COVID-19 is here. All the signs point to: a lot of people are going to get sick. It’s coming.
We are blessed here in the United States. Blessed that we are not the first to face this disease. That means we can learn from people in other countries who are about a month ahead of us and have figured some things out.
I am a kitchen herbalist, certified nutrition therapist, and medical astrologer. My husband is a bodyworker and family homeopath. We have both spent a good bit of time researching and sharing strategies for home treatment that have the potential to ease the burden on the hospital system.
We wrote this for those who are unwilling or unable to access medical care. The following is a summary of our research thus far. It is not medical advice and is not a substitute for medical treatment.
We’ll continue updating this post as new information comes in.
The Capricorn stellium and the pathology of COVID
TCM or Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors have characterized the COVID illness as cold damp invading the lungs. It’s not just cold weather. The ENERGY is cold now, with a large number of planets in Capricorn, the coldest sign. (Saturn will enter Aquarius, another cold sign, on Saturday, March 21.)
When the virus invades, it kills lung tissue. Dead cells slough off, resulting in a mucusy phlegm forming. If the phlegm cannot get out, it settles and thickens in the lungs. This is where the situation becomes life-threatening. Damp cold has invaded the lungs.
A report from a TCM doctor in China suggests that steroid therapy is not likely to be effective. Many of her patients worsened after steroid treatment. European doctors have suggested that NSAID pain relievers might make the illness worse. The young people that came to the hospital had all taken Aspirin, Ibuprofen, Naproxen. They suggested Tylenol as an alternative for pain relief. Many years ago in my herbal studies, I learned that aspirin is energetically cold. I think the same must be true for other NSAID medications that also work by inhibiting the COX-2 inflammatory pathway. It may be better not to bring down a fever with anti-inflammatory medications. The fever is your body’s attempt to fire up the immune system and kill the virus.
A Three-fold herbal strategy
Credit to Matthew Wood Institute of Herbalism. Dose herbs carefully and get help if you are not familiar with them.
- Warm the body. Think herbs and foods of Mars: ginger, cayenne, onion, garlic, chai spices. Nourishing broths and soups. Drink your beverages hot, not cold. Take long hot baths or showers. Bundle up. Get a good sweat on.
- Relax and open the lungs. My friends with asthma swear by the herb Lobelia for keeping the lungs open. One doctor of TCM considers the herb Ephedra to be essential to successful treatment. The active chemical constituents of Ephedra are ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. In the United States, you can purchase an analog of pseudoephedrine called Sudafed over the counter. Essential oils may also be helpful.
- Thin the body’s fluids, and keep the exit doors open. Constipation may slow your recovery because the majority of the lymphatic system is located in the gut. When the gut is backed up, the bad stuff can’t get out. You’ll need to sweat it out, poop it out, pee it out, cough it up. (rah rah rah!) Doctors in China report that they consider the patient coughing up cloudy phlegm to be an early sign of recovery.
update 3/19: Pro-tip from my herbalist colleague Carmen at grianherbs.com in Vermont: Elderberry’s energetic is on the cold side of the spectrum. There has been a lot of discussion about the potential for immune-stimulating herbs to trigger a cytokine storm. The hot/cold energetic suggests that elderberry is not appropriate for this virus in most cases.
update 3/26: New update from Matthew Wood: Although most cases of COVID respond favorably to warming herbs, there is a small subset of people who do better on cooling herbs.
update 3/21: Matthew Wood has issued another update about the effectiveness of Lomatium and Angelica. He says the best, most available source of Angelica is the cordial Bénédictine, available at some liquor stores. More info and how to use here.
There are multiple types of immune cells. Many of them are equipped for destruction, like an army. If they are not well-coordinated, then a potentially deadly “bar fight” called a cytokine storm can break out deep inside the lungs. There’s a special type of cell called a T-regulatory cell that coordinates and regulates the activity of other immune cells, and can put the brakes on the immune system so that the situation doesn’t get out of hand. T-reg cells need vitamin D to function properly. Many, if not most Americans are deficient. In astrology, the Sun rules vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. The best food source is cold-water fish.
Vitamin C is equally important to support your mucus membranes. Some nutritionists say you have to have their super special vitamin C or it’s worthless. Maybe the fancy stuff IS great, but we get the cheap chewables from Costco, and they do the trick. The best food sources are cruciferous vegetables, bell peppers, and citrus fruits. Saturn rules vitamin C. Shanghai Government Recommends IV Vitamin C for COVID-19 (This potential treatment has not been verified in the USA, but Linus Pauling Institute says they are on it.)
Electrolytes/Potassium: Researchers at Wenzhou Medical University in China reported that most of their hospitalizations came in with low serum levels of potassium and responded well to potassium supplementation. Pretty much any vegetable is a good food source of potassium. In addition to potassium, it looks like this illness has the potential to deplete other electrolytes. Taking additional sodium in the form of salt may be appropriate, as well as calcium, magnesium, etc. Especially if you have been sweating or experiencing diarrhea. Your body uses sodium to move water around – very important if you are struggling to clear your lungs of fluid.
Zinc: In my nutrition circles, many are focusing on zinc supplements now. Zinc deficiency is widespread in America. Supplements are selling out, so pick some up if you think you might need it. 30-50 mg per day is the standard dosage. Clinical signs of zinc deficiency are white spots on nails, reduced sense of smell or taste, cuts are slow to heal, acne, BPH, and (gulp) susceptibility to colds, infections, and flu. On a standard blood panel, alkaline phosphatase below 70 U/L suggests zinc deficiency. (This is the functional range. ALP is not lab low unless it ducks under 25.) Zinc and Immune function. Food sources of zinc.
Avoid excess sugar – last time I was at the grocery store, the toilet paper aisle was wrecked. The pasta, soda, and junk food aisles were ransacked as well. But the organic produce looked fully stocked. Waynesboro, Virginia, you are picking the exact wrong foods to get through this illness.
You guys, sugar impairs the immune system for hours after consumption. And it’s not just Snickers bars and sodas. It’s anything that quickly breaks down to sugar. Skip the starchy chips, fruit juices, breakfast cereals. Keep your servings of oats, pasta, and rice small. This is a very good time for a low-carb or Paleo approach to keep your immune system online at all times. You’ll do well to get more of your calories from healthy protein and fat sources, and less from sugars and starchy carbs.
Water – Just simple, plain water, tea, etc. The body releases the inflammatory chemical histamine when dehydrated. It is like an allergy attack, the LAST thing you need if you are battling this virus. Drink plenty of warm and hot fluids. If you feel dehydrated but water goes straight through you, you might need more electrolytes (see above).
The importance of sleep cannot be overstated.
Castor oil + heat is a known remedy for just about everything. Castor oil has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. “Plants extract exhibited high phenolic contents and antibacterial activities were comparable with standard drug, Ciprofloxacin.” Elke Hutton applies castor oil to the inside of her nose before she goes out. This seems like a great idea to me.
Simple castor oil pack: Apply Castor oil to a cloth napkin, piece of wool flannel or other thickish cloth. Apply the fabric to the chest or back. Cover with a zip bag, plastic wrap, whatever. Then use a layer of towel or cloth as a heat barrier. Apply a hot water bottle or heating pad over the towel. It should feel hot, but not uncomfortably hot. Double up your towel layer if needed. Castor oil + heat improves circulation of blood and lymph to wherever you apply it, allowing the healing mechanisms of the body to kick in. It should also help thin the mucus and may help it clear. Positioning yourself in “postural drainage position” (face down, 2-3 pillows beneath the pelvis) may also help.
the Lungs: Gemini/Mercury
If you have Sun, Moon, or Ascendant in Gemini, the lungs are one of your physiological weak points, and bronchitis has likely whooped your butt a time or two in your life. Am I right? Needless to say, you should be extremely careful, take every preventive measure you can, and wash your hands like it’s going out of style. Gemini on the 6th house cusp, Mercury in the 6th house. Watch transits to Mercury and planets in the 3rd and 6th house. Air-based therapies like essential oils may soothe or relieve symptoms, should you fall ill.
Antiviral essential oils (from Essential Aromatherapy, Susan Worwood): cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, melissa, oregano, ravensara, tea tree, thyme. (These have not been tested with COVID-19.)
the Gut: Virgo/Mercury
If you have Sun, Moon, or Ascendant in Virgo, the gut is your weak point. Studies of the Chinese experience of COVID reveal that many infected people show up to the hospital with diarrhea as a primary symptom. It’s unclear to me at this point whether this is the virus attacking the GI system or if this is the body’s attempt to rid itself of the pathogen. It will be important to stay warm, well hydrated, and replenish electrolytes if it goes this route for you.
the Lymphatic system
The functions of the immune system have multiple rulerships, in my opinion. But the physicality of it, the formlessness, to me brings to mind the ocean, the water element, especially Pisces and Neptune. (Which happen to be the rulers of infectious diseases, as well.)
You can think of the lymphatic system as the home of the immune system. It functions a bit like a watershed. Streams and creeks drain into rivers, which drain into a relatively huge reservoir called the cisterna chyli. The lymphatic system handles all the waste it can and dumps the rest back into the blood for the liver and kidneys to sort out.
Stimulate the lymphatic system with movement, such as yoga, qigong, or gentle stretching. Heat helps move the lymph as well. A hot bath or even a foot bath can help the lymphatic system move. You can follow with a brief cold water rinse on the hands and feet, alternate hot/cold a few times to give the lymphatic system a good push.
Having the Sun, Moon, or Ascendant in Pisces, Neptune in the 1st or 6th house of your birth chart can make your immune system a weak spot in your body. You may be very sensitive and unable to “push it” like other people.
Data from South Korea, where testing is universal, suggest that young adults in the 20-29 age group become infected at relatively high rates, but develop symptoms at relatively low rates. Since we do not have universal testing in the United States, we can surmise that many younger folks may be carrying and spreading the virus without knowing it.
The idea of the asymptomatic carrier is very Mercury in Pisces to me. Hidden, mysterious, the dense fog fo the unknown. The unfortunate result of tests being in short supply and only rationed out to those who develop symptoms (and often not even then).
Except for a brief dip into Aquarius at the end of Mercury retrograde, Mercury has been in water sign Pisces since February 3, contributing to the already damp, cold conditions in the sky. Mercury will finish up and move into hot, dry Aries (finally) on April 11. This may bring a shift in the testing situation, as well as warmer, drier weather to burn off the damp cold– for now at least.
I hope our notes have been helpful. Thanks to everyone for doing your part to protect the most vulnerable populations during this challenging time. I wish you all safe passage through this period and good health.