And whether that’s a salve or a lotion, if you’ve got those antimicrobial herbs right in there, then you are increasing the barrier function of your hands, right? Your skin is already a barrier to keep pathogens out, but you can make your skin even more of a barrier by applying antimicrobial herbs to your skin.

Ryn (00:43:10):
That’s the way to do it. Pretty great. Okay, so we’re also thinking about the environment and surfaces and all that, and this is a great time for Smells Good.

Katja (00:43:19):
That’s the technical term.

Ryn (00:43:21):
Yeah. So Smells Good is when we get like a liter sized bottle with a spray top and we put in like 10 drops of essential oil of Sage and Rosemary or Lavender, some subset of those.

Katja (00:43:35):
Pine or Thyme. Any of them.

Ryn (00:43:35):
One or two of these. Yeah. Put them all in there and give it a good shake every single time that you’re about to use it and then walk around and spray everything. Spray the air, spray the surfaces, you can wipe down counters with it. The essential oils contain a large fraction of the antimicrobial power of these herbs. So this is a great place to work with them. This is a great way to work with them. If people around are sick or if you’re sick, then it’s good to do this like every hour or so.

Katja (00:44:03):
Oh, even more than that. Yeah. If somebody in your house is sick, you may not have ever dealt with that by walking around the house and literally just cleaning every surface, every hour. In this case, you might want to do that. And you might also be a person who wants to do that with bleach. That’s okay. You can do both. You don’t have to make a choice between bleach and herbal approaches. You can do both. You can go through, you can bleach it, if that makes you feel most comfortable. You can use apple cider vinegar with antimicrobial herbs infused. Any of those things, and then you can spray it with the Smells Good, that we call it, afterwards as well.

Masks and Thyme Steams

Ryn (00:44:46):
All right. Now let’s also talk about masks. So you may have seen many pictures of many people wearing many masks,

Katja (00:44:55):
Just piles of masks on top of masks.

Ryn (00:44:57):
You know, more is probably better, right? So what does the CDC say? They say, please wear a face mask only if you are sick, to protect others around you. And also if you are caring for someone who is sick. But there’s no evidence that a face mask actually protects a healthy person who’s just going around their regular day, which to say somebody who’s not specifically taking care of people who are sick right now. And there are some kind of false confidence reasons that make it better to not do this.

Katja (00:45:28):
Right. Like if you’re wearing a mask, studies show that you feel like you’re safe, so you don’t do the things that would actually make you safe. So what are those things that would protect you instead of wearing a masks. Wearing any number of masks? My favorite thing, I mean, besides washing your hands and keeping your distance from people who might be sick. My favorite thing is to do a Thyme steam. And if you know us, you know that we love Thyme steams, but there’s a really good reason. In fact, there are many good reasons. So the way that you do this is you just get a pot of hot boiling water. You throw a handful or two handsful of Thyme or Sage or Oregano or even Peppermint into the pot. You put your head right over it. Put a towel over your head to make sort of a tent to keep all that Thyme steam or Sage or whatever plants are using in the tent. And you breathe in as deeply as you can. So one of the things that’s going on here is that time and all these other plants, they’re all related plants. They have very strong antimicrobial activity, but that activity is topical. So you have to get in contact with the pathogens that you’re trying to get rid of. That’s why we do it as a steam and breathe it in deep, because you are literally getting all of the antimicrobial action all around the whole respiratory tract. And we want to breathe it super deep into the lungs so that you really get a good coating of that anti-microbial constituents over every part of the respiratory tract.

Ryn (00:47:23):
All the way through. Sinuses, lungs, all of the alveoli.

Katja (00:47:26):
All of it.

Ryn (00:47:26):
Alveoli. Hah! Awesome. Cool. So, yeah, and this is not only your corona specific Thyme steam Destructo toy. This is like we do steams because they help against a really broad array of problems. They help with bacteria. They help with fungi. They help with viruses. They fight things off in a very direct manner. And they stimulate local immunity response from your own tissues in your own cells. So it’s a great way to do it. You just need to do it more than once. One Thyme steam is great, but it’s not the solution really. We need more of them. We need at least one a day. And if you’re sick, if there’s people sick around you, oh man, twice a day.

Katja (00:48:14):
Three times a day.

Ryn (00:48:15):
Do I hear three times a day? I think we should hear it actually. I think it would be fantastic.

Katja (00:48:21):
But at the very minimum, whenever you leave the house, and go to work, or go shopping, or go to school, or go where there’s groups of people and you might be exposed to not even just corona. Remember still cold and flu season. Whatever it is that you’re exposed to, as soon as you get home set that pot of water on the stove, you can get that boiling. You just go change your clothes or whatever you’re going to do because you just walked in the house. And by that time the water’s boiling and you’re ready to do it. It really only takes five or 10 minutes. It’s much more about creating the habit and the awareness of when you come back home, this is what you do to help clear out any exposure that you may have had.

Ryn (00:49:06):
For sure. Okay.L et’s see. So a note here from the Australian medical community. These are folks who are currently anyway, closer to the problem, to the epidemic epicenter.

Katja (00:49:22):
Yeah. To the epicenter. Maybe at this point the problem is pretty much everywhere. But at any rate, they’re closer to the story.

Ryn (00:49:30):
So they’ve been making it clear that for the majority of people who encounter it, this is going to be a mild disease, or more like a regular flu. That 20% or so of the cases can be severe. There may be pneumonia and they can require hospitalization. So 20% is one out of five. And that means that one of your jobs is to make sure that you’re not that one. Right? That you’re keeping yourself out of that 20% of people who need to be hospitalized, both because you don’t want to go to the hospital. And also because somebody else may need it more. That’s what we’re trying to create here is that your needs are small and well met at home.

Removing Immune System Distractions

Katja (00:50:11):
Yeah. Exactly. And the reason that this is really worth thinking about is that if you think ahead, you can remove a lot of the, we’ll call them distractions for your immune system. Just a bunch of the crud that your immune system would have to deal with, that is going to take away resources that you would need if you’re exposed to corona. If we can get rid of all that stuff, then you have more resources in your own body that you can allocate to fighting corona. And that will mean that it is more likely that your case will be more mild.

Ryn (00:50:51):
Yeah. So then what are these distractions to immunity? Well, they’re all of our greatest hits here, right? You’ve got your sugar, you’ve got your caffeine, you’ve got your lack of sleep, you’ve got your suboptimal nutrition. All of these things are going to promote inflammation. They can impair immune function. Whether that’s by misdirecting immunity and it’s more prone to attack your own body, or by just not having the building blocks that you need to build and maintain a good, effective immune system. So, you know, if you’ve been thinking about reducing your sugar intake or doing a whole 30 or giving up sugar, this can be a really great time to do that. And give your immune system a chance to be stronger when you do get sick, or if you do get sick. Yeah.

Katja (00:51:39):
This is also something that is available to everyone. So a lot of times we hear in the news right now a phrase that sort of may be intended to help people feel better. And they’ll say, well, it’s only bad for people who are older or immune compromised. And like the implication there is like, so you’ll be fine. Well what if you’re older or immune compromised? Like that doesn’t sound very encouraging. And that is actually one thing about this particular strategy that I really love. This strategy will help everyone, especially if you’re immune compromised. If you are a person with a chronic illness, if you’re a person with an inflammatory disease, if you’re a person with autoimmunity, these are things that are not going to, again, like cure you of your autoimmune condition. Because a) we are herbalists, we don’t cure things. And also b) it’s not that simple. But if we can reduce any amount of inflammation in the body, it is going to calm down the autoimmune activity. It’s going to calm down the chronic illness, the chronic inflammatory state activity, and start to bring your immune system closer to prepare to deal with something that might be hard for your body to deal with. So it is not going to make the situation perfect. But if you have some control over these factors. And you can use this time before you get exposed to bring some of those factors into a place like say, okay, well I’m just going to give up sugar for right now. Maybe not for my whole life, but for right now, just zero sugar. Zero white sugar, fruit is fine. Then that is one thing that you can do that is not going to solve all problems. But is going to take some load off your immune system and give you a better chance against whatever you might be exposed to.

Ryn (00:53:52):
Yeah. And that includes those kind of stocking up things we were talking about before. About stocking up on your sleep and making sure you’re getting some good movement. This is also a time to think about your vitamin D status, right? So if you don’t habitually supplement with vitamin D, then this is a good time to do it. Both because it’s just the time of year when vitamin D stores tend to be running really low, naturally acquired ones. And also because you know, if there is a virus around, you want to have good replete vitamin D status inside your body. That helps your immune system to function more efficiently and with less chance of a runaway inflammatory process called the cytokine storm, which you may be hearing a lot about in reference to this particular virus or to the corona family of viruses. As that’s been known to happen with other members of the family. But when we think about cytokine storms, we think more about deficiencies or dysregulations of immunity that can make them more likely, rather than attributing all of their presence to the specific pathogen. And say these viruses make cytokine storms happen, and those ones don’t. That’s not exactly the story. It’s more that a virus is a little more likely to cause a cytokine storm, and especially in a body that doesn’t have good vitamin D status, is over sugared and otherwise under-nourished, or has other kinds of disruptions or dysregulations going on. Those are cases where that threat is higher.

