Part 1: Using herbs and supplements for prevention and treatment of COVID-19 - the disadvantages of this approach

6 reasons to be very careful about using herbs and supplements
for COVID-19 prevention and treatment. This is Part 1 of a two-part post about the various advantages and disadvantages of using herbs and supplements to help you through the pandemic.

My family and I, and most of my patients, are in fact using herbs and supplements.  We  who live in the of Eugene & Springfield, OR. are currently experiencing a COVID-19 prevention-phase as of March 28, 2020.  A widespread treatment-phase may come later.  Please keep up to date with all public health advisories, such as Lane County, Oregon State and the CDC.  

I am trained to use and prescribe these powerful medicines properly - balancing safety, efficacy and cost in the most individualized and effective manner possible.

But for those of you without professional guidance at this time, the most useful public health info I can advise is to start by describing the disadvantages of reaching for an external solution - a purchased product - at this time.

Please read my earlier post about building your immune system before this post.

Why?


For thousand's of years, my professional ancestors saw that life-style choices about sleep, nutrition, exercise and emotional flow are the most important place to start cultivating your health.  The problems that I outline below have been known for centuries.


By having all of those "system support" factors ready to go you will avoid or limit the following problems:

  1. Knowing what products to use is very difficult at the moment.
    What is a reasonable product to buy in the first place? I can offer the advice of thousands of years of herbalists that have treated pandemics before.  I am reviewing weekly updates from China and Japan as to what herbs they are using in hospitals there, as well as the western biomedical SARS-Cov-2 research.  I can help you avoid herbs that may not be right for your health or concurrent prescribed medications.  You might hear of a herb that seems like it may help - but what form of the herb will survive processing.  An  herb whose active ingredient is water soluble will not work in an alcohol tincture.  The best qualities of an herb may totally change by the time goes from fresh plant to a small pill.

    ~ Please note that Elderberry extracts may in fact worsen COVID-19 severity.
    ~ Please do not use Asian Ginseng (eg Chinese, Korean, Red) if you have any tendency to  high blood pressure as red ginseng can make hypertension worse.
    ~ Please do not use Jade Screen (Yu Ping Feng San) if you have any auto-immune issue.
    ~ Please STOP Jade Screen as soon as you realize that are getting a cold and flu symptoms.  Jade Screen may then make your disease process worse, it is for prevention only.

  2. Alternative medicine should be cost effective.
    Many people are in a huge financial struggle right now.  Limit your expenses, avoid randomly seeking biased or uneducated advice about what to buy.  Some herbal or supplement regimens can be very expensive, prices can vary.  I have seen some very dubious care plans cost hundred of dollars for products per week.    Work with a professional to design a treatment plan that you can afford.

    The real art in prescribing herbs and supplements is the dosage.  If a professional can guide you to the lowest effective dose, then your supplies will be more effective per dollar spent, and your risk of complications will also be reduced.

  3. Life-style based care plans do not depend on availability of products or need extra money. 
    If you rely too heavily on products, when they run out you may not have time to suddenly reap the benefits of self-cultivation.

  4. Each stage of the disease process needs a unique plan. 
    The herbs and supplements for prevention are very different for the COVID cough.  Using the wrong product at the wrong stage of the disease process is very risky, especially for COVID-19.

  5. Risk to your health.
    Using herbs and supplements without supervision can be risky.  Even for totally healthy people I do not prescribe preventative herbs for months on end.  Please do not self prescribe for a long time.  Professional supervision will reduce your chance of toxicity such as liver or kidney damage.  You do not want your "remedy" to be the cause for a trip to a crowded, COVID-filled emergency room.

    Even relatively benign sounding products like "green tea extract" are not meant for long term use, as a recent case of liver failure in the research has highlighted.  Note that drinking a normal amount of green tea is fine and may even have health benefits, but the extract is not the tea.

    My job is to follow the research and advisories for adverse consequences of using herbs and supplements. People who self prescribe often to not stay current about their supplements.  Recommendations and safety information change all the time.

