In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, while waiting for life saving vaccinations, looking back in history can provide insights for additional strategies to alleviate symptoms, and potentially save lives. Medieval medicine has come a long way to advance medical care. The Medical News Today article, What was medieval and Renaissance medicine, reported that the local apothecary or wise women would provide herbs and potions.(5) Folk medicine of the Middle Ages dealt with herbal remedies, prayer and religious rituals in the treatment of ailments by monks and nuns. Monastery gardens grew an abundance of medicinal herbs.
“A group of physicians treated victims of the 1918 influenza pandemic with botanical medicines and the treatments were very successful.”(2) Research review concluded “we feel confident that herbs that historically have been used successfully to alleviate flu symptoms also work to normalize cytokines, reducing the production of the proinflammatory cytokines responsible for the challenging symptoms of influenza. Although unproven, the clinical evidence of symptom reduction appears to be a result of a quieting of the cytokine storm”.(2)
The Spanish flu outbreak of 1918–1919 was the most devastating pandemic on record, killing between 50 and 100 million people worldwide. Fresh air (4), sunlight, scrupulous standards of hygiene, reusable face masks, disrupting the transmission of the virus by banning public gatherings, closing schools and isolating infected people, are credited with substantially reducing patient and staff infections and deaths.
“Scientists suspect that cytokine storms caused many of the fatalities in the 1918 flu pandemic and the 2003 outbreak of SARS, a virus related to the one that causes Covid-19.”(1) A cytokine storm is an overproduction of immune cells, including cytokines, that can result in lung inflammation and fluid buildup; often leading to respiratory distress and secondary pneumonia. Scientists are now studying the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine and natural therapies for the possible treatment of Covid-19 (7)
Inflammation is your body’s protective response to injury and damage, required for natural ongoing healing and repair. Chronic inflammation resulting from stressors, pollution, toxins, poor diet and some drugs creates unhealthy inflammatory responses. Lifestyle, an anti-inflammatory diet, herbs and essential oils are important considerations for supporting a healthy immune system response; ensuring pandemic preparedness.
“Doctors are learning that one of the best ways to reduce inflammation lies not in the medicine cabinet, but in the refrigerator. By following an anti-inflammatory diet you can fight off inflammation for good.”(6)
An anti-inflammatory diet requires avoiding refined carbohydrates (white breads and baked goods), fried foods, sugar, red meat (burgers, steaks), processed meats (hot dogs, sausages), margarine, shortening and lard. Micronutrients are crucial to supporting the body to initiate a healthy immune response. A diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods, like tomatoes, olive oil, green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, collards), nuts, fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna, sardines), fruits, herbs and spices provide supports to ensure healthy inflammatory responses. Anti-inflammatory herbs and essential oils can help your body to offset skewed and chronic inflammatory responses. .
Hildegard of Bingen, St. Hildegard, was a medieval medical practitioner educated in classical Greek medicine who prescribed folk medicine remedies. Herbs and aromatics were used to both prevent and cures diseases and plagues. Hildegard catalogued both her theory and practice in two works. Physica and Causae et Curae.
“Her hallmark is to emphasize the vital connection between the ‘green’ health of the natural world and the holistic health of the human person. Viriditas, or greening power, was thought to sustain human beings and could be manipulated by adjusting the balance of elements within a person. Thus, when she approached medicine as a type of gardening, it was not just as an analogy. Rather, Hildegard understood the plants and elements of the garden as direct counterparts to the humors and elements within the human body, whose imbalance led to illness and disease.
She became well known for her healing powers involving the practical application of tinctures, herbs, and precious stones. She combined these elements with a theological notion ultimately derived from Genesis: all things put on earth are for the use of humans.”(3)
Hildegard of Bingen’s books provide a vast historical portrait of medicinal herb usage and successes.
My confidence in historically proven medicinal herbs and aromatics, like that of St. Hildegard, and my study of botanical herbs through the teachings of Maria Treben, a world renowned herbalist from Austria; have encouraged me to stock my apothecary to be prepared for my symptoms and those of my clients. In this age of uncertainty, which has been experienced many times throughout the centuries, self sufficiency in addition to sound medical advice, is a wise health strategy.
You can find an excellent source of wild crafted and organic herbs. You want clean herbs so make sure of your source to avoid buying herbs grown in polluted areas and countries.
Elisabeth Hines, C.N.C., C.B.P., Holistic Wellness Practitioner, Health by Design, www.mybodycanhealitself.ca
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(1) What is a cytokine storm? https://www.knowablemagazine.org/article/health-disease/2020/what-cytokine-storm
(2) Herbal Treatments for Pandemic Influenza: Learning from the Eclectics’ Experience – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/244889601_Herbal_Treatments_for_Pandemic_Influenza_Learning_from_the_Eclectics’_Experience, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hildegard_of_Bingen
(3) Hildegard of Bingen and the Greening of Medieval Medicine – https://muse.jhu.edu/article/4342
(4) The Open-Air Treatment of PANDEMIC INFLUENZA – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4504358/
(5) Medical News Today. What was medieval and Renaissance medicine? – https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323533
(6) Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School: Foods That Fight Inflammation – https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation
(7) Publications on the use of TCM to treat COVID-19 – Learn Integrative East-West Approaches to Treat Covid-19 – https://exploreim.ucla.edu/covid19/publications-on-traditional-chinese-medicine-tcm-to-treat-covid-19/
Deadly immune ‘storm’ caused by emergent flu infections – https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140227142250.htm
Into the Eye of the Cytokine Storm – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3294426/
The cytokine storm of severe influenza and development of immunomodulatory therapy – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4711683/
Practical Solutions to Preventing and Treating COVID-19 Using Lifestyle, Vitamins, and Herbal Treatments https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340607489_Practical_Solutions_to_Preventing_and_Treating_COVID-19_Using_Lifestyle_Vitamins_and_Herbal_Treatments
Cytokine Storm – An Over Reaction of the Immune System – https://www.newscientist.com/term/cytokine-storm/
Essential Oils and Their Major Compounds in the Treatment of Chronic Inflammation: A Review of Antioxidant Potential in Preclinical Studies and Molecular Mechanisms – https://www.hindawi.com/journals/omcl/2018/6468593/
Effects of a Combination of Thyme and Oregano Essential Oils on TNBS-Induced Colitis in Mice – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2233768/