Coronavirus: Herbal Prevention and Treatment


Anyone who’s heard tales from grandparents or great-grandparents who lived during the 1918 flu pandemic will understand the world’s great concern about the new coronavirus. The 1918 flu killed at least 50 million people worldwide, while 500 million (roughly one third of the world’s population then) became infected with that H1N1 virus.[1] Because the new coronavirus is so unknown and has spread abroad with many deaths, the World Health Organization (WHO) has already categorized it as a pandemic, meaning it’s spreading throughout the world. In fact, many world airlines recently cancelled flights to China as a result and airports are doing careful screening.

Some reports state this new virus is not of great concern, while others spin sensational stories. What are we to believe? As of the end of January 2020, the death toll was 106. By Tuesday after, it totaled more than 420. Today, China reported that the virus had claimed over 1,000. That’s a steep and quick rise. According to WHO, China reported 20,438 cases, roughly 15,000 more than during the SARS outbreak.[2] Of course by the time you read this blog, these numbers will be even higher. I know one herbalist who lives in Beijing and he can’t even go to his office!

What is the current coronavirus?

The virus started in Wuhan, China, at a poultry and seafood market that also sells exotic animals. It’s the interspecies transmission from horseshoe bats there that seem to be the source. According to the CDC, there is no known treatment yet, i.e. vaccine, for this particular 2019 nCoV infection. Rather, safety precautions are recommended for avoiding it.[3]

According to WebMD, “A coronavirus is a kind of common virus that causes an infection in your nose, sinuses, or upper throat. Most coronaviruses are not dangerous.”[4] Yet, some can be serious such as the 2003 SARS affecting 26 countries plus the 2012 MERS in the Middle East and 2015 in Korea.

What is particularly difficult about the 2019 nCoV is that it has a long incubation period of 10-14 days, so someone can be a carrier without even them or you knowing it. Also, the symptoms can vary from none at all to those of a regular cold or flu, or middle ear infection in children. In fact, some people who have died didn’t even have fevers.

It is transmitted through droplets from sneezing, coughing, wiping one’s face, touching an infected person’s hands or face, doorknobs, and similar means so it can easily be in the air around you. It especially affects the young, elderly and those with lowered immunity. As of Feb. 5, there were six cases in California, the most of any state. So it’s not widely spread in the U.S. at this point.

What can you do to prevent getting the Coronavirus? Following are several ways.

Prevention Strategies

The first line of defense is, of course, such prevention techniques as these: wash your hands, sneeze into your elbow (rather than hands), stay home from school or work as necessary (particularly if experiencing lowered immunity), wear a mask, and follow other cold/flu prevention methods. Wearing a mask may seem a last choice, but when in Japan recently where people commonly wear masks both to protect other people as well as to protect oneself, I found it routine and commonsense. If more people wore masks, there’d be far fewer colds and flu making their annual rounds so people wouldn’t miss weeks of their lives not to mention feel miserable the entire time.

Start your “Spring cleaning” now. By this I mean cleanse your liver. It is the liver time of year after all, and liver cleansing helps clear toxins from the body. Dandelion and chicory are easily available herbs that can facilitate liver detoxification. As well, avoid these liver-congesting substances: caffeine, alcohol, nuts, avocado, and fried and fatty foods.

Herbal Protection

First of all, take an immunity booster every day such as reishi mushroom, the ultimate immune tonic. Reishi also has powerful anti-inflammatory effects not to mention it’s a rejuvenative to the lungs. It can also be combined with such herbs as astragalus and lycii (goji berries) to create a standard immune tonic.

Also, add in one of the following two main approaches for herbal protection. Both are quite effective. I’m known people who have successfully broken their “annual getting sick routine” simply by following them. The two approaches revolve around being a person with too much heat or too much cold. First determine which you tend toward the then follow the recommendations under that list. Here are the signs of both:

                           HEAT SIGNS
                           COLD SIGNS
Thirst No thirst
Dark yellow/red scanty urination Clear, copious and frequent urination
Craving for cold; dislike of heat Craving for heat, dislike of cold
Yellow, sticky, thick and hot-feeling discharges, excretions & secretions Clear, runny, copious discharges, excretions and secretions
Blood in any discharges Poor circulation, Cold extremities
Burning sensations Dull achy pains
Infections, inflammations Low blood pressure
Dryness Internally or Externally Dampness Internally or Externally
Red face, eyes Pale face, lips, nails
Sweats easily No sweating
Constipation Diarrhea, loose stools
Irritability, hyperactive, aggressive Depressed, hypoactive, quiet
Fever Chills
Insomnia, restless, dream-filled sleep Slow, sleeps a lot
Strong appetite Poor appetite
Red tongue body; yellow coated Pale tongue body; moist or white coated
Fast pulse Slow, deep pulse


Deficient, cold: If this applies to you, you’ll experience coldness and weakness with such possible symptoms as copious, clear urination; white, copious or runny discharges; pale, frigid appearance; cold limbs; lassitude; fatigue; edema; loose stools or diarrhea; night-time urination; infertility; faint odors; impotence; low libido; and undigested food in the stools.

If this fits you, take Jade Screen (Yu Ping Feng). This formula consists of astragalus (huang qi), ledebouriella (fang feng) and white atractylodes (bai zhu). In Chinese patent form, take 8 pills 1-2 times daily. To read more about the powerful protective uses of this formula and its variations, read Subhuti Dharmananda’s article on it.[5]

Michael’s variation of Jade Screen: Osha was used in the 1918 flu pandemic. Use it in place of ledebouriella. Add some black atractylodes (cang zhu) along with the white bai zhu. Keep astragalus. Add mugwort (ai ye) (Hme Chi Yeung says to use black atractylodes and mugwort for flu and bronchitis and the carminative citrus peel (chen pi) to support the spleen.


