Navigating Uncertainty in the Era of COVID-19

I’m not a scientist, but I do know that belief and consensus within the scientific community are often fluid. Scientists are, like the rest of us, only human, and in constant learning mode too.

Remember that the Earth was, at one time, according to science of that day, flat. And remember when margarine was supposed to be so healthy for us? And now it isn’t? Well, the reality of margarine didn’t change; we just started thinking about it differently.

At one time scientists said DDT was safe (remember the “DDT is good for Me-e-e!” campaign?) and children frolicked in the spray.

In 1955, scientists detonated atomic weapons in the Nevada desert, and we were assured that there was no danger.

Which brings me to COVID. We are racing full-steam ahead and spending billions to make a vaccine happen. Yes, we are also washing hands and wearing masks.

But I also want our scientists to research simple remedies (by simple I mean things that are already around, have been around and don’t cost billions and billions).

Scientists have studied the amino acid n-acetylcysteine (“NAC”). They’ve already shown it can reduce our chances of catching the flu by 2/3. They’ve shown it can cut colds in half. Our store handout on NAC shares that it thins mucous and focuses on airways. When taken orally, results are usually noticeable in about an hour.

Why aren’t we “full steam ahead” researching NAC for COVID-19? Why aren’t we studying lomatium and elderberry and astragalus, for COVID, for instance? (Or if we are, why aren’t we hearing about it?) And zinc, medicinal mushrooms, and the homeopathic remedy gelsemium?

Some are studying Vitamin C and that is a good thing.

All of the above, and more, have traditionally been used to help our immune systems function optimally against viruses. An immune system that’s on the right track and knows what to do can only be a good thing. Beneficial, right? If we’re healthier (even if that health isn’t specific to viruses), doesn’t it make sense that we stand a better chance of fighting off viruses?

Speaking of making ourselves healthier, when I wrote on Facebook that a couple of hospitals on Long Island were having beneficial results using vitamin C, someone wrote me that “Sorry, but I wouldn’t bet my health on anecdotal evidence.”

That’s fair. But let’s put “anecdotal” in perspective. It’s ALL “anecdotal” until it isn’t. It’s all theory. It’s all best guesses or extrapolations. In this way, the herbs are no different than any other prevention or treatment for COVID. So, I’m not suggesting we throw out something proven for something that’s not. I am suggesting we move forward using the best evidence we’ve got. I’m not suggesting we bet on anything, just that we be responsible and help ourselves instead of just passively waiting for a miracle.

And I know that zinc and other supplements and herbs don’t fire up our imagination. They aren’t nearly as exciting or sexy as are vaccines…. Which is not to say that they should be ignored.

Dr. Andrew Weber, a pulmonologist associated with two hospitals on Long Island, reported that intensive care patients with COVID “who received vitamin C did significantly better than those who did not get vitamin C.” The amount given was 1,500 mg intravenously three or four times daily.

Since vitamin C levels in coronavirus patients drop dramatically when sepsis develops, Dr. Weber added “It makes all the sense in the world to try to maintain vitamin C levels in the body.” Further comment from a spokesperson from Northwell, which operates 23 NY hospitals stated that vitamin C was being “widely used” throughout the system with protocols varying according to the clinician’s orders.

To conclusively determine whether vitamin C therapy (or any therapy) is beneficial for treatment of COVID, double-blind placebo-controlled studies are needed.

There is a study being conducted now regarding vitamin C and COVID projected to be completed soon.

Speaking of anecdotal evidence, homeopathic doctors working during the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 reported drastically reduced mortality rates among their patients vs. the mainstream hospitals. Their reports claimed only a 1% death rate among those treated with homeopathy. Shouldn’t someone look into the remedy gelsemium, used widely in 1918?

Aside from the extra herbs and vitamins and remedies I’ve mentioned above, I think we’re all in agreement that we have a better chance of staying healthy if we eat better, sleep better, go for walks and get some sunshine on our faces, and laugh with a good friend or two (socially-distancing, of course….).

When it comes to foods, I sip green tea. Used medicinally in China for over 4,000 years, green tea has been found to support the body’s immune system, among other things. As an antibacterial, green tea can help you stave off colds and the flu. Might it help against COVID? I don’t know for a fact, but I’ll drink it nonetheless because it won’t hurt, and it is comforting. Try gargling with green tea if you have a sore throat.

Ginger cures what ails you, and is a warming remedy critical to fight colds, mucus, coughs, and bronchial infections. Ginger appears as a common ingredient in many, many Chinese herbal prescriptions. It’s used when weather is cold and damp, and to prevent and treat viral infections. I have always traveled with gingerroot in a baggie and nibble when the fellow next to me starts to cough.

If you have a sick fish in an aquarium, do you treat the fish, or do you change the terrain (water)? … Germ theory treats symptoms. The terrain theory states symptoms are a result of an out-of-balance terrain.”

My mother used to chop up onions and garlic and simmer for 20 minutes in lots and lots of water. We drank the broth. There’s miso soup to sip. Hot peppers to include in recipes.

Mom, who was big into prevention, would say to stay away from sugar which increases inflammation for some hours after consumption. Inflammation she would tell us, leads to many illnesses of modern civilization.

Another thing I keep thinking about is the so-called “terrain theory” of immunity and wonder why it’s not being addressed. As a friend who owns a health food store out of Indianapolis says, shouldn’t we strive to make our body “an inhospitable host so microbes cannot thrive…” He wanted discussion on germ theory versus the terrain theory.  “If you have a sick fish in an aquarium, do you treat the fish, or do you change the terrain (water)? … Germ theory treats symptoms. The terrain theory states symptoms are a result of an out-of-balance terrain.”

  So today I’m washing hands, wearing the mask, taking my supplements, eating better and all the things mentioned above. And I’m thinking, we do not need to choose one path or the other! As my son, Adam, says “I take herbs to protect myself. I wear the mask to protect those around me.”

One of our former staffers who went back to college a month ago and is living in a dorm called his mom after yet another COVID test. Of the 70-some students in this particular dorm, all but three tested positive for COVID and were moved out. Our young man was bummed that he was “alone” in the dorm. The three who were not positive for COVID were all from New England.

Our staffer’s mom had sent him back to college with zinc, vitamin C, vitamin D and NAC, which he has been taking faithfully and sharing with his New England buddies. Times when he felt something might be coming on, he added Adam’s Immune Dragon Superbrew with its lomatium, and the herb Umcka.

There’s no science (yet!) to flat-out prove the supps helped and made the difference. Yes, circumstantial. But still.