25 Mar Lack of Smell, Respiratory Symptoms & Covid-19: Supporting a Return to Normal
Please check with your doctor before implementing these ideas, to make sure they are safe to implement in your case or the case of who you are caring for.
So, I assume we all have access to all the good doctors’ advice about what to do if we are exposed to Covid19.
In addition to that sound and good advice and to remedies or teas you may be receiving from your Chinese medicine or Ayurveda practitioner, I have few other ideas, that we can each do on our own, from our own homes, with stuff many of us will already have in our cupboards and that are free or very low cost to implement. (I love free or very low cost medicine that is accessible to everybody).
Many years ago, when I was in private practice, I had at least a couple patients I remember that developed anosmia–the lack of ability to smell (hence also taste) in conjunction with a cold or flu. I clearly remember one patient that came after not being able to smell or taste for months after his flu ended. We were able to turn that around in fairly short order, with cupping (upper back & neck), moxa (in the form of tiger thermie massage at LI 20 and from SJ17, down the SCM to GB21), acupuncture and other tools.
If the local channels in the head are open, the sense of smell (and therefore taste) can return. The quicker that can happen, the more comfortable and less disconcerting for the patient and hopefully the quicker they can return to feeling normal.
I have some friends and relatives that either have confirmed cases of Covid 19 or strongly suspected (but not tested because they don’t have enough tests) cases and are quarantined. At least one of them experienced anosmia, that is slowly improving.
Anosmia has been strongly linked to Covid19. The virus tends to gather in the upper respiratory system, including the nose and throat. And we’ve probably all heard that Corona patients can develop trouble breathing. In Eastern medicine, we understand that, if channels become obstructed, we can experience these symptoms. Of course, the following should not substitute for medical care. If someone is having trouble breathing, they should go to a hospital! The following are ways to support the patient to keep the channels open, even if there are no signs of mucous or congestion, because of the trait of this particular virus to constrict and dry the channels, if they are home and do not need to go to the hospital –a decision that should be made between them and their doctor.
From what I have heard and read, here’s what I think is likely to be going on, and a way to support more comfort and a more rapid return to health, if one (or one someone is caring for) has the virus: I think that the fever is often dominant over the mucous and the mucous can become dry and thick and obstruct the channels, much like what happened with the patient’s story I just shared. So I think the following could be very helpful to keep the channels open, or help to open them and are things anybody can do from home, and that this could be beneficial to do whether or not someone has anosmia or difficulty breathing, because keeping the channels open would be beneficial no matter what. Many of these recommendations include heat, because heat tends to relax open channels.
- Take at least a 2-quart pot of boiling water with some (a few TB) crushed or grated, fresh ginger added or about 5 drops of 100% peppermint or eucalyptus pure essential oil added after the water is boiled, just before you do this: Put a towel over your head and the steaming pot of water, forming a tent, taking care not to burn yourself by leaving enough space between your head and the pan and by leaving space between the towel and the pan and of course by moving away if it gets too hot. Breathe in deeply, from far enough away from the water that you don’t scald the insides of your nostrils or your face. Do this for 5-10 minutes 1-2x/day, preferably at dawn and dusk, but can be done anytime.
- Gargle with 1/4-1/2 cup almost hot water with a TB of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar mixed in at least 1-2x daily. This could help keep the virus load down in the throat.
- Sip warm water or hot herbal teas every 20 minutes or so.
- Massage your sinus areas to the sides of your nose and the area behind your ears, with some oil, and work down your neck, to the top of your shoulders.
Handful of other thoughts on the, “Coronapocalypse”, as a friend recently called it:
- Often Ayurveda employs opposite forces as medicine. While no doubt there is significant suffering throughout the world right now, whether due to contracting Covid-19 or to lost income through self-isolating efforts to avoid contracting it, it seems to me it was inevitable that eventually our unchecked momentum towards pravṛtti (focus on onward, upward, outward expansion) was bound to be forced to experience the opposite–in this case nivṛtti (ceasing, suspension). We may be witnessing such a phenomenon in action and, while it may cause much individual suffering, it may be a massive pendulum effect toward balance on a global scale. We seemed to be having trouble adjusting our actions in the face of the threat and reality of climate change. This shows us that we can adjust our actions. Hopefully, good will come of this.
- While it may seem hopeless to be able to avoid the personally challenging effects of the modern day imbalances, there is always hope. Even during a pandemic, we read in one of the ancient Ayurveda texts, there are ways to support health and sanity (in addition to the ones we’re hearing about everywhere else these days). I particularly love that herbal formulas are not even mentioned in this list of therapies. Everything in this list is free and available to everybody:
Truthfulness, compassion for living beings, charity, sacrifices, prayer to the gods, adoption of preventative measures, tranquility, protection of the self by mantra, etc., search for things that are good for the self, residence in auspicious places, observance of brahmacaryā, service to those observing brahmacaryā, discussion of religious scriptures, great sages and those who have self-control, and constant association with religious, sāttvika and learned persons—these are the therapies which if adopted during the epidemics can easily save the lives of individuals, provided the death of a particular individual during the period is not predestined. Caraka Saṃhitā:Vimānasthāna:III:12-18
(BTW, association with good company does not have to be in-person). If you’re interested in more about at least an Ayurveda perspective on why epidemics arise and some tips for avoiding and addressing them, might be fun to revisit this (free) old, pithily-titled article on, “Sin, Virtue, Plant Medicine and Epidemics“. While it focuses on how we treat plants, the same could be applied to how we treat animals. If we pack swine and fowl into unnaturally close quarters so that viruses can take hold and jump to humans, it may not be too surprising that we’re all affected now and then. More about that in this podcast by someone else.
- Still really important to engage in a healthy daily routine so that we support good immunity as well as simply support physical and mental health. This includes eating whole, freshly cooked foods, exercising not too much or too little, getting outdoors in fresh air and, when possible, sunshine, avoiding highly processed foods or foods with a bunch of ingredients you can’t pronounce, avoiding alcohol and cigarettes.
- We don’t digest food or drink as well when we are emotionally or physically stressed, so I generally find that, the more complicated our emotional or physical reality, the more simple should be our diet. You can find links to some easily -digestible food in the recipes section of this website, including to a very simple miso ramen recipe. And, as part of a Q&A that Dr. Svoboda and I recently did, a DIY hand sanitizer that doesn’t have the endocrine-disruptive ingredients as may store-bought options (but I heard recently they are recommending 96% alcohol, instead of the 60% they were recommending just a couple weeks ago). I hope you enjoy it.
- Just because we have to employ social distancing physically, does not mean we have to avoid heart-to-heart, eye-to-eye connection when we pass each other from six feet away on the road. That’s just too darn sad. And one of the best things about this whole business, I find, is the great potential to connect heart-to-heart and let each other know we are…here.
I hope we’re all finding and feeding the good wherever and whenever possible.
Good luck keeping all channels open.
Thank you for being here.