Katja (00:55:25):
Or like if you’re already at a baseline inflammatory state that’s very high, then that is more likely to tip over into cytokine, let’s call it disbalance. You know, because it’s not guaranteed that it’s going to be a cytokine storm. But you’re already kind of in a place of imbalance in your cytokine function because of being at that high inflammatory state. And so bringing that down makes a cytokine storm situation much less likely.

Ryn (00:55:58):
Yeah. And vitamin D is fairly safe to supplement with. I mean basically anybody, there’s like a few instances of kidney problem or this or that where you might not. But if that’s the case for you, you’ve probably already been become aware of it. But for most people, you can take 5,000 IU of vitamin D once a day, all through the winter time. Some people need more to really move the needle on their blood levels. For some people less would do it, but that is a very safe dose for a very wide range of humans. And if you’re just looking for something you can start today, you can begin there. Down the line if you have insurance and you go to the doctors and everything, you can get your blood levels checked and see where you’re at. Just be aware that the reference ranges are a little bit low actually for ideal immune function.

Katja (00:56:47):
For the United States, yeah.

Ryn (00:56:49):
Anyway, Vitamin D. Simple. Doesn’t have to be expensive and can be very, very helpful here.

Katja (00:56:53):
Yeah. Now this whole thing about baseline inflammatory state is material that we go into in depth in the immune health course. So if that was super interesting to you, then you might like that course. This also, again, when they’re talking about that the people who have severe cases, and those small percentage of people who died, were the people who already had other health issues at the time of getting sick. Again, that does not mean you need to panic. It doesn’t guarantee that if you already had something, you’re going to be one of those cases. But it does mean that if you already have some sort of respiratory issue. For example, maybe you kind of have had a lingering cold for the last month or two because you got something and you didn’t fully recover from it. But you didn’t take time off from work. This would be a really good time to go ahead and do what you need to do to fully recover. Because again, if you can be all the way strong, if you can be like feeling great and jumping out of bed in the morning, that means that you are like in your best possible place when you encounter exposure to this virus. If you encounter exposure to this virus. So a lot of people don’t have the option. A lot of people are not allowed to miss work for various reasons, and that is a problem in our society. But if you’re a person who does have the ability to stay home from work, and maybe you’re just like a workaholic and you just don’t do it, I feel you, let me tell you. But this is a really good time just to say, Hey, I better go ahead and kick whatever this thing is I’ve been dragging around with me. Just to clear it out so that if I do get exposed to corona, I’m at my 100% place instead of at my like 72% place. Good. Excellent.

Ryn (00:58:57):
All right. So we’re herbalists and we have a few other ideas. Aside from what we’ve gotten so far, right? So we’re all washing, our hands. We’re isolating. We’re quarantining. We’re doing all of those good things. We’re steaming when we get home. We’re spraying the Smells Good around the house. Yeah. Okay. But what else can we do? Right? First of all, remember rule number one is don’t panic. And that includes not to panic through looking for herbal silver bullets and herbal secret formulas that will conquer corona the way nothing else can.

Start From Your Strongest Place

Katja (00:59:35):
I literally saw advertised on the internet a corona virus formula that they were selling for $130. There’s no need for that. You definitely do not need to do that. The herbs that we’re going to talk about here are basic herbs that are going to be available basically anywhere that you can buy herbs. In fact, a lot of these are available just literally at the grocery store. And you don’t need to go out and spend a ton of money. Remember also that the goal here is not to make you invincible, because that’s not possible, right? So the work that we’re going to do is really similar to the work that we would do for any flu, basically. Because the goal here is that if you get exposed, we want you to be in your strongest possible position to fight it. And that if you get sick, we want it to be the mildest possible case because we have done the work to make your immune system strong. So that is our goal. The goal is not actually to make sure that you’re invincible and you’re super immune person and you never ever, ever get sick. In fact, getting sick once in a while is actually good, because your body has a chance to build antibodies and practice and do that work.

Ryn (01:00:59):
Right. Particularly if it’s a matter of like I’m about as healthy as I get. And then I encounter the coronavirus or some other thing. And for whatever reason I actually get it. And it gets into me. And then I get a little bit sick. I have some symptoms. I manufacture some antibodies. My body fights it off. And now I’m much better prepared for this wintertime because it’s not like it’s going to just disappear after this round. Right? It’s still going to be in the environment and in the world and everything. So then when, you know, the normal cold and flu season comes around again, then I may encounter this again. And if at that point I’m overworked and under slept and stressed out and my living situation is shaky and things are really kind of more troublesome for me all over the place, it’ll be better for me. At that point I’ve already had some experience with this virus before, and maybe my body knows how to make those antibodies. And it’s ready to go and I don’t need to go through the whole round again. Now that might happen. It might not happen. There have been some cases with corona covid19 where people seem to have gotten reinfected and there’s a lot of debate about that. Did they have the illness, get over it and then get infected again? Does that mean that they weren’t making antibodies effectively?

