My Plan A Response to the Coronavirus

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and, (for most) the sense that life is weird, many are anxiously wondering whether they or their loved ones will catch this virus. Governments are bleeding red ink (about a generation’s worth!). Many are out of work, especially smaller businesses are failing, the economy is in deep trouble, and nobody knows when, or even whether, we will ever return to “normal.”

We can passively wait around and hope that a vaccine will save the day (maybe, but it might take more than a year, and, as do all pharmaceuticals, it will have side-effects ). Or we can empower ourselves by building up our body’s natural immune system. 
This novel coronavirus has not been the first, nor the last, that will spread through the population. Can we afford to shut down whole societies in an effort to defeat them, or will we instead arm ourselves and thus enjoy healthier, longer, lives -viruses or not?
As it turns out worrying or stressing is hard on our immune systems. Wouldn’t it be better to be empowered and feel safer?
People who suffer from chronic diseases (lung conditions such as COPD, diabetes, hypertension, heart issues, or an autoimmune illness) usually have poorer immune systems. This is likely why these and smokers, others who are immune suppressed or who are overweight are particularly susceptible to the coronavirus and other viruses such as the cold and seasonal flu. These are the people who especially need to avoid public contact and take the best care of themselves.
Obviously the precautionary approach of avoiding getting infected through frequent hand-washing (and moisturizing to keep bugs from getting past your skin!), and physical distancing are the most important. But if this, or any other virus, gets to you what kind of defense do you have?
Our natural immunity.
Ideally we would have been taking steps to create a robust immunity over the last few years. Like developing muscles, building a healthy immune system takes time and effort. Enjoying more of a peace of mind, feeling better, functioning better, and avoiding having to miss out on life makes this effort worth-while!
      There are a number of ways to enjoy a stronger immune system. Many of these have an more immediate effect by reducing our stress levels, automatically increases our immune power:      
  1. Drinking enough liquids, such as water infused with some lemon. Refreshing, and good for you!
  2. Exercise and fresh air (preferably both); without these our bodies begin to fall apart
  3. Sleep, especially the hours between 10 - 2, receiving at least 7 or 8 hours per night on a regular routine, allows our immune system, brain and body functioning to work correctly
  4. Ensuring enough micronutrient absorption (see below)
  5. Laughter and fun!
  6. Meditation, mindfulness, prayer
  7. Singing and dancing -both stimulate our entire brain. Even listening to music appears to boost not only our mood but also our immune system!
  8. Write a gratitude journal.
  9. Social yet safe contact, a sense of belonging
  10. Contribute to the betterment of others and our amazing world in whatever way you can

