Covid-19: Nature-based ‘solutions’ can boost immune systems

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While South Africa continues to log new daily records in covid-19 infections, a natural scientist and agricultural expert urges people to turn to nature for many “solutions” that may be assist in fighting off attacks on our bodies.

Schalk van Rooyen says the covid-19 pandemic has again brought to the fore the importance of health, well-being and building immunity. He believes this also explains the surge in demand for healthy food as well as supplements like vitamins and minerals.

The World Health Organization has also indicated that the coronavirus may be with us for a while. “This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities”, Dr Mike Ryan, executive director of the UN health agency’s emergencies programme said in May this year. “And this virus may never go away. I don’t think anyone can predict when or if this disease will disappear.”

Schalk van Rooyen, technical consultant for Laeveld Agrochem. Photo: Supplied

Van Rooyen, a technical consultant for Laeveld Agrochem in the field of botanical extractions, says we will have to take increased notice of the strengthening of our body systems in dealing with this and other viruses as well as pathogenic bacteria and other microbes that may attack the body. Nature, however, offers many possible “solutions”, he believes. This includes several plants and extracts that can be of great value.

His top 12 list includes options which, he says, can be taken either in their natural form or through various supplements, such as liquids and powders in the form of capsules and tablets, includes:

1. The Echinacea plant

This plant (E. angustifolia, E. purpurea) in its known liquid form has undergone scientific studies and it has been found to be comparable to the Tamiflu remedy for upper respiratory tract infections. Several other clinical practice studies have also shown that the plant can enhance the immune system’s response and act antivirally and antibacterially against various pathogenic microbes. Much of this information is also supported by traditional information from many years of use by the Native Americans in North America.

2. Rosemary

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Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a very valuable plant and scientific studies have found that specific molecules in the plant provide strong antimicrobial activity against a range of pathogenic microbes. The plant also contains many other molecules that act as very effective antioxidants and strongly resist inflammation in the body. The inflammatory response to infection in the body is often strong and uncontrolled, especially with certain viruses. Furthermore, inflammation also makes the eventual effect of the virus or other pathogens much worse. It aggravates the aetiology or course of the disease.

3. Quercetin

This molecule is naturally found in many plants, especially purple onions, red apples, berries, fennel leaves, caper seed and radish leaves. The molecule has strong antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties and also prevents allergies. A scientific study has found that a relatively low dosage of quercetin was able to inhibit the infectivity and invasion of body cells by at least four influenza virus types; it was very effective against the H1N1 types from three different areas and also against the more dreaded H5N1 (avian influenza A) virus. The quercetin was particularly active in inhibiting the viruses in their initial stage of infection. Thus, it plays a major role in preventing uncontrolled virus proliferation and spread.

An important benefit of the Pelargonium herb is its ability to fight infections. Photo: Herb Facts

4. Pelargonium

P. sidoides is a South African plant in the malva family that for over a hundred years has shown its effectiveness against acute upper respiratory tract infections, especially those that are bronchial in nature. The root of the plant is typically distilled into an extract and used in cough and cold remedies to alleviate symptoms and reduce the duration of illness. Proponents claim that the South African geranium can help fight upper respiratory tract infections, including the common cold, bronchitis and sinusitis.

5. Lemon

Citrus limon is probably one of the best-known fruits on earth and is used in most countries. It is also one of nature’s wonders. Lemons contain very effective anti-infective molecules such as flavonoids and liminoids (especially in the peel). Some companies use these molecules in their surface cleaners. Furthermore, the power of lemons also lies in the effect it has on the body’s pH. It contains a lot of potash which has the ability to raise the pH in the body making it easier for our cells to absorb nutrients efficiently and secrete waste. Hence, it is critical for sustained health. Accumulated waste in the body make the effect of infections much worse. So, it is very important to balance the pH of our bodies in order to promote the excretion of waste. The best way to consume a whole lemon is to freeze it and then grate it over salads or any other food of your choice.

6. Turmeric

Curcuma longa is well known in most households and the plant’s yellow powder serves as an ingredient in curry dishes. It is also what gives the yellow colour to mustard. Turmeric is a very valuable plant/herb to have in your arsenal; it does so much in the body and has especially strong anti-inflammatory qualities. It cleanses the liver, fights cancer, relieves the inflammatory pain of various types of arthritis and much more.

Ginger has a very long history of use in various forms of traditional medicine. Photo: Healthline

7. Ginger

Zingiber officinale is also a plant that everyone knows, and most people also use it regularly with lemon and raw honey to help fight a sore throat. Ginger is very valuable and has long been known for the benefits it provides for stomach-related ailments. Furthermore, it is also a strong antiviral plant; it strengthens the immune system and is used in Indian medicine as a ‘warming’ herb which helps the body fight infection and break down toxins. It purifies the lymphatic system which is very important for the body’s management of infections, including viral infections.

8. Black pepper

Piper nigrum was once a very valuable commodity and was even used as a type of ‘currency’ when bartering. But scientific studies have shown that it also offers other great benefits. Pepper contains several antioxidants and has strong anti-inflammatory effects in the body and helps control blood sugar. It also improves the health of the digestive system. Pepper contains an important molecule called piperine that improves the absorption of various nutrients in the foods we consume, especially those of calcium, selenium and plant metabolites in vegetables, turmeric, and others.

9. Vitamin C

Of course, vitamin C is well known for its role in enhancing the immune response and combating systemic oxidation of biomolecules due to environmental pollution and other factors causing physiological stress. Vitamin C is also extremely valuable in destroying cancer stem cells in the body. Cancer stem cells are left untouched by conventional chemotherapy and this is one of the main reasons why many cancers return after treatment.

Getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D is not only important for normal growth and development of bones and teeth, but also for improved resistance against certain diseases. Photo: Grassroots Health

10. Vitamin D

This vitamin is commonly referred to as the sunshine vitamin because the body is able to produce vitamin D3 after exposure to the UV rays of sunlight. Scientific studies have shown that this vitamin is very important for the immune system’s functioning. Vitamin D and its metabolites have been shown to be actively involved in the regulation of inherent and acquired immune responses. In this regard, zinc is critical as a co-factor in the interaction of vitamin D with the vitamin D receptor in body cells. Vitamin D has a particular role to play in the body’s defence and in combating inflammation of respiratory viral infections.

11. Zinc

Zinc is an earth element and when taken in small quantities is very important for many body processes, especially in the formation of proteins in the body. As mentioned above regarding vitamin D, it is a critical element of certain protein molecules, especially certain cell receptors that respond to important food elements such as vitamins. Zinc works with vitamin D to fully coordinate the body’s immune response. It is also involved in normal body development and metabolism.

12. Other plants

Plants that purify the blood are also very effective in helping the body to maintain its critical functions. In this regard, the following plants and/or their extracts are very effective: Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), Burdock root (Arctium lappa), Reishi mushrooms (Ganoderma lucidum), basil (Ocimum basilicum), red clover (Trifolium pratense) and beet (Beta vulgaris). The easiest and cheapest way to keep the blood pure is to drink enough clean, pH-balanced water.

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