Many patients, friends and family are asking my advice about the current coronavirus outbreak. Here is the first part of my blog post on this topic. There are two main aspects to discuss, prevention and treatment and this first part is focusing on prevention and I am trying to keep it simple. As always, this is a work in progress that I will update frequently as new information becomes available.
Obviously this is meant as general advice based on the best available information but there is a great deal we don’t know yet about this virus. While my recommendations are based upon information by experts I trust and respect, most of it is theoretical in nature, based upon experience treating other viruses in the coronavirus family (namely SARS and MERS) and animal and in-vitro studies, as I am unaware of any controlled research studies on COVID-19. This is what I am doing myself and recommending for my patients but may not be equally appropriate for everyone. This is not intended as formal medical advice and, of corse, not a substitute for advice from your own health practitioner(s).
We still don’t know exactly how many people currently are infected or exactly how contagious this virus is but it is spreading rapidly and is likely to ultimately infect millions in the US. This illness in unusual in that it has a long incubation period, which is the time between when someone is exposed to the illness and when they first experience symptoms, of 2-14 days and what it worrisome is that people may be contagious during this time when they have no symptoms. Also, this virus is unusual as it may survive for several hours (or even a few days) on surfaces outside the body.
Fortunately, most people (about 80%) only experience relatively mild symptoms and there are many who have tested positive who have no symptoms at all. On the other hand, in some people it is very serious and appears to cause death in up to 2% of those who have it, mostly the elderly with chronic illnesses like diabetes and chronic lung disease and those who are immunocompromised. But we don’t know the exact mortality rate as we don’t know how many people have it; those will few or mild symptoms have not been diagnosed so the mortality rate might be quite a bit less, probably closer to 1%. But even for the majority of us who will only have mild symptoms it is important to do everything we can to avoid contracting it so we don’t pass it on to others who could be more severely affected.
With any infection there are two main aspects to consider, the microbe and the terrain, referring to our immunity and ability to fight the infection. Obviously we want to minimize our exposure to the coronavirus, which is the reason large public gatherings are no longer happening as part of “social distancing” as well as frequent hand washing. When we are out in public we might be exposed from something as simple as handling money, touching a doorknob, entering our PIN on a touchscreen or picking up a pen to sign our name. Even after washing our hands in a public bathroom we might be exposed from touching the doorknob. It’s a scary world out there. But just getting the virus on your fingers is not a problem unless you touch your mouth, nose or eyes so as long as, after being in public, you wash your hands well before touching your face you should be okay (though it may also be airborne which is why it is advised to try to not stand too close to others in public).
But you probably already know all that so what I rally want to tell you is how to boost your immune function. First, there is no substitute for a healthy diet. Emphasize organic vegetables and fruit and quality proteins. Minimize sugars and foods fried in unhealthy oils (like canola, corn and soy; the healthiest oils are coconut, olive, avocado and sustainable palm). Avoid GMO foods.
Vitamins and minerals play a huge role in immune function. Vitamin D is essential for proper immune function and this time of year virtually everyone who lives in the Northern Hemisphere (unless in the tropics) is deficient in Vit. D unless they have been supplementing with it. Most people need at least 2000 iu/day. If you have not been supplementing with D then your tank is empty and I would consider taking 20,000 iu/day for 10 days, 10,000 iu/day for 10 days and then 5000 iu/day. While it is possible to become toxic from excessive amounts of Vit D this is a safe way to quickly boost your levels. If you have been taking 2000 iu or less a day it might be wise to increase to 5000 iu/day. Another way to boost immune function is Vitamin A, which does not get much respect but can really help; 10,000 iu/day is a reasonable dose. But most important may be good old Vitamin C. I recommend at least 1000 mg twice a day as a preventive dose. Another crucial nutrient that many people are deficient in is zinc. I advise 15-30 mg/day, which you can take as an individual supplement or as part of a good multivitamin; my favorite is O.N.E. Multivitamin from Pure Encapsulations but there are other good brands too.
Lifestyle also plays an important role. Adequate sleep (at least 7 hours though many need more) is crucial. Adequate hydration is also important; many of us do not drink enough. Obviously the best thing to drink is water; most tap water is not that healthy, esp. in areas with fluoridated water, but I am also not a fan of water in plastic bottles. A good countertop filter is good but if your water is fluoridated that will not remove fluoride and I would advise bottled spring water. If water does not excite you try herbal teas; green tea and Holy Basil (aka Tulsi tea) are especially good choices.
