Lessons from the Fear of Coronavirus
Richard Gale and Gary Null, PhD
Progressive Radio Network, March 27, 2020
The worldwide coronavirus pandemic has provided an opportunity for everybody to take stock of their lives and reevaluate their priorities. It is also forcing us to pay attention to the fundamental basics for becoming responsible for our own health. These very basic principles are the same ones that may have saved countless lives in the past from avoidable diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer and other infectious disease outbreaks. Hopefully as a people and as a nation we will emerge wiser and act more proactively in the future from the lessons learned during this crisis.
However, our ability to evolve beyond our limited perceptions of ourselves, our personal health and the successes and failures of America’s health system are dependent upon the information we receive. If what we are being told by those in authority is inaccurate or patently false, such as Donald Trump’s chloroquine drug as “a gift from God” to treat coronavirus infections or prescribing HIV retroviral drugs without clearly stating these drugs’ serious health warnings, then the citizenry remains in a daze of ignorance and uninformed. Worse, the nation becomes further deluded, and, as we are observing, this leads to panic and fear. Panic in turn brings forth its own set of economic, social and personal problems.
As we follow the events unfolding both in the US and globally, it is understandable that the medical community continues to be very perplexed on many issues. It is not a good sign when Oxford University made the decision to cease relying on the World Health Organization’s coronavirus data because of the consistency in errors. Throughout the world, nations’ health ministries rely on WHO’s reports to develop their own strategies. Stanford University biomedical data scientist Dr. John Ioannidas recently warned that we sorely “lack reliable evidence on how many people have been infected with SARS-CoV-2 or who continue to become infected,” and the data collected so far is “utterly unreliable.” Many countries, which include the US, Ioannidas says are consequently adopting “draconian countermeasures” to deal with the spread of the virus. He also called the WHO’s data and “reported case fatality rates” as “meaningless.” Due to our failure to properly confront the virus, death rates are “buried within the noise of the estimate of deaths from influenza-like illness.”
Although coronavirus is a common infection and there are dozens of strains, this is a novel strain that has only been with us for less than 5 months. We know it is highly infectious. There is evidence that it may be more contagious via contact with surfaces rather than from airborne particles between persons. For example the CDC discovered that COVID-19 viral RNA was found on the surfaces of a cruise ship for 17 days after the passengers departed. And infectious rates appear to be quite erratic. Some countries have been very successful to contain its spread, while others including Italy, Spain and the US are not doing very well.
During a recent interview, one of our greatest intellectuals Noam Chomsky remarked that our nation’s intrastructure has taken on “a third world character.” But it is not only our crumbling roads and bridges and our banana republic transportation system that has become a disgrace for a wealthy nation that claims to be exceptional. “Our healthcare,” Chomsky continues, “is an international scandal.” It too is part of America’s infrastructure but has become “unbelievably backwards.” Healthcare workers and nurses are pleading for essential supplies such as effective face masks. Hospitals have shortages of hospital beds and respirators. There are insufficient chemicals on hand to manufacture enough diagnostic tests; and this is critical to properly monitor the spread of the virus. Unlike other countries, notably South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and even China, our healthcare system has been reduced to “economy and efficiency”; we only produce what we require at the moment and give no forethought towards the future. Prevention has never been one of America’s stronger skills. We do nothing until the next tsunami or Katrina moment hits us unexpectedly. In the wake of our habitual unpreparedness, numerous people suffer.
So as the nation applauds Dr. Anthony Fauci at the CDC and continues to drink the kool aid served by the mainstream press to have us believe our federal health agencies are heroically on top of the situation, we must ask why the US was so far behind the eight ball in the first place. And in the absence of a federal health system that should be worthy of a developed nation, how can people better protect their personal health from infection and potential inflammatory complications?