  6. What may be good for you may not be good for your family member.
    Every one is different.  Even twins may have different demands on their health requiring different treatment strategies.  Health history, smoking status, cardiovascular fitness vary even in families, please don't assume that your regimen will work for someone else, and vice versa.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
I look forward to supporting you and your community in any way that I can.


Covid-19 epidemic and I am still open March 26, 2020

I am still open by appointment ONLY.
Please feel free to call anytime, even Sundays, for the at least the next 2-3 weeks.

In fact as of March 20, 2020 Public Health staff have thanked me for
staying open to provide my services to the community.
People in an emergency still need help to function at their best, so I can do no less.

I am following Lane County and OHA guidelines as to infection control with use of re-usable PPE and only seeing necessary cases in person.  Please be advised that I have extensive training in my earlier career a research biologist and am very skilled at contamination control having been trained for both radiological and biological contamination.  


Here's the plan:

Assuming you have no

fever            recent body aches          acute diarrhea          acute nausea
recent loss of taste or smell          cough            sore throat

AND are 7 days from onset of sx and/ or 72 hours from the end of all your symptoms (which ever is longer), and also, those 72 hours are with NO use of fever reducers or other medicine for your symptoms.

You are welcome to call  for an appointment if you feel that your symptoms of pain, anxiety or any other symptoms:

  • are getting in the way of properly taking care of yourself or your family at this time.

  • are getting in the way of doing your job as an essential worker such as medical, first responder, medical transport at any level.

  • you are worried about already feeling weak or otherwise feel that your immune system could use a boost.

Some examples:
Allergies: itchy eyes/ runny nose makes it too difficult to stop touching your face.
Back pain, headaches, IBS etc: makes it difficult to perform job, chores or child care.
Severe stress: making it difficult to get the correct amount of sleep; too difficult to think and plan properly, or maintain social distancing due to severe anxiety, relationship emotional stress from home life.
Other disease states: Most commonly so far - if you are diabetic or hypertensive and the situation is causing your problem to worsen, eg from stress or emotional eating of sugar and salt.


When coming for your appointment

  • It will be best for us to check in with your symptoms via cell phone just before you come in for your treatment.  This will limit talking and spreading aerosols and large droplets.
  • Please try to wear a homemade surgical mask or scarf for any other conversation we need to have once you are in the office.
  • I will be wearing homemade surgical mask. I am using disposable pillow cases, double table paper and each table is washed with soap and water, dried and then a CDC List N approved SARS-Cov-2 disinfectant is used and then cleaned with 70% isopropyl alcohol. 
  • Other surfaces such as elevator button, door handles, and the other common surfaces will be similarly treated after each patient.  The building management is using disinfectant on the ground floor surfaces such as the elevator buttons every 30 min.

If you want immune boosting advice, herbs, on the phone emotional support or counseling, you may call my cell anytime.
To prevent spammers grabbing my number off this site and telemarketing me all day,  the number is presented below in a way that will hopefully deter bad actors.  Please use this site's contact page if this tactic on the line below is too confusing:

five - four - 0ne- t00 - too - eight - for - ate - too - too


However

If you have symptoms mentioned above or know that you have been exposed to coronavirus, I am not currently able to handle in person appointments at the moment due to Public Health request to limit PPE use to hospitals etc.  If I had the gear I would be right in there with you, my apologies for the limitation.  As the equipment situation improves I will be looking to offer more services.  

Coronavirus and Covid 19 in Eugene Springfield - ways to build your immune system

Simple lifestyle advice to maximize your immune system during the pandemic

Hopefully everyone has read about hand washing and social distancing and all the other public health advice.  Locally the best advice is from 2 sites focusin on Covid-19, Lane County Public Health site run by Dr. Pat Luedtke's excellent team and the Oregon Health Authority's site. Please bookmark and check these sites regularly. 

In this post I would like to review good advice that is good for almost everyone, after you have taken care of the main public health issues. 

I know many of you will be surprised that I am not going to discuss herbs and supplements here, but I want to write about what things you can do today without needing a medical appointment or checking any herb-drug interactions or spending extra money.  While there are some clear advantages to herbs and supplements to boost your immune system, there are some real problems with relying only on external solutions during an emergency that I will address in my next post.

