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)
Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) can help to reduce inflammation while helping to support your immune system. It is the perfect herb for recovering from an illness. You can read more here:
Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) can help to reduce inflammation and support the immune system as it has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
You can read more here:
Rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa) is a herb that is used a lot as an adrenal herb, however it has anti inflammatory actions and can help to reduce a temperature (Bone, 2003).
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a known anti inflammatory herb that most people will consider when thinking of reducing inflammation. It maybe quite helpful if you have musculoskeletal pain as well. The energetics of this herb are that it is very heating. If you have a hot or warm constitution then you may find that Ashwaganda or Echinacea may work better for you.
Immune Support Herbs
While your body is recovering, it is your immune system that is working hard to getting you feel well again.
Echinacea (Echinacea spp.) is an herb that is able to help regulate the immune system - giving it a boost where needed while not over working it. As well as reducing inflammation it has anti microbial properties. Meeran, M et. al. (2021) have stated that echinacea shows promise for helping with reducing inflammation and has shown promise as an anti viral herb to help with Covid, as well as helping to reducing potential secondary infections and supporting of recovery. Additional studies will need to be concluded but this information is promising.
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) is a herb that covers a few actions that are relevant to long Covid including immune system support. It is also a cardio tonic and helps to reduce blood pressure (Bone, 2003). Astragalus, additionally helps the body to cope under stress, which recovering from Covid can be when you are finding you are tired and trying to juggle your everyday responsibilities.
Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma lingzhi) is a beneficial fungus that can help to support the immune system. It can help to reduce inflammation in the body and can act as a tonic for the body (Phytomed, 2022).
Chest tightness and pain along with palpitations can feel a little scary.
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
Hawthorn Berry (Crataegus monogyna) Is a herb that helps to protect the heart tissue from damage, helps the heart with contractions and supports healthy circulation and blood pressure. Hawthorn is antiarrhythmic, helping to keep a normal rhythm - which may help with heart palpitations (Bone, 2022).
Nausea can be a really unpleasant feeling. You may find during the weeks post Covid, that foods or drinks that you had previously consumed dont agree with you as much and you may need to make some adjustments.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) Tea throughout the day can help to reduce feelings of nausea and calm an upset tummy.
Ginger (Zingiber officinalis) tea can help to settle an upset tummy. The fresh rhizome (root) can be grated or cut and a placed into a cup with hot water.
You can pre -cut/grate your ginger and store in the freezer to have ready.
Nervous System Herbs
Being unwell can create stress within your body, which can affect your nervous system. As we learn more about how Covid works, we will learn if the virus has a direct affect on the nervous system.
Kava (Piper methysticum)
If you are finding it difficult to sleep and it is not due to coughing Californian poppy (Eschscholzia californica) or Kava (Piper methysticum) can be helpful t0 relax the muscles of the body and promote relaxation and sleep.
Headaches can many underlying causes, including inflammation and the cascade of other mediatories that the immune system releases to fight the virus.
It is possible that with many of the herbs suggested above to help with reducing inflammation and supporting the immune system, headaches maybe relieved somewhat. Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a herb that has been used in the treatment of migraines and may provide some relief (Bone, 2003). Willow bark (Salix alba) maybe helpful in reducing migraine/headache symptoms (Phytomed, 2022).
Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)
Coping with loss of concentration and memory can be hard. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) can help with enhancing cognition and has the additional action of protecting nerve cells. Additionally, it may help with tinnitus and dizziness (Bone, 2003). Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri) can be helpful at enhancing concentration, as well as helping t0 reduce feelings of anxiety (Bone 2003).
They are not herbal, but the nervous system does require a quality B complex. If you are deficient you may suffer with low energy, mood, concentration, issues sleeping and more so they are worth investing in. Due to their ability to help with energy production, take with your breakfast in the morning.
Energy Healing and Covid
As an intuitive who does reiki healing I work with the body at an energetic level. I am guided by my herbal medicine training, reiki healing training and I work with an amazing spiritual team. When Covid initially came out, I was guided to begin doing energy upgrades (working with light codes and beings of the most amazing white light) on myself, my family and my clients. This was to allow a better processing of the collective energy, the energy shifts of the planet as well as the changes to our physical beings. From an observational stand point I have seen this to be of benefit.
Many of you may be feeling congested and clogged, heavy and disconnected. Reiki can help to relieve some of this, as much of the "dust" that you pick up throughout your day is able to be removed. Intuitively I am guided to where you have blockages and disconnections are and I am able to work on removing the block and allowing a flow of energy once again.
This can help you to feel light once again. Reiki does allow a connecting with your physical being, an awareness and a connecting to your spiritual path.
On a more general note, reiki healing energy helps to activate the bodies natural healing abilities. When you are able to relax you activate your parasympathetic nervous system. This allows the body to rest, relax and repair.
There is no one modality that will help to "fix" long Covid. I do hope that you will find the modalities that will help to support you in your recovery.
Disclaimer: Please ensure you check with your health practitioner before commencing any plant medicines. Some herbs have contra indications with medications you may be taking. This is for informational purposes only.
Bone, K. (2003) A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs, St Louis Missouri, Churchill Livingstone.
Health Clinics (2022) How long does the flu last? Retrieved 21.4.22 https://healthclinics.superdrug.com/how-long-does-the-flu-last/#:~:text=You%20should%20make%20a%20full,body%20recovers%20from%20the%20infection.
Phytomed (2022), Reishi Datasheet Retrieved 26.4.22 https://www.phytomed.co.nz/site/phytomed/undefined/Reishi%20Ganoderma%20%20lucidum%20Technical%20Sheet%20FINAL.pdf
Phytomed (2022) Willow bark. Datasheet Retrieved 26.4.22 https://www.phytomed.co.nz/shop/Liquid+Herbal+Extracts/Liquid+Extracts+V-Z/Willow+Bark.html
Meeran, M., Javed H., Sharma, C., Goyal,S., Kumar,S., Jha, N., and Ojhaa, S. (2021) Can Echinacea be a potential candidate to target immunity, inflammation, and infection - The trinity of coronavirus disease 2019, Vol. 7, Issue 2, Helyion PMID: 33585706
Ministry of Health (2022) Long Covid Retrieved 19.4.22 https://www.health.govt.nz/covid-19-novel-coronavirus/covid-19-health-advice-public/about-covid-19/long-covid
Patient Info (2022) What you need to know about post viral fatigue Retrieved 21.4.22 https://patient.info/news-and-features/what-you-need-to-know-about-post-viral-fatigue
Speck, S., Ganem, D. (2010) Viral latency and its regulation: lessons from the gamaherpes viruses, Cell Host Microbe. Vol. 8, Issue 1, Pg 100-115. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2010.06.014