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Natural Awakenings Richmond

Understanding COVID-19 and How To Fight It

by Tressa Breindel

COVID-19 has sprung onto the scene as a new viral infection that we are just beginning to understand. There is so much information flying around that it is hard to know what the risks truly are and how to best protect ourselves and our community. COVID-19 is clearly more deadly than the common flu, although not as contagious as other major infections such as measles, HIV or norovirus (stomach flu).

This is such a new virus that humans don’t yet have immunity like they do with more common viral infections. Direct contact with respiratory particles is considered to be the major route of transmission of COVID-19. However, it may be possible to catch it from particles remaining in the air after an infected person has passed by. While this is not considered a major route of transmission, it contributes to its threat as being highly contagious.

For most individuals without significant underlying conditions such as poorly controlled diabetes, heart disease or lung conditions, or those under the age of 65, the real threat isn’t so much death, but that they will contribute to the spread and continuance of this severe viral infection. For them, the threat is less personal than it is to the community as a whole.

The average death rate from the flu in the U.S. is just over 0.1 percent, while the average death rate in the U.S. from COVID is 2.69 percent. That means if we get COVID-19, on average, exclusive of other factors such as age or preexisting conditions, we have about a 2.7 percent chance of dying from it. Between 24 to 50 percent of people won’t even show symptoms of being infected. And for most of the rest of us, it would feel like the seasonal flu, and then we would get better.

Eighty percent of deaths are in those over 65 years old, with the highest percentage of severe outcomes occurring in those 85 years or older and people with underlying chronic heart and lung conditions and diabetes.

There is more we can do for viral infections than just Tylenol, hydration and rest. Remember that none of the statistics take into account the use of immune supportive and herbal antiviral strategies. Because this is a brand-new virus, it has not been tested against any of our natural protocols, so we can only speculate about their efficacy (and nothing replaces the ongoing need for social distancing, hand-washing and not touching the face). It is always best to start with foundational lifestyle practices such as adequate sleep, a whole-food, nutrient-dense diet, exercise and stress management/mindfulness practices to build and strengthen the immune system. Use nutrients, supplements and herbs to prevent, treat and fight infection and reduce its severity, duration and damage if infected. Vitamins that have demonstrated efficacy in supporting the body against viral infections, but not yet trialed with COVID-19, include vitamin C, vitamin D and vitamin A.

The goal of treatment isn’t just to kill the virus with herbal antivirals, but also to control its powerfully inflammatory stimulation to the immune system. You may have heard of the “cytokine storm” that COVID-19 can stimulate in our bodies. Cytokine signaling is how our immune system creates inflammation, and it is this inflammation that is able to contain and kill invading infections. However, too much inflammation, even though good for attacking the infection, can lead to collateral damage to our body. It is the latter that can lead to lasting lung damage and death from COVID-19.

While nothing will compensate for the immense human tragedy this virus is causing, let’s use this unique opportunity to evolve so that we can be healthier as individual humans and a global human society.

Tressa Breindel, LAc, MSOM, a functional medicine and Chinese medicine practitioner, is the owner of InHealthRVA. For more information, call 804-288-1111  or visit  

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