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Viruses & Coronavirus

So this blog has been in my mind for quite a few weeks.

I know here in Australia we feel a bit removed from the Covid-19 crises happening in other parts of the world. Some would say we are ‘lucky’ that we escaped the worst of its health effects due to different factors like geographical remoteness and the early closure of our borders.  The economic effects some say are far more severe and will take much longer to recover from. But as most experts agree that social distancing will continue for the near future, I will be waiting with interest to see what happens this winter season with regards to illnesses like colds, coughs and flus and whether our social distancing will have a large effect on the reduction in occurrence of these viruses.

I also feel strongly that those who are suffering so called ‘mild’ Covid-19 symptoms at home have been given no other support other than to take paracetomol and rest. I wanted to tell you that there may be things you can do to keep comfortable and support your health during this time. I have been learning and listening to herbalists in the USA (who have many more cases that us here in Australia) who have shared different approaches to supporting those folk who have Covid-19 (the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2) and are at home. I have learned some interesting things about Covid-19 that I wanted to share with you and about the herbs that may support the different presenting symptoms.

But first I think it’s important to talk about VIRUSES as there seems to be a lot of misinformation out there.


According to Stephen Buhner an eminent researcher and American Herbalist:

“The most dangerous viral strains are currently H1N1 which caused the flu pandemic of 1918, H2N2 which caused the Asian Flu pandemic in 1957, H3N2 which caused the HK flu pandemic of 1968, H5N1 known as Asian or bird flu which caused a pandemic in 2004. Then H1N1 came again as swine flu in 2009 and is a modified descendant of the 1918 H1N1 strain.

Did you know that an RNA virus alters its genetic strain significantly each year by passing through both pigs and birds?

On that trip it exchanges genetic material with other viruses and reworks its own. Then it spreads around the world by boat, rail, plane and causing what we call the yearly flu. Sometimes it develops into a much more virulent strain, sometimes through genetic rearrangements and sometimes through species jumps. The Asian flu was a species jump, the swine flu was a unique genetic rearrangement which occurred due to giant agribusiness animal crowding. Watch this video which explains why, prior to the farming of animals it is thought we did not have viruses like colds or influenza.

Swine Flu

Viral geneticists traced the lineage of the 2009 H1N1 swine flu to an H3N2 strain which combined with another swine strain – a European variant H1N2 which was then rearranged into a new and very potent H1N1 form and emerged into the human population.  The earliest infections occurred in Veracruz Mexico just adjacent to a huge hog farm. Researchers have found that the swine flu can combine with avian flu and a very pathogenic version can emerge. They have been waiting for this combined strain already infecting pigs to jump to humans. But before that happened … guess what?

A new virus emerged: SARS-CoV-2 AKA Coronavirus/Covid-19

I am sure by now you know…

“This is a new, novel coronavirus that appears to have originated from bats before making the jump to humans. The “novel” part is important in that no one has been exposed to this specific virus before, meaning no one has built up immunity to it. It is a new strain in a family of viruses we have all seen before, IN FACT the common cold is a corona virus.” CDC

COVID-19 is not influenza, although it behaves in some ways like influenza. It is, instead, more accurately called a highly contagious viral pneumonia. In mild cases it results in few if any symptoms, such as cough and mild fever. In severe cases, it results in life-threatening pneumonia that can be fatal, particularly in the elderly, immuno-compromised and individuals with underlying medical conditions which involve inflammation such as heart disease, lung disease and diabetes.”

So what are Coronaviruses?

According to Shereen and his associates who wrote a recent paper on the origin, transmission and characteristics of SARS-CoV-2 – 

“Coronaviruses belong to the Coronaviridae family in the Nidovirales order. Corona represents crown-like spikes on the outer surface of the virus; thus, it was named as a coronavirus. Coronaviruses are minute in size (65–125 nm in diameter) and contain a single-stranded RNA as a nucleic material, size ranging from 26 to 32kbs in length (Fig. 1). The subgroups of coronaviruses family are alpha (α), beta (β), gamma (γ) and delta (δ) coronavirus. The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), H5N1 influenza A, H1N1 2009 and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) can cause acute lung injury (ALI) and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) which leads to pulmonary failure and can result in fatality. These viruses were thought to infect only animals until the world witnessed a severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak caused by SARS-CoV in 2002 in Guangdong, China [1). Only a decade later, another pathogenic coronavirus, known as Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) caused an endemic in Middle Eastern countries [2]. LINKS:

What happened recently?

