What is COVID-19?
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). SARS-CoV-2 is closely related to the original SARS-CoV (2003 epidemic). It is thought to have a zoonotic origin (spread from non-human animals, usually vertebrates, to humans). COVID-19, belongs to the genus Betacoronavirus, in subgenus Sarbecovirus (lineage B) and shares many genetic similarities with two bat-derived strains. COVID-19 has been shown to be 96% identical to bat coronavirus samples (BatCov RaTG13). Furthermore, there is genetic similarities between COVID-19 and pangolin coronavirus, however, since only 92% of the genetic material is shared between the two viruses, evidence remains insufficient in proving pangolins to be the intermediate host.
Body systems most affected by COVID-19:
The lungs are the organs most affected by COVID-19 because the virus invades host cells via the enzyme ACE2, which is most abundant in the type II alveolar cells of the lungs. The virus uses a special surface glycoprotein called a "spike" (peplomer) to connect to ACE2 enzymes and enters the host cell. The amount of ACE2 enzymes in each tissue correlates with the severity of the disease in that tissue. The virus also affects gastrointestinal organs as ACE2 is abundantly expressed in the glandular cells of gastric, duodenal and rectal epithelium as well as endothelial cells and enterocytes of the small intestine.
The viral infection is capable of producing an excessive immune reaction within the host, known as a 'cytokine storm', which results in extensive tissue damage. The main cytokine involved in this ‘cytokine storm’ is interleukin 6 (IL-6). IL-6 is produced by activated leukocytes (WBCs) and acts on a large number of cells and tissues within the body. It is able to activate the immune system by promoting B lymphocyte proliferation and stimulates the production of pro-inflammatory agents known as acute phase proteins as well as promotes and inhibits the growth of certain somatic (body) cells. IL-6 also plays an important role in thermoregulation (which explains the fever associated with COVID-19). Although the main role played by IL-6 is pro-inflammatory, it can also have anti-inflammatory effects. IL-6 mediates many pathologies within the body such as, during infections, autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular diseases, some types of cancers and in cytokine release syndrome (CRS), which is an acute systemic inflammatory syndrome characterized by fever and multiple organ dysfunction. (which is associated with COVID-19)
COVID-19 clinical investigations:
COVID-19 laboratory examinations, include the following; a normal or decreased total white blood cell (WBC) count and lymphopenia (decreased lymphocyte count). Other abnormalities include increased levels of the following markers; liver enzymes, LDH (Lactate dehydrogenase, an enzyme found in nearly all living cells), muscle enzymes and C-reactive protein (inflammatory marker). In critical patients, D-dimer value (protein involved in blood clotting) is increased, blood lymphocytes decrease persistently (chronic lymphopenia), and abnormal laboratory results - indicating multiorgan imbalance (failure).
Naturopathic Nutritional and herbal therapy to combat COVID-19:
Cytokines are small proteins released by cells, which trigger inflammation and respond to infections. The severe lung inflammation which has been associated with COVID-19 known as ‘the cytokine storm’, is the primary cause of the respiratory distress and possible death seen in COVID-19 infected people. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant, which has been shown to significantly reduce inflammation within the body and prevent cytokine-induced damage to the lungs during an active COVID-19 infection. Interferons (IFN), are a group of signaling proteins - made and released by host cells in response to the presence of a viruses, which warn nearby host cells to heighten their anti-viral defences. Vitamin C has been shown to increase the production of alpha and beta interferons (IFN) and downregulates the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Vitamin C is highly concentrated in white blood cells (WBCs) such as; leucocytes, lymphocytes, and macrophages and has been shown to improves chemotaxis, enhances neutrophil phagocytosis (pathogen eating) and oxidative killing as well as supports lymphocyte proliferation and function.
Calcitriol, the active form of vitamin D, also known as 1α,25(OH)2D, is a potent antimicrobial agent due to the 1α,25(OH)2D-stimulated production of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs), such as defensin and cathelicidin, which directly destroy not only microbial pathogens, but also viruses, including strains which are known to cause respiratory infections. Vitamin D is also a potent immunomodulator, which has been shown to significantly decrease the levels of viral-induced inflammatory mediators such as; TNFα, IFNβ, and IFN-stimulated gene-15 (ISG15) and downregulate IL-8 and IL-6 levels. Furthermore, 1α,25(OH)2D, diminishes the proinflammatory cytokine production by regulating macrophages, which prevents excessive cytokine and chemokines production. Evidence suggests that, when 1α,25(OH)2D binds to VDR (vitamin D receptor), it inhibits NF-κB expression, which suppresses the genes that code for proinflammatory proteins, involved in viral-induced inflammation.