Aside from all the uncertainty and confusion, even among our top health experts, one thing we can feel certain about: those at greatest risk have other pre-existing medical conditions. Unfortunately, our health officials have not provided any clear demographic statistics of those who have died in the US so far. What percent had pre-existing health conditions such as cardiovascular or autoimmune illnesses? The condition of a person’s immune system is critical for fighting any infectious disease, not just the coronavirus. The vitality of the immune system can mean life or death. The Italian government, on the other hand, provided such a report. Over 99 percent (99.2%) of Italians who died from either the virus or a subsequent co-infection such pneumonia, had a pre-existing health condition. Almost 50 percent had three or more conditions, the most common being high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. The median age of infection is 63 years old and 79.5 years is the median for the mortality rate. All those who had died under 40 years of age were “males with serious existing medical conditions.”
However, in the US and parts of Europe, the crisis seems to be unfolding differently. Fauci recently stated during a White House meeting, “Now we have to look at the young people who are getting seriously ill from the European cohort and make sure that it isn’t just driven by that they have underlying conditions because… all bets are off no matter how young you are if you have an underlying, serious medical condition.” For example, in both Italy and Spain where infection rates are inordinately high, approximately 30 percent of males smoke. In the US, recent data shows that 40 percent of hospitalized cases are between 20 and 54 and 12 percent of persons in intensive care are between 20 and 44 years of age. Furthermore according to the CDC, 78 percent of Americans over 55 have a chronic condition and over 47 percent have two. American children are some of the sickest in the developed world — 27 percent had a chronic illness a decade ago not including obesity. Much of the cause of American’s chronically ill children is due to environmental reasons. Many of these conditions would be preventable if we had a satisfactory healthcare system.
Nevertheless, the Italian message is clear. In addition to the conventional preventative measures being undertaken — quarantine, social distancing, reducing face to face encounters, properly cleaning surfaces, protective gloves and masks — people need to be educated in ways to strengthen their immune systems. This requires convincing people to be more conscious about the risks of poor diets and unhealthy lifestyle habits. However, changing the consciousness of a society is extraordinarily difficult. And so far, our government and state health officials have been completely ignoring this critical factor as one solution to lessen the serious viral infections.
So if the World Health Organization warns that the US “may become the next center for the coronavirus pandemic,” should we be that surprised? Yet we mustn’t permit fear to overwhelm us into complacency. Catastrophes, crises and tragedies are often a necessary trumpet blasts to wake up, review our lives, our habits and false assumptions. The coronavirus pandemic is such a time.
Earlier we released an article about the preventative measures we can take to both support our immune system to lessen the impact of viral infections, such as the coronavirus and flu, or to recover more rapidly in the event we experience symptoms. Since then we have learned about other natural approaches to further protect ourselves.
Recently Zhejiang University School of Medicine, one China’s oldest and most prestigious universities, publicly released its “Handbook of CoVid-19 Prevention and Treatment” worldwide. Having been the first on the front lines against the new strain, and having gone through the deadly SARS coronavirus epidemic over a dozen years ago, it is one of the most concise documents for healthcare measures to prevent and contain the spread of the virus. The medical researchers identify many important clues that are barely found in English speaking literature. For example the report notes the importance of nutrition and the use of probiotics to strengthen infected patients’ microbiome. According to the report, “the intestinal microecological balance is broken in COVID-19 patients…. Intestinal microecological imbalance may lead to bacterial translocation and secondary infection.” Therefore, the Chinese scientists conclude that it is important to maintain a balance in the body’s microecology through nutritional support.
The report is also clear in warning about Trump’s erroneous claims about chloroquine’s safety and lists the adverse effects including cardiac arrest and ocular toxicity. In China chloroquine is not being prescribed unless a patient has had an electrocardigram performed. None of this was noted during Trump’s press conference.
In addition to conventional treatments, the Zheijiang scientists list herbal formulas based upon Traditional Chinese Medicine studies.
Therefore we are summarizing what we presented earlier along with additional new information.
