UNDERSTANDING CORONAVIRUS –
Coronaviruses (CoVs) are a large family of enveloped RNA viruses that primarily target the human respiratory system with illness ranging from common cold to fatal death. They are highly infectious and cause worldwide epidemic. Previous outbreaks of coronaviruses include Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SARS-CoV), which was first reported in Guangdong province of China in 2002 and disappeared in 2004, and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV), which was first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and still remains in circulation in camels. The most recently discovered coronavirus (December 2019) causes the infectious disease COVID-19. This new Coronavirus (nCoV), reported from Wuhan City of China, has not been previously identified in humans.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic in origin with their reservoirs in mammals and birds. They are transmitted amongst animals including humans. Several known CoVs are circulating in animals that have not yet infected humans. The CoVs already identified could be the tip of the iceberg, with potentially more new viruses yet to be revealed.
Person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 occurs primarily via direct contact or through droplet infection. Foecal transmission is doubtful but cannot be ruled out. Recommended precautions to prevent the spread include regular hand wash, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thorough cooking of meat and eggs and avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.
INCUBATION PERIOD –
1 – 14 days. Most commonly 5 days.
Symptoms range from mild to severe illness and death. They begin gradually and are usually mild. Older people, and those with underlying medical conditions like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness. Lungs are the main organs affected by COVID-19 causing pneumonia and severe acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). Pneumonia and ARDS clog the airway leading to less circulation of oxygen. This lack of circulating oxygen affects rest of the organs including stomach, intestines, heart, liver and kidneys leading to death.
Range of Symptoms is –
Fever, fatigue, cough, body ache, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, headache, haemoptysis, shortness of breath, diarrhoea and signs of organ failure.
At present, there are no specific antiviral drugs or vaccine against COVID-19 infection. The available options are broad-spectrum antivirals, inhalers and steroids. Treatment includes supplementing oxygen through mechanical ventilation, symptomatically supporting the patient and allowing the immune system to heal the body.
ROLE OF IMMUNITY –
Immunity is the body’s built-in line of defence against foreign invasions. This defence mechanism becomes active on locating any infection or invading cells (antigens) in the body.. It then produces antibodies to fight against those antigens. The damage to the body is not always directly caused by infection. It can also be a result of body’s response to infection.Stronger the immune system, greater is the body’s strength to fight infections. A weak immune system permits faster progression of viral infection and higher mortality rates, particularly in older individuals.
ROLE OF AYURVEDA –
Ayurveda has a varied role in containing the fatality of coronavirus outbreak. Consciousness based understanding of Ayurveda reveals human body as a network of intelligence, which can influence health through the food we ingest, the emotions we experience and the sensory input we are exposed to. Application of the depth of this aspect, along with the active treatment of infection, accelerates the healing process. Additionally, the healing process cannot afford to ignore the significance of herbs as the latter potentiates to balance both physical and physiological defence mechanism that restores the impaired functions of body, hence boosting immune response.
REPORT STUDY: Role of herbs can be exemplified by a well-controlled clinical study in 2002 on Ginseng (Panax Ginseng), an ancient Chinese herb (TCM). It was noted that patients with COPD taking Ginseng experienced significant improvements in breathing and the ability to perform exercise compared to similar patients who received an inactive treatment. Another study examined the effects of a combination therapy, which included Ginseng and other Asian traditional healing herbs, versus no treatment at all. In this Chinese study, patients taking the Ginseng-based herbal blend experienced significant improvements in all measures of lung function, compared to subjects who received no treatment. The authors concluded that compared to no treatment, or treatment with standard medications alone, Ginseng offered some additional improvement in quality of life and lung function.
As the range of symptoms of COVID-19 is large, it becomes difficult to pinpoint a single herb or a group of herbs for treatment. But depending on the signs and symptoms, Ayurveda provides a diverse range of herbs and herbal formulations which can act centrally as immuno-modulators, adaptogens, anti-oxidants, anti-inflammatories, analgesics, anabolics and rejuvenators, as per the requisite. Besides this, there are precise and systematic classifications of herbs that can act locally on different systems of the body that require medication. The mode of functioning of herbs is described with utmost clarity in Ayurveda under the classifications of specific systems like respiratory, cardiac, gastrointestinal, endocrine, liver and renal.
Stick to the basics –
Apply the principle of Ayurveda – Prevention of disease, Promotion of Health and its Preservation. For this, simplify the diet and keep the bowels clear. Take all preventive and hygienic measures to cut down the spread of infection. Don’t panic. As per WHO, most people (about 80%) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Reduce over-thinking and worrying. Stress precipitates the infection and reduces body’s ability to cope with infection. Rest your body and mind. Sleep enhances immunity and reduces oxidative stress.
Some commonly used herbs –
Zingiber officinalis (ginger), Coriandrum sativum (coriander), Foeniculum vulgare (fennel), Piper longum (long pepper) increase metabolic rate and ease digestion.
Fatigue – Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera), Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), Draksha (Vitis vinifera), Bala (Sida cardifolia)
Detoxificants – Aloe Vera, Neem (Azadirachta indica), Turmeric (Curcuma longa), Amalki (Embellica officinalis)
Anti inflammatory – Moringa Olifera (Moringa), Aegle Marmelos (Bilva), Embelica officinalis (Amla), Ocimum sanctum (Tulasi), Tinospora cardifolia (Giloya),Glycerrhiza glabra (Mulethi), Piccorhiza kurroa (Katuki), Boerhavia diffusa (Punarnava).
It is not that simple.
Self-medication, even in the intake of herbs, can be detrimental. Dr. James Cherry, a research professor of pediatrics in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, says –
“While this immune response can rid the body of the infection, it can also sometimes cause collateral damage in the body. Due to intense inflammatory response, sometimes called a “cytokine storm.” The immune cells produce cytokines to fight infection, but if too many are released, it can cause problems in the body. Children have a less severe illness than adults during other kinds of infections. This may be because children have a “straightforward immune response,” whereas older people can sometimes have an “over-response.” It’s this excess immune response that causes some of the damage during infections.”
Thus a strict monitoring of all the stages of infection, the symptoms, the laboratory investigations and the effects of medication is essential, and this must be under the supervision of respective physicians.