Katja (01:02:17):
I almost feel like it hasn’t been long enough. Maybe it was just an extended…

Ryn (01:02:21):
Right, because that’s like what I said was one story. The other story is yeah, you got sick. You didn’t actually get all the way better. And then you know, it flared up again or you got a new blood draw and that time it came back positive. So that is not an answered question yet entirely. But you know, again, the idea is like if you’re going to get it at all, you want to be starting from your strongest possible place, right? And that’ll set you up good for this round and for any future rounds as well.

Katja (01:02:49):
Right. And as long as you keep that in your mind then you won’t fall for hype. Right. You won’t fall for it if somebody says, Oh, I can sell you an herb that’ll make sure you never get it. That’s not even the goal. You know, the goal is to make you as strong as possible. As effective and efficient in your immune system as possible.

Elderberry & Elderflower

Ryn (01:03:09):
Yeah. All right. So let’s talk about some particular plants that can help out with that. And let’s begin with Elderberries. So Elderberry is, and really the flowers as well, are most famous as anti-influenza herbal remedies, at least in their immune regard. They have many other talents.

Katja (01:03:26):
They have a million other actions, but that’s the one that people are usually most familiar with.

Ryn (01:03:30):
Right. So one of the reasons why that is the case is that Elderberry is really good at inhibiting the reproductive capacity of the flu virus. And that makes it easier for your body to cope with the problem, right? If some flu gets into you, it starts to do its replication thing. And then you get some Elderberry in there and that stops the virus from replicating. Then there’s only so much virus reserve for your body to cope with and to kick out. And so stopping the replication sequence is really, really helpful. Now it’s not clear if Elderberry can do the exact same thing for coronaviruses. They are, you know, a different species, a different type and structure and everything. So we don’t want to just transpose and say, Oh, because good for influenza means it’s also good for corona in exactly the same way. Right? That would be leaping too far ahead of ourselves. But we know that that’s not the only thing that Elderberry does that is helpful in the course of these illnesses.

Katja (01:04:37):
And it’s possible that it could have that effect. We just don’t know yet. I sort of feel like it’s one of those things where it could have that anti-replication effect. It definitely has anti-inflammatory actions and inflammation regulatory actions.

Ryn (01:04:56):
Right. because to be fair, if we talk about the overall picture, like what you observe when you give Elderberry to people. It’s usually taking down inflammation and like helping that to come to a more balanced place.

Katja (01:05:08):
Like a modulated place.

Ryn (01:05:10):
Yes. When you get into your microscope you can say, Oh, it’s increasing some proinflammatory signals in the body. And it’s increasing some anti-inflammatory signals in the body. And so there is a lot of room there for it to affect different bodies differently. Right? Like in my system, it really ramps up some pro-inflammatory stuff. And that’s handy because I actually needed some help mounting a stronger fever right now. Right. Whereas in another body it may perform a little bit differently. So there are some judgments around Elderberry as being like only fiery or only icy and it doesn’t really seem to reflect what we actually observe when we give this to folks. But do leave some awareness open for any herb that we talk about, that it could play out a little bit differently in a given person than what’s been written in the books or written all over the internet about it, right? And always be flexible in the way you respond. So don’t take any of these herbs, including Elderberry, and say this is the answer. I just keep taking it no matter what happens, right? You’ve got to be responsive.

Katja (01:06:13):
One other thing on Elderberry is that I feel like we just can’t say this enough, that pathogens are not in a vacuum, right? If you’re exposed to corona in that very same moment, you are also being exposed to colds and a flu and a this and a that and all kinds of things, right? Because every time we breathe in, we’re breathing in a whole, like, I don’t know, a whole cohort of lots of different kinds of particulate, including dust, you know, including all kinds of things. So even if Elderberry doesn’t have any direct effect on corona whatsoever, you didn’t only breathe in corona. You breathed in other stuff too. And your immune system has to deal with all of it. So everything that we know that Elderberry can do, that’s fantastic. And then we can sort of hypothesize that it might be able to do some other things with specific regard to corona. But even if all it does is knock out some other stuff that came along for the ride, so that now you don’t have to deal with that, that’s valuable too. That’s fantastic.

