You have tested positive for Covid, had a week of being at home, resting and recovering. You are now back able to leave isolation and return to your normal life but you are finding that you just don't feel 100%. You feel tired, amongst other symptoms and just dont have the energy that you previously had to go about your daily tasks.
This is a really common scenario for so many who have contracted the Covid virus.
It is extremely frustrating and you can end up feeling a bit overwhelming as you may be having to push yourself to get through your day with simple tasks.
Any viral infection (including Covid) can have quite an impact on your whole body, not just your immune system.
This is an important factor when considering long term implications of the infection and how you look after yourself during your recovery period. It is not just your immune system that needs to convalesce.
Long Covid is described by the Ministry of Health (2022) as symptoms that you have developed during the acute stage of having Covid or they are symptoms that you developed after having had Covid, that are consistent with the infection. These symptoms can last up to 4-12 weeks. If symptoms have persisted over 12 weeks, it is considered to be post Covid syndrome.
Long Covid symptoms can include (Ministry of Health, 2022):
Having realistic expectations around your recovery and how long it may take you to feel better are important.
The average flu virus an take up to two weeks for your body to recover (Health Clinics, 2022). This length of time will vary for each person, with the this being an average for a normal healthy person.
There is much about the different variants of Covid that we are learning, in how they are affecting our immune systems and our bodies in general, but if we are comparing it to the flu virus in terms of healing - a week is under what would be considered a normal length of time for healing from a viral infection.
Understanding that it will likely take you longer than a week to allow your body to heal can help you to mentally prepare yourself and help you to have a realistic expectation of what you are capable of doing each day. This is particularly important if fatigue is one of the symptoms you are experiencing.
The energy you have for the day can be described in spoons. You have an allocated number of spoons for each day. When you are well you may have 40 spoons per day at your disposal. When you have been unwell your daily spoon allocation will drop to say 20 per day. You have to manage your spoons so that you are able to get the most out of your day. You can spoons from the next day - but you will have less spoons for that day and find it harder to manage.
Fatigue is experienced during a viral infection your immune system mounts an attack response to the invader. This response is steamed from the immune system releasing cytokines and other inflammatory markers. These can leave you feeling tired and fatigued, achy and with a reduction in appetite (Patient Info, 2022).
Additionally, some viruses are termed "latent". This means that when you have been infected by a virus (for example - Epstein bar (Glandular fever) or varicella zoster (Chicken pox/Shingles) viruses) the virus does not completely leave the body. The viruses information will stay within the host cell. You can recover from the initial infection but if you experience being incredibly unwell or are extremally stressed the virus can begin replicating again and you can have symptoms of that viral infection (Speck & Ganem, 2010). We do not know enough about the Covid virus to know if this may apply but it is a consideration and may be a factor into recovery time.
How can Plant Medicines help
Plant Medicines can be a huge help during your recovery, to give ease to your symptoms and to help reduce the time you are feeling unwell by helping to support your body's natural healing abilities.
Covid can produce both a dry and a mucus producing cough. Covid can also produce spasming of the bronchioles which can make breathing painful and difficult. Covid for many, can produce a very sore throat which can make swallowing difficult.
For a sore throat, herbs that protect and restore the mucous membranes of the throat
can help to provide relief.
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is a mucous membrane trophorestorative as well as an anti inflammatory herb so it can help to sooth and reduce inflammation. Licorice root should not be used if you have high blood pressure.
Demulcent herbs can have a soothing and restorative effect on the throat and upper airways.
Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
Marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis) or Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
when combined with licorice root can be used to relieve sore throats. Peppermint (Mentha piperita) can help with numbing a sore throat. Having these herbs in a liquid form, either in a herbal infusion or in a tincture form, will help to coat over the throat provide relief.
Herbs that have anti catarrhal and expectorant properties are able to help relieve a cough that is producing mucus. The body produces mucus in response to helping to remove the virus.
Anti catarrhal herbs help to reduce the production of mucus.
Expectorant herbs can help with the viscosity of the mucus, making it thinner and easier to expel and they are able to help support effective coughing to remove the mucus.
Elderflower (Sambucus nigra) and Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) and Euphorbia (Euphorbia hirta) have a wonderful anticatarrhal effect on a cough (Bone, 2003).
Elecampane (Inula helenium), White horehound (Marrubium vulgare), Pleurisy root (Asclepias tuberosa) and Pelargonium (Pelargonium sidoides) are all wonderful expectorant herbs. These are all herbs that you can using during the day.
Coughing can cause spasming of the bronchioles but it can also cause chest pain as these muscles are also being used with each cough. This can make sleeping difficult. Elecampane can help with muscle spasms from coughing. Additionally, Wild Cherry (Prunus serotina) and Peppermint (Mentha piperita) can have a sedating effect while helping to reduce coughing and can there fore be helpful in a night time blend.
These herbs you will want to take in a therapeutic dose, particularly if you are finding that your respiratory system is needing time for healing while you recover from having Covid. Tablets, capsules or tinctures will be easier to take and can be taken less frequently than herbal decoctions.
Anti Inflammatory Herbs
The bodies response to infection is inflammation to help remove the invader. This cascade of events is started by our immune system. Many anti inflammatory herbs work to support our immune systems as a way to reduce inflammation. Inflammation can be responsible for many of the symptoms on the long Covid list.
Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera)