Let us understand what a coronavirus really is and how it comes about, its origin and nomenclature, before delving deeper into precautions, preventive measures, natural modes of relief and home care.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic. What does that mean? Well, what comes to mind when you hear the word “zoo”? That’s right, animals! So zoonosis refers to an infectious or contagious disease that is transmitted from a non-human source, such as insects, birds, other mammals and animals. Zoonotic illnesses are hard to get rid of as they have an animal reservoir, like the bird flu; while it can be abolished in farmed animals but keeps coming back as it is brought by wild birds. You don’t hear much about avian influenza as it doesn’t transmit from person to person, but there are outbreaks in poultry farms every year worldwide. Coronaviruses (CoVs) are subsets of viruses with unique characteristics, like they use RNA instead of DNA, and belong to the family Coronaviridae comprising a group of enveloped, positive-sensed, single-stranded RNA viruses. Covered with spikes to invade cells, those spikes or crown-like S proteins are called corona, Latin for wreath or crown. There are more than 30 kinds, but usually only a few affect people which are called human coronaviruses (HCoVs). All human coronaviruses are zoonotic i.e. transmitted between animals and people, usually originating from bats, mice or domestic animals, often causing what we know as the common cold or flu, and symptoms may include fever, cough, headache, sore throat, running nose, fatigue, sometimes reaching the severity of pneumonia. So far, there have been seven types of coronaviruses affecting humans, the seventh being the one discovered in December 2019 creating this worldwide pandemic COVID-19, a respiratory illness colloquially known as the coronavirus. Some coronaviruses like the one causing COVID-19 also spreads from person to person, hence travel faster and farther. Indirect contact via contaminated surfaces is another possible cause of infection.
Previously known as the “2019 novel coronavirus,” the disease is called COVID-19 and the virus strain causing this respiratory disease is called SARS-CoV-2, which stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, announced by ICTV on 11 February 2020. This name was chosen because this new virus is genetically related to the coronavirus responsible for the SARS outbreak in 2003, nevertheless the two viruses are different. The World Health Organization (WHO) announced “COVID-19” as the name of this new disease on the same day. This novel coronavirus has close genetic similarity to bat coronaviruses, suggesting it emerged from a bat-borne virus. An intermediate animal reservoir such as a pangolin is also thought to be involved in its introduction to humans. It goes for the lungs causing respiratory symptoms, dry cough, fever, fatigue, all the way to fatal viral pneumonia. Sometimes people have mild symptoms that are not severe enough to seek medical attention. Coronaviruses generally attack in winter or early spring, as the Spike proteins harden due to dry weather staying afloat in the air longer, hence easier to penetrate cells. The virus can live in very low temperatures and heat kills it. Hence there is some hope that as summer approaches the COVID-19 spread will slow down or die out. But that may not be respite as it can come back in fall again with renewed vigor or as a mutated strain; RNA mutates very easily, so it is highly likely this virus will mutate too to either become more virulent or less potent. So one has to be careful and stay protected at all times, for a long while.
First and foremost, follow the protocols, maintain social distance, stay warm, isolated, away from people and public places, seek immediate medical attention if you experience shortness of breath, and sanitize your home, office, work place, etc. regularly. If frequent handwashing dries your skin, massage coconut or olive oil into your hands after soaping and drying to keep them moisturized. If you’re at home not in contact with outside people you needn’t wash hands all the time, but if you’re at work with other people then do this, and don’t touch your face (eyes, nose, mouth) without sanitizing your hands first. Below are some natural home remedies to practice for good health, especially throat care and immune boosters, during these turbulent times of uncertainty. If you have any symptoms of sore throat, cough, itchiness in the throat, breathing trouble, fever, etc. while seeking medical attention, also do one or all of the following to strengthen immunity and resist the virus effects:
- A shot of espresso, strong black coffee can open up the airways instantly during an asthma attack or breathing difficulty
- Drink hot ginger water at regular intervals and/or just hot water
- Gargle with hot water + salt/vinegar
- Take steam of hot water with crushed ginger, turmeric, and carom seeds also called ajwain or ajowan caraway.
- Drink warm milk with a pinch of turmeric in it either in powder form or boil the milk with crushed raw turmeric
- Drink herbal teas such as green tea which is loaded with antioxidants, hot if possible.
Ginger and turmeric
I cannot emphasize enough just how potent ginger is in alleviating respiratory disorders, cough, common cold, sore throat and other related symptoms. Sometime ago, on a trip to India I came down with severe breathing difficulties, cough and asthma attacks. While inhalers weren’t really working for me, I cured my asthma by drinking hot ginger water at regular intervals, taking in lots of sunshine while laying on the grass or grounding. Ginger has antiviral, antibacterial, anticancer, antiemetic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Ginger also promotes gut health by eliminating harmful gut bacteria. So, do not underestimate the power of the ginger! Equally beneficial is turmeric, for it not only reduces inflammation in the body which is a major cause of most illnesses, it also boosts immunity and protects against ailments in general. For example, if you have fever drinking warm milk with turmeric gives an instant immunity booster and in many cases can bring down the fever fast. If you are not into milk, you can just take turmeric/curcumin supplements or eat it raw, use it in cooking etc. Turmeric mixed with black pepper provides better absorption of its nutrients in the body, so add as much turmeric to your diet as possible.
How to prepare ginger water: chop or grate some raw ginger then put that in a pot of water and boil for at least 10 minutes so the essence of the ginger can penetrate the water. You can add some crushed black pepper seeds, tulsi leaves or holy basil, and a pinch of cinnamon to this boiling water. Once boiled, drink it hot at regular intervals throughout the day. You can also add a spoon of pure honey and a few drops of lemon/lime juice to your cup just before drinking to enhance its potency.
Research has shown that Vitamin D reduces the probability of contracting respiratory infections both bacterial and viral. It also boosts immunity and its deficiency has been linked to increased severity of viral infections. Thus takng in an adequate amount of Vitamin D can in fact reduce respiratory symptoms. So get lots of sunshine if possible especially these days of the pandemic. Foods that are a good source of Vitamin D include beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, mushrooms, fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel, salmon, sardine, herring, trout, cod liver oil, fortified foods like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, cereals etc. You can also take Vitamin D supplements which are safe and protect against acute respiratory tract infections. Sunlight produces a special type of Vitamin D in the body that is almost impossible to manufacture externally, and can be found naturally in breast milk. It is Vitamin D3 Sulfate, produced when the cholesterol present in our skin is hit by UVB light from the sun and the sulfur that we ingest through food, all work together to create Vitamin D3 Sulfate, since sulfur is abundant in most diets. The energy from UVB causes sulfate to join the cholesterol in our skin and the cholesterol sulfate then converts to Vitamin D3 Sulfate, which is not only great for our health but also reduces the risk of breast cancer. And the best part is that our body’s feedback mechanism ensures the right amount of Vitamin D3 Sulfate in our system keeping only as much as needed, and the remainder is converted back to Vitamin D3 which is essential for calcium synthesis and bone health. Light skin absorbs sunlight faster than dark skin, so if you have darker skin you might want to get some extra sunlight. Also when you go out somewhere then come back home and put the clothes you were wearing into washing, drying, or out in the sun; detergent, soap, high temperatures, UV rays of sunlight can all render the virus impotent. And along with taking in the sun, if you can ground at the same time, there is nothing like it; touch any natural soil, mud, grass, sand with your bare feet or skin. It is a power package, the two together, sunshine and mother earth!
Nothing like Vitamin C when it comes to strengthening the immune system. And you can never have too much of it, since this vitamin is water soluble, any excess amount in the body can be expelled out quickly. That said, in today’s times it is hard to have excess of this vitamin. Most people are lacking it. So as much of this vitamin as you can take in, it is always good for you. You can consume ample fruits, especially citric fruits like orange, pineapple, lemon, lime, tangerine, grape, grapefruit, kiwi, berries such as gojiberry, gooseberry, raspberry, blueberry, blackberry, cranberry, strawberry, elderberry, etc. Berries are loaded with Vitamin C, flavonoids and antioxidants that not only boost immunity but also keep you younger looking with great hair and skin. Also you can take in organic superfoods in pill or powder form, such as acai, camu camu, rose hips, amla or vitamin C supplements. Green tea has antioxidants and flavonoids too; herbal teas including black tea, in general are packed with health, so include infusion teas in your daily regime as well.
Use this time of worldwide lockdown and quarantine to catch up on lost sleep. Don’t get overworked or stress yourself unnecessarily. Get lots of rest, sleep loads to recuperate from work stress and rejuvenate your system. Stress is the biggest killer in our society today and the major cause of inflammation in the body as most modern illnesses arise from stress. So do everything possible not to stress out, especially now, because it is a big drain to the immune system, including fear and anxiety. The last thing you want to do is get stressed or anxious, and rupture your circadian rhythms. Adequate sleep regulates these rhythms in the body, and if you can do some grounding aka earthing and exposure to nature that are also great ways to relax, destress and decrease inflammation. Reduce your social media exposure, take warm baths, soak in salt water, get oil massages, and put on soothing, healing music of 432hz, 639hz, 936hz or 111hz while you sleep or bathe. Different frequencies cater to different types of mental, emotional and physical well-being. You can easily find this kind of frequency music on Youtube, loads of them. So, do anything to destress!
If ever there has been a time to make conscious choices toward your health, it is now! It is of utmost importance to eat nutritious food and avoid junk & processed food, including sugar, alcohol, smoking, soft drinks, soda, sweetened beverages, etc. at all costs. This will not only ensure good health but also support and strengthen your immune response. You can stock up long-lasting yet nutritious food in your house, so you needn’t go out frequently to buy food. Lentils, beans, cereals, pulses, legumes, peas, chickpeas, millets, buckwheat, quinoa, soya, brown rice, oats, dry fruits, nuts and seeds such as cashews, almonds, walnuts, peanuts, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, pecans, pistachio, dates, prunes, raisins, olives, chia, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, watermelon seeds etc. are all loaded with nutrition and also last a long time. These are all plant based, excellent source of protein, fibre, and essential nutrients like zinc, selenium, vitamin E, etc. hence there’s no danger of getting sick from them. Superfoods like spirulina, chlorella, cocoa, wheatgrass, moringa, maca root, turmeric, neem, tulsi, etc. may also be consumed in powder form or pills. Another great idea is to sprout seeds at home and consume raw or in salads and juices. It is easy to make and eating live sprouted seedlings is extremely healthy; whole mung beans, kidney beans, soybeans, garbanzo beans or chickpeas, bengal grams, raw peanuts are excellent for sprouting. Vegetables such as potato, sweetpotato, squash/pumpkin, plantain, onion, garlic, ginger, yam, corn, including frozen veggies and fruits etc. are long lasting and nutritious too. Cook with organic, cold pressed coconut, olive, mustard or sesame oil, or just with water, and avoid highly refined vegetable oils such as sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, corn, soya, canola oils which can cause inflammation. Also try to consume hot food, soups, broths, hot water, hot tea, and stay hydrated. The hot stuff is good for sore throats and can also kill the effects of the virus before it can reach the lungs. Another great food source for strengthening immunity and gut health is through intake of cultured and fermented foods, natural unsweetened yogurt, kefir, kombucha, miso soup, kimchi, sourruben or sour turnip, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, fermented milk like yakult, and breathing in natural air of a rich ecosystem replenishes the microbiome diversity within the body, much better than probiotics supplements.
Practice the above and stay safe. To your good health, cheers! 🙌
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