Unlike the US, most of the world, especially in Asia and continental Europe, recognizes Vitamin C as an important anti-viral agent. It is also a remarkable antioxidant shown to ward off infections. There is a large body of research to support Vitamin C’s efficacy during cold seasons. At this moment, China is conducting several clinical trials with intravenous Vitamin C to treat patients infected with the Covid19 strain. The city government of Shanghai is now actively treating patients with intravenous Vitamin C. A trial at Zhongnan Hospital in Wuhan is using 24,000 mg per day intravenously. The Wuhan study can be viewed on the US National Library of Medicine’s website here: https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT04264533
In 2017 the University of Helsinki reviewed 148 studies that indicated Vitamin C may alleviate or prevent infections caused by bacteria and viruses. The most extensive indication studied was the common cold. Among people who are physically active, Vitamin C was most beneficial. However, many studies relied on very low Vitamin C doses, which likely contributed to the minor benefits observed. Some of these were as low as 100 mg daily. In addition, the studies showed that colds’ duration was frequently shorter and less severe among people with sufficient Vitamin C levels. An early randomized double blind trial to investigate Vitamin C’s ability to protect elderly hospitalized patients from acute respiratory infections was conducted at Hudderfield University in the UK. The study relied on a very low dose of 200 mg per day. Nevertheless, those who received the vitamin fared significantly better than those taking placebo. There was another controlled placebo study involving 715 students between the ages 18-32 taking 1000 mg four times daily. The test group had an 85% decrease in flu and cold symptoms compared to the control.
Barely a week goes by without another study appearing in the peer-reviewed literature that looks at either Vitamin D’s therapeutic characteristics or the risks of Vitamin D deficiency. A high number of otherwise healthy adults have been reported to have low levels of vitamin D, mostly at the end of the Winter season. Deficiency rates vary between 42% for the entire population to 82% for Black Americans and 63% for Latinos. People who are housebound, institutionalized and those who work night shifts are most likely to be vitamin D deficient. This includes many elderly people who receive limited exposure to sunlight.
It has been shown that Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increase risk in autoimmunity illnesses and greater susceptibility to infection. It also boosts up the body’s mucosal defenses which are critical for protecting ourselves from infectious respiratory viruses Harvard and Massachusetts General Hospital in conjunction with a global collaborative study to follow up on a Cochrane analysis of 25 randomized controlled trials involving 11,000 participants confirmed that vitamin D. taken daily or weekly significantly cut the risk of respiratory infections in half. For children, a Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia meta review identified 13 of 18 studies confirming that Vitamin D deficiency was associated with increased incidences of acute lower respiratory infection.
There is strong evidence that severe coronavirus cases and deaths are also associated with cytokine storms besides secondary infections. One cytokine in particular, NLRP3, was earlier discovered to be associated with SARS-CoV infections. Since children’s melatonin levels are at their peak up until puberty , this may be one reason why coronvirus infections in children under 9 are typically very mild or show no symptoms at all. Is this perhaps a reason why infected pregnant mothers admitted to Wuhan University’s hospital gave birth to babies free of the virus? As we increasingly age, the more rapidly our natural melatonin levels drop off. Melatonin has the unique property of inhibiting NLRP3 elevations after viral infection. For this reason, the amino acid can prevent NLRP3 cytokine storms contributing to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and acute lung injury (ALI) that are characteristic with severe COVID-19 cases.
Nitric oxide is an important signaling molecule found throughout the body that has been associated with improved vasodilatation, the regulation of cellular life and death, and to strengthen the immune system’s responses. Like melatonin, newborns have very high levels of nitric oxide in their paranasal passages which provides added immunity unseen in the large majority of adults. Nitric oxide moreover inhibits NLRP3 cytokine activation. This is another reason why Vitamin C supplementation is so important because the vitamin supports the body’s production of nitric oxide. There is also evidence that nitric oxide is very effective against coronavirus. Dr. Sara Akerstrom and colleagues at the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control and the Karolinska Institute discovered that nitric oxide “specifically inhibits the replication cycle of SARS CoV, most probably during the early stages of infection.” An earlier study conducted by the University of Leuven in Belgium noticed nitric oxide inhibited SARS coronavirus cell infection in vitro.