Ryn (01:07:24):
Yeah, for sure. Cool. And then of course, you know, I’m expanding a little and thinking about the flowers as well. We find that really helpful for managing fever. And especially when the fevers are too high and there’s a lot of tension in the person’s presentation. Elderflower can really help to release that tension and allow that heat to move more freely. And so it can be helpful in that manipulation or that adjustment to fever. That’s oftentimes when the illness is more serious and you are dealing with it at home, that’s a lot of the work is to be like, all right, bring that fever up. All right. Level it off. Okay. Bring it back down now. And so there’s really a big place for Elderflower there too. Yeah. Yeah.

Elecampane & Angelica

Katja (01:08:08):
All right. I’m super excited to talk about Elecampane.

Ryn (01:08:12):
You always are.

Katja (01:08:12):
I always am. I love to talk about Elecampane. So Elecampane is one of my favorite respiratory herbs. And maybe I love it so much because I do run on the damp side.And I do tend to, if I get a respiratory thing, it tends to be one of those wet, heavy coughs down deep in the lungs. So that might be why I love Elecampanes so much. But corona appears to be that sort of virus. Very much like SARS in this way too, like deep in the lungs. Heavy cough. And so, obviously this could play out in different ways where like everybody is doing the best they can with the information that they have. But that is what seems to be being reported is that it’s a deep lung virus. And that is tailor made for the skills that Elecampane has. So Elecampane gets deep into the lungs, helps with expectorant action. Now expectorant means to cough stuff up. But it doesn’t mean to just cough for no reason, like a dry hacking cough. That’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about really peeling the crud off the walls of the lungs and coughing it up and out so that you’re clearing out the lungs. And being able to do that very effectively. Elecampane really helps with that a lot, but there’s more. Elecampane also has some really strong specific antimicrobial action as well as biofilm busting action. If you’re not familiar with biofilms, that’s when pathogens glom together to try to protect themselves against our immune system. And Elecampane can break that up to make it easier for our immune system to fight whatever the pathogen is. So this is all like, Oh, and not only that, it also, it brings a lot of warmth to the lungs. A lot of circulation to the lungs. Those are really important because it helps you. As long as you’ve got circulation, you’re bringing in more food, you’re bringing in more immune response cells. But also part of this is that we need to warm up the lungs. That’s why you run a fever at all, is to try to raise the temperature of the area where the pathogen is. And in this case, that is the lungs. It’s the hardest place to raise the temperature because every breath you take, you’re being exposed to cool air. So anything that we can do to warm up the chest cavity is going to help make it a little easier to raise that fever. Let the fever be effective. And then be done with it.

Ryn (01:10:59):
Yeah. So how to take Elecampane. What we prefer for this actually is to work with a decoction. So to get a pot of water, and put some Elecampane into there, and bring it up to a boil. And then take down the heat and simmer it for a good long while. And once that’s cooked for a couple of hours or so, it’s ready to straight off by the cup. But you can leave it on the stove all day, that’s fine.

Katja (01:11:22):
And you can even, like if you need it, you can even start drinking it at half an hour. And then just let it keep simmering for awhile.

Ryn (01:11:30):
Sure. Yeah. So what we like to do is take that decoction and strain out small doses of it. You know, like something you put into a shot glass or a few tablespoons full. Somewhere in that range. And to take that much like once an hour, if you’re acutely sick. If it’s more defensive, if there’s like people in the house who have this, then you should probably still take some as you’re doling out doses to other people with the phlegm. You should take some as well. Maybe, you know, three, five times a day should be good for you. But if you have phlegm in the lungs and you want to get it up and out, then you know, little half a shot of Elecampane taken every hour or so is a fantastic way to get that stuff moving, and to get that fight brought to where it needs to be. It doesn’t taste great. So you’re just taking a little bit and then for the rest of that hour you can have some pleasant tea and whatever tastes good to you to wash the Elecampane flavor out of your mouth.

Katja (01:12:26):
Yes. We don’t take a small amount because it’s harmful or because it’s too strong. In fact, you could drink a quart of it. And that would be fantastic. But the flavor is off-putting and most people don’t want to drink a quart of it. So that’s why we sort of say, we’ll just every hour take a big chug of it, you know. Take as much as you can with the flavor being what it is. And some people don’t mind, but it tastes like peppery mud. If you know that ahead of time and you’re prepared, and you say, well, I’m just going to take a big gulp of it and then I’ll drink something else for the whole rest of the hour. That makes it a lot easier to manage then if you try to like, I’m going to drink this whole cup of it. And I’m just going to tough it out. If you do that once, you might be like, I don’t want to do that again. And then you might not have anymore. So I like this approach just because it’s more likely to be successful. And this herb isn’t going to help you unless you get it into you. So whatever it takes to get it in is good.