Our bodies contain billions of bacteria necessary for life. Probiotics (composed of bacteria and yeasts) are very important for our gut health. Since most of our immune system exists in our guts it is extremely important that we take care of them through helpful diets (see below). We also gain beneficial bacteria directly from nature, which is why we need to spend time outdoors. Getting our hands and/or feet into live soils, and spending time with trees and being close to the ocean, can confer valuable health benefits for our bodies. "Soil microbes help regulate our emotions and immune response. And they also play a key role in determining the nutrient content of our food," wrote the Washington Post.
There is clear evidence in the scientific community of our body’s need for micronutrients. This should surprise no-one as all of us need fuel in order to function -not only starches and proteins, but a myriad of nutrients. Micronutrients are essential to the immune system to kill viruses and other disease agents. In terms of viruses, such as the common cold and the seasonal flu, the research (such as is shown here and here) highlights the importance of having enough of these in our diets and/or supplementation:
  • vitamins A, B, C, D3, & E
  • zinc & selenium
  • iron
  • green tea (or extract; provides important compounds such as EGCG)
  • three amino acids in particular: Two are L-Lysine and N-acetylcysteine (NAC) -amazing amino acids for a variety of reasons, including virus destruction and clearing out of mucus in our passageways.  Both of these are found in bone broths (see below). One amino acid that is very important in terms of helping us to absorb nutrients (hence be healthy) is L-glutamine. It fuels the small intestinal cells and lymphocytes, a primary immune cell. A variety of amino acids do support our immune systems.
Vitamin C is likely the most crucial vitamin in our bodies when it comes to being healthy -in part because it is an antioxidant. It cleans up oxidants before they injure us. Monocytes, key to our immune response, have high amounts of vitamin C. Antioxidant (vitamin C & others) foods include citrus fruits, broccoli, peppers, berries, kiwi fruit, tomatoes, cauliflower and mango. (As well, a powerful antioxidant found in citrus fruits called quercitin stops some viruses by preventing them from replicating and spreading.)
Want to know more about this important vitamin? Vitamin C has many other health benefits: it helps to detox & bind heavy metals, it serves as a fuel source for white blood cells, acts as a natural anti-histamine (think allergies), acts as a binding agent, helps to produce bile to digest fats such as vitamin A, D, E, K and omega-3 fatty acids. Vitamin C also plays a role in collagen formation, which is one of the proteins our immune system needs to make antibodies.
There are a number of forms of vitamin C, too, so eating a variety of foods is important.
I highly recommend consuming bone broths, not only for the amino acids, but because a compound they contain known as mucopolysaccharides increases the function B and T cells, two of our body’s most important immune system cells. (Wrenshall L, et al. “Modulation of macrophage and B cell function by glycosaminoglycans.” J Leukoc Biol. 1999;66(3):391-400)
Most of us frequently lack enough vitamin D3, the “sunshine” vitamin. This is almost certainly one supplement that has to be taken in the darker months of the year, although this vitamin is found in tuna, mackerel, and especially salmon, plus beef liver, mushrooms (maitake and portobello), cheese and egg yokes in smaller amounts. It appears that vitamin D also modulates our immune system so that it does not over-react, potentially killing the person. The death rate in different countries correlates rather astonishingly well with the lack or abundance of vitamin D in those populations. See more about this on the Weather Network's post and a more in-depth discussion on this subject here.
Many of us lack enough zinc, potentially reducing our sleep and immune function. I love pumpkin seeds, just one source of this essential mineral. Other sources are shell-fish, legumes such as lentils, chickpeas and beans, hemp and sesame seeds, nuts , cheese and the occasional bite of dark chocolate.
Avoid mega-dosing on supplements: this can be harmful and is usually a waste of money.
Omega-3 fats from grass-raised animals, fish such as sardines and wild-caught salmon, plus plant-based omega-3's, such as walnuts, flax, chia, & hemp seeds, plus seaweed and algae, activate our immune response and relieve inflammation. Turning down excess inflammation helps prevent a runaway immune response, one cause of death from viral infections. It is plausible that people who have sufficient levels of this amino acid and/or vitamin D, both of which appear to modulate our immune systems, are less likely to die from Covid-19.
Eating a healthy diet of organic foods (especially avoiding the “dirty dozen” of highly sprayed foods) often provide a higher amount of nutrients, especially when it comes to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO foods) such as corn. Do eat a variety of colourful fresh fruits and vegetables. Ideally these will occupy about half of your total food intake. Foods, especially organically grown, offer us the best sources of what our bodies need. Take a look at some of the more important such foods listed on this site.
The controversial Dr.Rath believes that the coronavirus is hitting some areas harder than others due to a reduced consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables -which is more common for poorer people and metropolitan folk, especially in the United States. I add that a lack of contact with healthy soils and nature are also likely contributing. Dr. Rath and others believe that seniors particularly need supplements, as our digestive systems do not absorb as many nutrients. Again, if you are supplementing your vitamin and mineral intake, I want to strongly encourage using plant-based sources. They are more expensive -but peeing out the non-planted based vitamins is hardly worth our effort.
(This new (and now best-selling) book called "Regenerate" appears to take the same healthy and empowering approach to our health, empowering us to be in our own "driver's seat." Sayer Ji writes, "You are the one who gets to make informed decisions on how you use and nourish the evolutionary miracle that is your body.")

It is vitally important that all avoid eating “junk” food -foods or drinks that contain sugar, table salt, and/or bad fats. In order to digest sugar our bodies give up nutrients -the very thing we need to fight diseases. Red meat needs to be limited for a variety of reasons. Just 1 serving a week is usually plenty. Processed foods especially need to be avoided as consuming these are linked to disease and early death.
Other things place a load on our immune system. These include stress (some of which we can control by using the methods above), smoking, drinking, vaping, exposure to toxic moulds and other indoor air quality issues. Try to air out your home at least once a day or install a Heat Recovery Ventilator (HRV) or, as a second choice, use a high quality air filter/purifier. Outdoor air is often healthier than is indoor air. You might also consider diffusing authentic essential oils as recommended on this site:
So, if you are worried about getting the coronavirus, do eat well and take care of your body, soul and social connections. Doing so may not prevent you from getting sick, but not doing so will open you up for whatever viruses or other diseases that come along, potentially shortening your life.
Got sick?
If you get sick with the coronavirus, do not use anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, as doing so may worsen your condition (inflammation is part of the body’s defense system). If you are becoming seriously ill then ask your health practitioner to immediately begin administering intravenous vitamin C, perhaps including hydrocortisone and thiamin. There is enough anecdotal evidence suggesting that vitamin C works. It is, however, not (yet) a proven remedy. Convincingly, vitamin C has been shown to be effective against other viruses. As cited at "Vitamin C can truthfully be designated as the antitoxic and antiviral vitamin."  (Claus W. Jungeblut, M.D., Professor, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons). That’s enough evidence for me.
While it is not known whether consuming any form of medicinal plants can defeat the coronavirus, it may be wise to do so anyway.
Nature provides many of the active ingredients found in pharmaceutical drugs because nature safely provides solutions to new and old health issues -without “side-effects.”
Here are plants that are reputed to have natural immune-building benefits (there are many; see others below):
·         Echinacea herb
·         Garlic
·         Ginger
·         Ginseng
·          Reishi
 Raw honey (not homogenized)
Plant-based supplements that are known to boost our immune system include cat’s claw, saw palmetto, and echinacea to stimulate our immune response macrophages, fighter NK-cells and T-cells.
I regularly eat a number of the foods listed above.