Recently at the end of 2019, Wuhan an emerging business hub (Population 11.08 milion) of China apparently experienced an outbreak of a novel coronavirus that killed more than eighteen hundred and infected over seventy thousand individuals within the first fifty days of the epidemic. This virus was reported to be a member of the β group of coronaviruses. The novel virus was named as Wuhan coronavirus or 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCov) by the Chinese researchers. The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) named the virus as SARS-CoV-2 and the disease as COVID-19 [3][4][5]. In history, SARS-CoV (2003) infected 8098 individuals with mortality rate of 9%, across 26 countries in the world, on the other hand, novel corona virus (2019) has so far infected 120,000 individuals with mortality rate of 2.9%, across 109 countries, till date of this writing (apparently now 3.12 million infected, 257,000 deaths). It shows that the transmission rate of SARS-CoV-2 is higher than SARS-CoV and the reason could be genetic recombination event at S protein in the RBD region of SARS-CoV-2 which may have enhanced its transmission ability.

In addition, it is thought the reason why older people with concurrent health conditions are suffering more than younger people on a whole is that they are often more likely to be taking medications like ACE inhibitors and other medications for diabetes and high blood pressure.

According to Dr Peter Dingle: “The ACE 2 inhibitors and related drugs used for hypertension and diabetes increase the access of the virus into the cells by 3-5 times.” LINKS

I like what Dr Peter Dingle had to say here:

Research now presented in at least 3 top journals (Nature, Lancet, Journal of Hypertension) shows a link between blood pressure, diabetes medications and the severity of COVID-19 which explains the extremely high severity and mortality rate in people with pre-existing cardiovascular disease, hypertension and diabetes.  Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEIs) and angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) are highly recommended medications for patients with cardiovascular diseases including heart attacks, high blood pressure, diabetes and chronic kidney disease and more.

SARS-CoV-2 attaches to the cell’s surface via the ACE-2 protein – that is its sole point of entry – and what we know is that Angiotensin II Receptor Blockers (ARBs) used to lower blood pressure and diabetes increase the expression of the ACE-2 protein in the body as many as three to five times. Effectively it means the little doorway for the virus is now a huge gateway. As a result, patients on these anti-hypertensives (blood pressure) fare much worse than average.


How does Covid-19 effect you?

There are apparently 4 distinct phases:

STAGE 1: Usually managed at home

Fever, dry cough, sore throat, fatigue, headache, chest tightness, nausea, loss of taste and smell

STAGE 2: Usually managed at home if symptoms are mild

Persistent heat or chill, cough with little or yellow sputum, bloating/constipation, shortness of breath

STAGE 3: May need hospitalization if severe

Dyspnea (extreme SOB), fainting, cyanosis, cold & sweaty

STAGE 4: Recovery

Recovery , SOB, fatigue, anorexia, nausea, weakness

elderberry bush

A quick note about Elderberry Syrup:

A Note about Elderberry and the Cytokine Storm that many of you have been mentioned to me with concern due to 1 paper that mentions caution in Covid 19: Stephen Buhner says that Elderberry MODULATES cytokine production which means lowering if high or increasing if low. As Elder directly suppresses Nitric Oxide (NO) production this would make sense as NO is what a cytokine storm generates. Buhner recommends Dong Quai, licorice and green tea to stop the cytokine like protein HMGB1 (High mobility group box 1 protein) that has been implicated in sepsis induced cytokine storms. Read more about Cytokine Storms next week.  But, if in doubt stop any herbal product until you can speak to your herbalist or doctor.

Next week we will talk about Herbal Immune Support for influenza and Covid-19!

Stay Well !

Fin Mackenzie – Naturopath & Herbalist

BHSc(CompMed), ADNat, DNut, DRM, MATMS







Buhner, Steven Harold, Herbal Antivirals Natural Remedies for emerging resistant and epidemic viral infections. Storey Publishing USA 2013

Shereen, Khan, Kazmi, Bashir & Siddique. Covid-19 infecction: Origin, transmission and characteristics of human coronaviruses. Journal of Advanced Research, Volume 24, July 2020, p 90-98

Zhou, P., Yang, X., Wang, X. et al. A pneumonia outbreak associated with a new coronavirus of probable bat origin. Nature 579, 270–273 (2020).

Esler, Murraya,*; Esler, Danielleb,. Can angiotensin receptor-blocking drugs perhaps be harmful in the COVID-19 pandemic? Journal of Hypertension: March 11, 2020 – Volume Publish Ahead of Print – Issue – doi: 10.1097/HJH.0000000000002450

Lei FangGeorge KarakiulakisMichael Roth Are patients with hypertension and diabetes mellitus at increased risk for COVID-19 infection?The Lancet. Published:March 11, 2020DOI:


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