Herbal medicine and long covid: Can herbs help recovery?

by | Nov 13, 2023 | general health

The Covid-19 pandemic is over, but its after-effects linger on for some. Recent findings indicate that up to one-third of people who had Covid-19 symptoms may suffer from long-term effects, known as “Long-Covid”. Ongoing symptoms such as fatigue, breathing difficulties and chest pain are commonly present in these patients. This article explores the potential of herbal medicine in aiding recovery from this persistent condition.

What is Long Covid?

Long Covid is a term for the symptoms of Covid-19 that may continue for months after the initial infection. It can cause fatigue, chest painrespiratory symptoms, smell and taste loss, brain fog and malaise. People may have anxiety, depression or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder too. While no specific test exists for Long Covid, doctors (and herbalists) recognise these common features. Doctors sometimes prescribe antidepressants to aid with long-term symptoms. Whilst herbalists may suggest natural remedies such as stress management, a healthy diet, physical activity, getting enough sleep and herbal medicines. And most people can fully recover within a few months.

How common is Long Covid?

Long Covid is becoming increasingly common. According to the (ONC) Office for National Statisticsaround 1 in 30 people in the UK (3.4%) are self-reporting Long Covid. However, data from the ZOE symptom app suggests the Omicron variant of Covid-19 is far less likely to lead to Long Covid than the Delta variant. With 4.4% of Omicron cases leading to Long Covid, compared to 10.8% of Delta cases.

According to data from 6 November 2022, approximately 2.2 million people in the UK were reporting ongoing symptoms of Long Covid.

Symptoms of Long Covid

If you’ve had Covid-19, you may be at risk of having some persistent symptoms of Long Covid. The effects can vary greatly from person to person. So it’s important to keep an eye out for any lingering or new medical conditions that could indicate Long Covid. For instance, new abdominal painchronic fatigue syndromechest painjoint pain, or mental health conditions such as cognitive impairment. These might indicate a post Covid-19 condition.

Look out for new fatigue, sleep disturbances, shortness of breath, muscle pain, headaches or joint pain. You may also experience depression, anxiety or brain fog. In addition to physical symptoms, many people with Long Covid report difficulties with their memory and concentration.

Even those with few symptoms of Covid-19 infection can later develop Long Covid. So, if you have had a positive test for Covid, remain vigilant and monitor your health for new or lingering effects.

Causes of Long Covid

It’s no secret that the effects of the Covid-19 virus can be long-lasting. Even those with mild symptoms or none at all, may still develop problems with their health. But what causes these long-term effects?

The exact cause remains unknown, but a few theories are being explored. One is that the virus may cause lingering inflammation, leading to fatigue and other symptoms. Another theory is that it could damage or weaken the immune system, which makes it harder for the body to fight off infections or viruses. It’s also possible that those with Long Covid have a post-viral syndrome, where their bodies have become hypersensitive to certain triggers like stress or cold temperatures. Finally, some researchers think that people may be experiencing an autoimmune response to the virus which can cause chronic fatigue and other symptoms.

Whatever the cause, one thing is clear: more research is needed before we fully understand what causes the long-term effects of Covid-19 infection.

Diagnosis of Long-Haul Covid

Diagnosing Long Covid can be tricky since there is no clear-cut test or specific symptoms that doctors can use to diagnose the condition. Unfortunately, this means many people suffering from long covid are misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.

Medication Options

If you’ve been struggling with symptoms from Long Covid, finding a treatment plan that works best for you is important.

Your primary care doctor may suggest a variety of medications for symptomatic relief. These drugs might include anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen to help reduce any pain or swelling. Or antiviral medications to help fight the virus if you still have an active infection. They might also prescribe antidepressant, anxiolytic, and antipsychotic drugs. These drugs might help alleviate anxiety and fatigue while improving your cognitive functions and mood.

Herbal medicines and Long Covid

If you are searching for a more holistic and natural healthcare approach, herbal medicines can be a great way to support your recovery from Long Covid. Evidence from a review of clinical trials on herbal medicine use alongside conventional medicine shows that the combination is significantly more effective than Western medicine alone.

Herbalists are trained in holistic medicine and herbal medicine safety. We always consider the body as a whole rather than a collection of parts. And, with more interest in herbs as a result of Long Covid, medical researchers are discovering the value of holistic medicine – and recommending this type of approach.

But, it is not just the herbalist’s overview of health that is important. It is best to consult with a fully qualified medical herbalist. They will have access to herbal remedies that are not available over the counter. Plus, if you are taking medication from your doctor, your herbalist can advise which herbs you can safely use alongside your medicines to prevent adverse effects.

medical herbalist will also be able to create a personalised treatment plan for you. So if you’re not familiar with herbal preparations, this can take the guesswork out of choosing from the remedies available.

Though Long Covid is a new phenomenon, post-viral symptoms are not. And long before Long Covid, people turned to herbal remedies for help. Herbal medicines are known to have many anti-inflammatory, immunoregulating and antiviral actions, which can have a role in recovery.

Many herbs have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce pain and swelling caused by Long Covid. Ginger and turmeric are popular anti-inflammatory herbs used in traditional medicine for centuries. Other herbs, such as echinacea and ginseng, can improve immunity, while lavender or chamomile can help reduce anxiety or stress levels and promote better sleep.

Ask a herbalist

When considering a herbal remedy, it’s important to understand that not all plant products are created equal. Always buy herbs from reputable sources and take them according to recommended dosages. Additionally, certain herbs may not be suitable for everyone—if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, speak with your herbalist before taking any herbal medicines.

Herbal medicines can make a big difference in helping manage the symptoms of long covid and supporting overall well-being as you recover from this condition. You can start feeling better soon with the right combination of self-care and natural remedies!

How much time might it take you to recover?

It’s hard to answer how much time it takes to recover from Long Covid. Everyone’s experience and recovery time differ. Generally, it can take up to 12 weeks or more for some people to fully recover. It’s important to note that while your symptoms may improve in the first few weeks, you may still feel minor effects of the virus. It’s not uncommon to have fatigue or body aches in the following months.

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle and practising self-care during this time is important. Take regular breaks throughout the day. Eat a healthy and balanced diet. And engage in activities that bring you joy. These are all great ways to help support your recovery.

Conclusion

Herbal medicines can be a great way to support your recovery from Long Covid and improve your quality of life. From anti-inflammatory properties to improving immunity, herbal remedies have many potential benefits. However, it is recommended to consult with your herbalist before taking any herbs and always purchase herbal remedies from reputable sources.

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