First I would like you to understand that the phrase "immune system" is actually a little out of date.  What humans actually have is a lot of different systems that act as one in order to prevent disease or recover from disease.  Each piece influences and relies on the others.  In the 21st century, science understands that our nervous system, our endocrine system (hormones) and our immune system are actually one thing called, you guessed it, our neuro-endocrine-immune system.
The neuroendocrine part of that is heavily connected to your emotions.

If you want one aspect of the system to work really well in an emergency, take the strain out of the other parts of the system.

The ability to fight disease often rests on the resources that your body has available to address the problem.    So to build your defenses, you have to prepare your resources.

  1. Sleep: the Great Healer
    Without the right amount of sleep for yourself, nothing is at it's best in your body.  People talk about how time is money, well in humans - sleep is health. The research on "which cell does what" and "what molecule goes where" in relation to sleep is pretty iron-clad at the moment.  I know this advice sounds like a "grandmotherly" type of nagging but the level of true physiological research on sleep is profound and impressive. 

    Just consider sleep's important role in mammalian evolution - it's a dangerous world out there with needing to look for food and deal with predators but most mammals become completely immobile and defenseless for large parts of the day.  There must be a huge survival benefit to getting enough sleep to balance out the risks involved.

    If you are sleeping right then your body can use that time to get ready for trouble.  Even naps or lying with your eyes closed is better than staying up late.  Would you want to face a difficult challenge well rested or strung out and tired?  If you feel tired, then so are are your immune cells.  Make the wisest investment in yourself that you can at this time and do whatever you can to sleep well.


     
  2. Exercise: not too much and not too little
    Exercise is a crucial way to deal with stress, activate repair mechanisms in your body and prepare you for the difficult days ahead.  But we want the exercise now to be nourishing and not aimed diverting resources into building athletic performance or weight loss.  It should be relaxing and fun. 

    What is too much exercise?
    When you are really tired and sore after a workout.  Your neuro-endocrine-immune system is now too busy with repairs and not able to deal optimally with new challenges.

    What is too little exercise?
    You are not doing at least 5-30 min of some combination of walking, stretching and light strength training a day.  Too little exercise for too long means your neuro-endocrine-immune system is practically asleep and may not ramp up in time if you get infected.  If you are starting from nothing remember to go slow and avoid injury.



  3. Emotional health
    What could emotions have to do with fighting a virus?  Long term emotional stress will weaken you.  For example, with chronic stress you will literally have less lymphocytes and those that remain will not work as well to fight disease.

    Fear is only worthwhile for you to change your behavior:  you wash your hands, you don't touch your face, you get some emergency supplies together and otherwise follow public health advice as best you are able.

    After that, fear will harm you.  Panic will harm you.  This is not the Great Plague, this is not Ebola. Every year about 1.3 million people die on Earth from car accidents.  Do you panic getting into your car? Probably not. You check you mirror, buckle your seatbelt and drive sober and carry on.  Covid-19 will not be as dangerous as driving is.

    Get your emotions moving
    Do what you can to express your emotions.  Write about them.  Draw them, dance them - anything so long as you are not suppressing them.  Then after you have opened up to it all, change the channel.  Try to avoid getting panicky and worried, do your best to ask friends and family not to panic as well.  It will only harm your community.  Trust in society's resilience - humans have survived incredible disasters in the last 250,000 years.  We will get through this one too.  We may bend but we will not break.

    Get your difficult emotions diluted
    Make time to spend time with the parts of your life that you enjoy.  At the end of your day, even during the troubles,  you should have memories of doing really fun, nourishing, loving and creative stuff.  Facetime video or audio conference call with your friends - social distancing never means social isolation in the age of the internet. 
    Get into your garden.  Spend time with your family or other household members and pets. 
    Create art or literature at home, read favorite books.  What ever works for you.  Again, this is a serious investment in your health based on sound scientifically validated principals. 



  4. Food and Drink
    The best general advice on this is to eat lots of veggies and eat good quality protein and grains.  Hydrate to keep your protective mucus membranes in top form.

