By now most of us are repeatedly washing hands, disinfecting surfaces and practicing social distancing, but there is a lot more we can do to protect ourselves from respiratory viruses.

Covid 19 Virus is a reminder of how connected humans are with all living things and that our thrival depends on embracing the gifts nature offers and offering our kindness and care in return. Fortunately, there are many plant allies out there to help us heal. Most deaths from such viruses (and this includes flu) are caused by secondary infections like pneumonia, therefore prevention and then sound healing practices when you are sick, are very important. The following is written from a preventive perspective. If you have the symptoms of fever and dry cough then seek medical testing for the virus and if symptoms are severe please seek medical help. It is most important to not panic (which may require turning off the news sometimes) as stress lowers immunity. Getting enough rest and tuning in to your own body are still most important.

Herbal Home Care:

Make an essential oil-based room spray. Use equal parts vodka and purified water (filtered or bottled water or a hydrosol) and then 20+ drops of essential oil per 1-ounce spray bottle. Top essential oils: thyme, eucalyptus, rosemary, oregano, tea tree, orange, lemon, lemongrass, ravensara, palma rosa, geranium, sage, fir, cedar, juniper, cinnamon, grapefruit, clove, bay. You can choose one or blend them. Example blends: Eucalyptus/rosemary/lemon or tea tree/orange or thyme/lemongrass or clove/cinnamon/orange etc. Use it periodically to dose indoor air (car too), especially if there is someone home who is sick (also doubles as hand sanitizer when you add one-fourth part isopropyl alcohol). Alternatively you can diffuse oils in aromatherapy dispenser or very low simmer fresh plant material (leaves of eucalyptus, rosemary, pine/fir, yarrow, bay, lemon and orange peels) in an open pot on your stove. These anti-microbial oils go into the air and enter your respiratory system, helping to protect tissues. If you are experiencing congestion or you are vulnerable to illness, then do a facial steam using some of these plants and a towel over your head to create a tent as you breathe in their aromas. If you pick fresh bay or eucalyptus leaves and hang them in your house, you will help disinfect the air. Smudging with sage leaves also does this.

Keep your nasal passages clean. Why wait until you have symptoms of illness? Preventive measures include nasal irrigation (netti pots) with salt water that you can add colloidal silver, essential oil hydrosols or 8 drops of herbal tincture like Oregon grape, goldenseal, myrrh, sage or yarrow. This can be done 1-3 times a week to rinse out particulate you picked up. Remember a bogged down respiratory system is more vulnerable than a flowing one.  If you are working with the public, consider a nasal oil (made by Baraka or diluted essential oil in jojoba) that you swab just on the inside of each nostril or the Olbas brand nasal inhalers that you can keep with you and periodically use. There are also many natural nasal sprays on the market that can be used as protection. Then see above for altering indoor air with herbal scents.

Protect your throat and lungs. Propolis-based throat sprays can be used to coat and therefore protect the back of your throat and worth keeping in the car to use before you go shopping. At home it is a good practice to gargle a couple times a week (or more) with saltwater and herb tea. Sage, rosemary, calendula, white or yellow chrysanthemum and thyme are all easy to grow and pick for this purpose. Wild (or backyard) plantain leaf is also helpful. Breath through your nose when you can, sing often, practice deep breathing, stretch and twist your torso and get plenty of fresh air to keep your lungs open and expelling. Fluid movement of your lungs is important. If you are vulnerable, indoor HEPA air filters, humidifiers or dehumidifiers (depending on your environment) can be worth the investment.

Make sure your food is medicine. We can boost immunity with our everyday dietary habits by eating organically whenever possible, including essential power plants into our food, usually as raw additions to cooked food: garlic, onion, horseradish, ginger, burdock root, galangal, peppers also cinnamon, clove, anise, cumin, corriander and fennel. This means stepping up your condiments and salsas and grating or pressing some of these powerhouses into your salads, soups, stir fries or dips – don’t be shy! Include plenty of fresh herbal greens whether wild nettle, plantain, dandelion, fennel, mallow or garden oregano, thyme, rosemary, nasturtium, calendula flowers, basil, mustard greens, parsley, cilantro, dill – they all have protective plant chemistry and are packed with nutritional value. Herbs are easy to incorporate in post-cooking by just washing, chopping and sprinkling and of course, there is always pesto . . . This is also time for curry and chai spices if you tolerate them – things that open your skin and get fluids moving and draining. Include a little fermented goodness to keep your gut flora happy: sauerkraut, miso, kefir, yogurt, kombucha and fresh pickled veggies.

Keep the Flow. Drink a minimum of two quarts of water a day – three is even better. Keep elimination channels open. Add extra fiber like ground flax, apple pectin, chia, psyllium, to your diet to move more waste out of your lower bowel. The lower bowel is directly linked to lung health and back door for the elimination of excess mucus of the lungs. Spring is a great time do undertake a bowel cleanse if you are not sick. If you have been sick in the last 3 months but feel well now, bowel cleansing is a good idea. If you are currently ill, then work individually with a practitioner for specific herbal protocol which would depend on your symptoms, then wait until you feel well and strong again before cleansing. If you are feeling like you might be catching a cold or bogged down with allergies, then enjoy  veggie juices, omega-3 rich fibers like chia and flax, soups/bone broth, herbal immune decoctions for the lungs and plenty of warm water. It is a good idea no matter what your health status to drink a daily respiratory support tea – at least one cup a day. You can use a commercial blend like Breathe Easy by Traditional Medicinals (and others) or you can make tea with herbs from your garden or mix dried herbs. Examples of very helpful tonic herbs are: thyme, rosemary, ginger, sage, mullein, calendula, elderflower and berry, yarrow, lavender, rosehips, tangerine or blood orange peel, mallow leaves, cleavers, chickweed, lemon peel, mugwort, horehound, licorice, mints. Nature has a bountiful pantry we only need to open the door!