Now Is the Time to Invest in Our Health and Communities

by Esther Clark   |   March 24, 2020

Natural Medicine 1738161 960 720

With the coronavirus sweeping across the world, questions of how to stay healthy and avoid infection weigh on everyone’s minds. Good hygiene and avoiding large crowds are the most common forms of defense. But what else can be done given that, as of yet, there is no vaccine for this virus? 

With each passing day, I see communities become more and more individualistic and isolated. People are looking out for their own safety and well-being as stores begin to close and schools shut down. While this is fundamental to ensure safety within the community, there are still ways to stay in touch with the people around you, which is especially needed in times of hardship like this. 

Now, more than ever, communities need to come together, not just to care for one another, but to support those who can’t afford preventive measures or who are at high risk of suffering from COVID-19. With healthcare costs exorbitant, many don’t have the luxury of a hospital visit or the care of medical professionals. Hospitals with limited supplies fear surges in patient numbers. “Social distancing” has been advised so that the virus’s spread doesn’t mirror that of Italy and China, and so that hospitals will be able to handle waves of sick patients.

The common rhetoric right now is that if you think you’re sick, and your symptoms are mild, stay at home. But, what do you do while at home? What can you do to recover and/or prevent yourself from getting sick from an infected loved one, other than washing hands and social distancing? What about those who can’t afford to stay at home?

While we wait for vaccines to be tested, some of the best COVID-19 inhibitors are already at our fingertips in the form of supplements and herbal remedies. I know, I know—you may hear “herbal remedies” and think it’s ridiculous to fight this serious virus with essential oils. But while we’re all waiting for a government-approved fix, the best thing we can do is use what we can.

The Symptoms Arrive

In the second week of March, I became sick with mild flu-like symptoms. I didn’t get tested because, in my state (Virginia), access to testing is limited. I didn’t want to take a test since I could still walk, talk, and function. So instead of going to the doctor (especially since I can’t really afford a doctor’s visit), I turned to my herbal cabinet. I started taking astragalus, a scientifically proven inhibitor of the avian coronavirus, as well as elderberry and echinacea, which help boost the immune system and better equip the body to fight the common cold and other springtime maladies.

Within a few days, I felt perfectly fine—so I wasn’t expecting to be hit with a second wave of sickness, this one accompanied by chest pain that reminded me of having bronchitis as a child. The pain in my chest was burning, and it felt like a huge cinder block was sitting on my chest, pushing down. The only thing that made the pain diminish was drinking astragalus tea. 

"The pain in my chest was burning, and it felt like a huge cinder block was sitting on my chest, pushing down."

While I don’t know officially if I have the virus, a lot of what I’m going through lines up with what doctors are finding, including getting a second wave of sickness with more respiratory symptoms. Same with my dad. He’s almost 70 and came down with mild flu-like symptoms. He followed the same procedure I did, drinking herbal tea. He felt fine in a few days, and even did his normal daily run. But then the second wave hit, and he started having the tight chest symptoms. He drank astragalus three to four times a day, and the symptoms (and pain) decreased significantly. He no longer has chest pain, only fatigue. 

A Wake-Up Call for My Generation

As I sit here thinking about my views on coronavirus and community, about my dad’s health, and about the world around me, I can’t help but think that, during this time of uncertainty, my generation has never felt more clearly the need for community. Each prior generation has had a defining moment that brought it together as a larger community. Each generation has had to learn what it truly means to be a community in order to move forward in unity, regardless of political affiliation or social sphere. 

We aren’t fighting only for ourselves, but for our community of America—the community that we will inherit once the older generations pass away. And we’re being forced to see this through the lens of the coronavirus. Quite frankly, I think that many in my generation don’t know how to be a community. We understand the concept from watching the older generations, but do we really know what it means to put that concept into practice?  

"Quite frankly, I think that many in my generation don’t know how to be a community. We understand the concept from watching the older generations, but do we really know what it means to put that concept into practice?"

With jobs being cut to limit the spread of the virus, workers have been thrown into uncertain and financially crippling situations. Most concerning are the individuals who work by the hour. What will happen to them if businesses close for an extended period? What will happen to those who work two or three jobs to pay their bills? Single mothers? Students?

For my generation, this moment is here to teach us what it means to truly be a community. As scientists work to find a cure, it falls to each and every one of us to turn to our neighbors and help those who are struggling. Encourage others to take proper care of their bodies by boosting their immune systems while they can. 

Also consider the levels of consumption that are taking place. Friends of mine who work for grocery stores are concerned about the panic buying that they’re seeing. One store manager I know in the Philadelphia area said: “The biggest concern right now is that if this stockpiling pace keeps up, eventually the warehouses will run out of stock. Then, those who really need the food won’t be able to buy any, while others have over a month’s worth of food.” 

Look for ways to help families in need. With schools closing, families that struggle to feed their children through the summer months are now forced to face hunger in the spring months, when many diseases are easily contracted. When the body goes without food, it becomes weaker and more susceptible to disease. If you’re able, donate to your local food bank to build up reserves for those who rely on these community resources to feed their children.

Some other things you can do from your home:

  • Call your family and friends to check in with them.
  • Make donations to organizations that are helping to prevent the spread of the virus.
  • Call local nursing homes and ask what they need to take care of the elderly without putting them at risk.
  • Check with local universities for ways to help international students who can’t return home, or students who are facing financial crises.
  • Look for ways to donate food, soap, and hand sanitizer to the populations that are at highest risk from this virus—namely, the elderly.
  • Talk to your local churches, synagogues, mosques, etc. to see what you can do to donate food, supplies, or money to help those facing monetary crises and food shortage.

Keeping the community healthy is one of the fastest ways to prevent sickness from spreading. Community is one individual taking care of the people next to them. In this time, it is enough to just make sure the person next to you is doing all right. 

Esther Clark graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in neuroscience. She has multiple scientific publications to her name after working as a lab technician in the Perelman School of Medicine. However, after two rounds of antibiotics led to a bad case of candida overgrowth, Esther turned to herbal medicine to treat the host of health issues she faced. After finding an herbal regiment that worked for her body, she made a full recovery. Now, she enjoys researching different medical uses of ordinary plants. Currently, Esther lives in Charlottesville, Virginia and is a science fiction author.