    The absolute best advice to support your immune system is to stop all alcohol and recreational drugs.  If you are a heavy user of these, consult your physician before making big changes or the stress from moving too fast in this department can occasionally be counter productive.

    I would eliminate deep fried foods, processed foods like bacon or ready cook food.  This specific advise comes from news from the Traditional Chinese Medicine community in China about the nature of Covid-19 that I will discuss in my next post.  Fresh food is best.  Lots of natural color on your plate.  My favorite way to check your plate is to look at the Canadian governments guide that you can see here.

    If we get to the point of emergency rations then just make sure you are eating enough calories per day so you have good energy to get through the bad times. 

    And realize that the bad times will pass.  Best of luck and stay in touch!

Got any questions about all of this?
Feel free to contact me via this site's Contact page.

The good news about arthritis – it’s not as simple as you’ve been told…

“…they found that it is very common for people to be walking around without any pain who have terrible joints!”

Western medicine is updating it’s understanding of why arthritis hurts – the answer is that they are not completely sure anymore.

For most of the 20th century, the arthritis story was very simple. The patient was told “See these changes on the X-ray/ MRI? That’s what is causing the pain.”   Patients then feel educated while they wait for for the surgeon – back fusion, knee replacement etc. etc. The expectation is, if no change to the bone and cartilage of the joint – no pain relief.

But in the 21st century, new information has made that picture become less clear.

Researchers began to ask questions:

For example, if the bone pathology causes the pain, why does it not hurt all the time?

Why do some people have flare ups of pain after overeating?

Why is it when people actually have corrective surgery, the pain does not always go away?

Finally they began to take X-rays and MRI’s of people who are totally without any pain or stiffness. To their amazement, they found that it is very common for people to be walking around without any pain who have terrible joints! Even when finding the dreaded “bone on bone” situation.

In fact, if radiologists have never met the patients and only look at the X-rays, they cannot predict which patient has no pain, which patient has pain and if so what kind of pain they have in terms of location, intensity and frequency. Some predictability is possible for very severe cases, but even then, not always.

This is really good news – the patient can now explore all the other factors for why the joint may have pain and stiffness, with reasonable expectation of preventing or delaying surgery.

So what does cause the pain?

The research suggests that arthritic changes to joints happen against the background of many other changes to nerve physiology, tendons, ligaments, muscle and immune system physiology. There can also be a significant stress/ psychological component.

Using the word”physiology” here very specifically refers to changes in gene expression, enzyme function, immune function lymph and blood flow changes, as well as biomechanical changes. Many of which have been shown to be reduced or eliminated by electroacupuncture, bodywork, herbs, nutrition and lifestyle factors. (I will have a more detailed post about the science of pain in a few weeks. Try Googling “genetic control of central sensitization” if you are curious before then.)

This explains situations I see in the clinic. I often have patients who have been told that they need surgery but wanted to try acupuncture first. Well of course, those of you familiar to my practice know it’s not just acupuncture that they may need. These patients receive a thorough review of their current and past global metabolic situations before various procedures and options may be utilized.

What can be done about the pain and stiffness then?

Consider the following situations for patients with osteoarthritic pathology seen on an X-ray or MRI. When I find trigger points in the thigh muscle, the arthritic knee pain can go away completely in 1 or 2 sessions. When a patient regularly overeats on foods that cause inflammation, 3 or 4 weeks of digestive repair and lifestyle changes can also restore function. Some folk are over exercising or doing the ‘wrong’ types of exercise, some are too sedentary and do not know how even just a little more activity will create a big change. Some people do not even need office procedures at all but need to simply move the joint regularly throughout the day in the range without pain.  This will allow the lymphatic and blood circulation to improve. Also common is pain in a joint on a limb that had previously experienced poorly healed strain and injury – e.g. clearing the effects of an old neck injury can help wrist or hand pain.

We you come to see me, I take the label from your surgeon’s diagnosis off the the table for a moment and look at the whole picture. A good diagnosis means a good treatment, and understanding the whole person is the best route to the best diagnosis. Detailing what the body needs allows us to design treatments using many options to surround the problem and get stable progress.