The best source for increasing our body’s nitric oxide levels is through foods. Beets are particularly effective and can boost NO levels within 45 minutes. Other excellent NO sources are dark chocolate, rhubarb (which has the highest levels of nitrates), leafy greens, pomegranate and foods high in Vitamin C.
Many of us are already aware that zinc supplements can ward off and reduce the onset of colds and flu-like symptoms. According to a Cochrane Database mega-analysis of zinc’s potential to reduce the length and severity of non-influenza flu-like colds, the scientific evidence is quite conclusive to support zinc’s effectiveness. In addition, many of these studies show strong low risk of bias, which supports their legitimacy. A 2010 in vitro study by scientists at Leiden University’s Center for Infectious Diseases in The Netherlands, concluded that zinc will block the replication of coronvirus and arterivirus. Another study published in the prestigious journal The Lancet by researchers at University College London, recommended that zinc formulas be used alongside conventional anti-viral drug therapies that specifically target COVID-19, thereby acknowledging zinc’s antiviral properties.
Oxidative stress is a well known pathway for microbial infections such as viruses and bacterial pneumonia, especially in the lungs. When the lungs are subject to serious oxidative stress, there is an increase in inflammatory cytokines that play a role in different respiratory infections including influenza, coronavirus, echovirus, adenovirus, coxsackie virus and others. Therefore, certain antioxidants can alleviate lung damage due to oxidative stress.
Nanoparticle or colloidal silver has been studied extensively for its anti-bacterial properties but less so for infectious viruses. Most studies for silver’s antiviral activities have focused on HIV-1, Hepatitis B, herpesvirus and respiratory syncytial virus or RSV.
In a 2005 issue of the Journal of Nanotechnology, the University of Texas and Mexico University observed that silver nanoparticles could kill HIV-1 within 3 hours, and they suspected that this may be true for many other viruses as well. However, this conclusion may be too premature and more research is necessary. There are studies showing silver’s efficacy against respiratory viruses. One large study by Japan’s National Defense Medical College Research Institute, published in the Journal of Molecular Sciences, recommended that Japanese healthcare workers take nanosilver to protect them from viruses including coronavirus. Then a joint study by Deakin University in Australia and Osaka University in Japan found that colloidal silver significantly protected cells from H3N2 flu infection and prevented viral growth in the lungs
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), coronaviral infections belong to a specific epidemic disease category. Astragulus is not only a very popular plant used in TCM, but it is also one of the most researched and promising botanical plants shown to have antiviral properties. In both TCM and Ayruveda medicinal formulas astrugulus has been prescribed for centuries because of its effectiveness against infections and over-stressed respiratory conditions. Compounds, notably saponins, found in astragulus have been well researched and found to hinder influenza proliferation. The US Department of Agriculture’s Avian Disease and Oncology Laboratory found it inhibits avian flu viruses.
Jinlin Academy of Agricultural Sciences in China conducted a study published in the journal Microbiological Pathology that concluded
“Astragulus exhibits antiviral properties that can treat infectious bronchitis caused by [avian] coronavirus”
A month ago, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine completed an analysis of previous research looking at the benefits of Chinese herbal formulas against the SARS coronavirus and H1N1 flu (swine flu). In 3 studies, among participants who took formulas against SARS, none contracted the illness. Nor did any contract H1N1 influenza in four additional studies. A primary ingredient in these formulas’ was astragulus. Earlier in February, researchers at Beijing Children’s Hospital at the Capital Medical University provided a thorough overview of recommended diagnostic procedures and treatments for specific symptoms witnessed in the current Covid19 infections that included both allopathic and traditional Chinese medicine. In cases where there are signs of severe weakness and stress observed in the lungs and spleen, a formula called Liu Jun Zi is being prescribed, which includes astragulus, skullcap and ginseng as the primary botanicals.
