Coronavirus: Preventative Tips and Herbs to Help your Immune System

Everyone is talking about the novel coronavirus disease (abbreviated COVID-19). The virus that causes this disease is named “SARS-CoV-2”. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses from various animal species, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats. In rare cases, animal coronaviruses can infect humans, like the current SARS-COV-2 has. The epicenter of the outbreak has been linked to the large seafood and live animal market in Wuhan, China (part of the Hubei Province).

Is the new coronavirus deadly?


The mortality of the COVID-19 is thought to be about 1-3 percent, based on articles in NEJM and World Health Organization Situation Reports. That would put it on par with the 1918 Spanish flu, a pandemic that killed 2% of the world’s population. Two percent of the world is 150 million people. That’s an insane number. Compared this to the common flu which has a mortality of 0.1%.

Korea is reporting a mortality of about 0.5%, but they have also been extremely aggressive in public health measures. In contrast, Italy is reporting a mortality of 6-7%.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of coronavirus are like any cold/flu:

  • fever, fatigue, dry cough, respiratory symptoms, shortness of breath, breathing difficulties

About 14 percent develop severe disease, including pneumonia and difficulty breathing. About 5% have critical disease requiring Intensive Care Unit (ICU) stays, including respiratory failure, septic shock and multiple organ failure.

Is the coronavirus contagious? How does it spread?

The coronavirus is extremely contagious. The reproductive number is 3 (but has been reported to be as high as 6!) This means that one infected person can spread it to at least 3 others. 

The disease mainly spreads from person to person through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or exhales. It can also be transmitted via contaminated surfaces (where it can live a few hours to several days).

What can we do about it?

  • Wash your hands: The best way to ward of diseases is to wash your hands, according to the CDC.  Wash your hands for 20 seconds using warm water and soap (or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer) before preparing food or eating, as well as after using bathroom or touching public surfaces.
  • Disinfect Surfaces: Cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces you touch frequently
  • Avoiding touching your face: Touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands can increase your exposure to external viruses
  • If you’re sick, stay home: get optimal sleep, rest, and fluids for fastest recovery and to prevent transmission to others
  • Cover your cough or sneeze: Best to cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and then throwing the tissue away.
  • Vaccinate!  If you have not done so yet, get your FLU SHOT! — it would really suck to catch both the flu AND coronavirus at the same time. Additionally, if your body is first weakened by another virus, it would be more susceptible to the coronavirus. 
  • Keep warm: Bundle up! Keep your whole body warm, especially your neck, stomach, legs, and feet.
  • Sleep: Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. If you do not sleep, your gut bugs do not sleep; therefore your immune system suffers. Your microbiome is critical to optimal function of your immune system.
  • Exercise: Moderate intensity and varied exercise (30 minutes daily) will help improve your immune system. Of note, vigorous activity like running may weaken your immune function and leave your immune system more susceptible for attack.
  • Stress Reduction: Manage stress through meditation, yoga, tai chi, qi gong, drawing, writing, singing, or any modality that helps you. A good place to start is 4-7-8 breathing.

How do we decrease spread of coronavirus?

Social distancing! The CDC defines social distancing as “remaining out of group settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance (about 6 feet) from others.”

Social distancing behaviors can occur on large scales or individual scales. Many things have closed down in the US and around the world (such as schools, events, companies). However, it is also important to avoid crowded spaces (such as bars and grocery stores) and limit get-togethers (like birthday parties and play dates).

Why is social distancing a good thing during pandemics?

The goal is the “flatten the curve”. Effective public health measures can mean that the number of people infected will be much lower, thereby not overwhelming the healthcare system. If the healthcare system becomes overwhelmed, people will not get adequate care and may die. This affects people of ALL ages as non-coronavirus patients who need medical care may not get it if resources are diverted (trauma victims, cancer patients, children, pregnant patients, etc).

Our healthcare system is barely able to cope with a bad flu season, let alone a pandemic!

The most altruistic thing you can do: maintain your social distance.

How can we treat coronavirus disease?

There is no vaccine or medication that treats coronavirus disease.

There are things that may help boost your immune system so that you have the best fighting chance. All these components have been shown in some research studies to be effective for colds and flu, while boosting your immune system. Remember to discuss with your physician prior to starting any supplements. 

Vitamin D 

Vitamin D has been shown to be crucial in immune function.

  • Get this check if you have not yet and supplement as per your doctor’s recommendations
  • Healthy adults should receive 2,000 IU of vitamin D 3 daily (as part of a healthy balanced meal or supplement) — you may need more if you get little or no sun exposure. 

Astragalus is a mushroom that is often used in soups or teas. It can be used, alone or in combination with other herbs. Scientific studies have shown its benefit to the immune system. Further studies sponsored by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) are ongoing.

The Natural Medicine Comprehensive Database (NMCD) showed that consuming astragalus long-term (at least 6 weeks) might help prevent colds 

  • 1 capsules a day
  • Or get astragalus root to cook in soups and teas
Mushroom products

  • Species such as shitake, mitake, reishi, oyster have also been shown to be efficacious in improving the immune system
  • This one is just an example.
  • The best is to eat a variety of steamed fresh mushrooms. Variety is key for your microbiome!
MycoShield Throat Spray

  • No evidence on this that I could find; however, the father of Integrative Medicine Dr. Andrew Weil recommends this as it may help reduce risk of contracting viruses in the nasal cavities (cinnamon flavor)

  • The evidence on echinacea is mixed.
  • Nearly all prevention trials pointed in the direction of small preventative benefits. A 2010 study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that echinacea outperformed both placebo and no treatment at all— but these benefits were too small to be considered statistically significant.  A 2006 review found no evidence that echinacea could prevent colds. But it did turn up findings (albeit inconsistent ones) that products containing the species Echinacea purpurea could lessen a cold’s length and symptoms.
Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the biggest immune system boosters of all. A lack of vitamin C can even make you more prone to getting sick.

Remember though, Vitamin C has no effect on the RISK of catching a cold. However, it CAN reduce the severity and duration of a cold. 

  • It is best to eat foods rich in vitamin C (oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, strawberries, bell peppers, spinach, kale and broccoli. 
  • Vitamin C supplements should only be taken with a doctor’s recommendations and best taken only when you’re sick
    • One study showed that 6-8 grams per day may be effective

Elderberry may shorten the duration of flu. Studies are small and more is needed as a method of prevention or treatment for colds and flus.

  • One randomized study showed that elderberry may help clear up cold/flu symptoms 4 days earlier than those who took placebo syrup. Another study showed benefits for travelers.

Garlic is a great immune booster. Eating garlic daily is a great way to boost your health and make your food taste great!

  • The best way to maintain the effectiveness of garlic is to crush the garlic and let is sit for 10 minutes. This allows for allicin (a phytonutrient responsible for garlic’s health benefits) to be released.
  • Here’s a hack on how to always have fresh garlic.


All these supplements are not the same as having a complete, plant-based, whole foods diet, stress relief, moderate exercise, keeping your vaccinations up-to-date, and sleep. If you want to find a cure all to all your illnesses and maladies, a balanced lifestyle is the only way!

Check out the immunity mushroom soup recipe, using medicinal mushrooms that is delicious and nutritious!

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The information is for educational purposes ONLY. Although I am a physician, the information here is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. I can only render treatment recommendations if I see you in person and know your medical history.

Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding your medical condition before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.