It is well-known that our mental attitudes an emotions also play a huge role in immune function. Stress can severely impair immune function. I am seeing many people experiencing extreme fear/anxiety about this pandemic and, while that might be somewhat justified that does not help our immunity. Stress is aggravated by a feeling of helplessness/hopelessness/lack of control. Hopefully following the measures I am suggesting will help you feel like you do have some power over reducing your risk of infection and effectively fighting it if you do become ill. But stress-reduction techniques like meditation and exercise can also be very helpful.
Of course many herbs can boost immunity as well. My favorite herbalist, Stephen Buhner, has recommended 3 formulas, in low doses for prevention and higher doses for treatment:
“Core tincture formulation: Baikal skullcap (3 parts), japanese knotweed root (2 parts), kudzu (2 parts), licorice (1 part), decocted elder leaf tincture (1 part). Note, the berry will do i guess but it is about 1/3 as effective as the decocted leaf (which no one sells, you have to make it yourself). Dosage: 1 tsp 3x day, 6x if active infection.
Immune system, cellular protection, cytokine interruption tincture formulation, supportive for core tincture activity: Cordyceps (3 parts), Dong Quai (2 parts), rhodiola (1 part), astragalus (1 part). Dosage: same as above.
Cellular protection, cytokine interruption, spleen/lymph support tincture formulation: Dan Shen (3 parts), red root (2 parts), Bidens pilosa (1 part). same dosage as above.
With active infection: very strong boneset tea, to 6x day.”
For an extensive article with more details please see
I do not believe it is necessary to take all of these aforementioned herbs to get benefits. A streamlined approach might include Cordyceps, Japanese knotweed, Astragalus, Dan Shen (aka red sage) and Red Root (aka Ceanothus). But I also highly recommend Andrographis, a great immune-boosting and anti-microbial herb which my mentor Dietrich Klinghardt MD believes may be the best herb for prevention of COVID 19.
Dr. Klinghardt gave an online talk on 3/9 which includes a powerpoint presentation with numerous research studies on herbs, nutrients and even pharmaceuticals for coronavirus that I highly recommend
But he also created a new update on 3/19 so it might be best to start with that one:
Below is the 3/9 talk but click on the link just above for the new one…
Something that is not obvious to many is the insidious effects of electromagnetic fields (EMF’s) on our health. It is omnipresent and we can’t see it or smell it or hear it but that does not mean it does not have a serious effect on our health. It is best to not keep a cell phone on our body if it is on, to use it on speakerphone if you are an old-school person who actually uses their phone to talk and, most importantly, to turn your wi-fi router off at night. For those interested in learning about the large body of science on the effects of EMF’s upon health please see
Last but not least is the use of homeopathy. Homeopathy is the most controversial of my recommendations as the mainstream medical community strongly dismisses homeopathy as worthless. However, there is a large body of scientific evidence demonstrating that homeopathy is very effective; if you are a skeptic re: homeopathy please see this fine essay from my friend Dana Ullman MPH:
Homeopathy has a long history of being extremely effective in epidemics. There are two ways to use it: to take it if you become ill (which I will discuss in the second part of this where I will discuss treatment) and as a preventative. The use for prevention is called homeoprophylaxis. Here is a good concise discussion of the history of homeoprophylaxis with multiple references:
One way of doing homeoprophylaxis is using a remedy called a nosode, which is a homeopathic preparation made from a microbe, in this case COVID 19. Taking this daily is the homeopathic equivalent of a vaccine, though all vaccines have potential side effects and nosodes are very safe (there is no way to get the illness from a nosode). I have a nosode on the way which I will convert to a tincture for my patients, but anyone can order this nosode here:
But another approach is rather than taking the nosode taking a more classic homeopathic remedy for prevention.
The government of India has a department called the AYUSH ministry (Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa and Homoeopathy) which officially recommends the common remedy Arsenicum album 30c, 2 pellets 3 days in a row, to be repeated once a month, though others advise taking a dose every week. This recommendation was met with ridicule by many critics, even in India, but is certainly harmless and might be worth a try.
But other homeopaths believe a better preventive remedy is Gelsemium. With limited experience and no research it is hard to say if either Arsenicum or Gelsemium will be effective but these remedies are very affordable, widely available and at the very least harmless.
In the very near future I will write about treatment strategies for anyone who is actually infected but I believe the above measures can significantly reduce both risk of infection and help if we do become infected.
Please be assured that there many very effective treatment strategies in the world of natural medicine for the many who will become infected…