Herbal Recommendations in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Dave Meesters (Terra Sylva School of Botanical Medicine. Marshall, NC)


[ Spanish translation here ]

Prevention: Supporting Immunity

  • Vitamin D

The simplest, most universal and important preventive measure that a person can take, aside from reducing exposure to the virus through mask-wearing, social distancing, and ventilation, would be to make sure that the body has enough Vitamin D. Vitamin D is produced when the skin is exposed to the summertime sun, and is necessary for immune competence in the upper respiratory tract. Early data indicate that COVID-19 infections are less likely and less severe when Vitamin D levels are adequate. In the winter (in North America) we cannot produce Vitamin D, and many people are low on D even in the summer.

My recommendation for those who have not been taking Vitamin D is to take 20,000 iu/day for one or two weeks, and then take 10,000 iu/day thereafter. If it is summertime and you are spending time in the sun daily, then you can reduce or discontinue Vitamin D then.

(If you miss a dose, you should double your dose the next day.)

  • Take Zinc 25-50mg/day and Vitamin C if available.

  • Drink plenty of water, get as much sleep as you can, and eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables
  • Mucus in your lungs and sinuses is your protective barrier! Take care of your mucous membranes. Avoid dryness of the mucus membranes. If your house or workplace is excessively dry, consider running a humidifier. Or simply put a pot of water uncovered on the stove, wood heater, or radiator. Put aromatic antiseptic herbs (pungent kitchen spices, Rosemary, Thyme, Eucalyptus, Pine needles, etc.) in the water to stimulate surface defenses and add their cleansing antimicrobial power.

  • Drink/Eat nourishing broths with aromatic spices.

  • If sickness is in your environment, if exposed to sick people or likely to be exposed, consider adding one or more of (some of these measures could go in the previous section):
  • Elderberry syrup, Echinacea (if well tolerated; don’t overdo it), Usnea, other immune stimulants you might normally rely on.
  • Fire cider.
  • Increase the aromatic steam! Spend time over the steam pot with aromatic herbs (Thyme, Rosemary, Sage, Clove, Oregano, Garlic, Eucalyptus, Conifer needles, etc etc). Make a steamy tent with a towel over your head, inhale through your nose, for several minutes. Follow this link for procedure and more herbs to consider.  Also this video is helpful.
  • Zinc lozenges, or an aromatic lozenge like Ricola

At First Signs of Illness (fatigue, body ache, sore throat, dry cough, etc.) increase the above and consider adding:

  • Frequent aromatic steam inhalation.
  • Don’t dry out! Especially if nose, sinuses or lungs are dry, use moistening demulcent herbs. Hot or room-temperature infusion of Marshmallow (or other Mallows), Flax Seed, Chia Seed (pour room temperature water over the herbs and allow to sit several hours until water becomes viscous; consume in divided doses). Also Fenugreek seed, Licorice root (hot infusion or decoction). Okra. Oatmeal gruel. Traditional Medicinals "Throat Coat" tea bags. Gelatinous bone broths, honey, fats & oils, and dairy products (if tolerated) are all moistening to the mucosa in varying degrees.
  • Infusions of warming diaphoretic herbs: Ginger, Cayenne (with care), Thyme, Hyssop, Oregano, Rosemary, Garlic, Sage, and most pungent kitchen spices. Yarrow (less warm and dry, good choice for COVID) and Lemon Balm are also good here. Use more than a culinary dose! Make a strong-tasting hot tea and drink while hot! If using herbs from tinctures put tincture into hot water and drink while hot. These herbs drive blood circulation toward the skin and mucous membranes and empower our surface defenses. These teas may be quite drying so see “Don’t dry out!” above and drink water.
  • Better yet, do the full Warming Diaphoretic Hydrotherapy Protocol:
  • Take a hot shower.
  • After getting out of the shower, have a Warming Diaphoretic Infusion ready, see above (you may want to prepare this before you shower and keep it hot with a lid on it).
  • While still hot from the shower, get in the bed or on the couch covered in blankets and sip your hot Diaphoretic tea. Sweat.
  • Rest. Nod off. Don’t get up. Sleep if you can.
  • This is an excellent therapy. Don’t use if you have a high temperature (fever) or feel weak.

A useful remedy to have around:

Onion Syrup:  moistening decongestant to lungs. Breaks up and moves mucous. May be important for shortness of breath with stuck phlegm.

Ingredients (can be scaled up):

  • 1 - 2 onions
  • up to 1 pint honey


  • Chop onion finely and place into pint jar.
  • Fill jar to the rim with honey.
  • Stir around edges to release any air that is stuck in the jar and then fill up the rest of the way with honey.
  • Let sit for 3 - 5 days, stirring every day. Check daily to make sure that it is not beginning to ferment.
  • The onion will release a lot of water into the honey and make it much thinner than it originally was.
  • You can strain the onion out or leave in and eat the honeyed onion chunks.
  • Store in fridge. Should last about 3 months.
  • Consume liberally as needed.

[The original Spring 2020 version of this document can be found here.]