Ryn (01:13:31):
Yeah. Go do it. Herbs like Angelica are very similar. Angelica is another bitter, pungent lung focused herb here. It has a lot of similarities. You can work with that too. And then even Ginger and certainly Garlic are going to have similar range of effects. And Garlic, you can make tea with it. I like to make Garlic and Thyme tea. That’s really powerful stuff. You know, one clove or two cloves of Garlic all chopped up. And then a spoon or three of Thyme or Sage or Monarda or other similar herbs. Make a quart of tea with that, and drink that down. You will feel it coming out of your lungs. You will have that Garlic breath. And that means that those sulfur compounds, their antimicrobial and immune stimulating effects, are present the whole time that you have friendly, friendly Garlic breath. So that’s really solid stuff. And a lot of the same ideas are going to apply there. Garlic may be easier to find than Elecampane. So you know.

Katja (01:14:28):
And its effects are really, really similar. So yeah, if you can’t find Elecampane, don’t say, well I guess there’s nothing I can do. Go get Ginger and Garlic. You can get those at the grocery store. And just have tons of them. Buckets of them.

Pleurisy Root & Marshmallow

Ryn (01:14:42):
Nice. All right. Another herb that you may not find at the grocery store, but should at some herb shops and certainly herb suppliers is called Pleurisy root. Pleurisy is the name for a state in the lungs where the pleura or the sac in which the lungs hang has gotten a bit dried out and there’s stickiness happening. And with stickiness there can be friction and pain as you breathe. But it’s all traced back to dryness affecting that tissue. And Pleurisy root counteracts that particular tissue state of dryness.

Katja (01:15:19):
Yeah. This is a really common thing to happen with long, long lasting bronchial infections or with pneumonia. It’s sort of like a snowball effect. And over time the inflammation in the area just ends up causing the pleura to dry out and it’s just super painful. It makes the whole situation much, much worse, much harder to manage. So even if you’ve never had pleurisy before, if you’re exposed to something that you know, has the possibility to get as far as viral pneumonia, and corona can do that, that’s what happens in those serious cases is that it goes all the way into pneumonia. Then to my way of thinking, why not just start with the Pleurisy root right from the beginning, just to make sure that you’re taking care of that so that even if you do get a hard case with the pneumonia and everything, at least you’re protecting yourself against that extra aggravation and pain of pleurisy. And this is a place where Marshmallow root can be really effective as well. And Marshmallow root might be easier. Well, almost all of the herbs suppliers will have Pleurisy root. But even if you have like a local co-op, they’ll definitely have Marshmallow root for sure.

Ryn (01:16:40):
Yeah. And you know, with Marshmallow you can make a cold infusion of it on its own. You can also included in decoctions and it will still help out. So if you got some Pleurisy root, if you had some Elecampane, you could put those two together with a bit of Marshmallow, maybe a little Cinnamon and maybe some Ginger. I would put some Licorice in there, personally. I know you probably wouldn’t.

Katja (01:17:04):
In this case I probably would. You know, if I was really worried about pleurisy, even I would have the Licorice, even though I hate it.

Ryn (01:17:12):
Yeah. But just a small part relative to the others. Right. But let the Pleurisy, let the Marshmallow and the Elecampane be like the core of it. Put in some Cinnamon, some Ginger, yeah, some Licorice. Right? Make a decoction with that and that should taste better. But still we want to take decent amounts. And the frequency matters here too, right? We’re trying to trigger a response. We’re trying to encourage a certain kind of activity. And so just one application or one intake isn’t necessarily going to do it for you. You need consistency,

Katja (01:17:45):
You know, that’s important anyway, because the real thing that’s dangerous about the flu is dehydration. Right? And that’s going to be true for corona too. Obviously corona has a few other parts of danger. Well, the flu does too. If it gets all the way to viral pneumonia, okay, that’s a problem. But one of the biggest parts of that problem is actually dehydration. Dehydration is why people usually end up hospitalized for the flu. And so if you are planning ahead of time, several quarts of fluids that you’re going to consume every single day, then your likelihood of becoming dehydrated is much lower. And dehydration is something that in most cases we can prevent as long as we plan for it. So this is another one of those cases where if you’re prepared, and you think ahead and you say, okay, I’m going to have this kind of tea and that kind of tea and this kind of tea. I’ll set it all up in the morning and then it’ll just be ready for me. And I will bring it to the bedroom and put it next to the bed. Or I will, somebody will bring it to me. Or I’ll drag myself every time I go to the bathroom, I’ll drag myself to the kitchen and get another thing of tea. Whatever it is. If you’re prepared with all of that fluid, the likelihood that you’re dehydrated is much lower.