After I published this blog a well-versed women suggested I add something about these amazing fungi. She suggested we take a look at this website that lists the medicinal mushrooms that have been used around the world for thousands of years.  To quote the site: "Modern research has shown that medical mushrooms provide a rich source of nutrients and bioactive compounds that are associated with several health effects, including supporting the immune system." (bold font added) The article lists several such mushrooms, including Lions Mane, Oyster, Reishi, and Shiitake mushrooms. Elsewhere I have also seen reference to the Chaga mushroom and its antiviral and anti-inflammatory actions.

Plants containing antiviral properties

Another line of defense or for healing is to help the body kill the virus more directly, by employing plants and plant "essential" oils that are known to be anti-viral.

Here are plants/essential oils (if authentic) that are anti-viral. The list is long so I am naming the ones that are evidently the strongest agents against viruses in general. Using a variety of these is better against an unknown virus, as the research on plants and the coronavirus has not been done (I believe this is where national governments around the world should be investing at least some of our money as doing might save thousands of lives).  A combination of essential oils (which are more powerful than straight foods) is better.  But for those having difficulty breathing leaning over some steaming hot water containing ground ginger has evidently helped a lot of people suffering from other viruses (which includes the common cold) and breathe better.
In alphabetical order I recommend the following authentic essential oils: Clove, eucalyptus, ginger, hyssop, tea tree (melaleuca), melissa, mountain savory, myrrh, oregano, Ravensara, rosewood, sage, tarragon, Idaho tansy and manuka (as in the honey; the oil is taken from the actual flowers of the manuka bush). 
I want to especially mention Ravensara. It is perhaps the strongest of the antivirals; Young Living makes a blend called Raven© that contains plenty of Ravensara and other plant oils that are reputed to aid breathing.
Many of the above oils and plants have also been shown to be anti-bacterial, especially when combined with other plants or oils. 
If one is having difficulty with coughing or breathing, and only has foods on hand, some of the combinations that can be thrown into the pot of boiling or steamy water and inhale include:
  • clove with basil ginger and spearmint
  • oregano with basil or thyme
Either of these can include the addition of manuka honey; else add the honey to any hot tea and drink it. As mentioned above, black tea may be the best if you can tolerate the caffeine in it and avoid drinking it later in the day or in the evening.
The Steam Method
Curious about steaming one or more plants? Here’s the steamy pot method: Place a towel over the person’s head and draped over the pot (AFTER removing it from the source of heat,) with the person facing head down toward the heated water. The person must be careful not to burn themselves! A variety of temperatures and strength of the plant contents will need to be experimented so that the person does not feel overwhelmed. Some people, too, like some spices such as ginger more than do others!
Most "essential oils" are not authentic, even when the label says “pure” (a meaningless term in the retail sector). Even health food stores often sell poor grade oils.
I firmly believe that the people who utilize available resources are likely to do better in life. Practicing deeper breathing, for example, often helps to calm people down, thus improving one’s immune system response and makes for a better life. We can choose to eat and live better, including getting enough sleep, exercise and fresh air. These decisions are in our own hands.
We can be passive victims, powerless to do anything to respond to this pandemic, or we can empower ourselves by taking action. By deciding to do all that you can for yourself and others you will likely reduce at least some of your anxiety while boosting your physical, emotional, spiritual and relational health.

Ian Gartshore is a researcher, counselling therapist, and health coach. He lives in Nanaimo, B.C.


  1. I agree with your article. Being a passive victim is not my strong suit. About the vitamin d, I have observed a pattern with COVID. The people at most risk are diabetics,auto-immunes disorders and dark skinned people. One common denominator is likely deficient in Vitamin D. The recommended Canadian blood concentration is 20-50 ng/ml (USA 30-70 ng/no). More than 80% of us don’t even make the minimum. I would suggest about 45 ng/ml for best immunity. This does require a blood test and will cost about $65.00. For your protection, you have to know your level. Vitamin K2 is recommended with vitamin D supplementation.


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