A Herbal Perspective on Long Covid
A Long Covid Case Study
Amy was talking to me via a Zoom link to her bedroom. She was propped up in bed, wrapped up in a dressing gown and explaining to me how exhausted and frustrated she was feeling. Seven months ago she was working part time in primary healthcare, a busy mum and grandmother who still found time and energy to go to the gym and visit her elderly parents every few days. As soon as she started to feel unwell she knew she had Covid. At first it felt like a bad flu with a temperature, aching joints and no energy which sent her to bed, where she isolated for 10 days and looked after herself. She seemed to be recovering well.
Fast forward a few months and it was obvious all was not well. Amy was still absolutely exhausted, she had a constant feeling of pressure on her chest and was simply too breathless to do anything. Concentrating on anything seemed impossible and she was struggling to remember things with an extreme case of ‘brain fog.’ She had been signed off work and her GP was talking about ‘Long Covid’ and post viral fatigue syndrome.
When Amy came to see me she had been dealing with symptoms for months; some days there were slight improvements and other days it was back to square one. She said to me that she just felt total ‘overwhelm’ and simply didn’t know how to manage her life anymore. She felt that she had exhausted all options via her GP and was just expected to get on with it.
Over the past months I have been seeing many patients with Long Covid symptoms and Amy’s experience is all too familiar. I have put together some core herbal principles that I have been using to support a recovery. As with all long term health issues, we need to go back to the foundations, the building blocks of that patient and look for any dysfunction. We need to use herbs to support each step and carefully support each body system.
In Long Covid patients I look at the microcirculation, supporting and repairing veins, using lung and energy tonics and herbs to support brain function. I also look at down regulating inflammation, repairing and supporting immunity and working with my patient on giving the body time to repair and recover.
I usually start working with a foundation mix of herbs and mushrooms to enhance immune support and start to repair the bodies own defence mechanism.
Foundation herbs include Yarrow, Boneset, Echinacea, Pau d arco, elderberries and withania. Blends of these herbs will support white blood cell count, deal with lingering infection, and start to repair the microcirculation.
Many patients have residual lung problems, and we need to support the lungs and microcirculation. A lung tonic may contain: eyebright, ribwort plantain, mullein, fumitory, and rosemary. Warming herb teas, such as our Winter Spice tea, contain ginger, cinnamon, liquorice, clove, lemon balm, Echinacea and bilberry and will give immune support and help with hydration and mucus production.
Reducing inflammation is key to recovery. Supplementwise, I advise zinc, vitamin C and also probiotics such as Probio7 AB21. Many doctors are looking at Low dose naltrexone as a treatment option for Long Covid patients. My go to herbal equivalent is Curcumin and Boswellia capsules. These are a practitioner strength extract of turmeric with the addition of black pepper and frankincense.
To support both the immune system and the circulation I prescribe medicinal mushrooms. My 5 mushroom blend, called Multishroom Powder contains reishi, chaga, coriolus, maitake and mesima mushrooms. Taken as a drink this tasty blend will give long term immune support.
A Paced Recovery
Over many years of working with patients with chronic fatigue, I know that we need a paced recovery. We need a set of boundaries around the patient that allows them to set goals and expectations that are manageable. All too often we find patients have a good day, they do too much and then they find themselves back to square one. By managing their daily activity and limiting their daily energy expenditure they will give their body time to heal and recover. So, the key to working with Long Covid is to help the patient manage expectations and to move at a steady pace. One’s body will recover, but we need to systematically repair the body’s defence mechanisms and deal with any underlying tissue damage.
It is a mistake to underestimate the disease that is Covid. Whilst this virus may be new to us, the effect of viruses on the body is well known by herbalists. We work not only on killing the pathogen, but on supporting defence mechanisms and building resilience. Herbal blends and formulas for Long Covid and immune support can be blended individually for patients after a consultation with one of our herbal team. We always advise a consultation so that we can help patients manage the complex task of building back their immune system and building resilience.