Ryn (01:19:08):
Okay. Well we talked about steams earlier, but just in case you missed it or like, you know, phased out for a minute there and came back. Hey herbal steams, really fantastic. So we’ll steam with Thyme, with Sage, with Monarda, with Pine Needles, with Peppermint. I don’t know, if you’re in Australia, Eucalyptus is probably handy. But do this regularly, right. Do it before you’re sick. But if you’ve got symptoms going on, no compromise. I don’t have 10 minutes to make a steam. Yeah. You do. You have to. You need them. Take those minutes.

Katja (01:19:41):
They’re your minutes.

Ryn (01:19:41):
Take them from some other thing if you have to, but do that steam, it really helps a ton. Especially if somebody around you is sick, as frequently as you can carve out time to do it. Really, really make a point of that.

Katja (01:19:56):
Yeah. Really fun for the whole family kind of thing. Absolutely.

Ryn (01:20:01):
All right. And then, you know, kind of on that same regard, thinking about spray for all of the rooms and surfaces in the house. I mean, as far as the air goes, even incense can help. It has to be a strong incense.

Katja (01:20:11):
And good quality.

Ryn (01:20:11):
A heavy, like resin-y incense, you know, good quality one. Yeah. But they do make a difference in terms of what’s in the actual air.

Katja (01:20:20):
Well, and also don’t forget to air things out as well. Like you know, if you get up to go to the bathroom, open the window. And then when you come back, close the window again, obviously you don’t want to freeze. But letting things air out a little bit is also gonna help.

Ryn (01:20:37):

Boneset & Codonopsis

Katja (01:20:39):
All right, well it’s good to have some fever herbs on hand. You mentioned Elderflower. Yarrow and Catnip are also very, very helpful here. Peppermint is helpful. And there’s a lot more on fever management in the cold and flu course, the respiratory health course. But I just want to mention a couple herbs here that are really, really helpful. Even Tulsi can be helpful for fever management.

Ryn (01:21:06):
Yeah, for sure. And you know, along with that we’re thinking about everything else that we want to have on hand for respiratory illnesses. You know, what would you keep around for flu? Well, we’d have some Boneset around, you know, in case you’re starting to feel that bone deep ache in the muscles. And you know, those kind of signature symptoms that call for Boneset. Or also remember we find Boneset helpful for when things are lingering. You’ve been sick, you got better kind of. You know, take some Boneset for a few days. Not big doses, you know, 10, 20 drops taken three or four times a day. We’ve seen that work for those lingering illnesses really, really well really, really frequently. So keep that trick in your back pocket.

Katja (01:21:52):
You know, and the reason here, one of the reasons that Boneset can be so effective is that Boneset supports bone health. And your bone marrow is where you create all of your immune response cells. Now they’re not finished at that point. They go receive their higher training in different places in the body, but they all start in your bone marrow. And so when you’re feeling that ache in your bones, what’s going on there is that you’re literally feeling that your bone marrow is overworked. And so anything that you can do to support that. Codonopsis is another herb here that is just super, super helpful in terms of supporting bone health, bone marrow health, and through that supporting immune system function.

Ryn (01:22:42):
Yeah. Codonopsis is good to like build yourself up, you know, before you get sick. It’s good to restore you after you’ve been sick for awhile.

Katja (01:22:50):
And you can put it in the soup.

Ryn (01:22:52):
You can, right? And Hey, you know, soup can be pretty powerful at this point. If you’ve got some seaweeds, if you’ve got some mushrooms, if you’ve got some , if you’ve got some Thyme and Sage and Garlic and everything in there. There’s a lot going in that soup. Right. So consider that amongst your herbal remedies, right? Like the teas and the tinctures and everything, they often take our focus, but a good solid herbal powered broth is doing a lot of heavy lifting in an illness like this. Plus it helps you to not get dehydrated.

Katja (01:23:21):
Right. It’s full of electrolytes, which is really just another way of saying minerals. Yeah, it’s good stuff.

Ryn (01:23:28):
Yeah. All right. And then, yeah, like we said, you got to keep at it, right? You’re going to do a lot. One cup of tea in the day is not enough. Right. That’s not the whole story. We’ve got so far a couple of quarts of tea. We’ve got some broth. We’ve got…

Katja (01:23:42):
Yeah. Two or three quarts of tea, a quart of broth, a steam three times a day. We are describing basically a full time job because you’re going sleep in between all this stuff too. Being sick is a full time job, right? It’s going to be easier if you have somebody to take care of you. But any way, you know, one of the things that we like best is we have one of those air pots like you finding cafes that have like all the coffee. You know, you go and the big silver things with the little lever you push. That’s the technical….