Licorice Root (Glycyrrhizin Acid)
In traditional medicine licorice root has been used to relieve and treat ulcers, sore throats, bronchitis, coughs, adrenal insufficiencies and allergic diseases. Licorice’s main antiviral compounds are known as glycyrrhizins (GL).
Japan’s National Institute of Infectious Disease reported GL’s effectiveness against coronavirus and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) as well as Epstein Barr virus and human cytomegalovirus. After the deadly SARS outbreak in 2012, virologists at Frankfurt University Medical School investigated several antiviral compounds to treat patients admitted with SARS coronavirus infections. Of all the compounds tested, licorice’s GL was the most effective. The scientists concluded that “Our findings suggest that glycyrrhizin should be assessed for treatment of SARS.” The above research was later replicated at Sun Yat Sen University in China and published in the Chinese journal Bing Du Xue Bao. The researchers identified several derivatives of glycyrrhizin as primary molecules with antiviral properties. In addition to being effective against the SARS coronavirus, they also found it may be effective against herpes, HIV, hepatitis and influenza.
Earlier in 2005, a team of scientists from Goethe University in Germany and the Russian Academy of Sciences had already identified the antiviral activity of GL against SARS coronavirus. The molecule showed a ten-fold increase in anti-SARS activity compared to other potential treatments tested. One conjugate of GL had a 70-fold increase. That study was published in the Journal of Medical Chemistry. During that same year, the Chinese Academy of Sciences screened over 200 botanical plants used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to find those with the strong potency SARS coronavirus. Four botanicals stood out. One of the four was licorice’s glycyrrhizin.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
Elderberry has become a popular supplement for relieving symptoms of the common cold and flu infections. It is found worldwide and is part of many of the world’s indigenous pharmacopias. There are many species of elderberry; the species Sambucus nigra seemingly has been shown to have the most medicinal qualities. When purchasing Elderberry or Sambucus, it is recommended to note it is Sambucus nigra. It is better to use a prepared formula rather than try to make it on your own from fresh berries and flowers. Elderberries contain cyangenic glycosides that can be poisonous and cause nausea, vomiting, cramps, diarrhea and weakness.
Most research has focused on elderberry’s therapeutic value against influenza. However, there is also research showing elderberry’s positive impact on coronavirus infections. In 2014, researchers at Emory University noted that elderberry extract inhibited coronavirus virility at the point of infection. The scientists hypothesized that elderberry rendered the virus non infectious. One of the better studies came out of National Sun Yat Sen University and the China Medical University Hospital in Taiwan in 2019. The researchers used an ethanol extract of Sambucus stem (not the berry) and observed its potential against coronavirus strain NL63
A systematic review of the existing research before 2011 by the University of British Columbia and published in the journal Pharmaceuticals, concluded:
“all strains of human and avian influenza viruses tested (including a Tamiflu-resistant strain), as well as herpes simplex virus, respiratory syncytial virus, and rhinoviruses, were very sensitive to a standardized Echinacea purpurea preparation”
Echinicea does present limitations depending upon the severity of an infection. Once a cold caused by any one of the various cold viruses, including coronavirus, more deeply infects the bronchia and the lower lung, echinacea does not appear to be helpful. It is more effective with upper respiratory tract infections. One of the largest placebo double blind studies on echinacea was conducted by Cardifff University in the UK. The study followed participants for four months and confirmed the safety of long term echinacea supplementation. It also observed a statistically significant decrease in cold episodes in the echinacea group.
As a piece of consumer advice, a Cornell University study looked at the medicinal properties throughout different parts of the echinicea plant: leaves, stems, bark, roots, etc. The scientists noted that only echinacea extracts that contain the root showed significant antiviral properties. Echinacea appears to modify the clinical course of flu-like respiratory infection by acting upon IL-8, IL-10 and IFN cytokine activity beneficially.