Excess heat: If this applies to you, you’ll experience heat with adequate energy and such possible symptoms as high fever, thirst, red face, aversion to heat, restlessness, irritability, burning sensations, red eyes, scanty dark urine, yellow discharges and strong odors.

Take Yin Qiao formula (Honeysuckle and Forsythia Combination). It contains:

  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera) flower. • Jin Yin Hua (17%)
  • Forsythia fruit • Lian Qiao (17%)
  • Platycodon root • Jie Geng (10.1%)
  • Burdock seed • Niu Bang Zi (10.2%)
  • Soybean prepared • Dan Dou Chi (8.5%)
  • Phragmitis rhizome • Xian Lu Gen (8.5%)
  • Licorice raw root • Gan Cao (8.5%)
  • Bamboo leaf • Dan Zhu Ye (6.7%)
  • Schizonepeta herb • Jing Jie (6.7%)
  • Mint herb • Bo He (6.7%)

Take 1 cup 1-2 times daily, or follow the patent dosage.

Planetary Herbals has two Yin Qiao formulas: Yin Chiao Classic, which is the traditional formula above, and Yin Chiao-Echinacea Complex, which adds to the classic formula notopterygium, echinacea, horehound, boneset, elecampane, and isatis. As well, there’s Liver Defense, based on the traditional Minor Bupleurum Combination (Xiao Chai Hu tang) with astragalus, milk thistle and schizandra added.

Combination of heat and deficiency: If this applies to you, you’ll experience heat and weakness with such possible symptoms as night sweats, malar flush (redness and burning heat along the cheeks and nose), burning sensation in the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and in the chest, afternoon fever or feelings of heat, restless sleep, dry throat or thirst at night, agitation, mental restlessness, dry cough, dry stools, and scanty dark urine.

Take: Jade Screen but add either ophiopogon (mai men dong) or marshmallow root.

Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) may well be the strongest single herb growing on the North American continent against influenza. It was widely used by Native American and adopted for use by the Eclectics as the primary herbal remedy against influenza and many other communicable diseases including pneumonia, coughs, bronchitis, and measles. It was the major remedy used with considerable success for the 1918 influenza pandemic.  It can be used both as treatment and in small doses prophylactically for prevention. Herbalist David Hoffman says, “Boneset is perhaps the best remedy for influenza,” and Simon Mills says “Boneset provides an excellent diffusion of heat out of the body, particularly useful for respiratory sources of fever, such as influenza and for catarrhal conditions generally.”[i]

One thing to consider, whether it is better to take your chances with influenza or briefly endure the intensely bitter flavor of boneset. All things considered, I think the bitterness as well as the bitterness of andrographis is one reason why it is so effective. If you can’t stomach the tincture, I suggest taking it powdered in capsules.

Herbal treatment for coronavirus infection

Regardless of whether you are cold, hot, deficient or excess, the coronavirus creates a condition has been determined by Chinese practitioners as one of damp-heat and toxins. How is this treated?

First and foremost, take antiviral herbs. There are plenty of them but the highly effective formula I recommend is Chuan Xin Lian comprised of andrographis, dandelion and isatis. This formula clears heat, expels toxic-heat and cools the blood. Planetary Herbals has this formula called, Echinacea-Goldenseal with Olive Leaf, which is Chuan Xin Lian with those three western herbs added. Echinacea is anti-toxin, goldenseal clears dampness and heat, and olive leaf is anti-viral. Another formula to take is Andrographis Respiratory wellness.

Secondly, take Gan Mao Ling, which is a much stronger antiviral than Yin Qiao. It also specifically treats head cold symptoms and fever.

In China they are giving Shuang Huang Lian, a combination of honeysuckle, Chinese skullcap and forsythia. Although sold out in China, you can make your own from the raw herbs:

  • 22.5g honeysuckle flowers (Flos Lonicerae – jin yin hua)
  • 22.5g Chinese skullcap root (Radix Scutellariae – huang qin)
  • 4.5g forsythia fruit (Fructus Forsythiae – lian qiao)

Simmer the skullcap and forsythia covered for 20 minutes in 5 cups water. Turn off the heat, add the honeysuckle flowers and cover again. Let steep for 20 more minutes. Strain and drink 1 cup three or four times a day. If you can find it in capsules, take 5 3-4 times/day.

Finally, don’t be afraid of taking a dose every two waking hours. While herbs have the ability to kill bacteria and viruses their greatest strength lies in their ability to activate the body’s innate defenses to fight off these pathogens.

Can products originating in China transmit the virus to me?

Lastly, if you are worried that herbs and patent formulas from China might carry the virus, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the CDC) carries this information on their FAQ page:

Q: Am I at risk for novel coronavirus from a package or products shipping from China?

There is still a lot that is unknown about the newly emerged 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and how it spreads. Two other coronaviruses have emerged previously to cause severe illness in people (MERS and SARS). 2019-nCoV is more genetically related to SARS than MERS, but both are betacoronaviruses with their origins in bats. While we don’t know for sure that this virus will behave the same way as SARS and MERS, we can use the information from both of these earlier coronaviruses to guide us.

In general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures. Coronaviruses are generally thought to be spread most often by respiratory droplets. Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of 2019-nCoV associated with imported goods and there have not been any cases of 2019-nCoV in the United States associated with imported goods. Information will be provided on the 2019 Novel Coronavirus website as it becomes available.”[6]








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