Ryn (01:24:18):
The little lever you push.

Katja (01:24:21):
Exactly. We love those for making tea. And you can, for the same effort it takes to make one cup of tea, you can make a whole two and a half liters of tea in one go. Put it next to your bed. And then all you have to do is roll over and kind of miserably push out some more tea and then drink it. So tricks like that, if you think about it now, like go ahead and get one of those now so that you’re ready. And by the way, you won’t only use it when you’re sick. It turns out we use ours literally every single day. It’s just a real luxury to have tea hot all day. You don’t have to think about it. You don’t have to do anything. You just walk over, spurt some out and it’s great.

Ryn (01:25:04):
And it’s handy too, because even like herbs that we normally need to do a decoction of, you know, it’s probably better to do that. But when you’re sick and you’re alone and whatever, you can throw a handful of Elecampane, Angelica, whatever, right into there. Pour in the boiling water. It stays in water that’s pretty close to boiling for a bunch of hours, you know. So it does almost as good a job of extracting as does the actual boil.

Katja (01:25:31):
Yeah. And again, especially when you feel terrible and you’re exhausted, it’s definitely, definitely good enough.

Be Prepared but Don’t Panic

Ryn (01:25:39):
But you know, this is right along with your other kind of preparations. So, you know, by this point you probably have some herbs in mind or you can make a list now of things that you want to have ready in case you do start to feel sick or people around you do. So get all that stuff ready, line it up, put it on a counter somewhere.

Katja (01:25:54):
Yeah, get a basket and put all of it together in one place. Because as soon as you start feeling any kind of symptoms, you want it ready to go. You don’t want to wait until you’re miserable and in bed. Like just the very first moment that you notice any kind of symptom, you want to be right on top of it. Again, because our goal here is to give you as much strength as possible, as much chance to beat this as possible.

Ryn (01:26:23):
Yeah. So yeah, be prepared. And remember there’s like the other side of being prepared is not being panicked, because that’s not preparedness. Right? Yeah. You had a quote I think.

Katja (01:26:35):
Oh yes, there was a doctor in Australia. He is a virology – Is that how we say that? – specialist from the University of Queensland. And he was saying we do have some experience of a pandemic and it wasn’t panic worthy. The pandemic of H1N1 in 2009 definitely had unhappy consequences, but it was by no means a zombie apocalypse. And I think that’s a really good way to think about this because I am definitely seeing photographs and reports of stores that have no hand sanitizer left, and that have no this and no that. And it doesn’t need to be like that. It isn’t to say that this isn’t serious. It’s definitely serious, and we should all take the actions that we need to take to keep ourselves as healthy as possible. But on the other hand, society is not going to collapse unless we all panic and make it collapse.

Ryn (01:27:30):
I think some of this has to do with the way we use the word pandemic now. Because the definition of this that the CDC people or whatever are using is a virus that’s relatively new and is spreading to lots and lots of places. Right? It doesn’t mean like, like pandemic doesn’t speak to severity. It doesn’t speak to deadliness.

Katja (01:27:53):
We could have a pandemic of something super duper mild. And the word pandemic doesn’t say anything about the severity. It only talks about the way that it spreads.

Ryn (01:28:06):
Yeah. And you know, again to like set our levels here. Coronavirus, covid19 here so far it seems like middle range in terms of viruses in the world, right? There are so many more benign ones. There are a lot of more scary, terrible ones. So we’re going to take it seriously. We’re going to wash our hands, the whole hands, all the parts of them.

Katja (01:28:29):
Yes, for two whole happy birthdays.

Ryn (01:28:31):
Yeah. We’re going to think about our environment and whether we really need to go to that show and all of these kinds of things. Ways we can take care of ourselves and take care of each other.

Katja (01:28:41):
And take care of the people around us who might be at greater risk. There’s something that everyone can do to give themselves a little bit of an extra boost. And if all of us do it, and if those of us who have the privilege to stay home, take that, then we will be protecting others as well. And if we’re just thoughtful and kind, then we’ll get through this in a much better way than if we all panic.

Ryn (01:29:10):
There you go. All right. So those are our thoughts so far. You know, we’ll keep you posted as things evolve and change if our thoughts evolve and change, new information comes to light about this one. But for now, that’s it for the Holistic Herbalism podcast this week.

Katja (01:29:29):
Go do a Thyme steam and wash your hands.

Ryn (01:29:45):
There you go. Bye!

Katja (01:29:45):


Join our newsletter for more herby goodness!

Get our newsletter delivered right to your inbox. You'll be first to hear about free mini-courses, podcast episodes, and other goodies about holistic herbalism.