Oleuropein (OLE) is the most important biomolecule in the olive tree that contributes to its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-atherogenic, anti-cancer, antimicrobial and antiviral activities and effects. One advantage of olive leaf is that it is highly bioavailable to the body’s cells.
There are almost 10,000 studies in the National Institutes of Health literature database referring to OLE, olive leaf, and olive oil, most with respect to its strong antioxidant and anticancer properties. There are only a few studies showing olive leaf’s effectiveness against respiratory viruses. One randomized trial performed by the University of Auckland in New Zealand suggests olive leaf can contribute to treating respiratory illnesses, including coronavirus. A 2001 study out of the University of Hong Kong identified 6 separate antiviral agents in olive that were effective against parainfluenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
OLE may possess notable anti-viral properties. The current Covid19 pandemic utilizes the host cell’s ACE2 receptor. This same receptor is also activated in HIV infections. This is one reason why patients infected with this new coronavirus strain are being prescribed HIV drugs. Therefore might olive leaf extract contribute to the treatment for this new coronavirus strain?
Oregano possesses a compound called carvacrol that has been shown to be antiviral. Although it has been tested on several influenza and flu-like respiratory viruses, it does not appear to have been tested against coronavirus.
Soochow University in China and the University of Oklahoma published a study in the BMC Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine focusing on oregano’s antiviral properties against influenza viruses. Although oregano did not kill the virus it nevertheless inhibited the virus’ ability to translate proteins responsible for the viral binding to cells. A 2010 randomized double blind study study published in Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine suggested oregano was beneficial as a throat spray and showed significant and immediate improvement of upper respiratory infectious ailments.
University of Arizona published a paper in the Journal of Applied Microbiology investigating oregano’s antiviral properties when used as a sanitizer. The study focused on one flu-like virus, novovirus. If sprayed on surfaces, carvacrol will kill the virus within 15 minutes of exposure. The most recent research into Covid19’s surface life — living outside of an animal host — is 9 days.
Yes, we should be concerned about the coronavirus’ high infectious rate. At the moment, the primary solutions being sought to handle the crisis is to spend billions of dollars to develop an effective vaccine and an accurate diagnostic kit. Additionally, according to a study out of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health, the incubation period is estimated at 5.1 days for being infected and capable of infecting others without displaying symptoms. But there is no mention in the medical community nor the mainstream media about what we can do to strengthen our immune system.
Yes, a high quality 99% barrier mask is important, especially if worn in a crowded environment. Repeated washing of our hands for a full minute with soap water. Rub surfaces with alcohol at home and work and allow it to sit for 30 seconds. Likewise, wipe down door handles and telephone receivers. Quarantining people who have been exposed is important until they test negative. Closing schools is prudent. And if a vaccine is eventually developed and shown to be safe and effective that is another recourse. However none of the above protects the immune system in the event of coming into contact with the virus. We believe that the recommended natural solutions shared above, since it is supported in the peer reviewed scientific literature, is something everyone can do. Besides, it is safe and not expensive. Therefore these natural solutions too should be considered as a viable and effective recourse to lessen this pandemic’s fatal effects.
Although supplementing our diets and strengthening our immune systems at this time is especially important, we must not neglect our physical health and mind. Beside having the opportunity to transition to a healthy plant based diet, increasing our exercise is crucial and taking time to meditate. To return to maximal health, exercise for a minimum of 2 and half hours per week, and meditate 30 minutes daily to de-stress. It can also be an opportunity to experiment with intermittent fasts, such as not eating for a 12 hour span between dinner and breakfast. All of these suggestions are supported in the peer-reviewed medical literature. This is not folk medicine or social gossip.
One immediate hard lesson we are learning is that the US government has no noteworthy competence in dealing with national health crises. We are only good at pouring money into the personal coffers of elites who are content to capitalize on disasters. If the tiny virus is David, certainly the cumbersomeness and America’s huge bureaucracy is Goliath. If progressive voices are unable to leverage themselves to change the face our civilization for a potentially sustainable future, maybe the tiny COVID-19 will be doing it for us.