Zinc has been shown to significantly inhibit the replication of viral strains responsible for causing respiratory infections, through its ability to inhibit the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) - the enzyme responsible for viral replication within the human host cell. Zinc also prevents viral membrane fusion, which inhibits the virus from entering healthy host cells. Zinc has been shown to share a close relationship with interferons. Once a host cell detects the presence of a virus and releases interferons (IFNs), zinc rapidly enters the infected cell, in response to a viral stimuli, which suggests that zinc regulates the production of IFNs, providing significant antiviral protection, required to clear active infections. Zinc has also been shown to regulate NF-κB - a protein complex that controls transcription of DNA (viral replication), cytokine production and cell survival.
Elderberry extract binds to and destroys the tiny spikes located on the surface of viruses, which they use to pierce and invade healthy human (host) cells and therefore elderberry makes virial invasion ineffective, especially against viral strains which cause respiratory infections. The action of elderberry against viruses is thought to be due to its primary anthocyanin compound, cyanidin 3-glucoside, which is responsible for the beautiful red-blue pigment of elderberry. Elderberry has been shown to upregulate IL-6, IL-8 and TNF (tumour necrosis factor), suggesting that it has an indirect effect on our viral immune response in the body.
Echinacea is a type of plant species within the Asteraceae family, which is comprised of 11 types of herbaceous and flowering plants and is among the best-selling herbal medicine in the Western world for the treatment and possible prevention of upper respiratory infections. Echinacea has been shown to have antiviral, antibacterial, immunomodulating, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities. A cluster of beneficial compounds found within Echinacea are responsible for its ability to positively modulate the immune system which includes; glycoproteins, soluble polysaccharides, caffeic acid derivatives, phenolic compounds and alkamides. Echinacea has the ability to modulate the immune system in the following ways, it increases the number of both white and red blood cells, is a potent activator of NK cell cytotoxicity, it modulates the levels of leukocytes and T cells and regulates the production of chemokines and cytokines (IL1-β, IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, IL-12, IFN-γ, and TNF-α).
Andrographis, also known as Indian echinacea, is a herb which has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine and ayurveda. It is a bitter-tasting herb rich in compounds known as andrographolides, thought to have anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and antioxidant properties. Andrographolides have the ability to activate the immune system by enhancing the fighting ability of the following white blood cells (WBCs); cytotoxic T cells, natural killer (NK) cells and promotes phagocytosis (process of WBCs “eating” pathogens), as well as antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC). All these properties of andrographolide form the foundation for its use and miraculous ability to restrain viral replication, making it a key player in helping the human host to win the war against viral infections.
The compounds allicin and alliion found within garlic are responsible for its reputation as a triple threat – providing potent anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal actions within the human body by activating macrophages (immune cells), which initiates phagocytosis (process of WBCs ‘eating’ pathogens). Garlic has been shown to be especially effective against viral infections if chewed raw, as it maximises the absorption and bioavailability of its active constituents.
Furthermore, Fructans, found in agave, artichokes, asparagus, leeks, garlic and onions appear to exert immunomodulatory and antiviral effects directly. Fructans have been shown to enhance the production of nitric oxide (a viral replication inhibitor) and upregulates immunostimulatory factors, such as; IL-1β, IL-6, IL-10, interferon gamma (IFN)-γ, and tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNF)-α.
Specific compounds in ginger, such as gingerols and zingerone, have been found to inhibit viral replication and prevent viral strains, from entering host cells, and subsequent respiratory distress.
Colloidal silver is a suspension of pure metallic silver in water and has been shown to have potent anti-viral properties. It works by interfering with the enzymes that allow a virus to utilize oxygen thus, in essence, colloidal silver has the ability to suffocate viruses, dramatically reducing its ability to cause tissue damage the human host during an active viral infection.
Green Tea and Olive Leaf:
Both green tea and olive leaf extract appear to inhibit viral infections by blocking the enzymes which allow for viral replication. The anti-viral effect of green tea is due to its rich flavonoid content of catechins. Whereas, the leaves of olive trees contain substances called elenoic acid and calcium elonate, which provides this plant with its incredible anti-viral properties and ability to protect the human host.
Oregano is a popular herb in the mint family that's known for its impressive antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties. The primary plant compounds within oregano include; carvacrol, thymol and terpinene, however it is carvacrol which has been shown to offer antiviral properties against specific viral strains known to cause respiratory infections.
Regardless of why you’re taking oregano oil, make sure you take at least a weeklong break for every 3 weeks of use.
Astragalus is a flowering herb popular in traditional Chinese medicine. The primary compound within this herb, which provides significant immune-enhancing and antiviral qualities, is Astragalus polysaccharide (APS).
Liquorice has been used in traditional Chinese medicine and other natural practices for centuries. Glycyrrhizin, liquiritigenin, and glabridin are just some of the active substances in licorice that have powerful antiviral properties.
Since liquorice increases blood pressure, it is contraindicated in people with pre-existing high blood pressure.