Life has been crazy recently, right? We see things coming across the news that we’ve never seen before. Viruses, confusion, restrictions. It’s all so, foreign. We have facts and myths coming from every direction. We have one media company saying one thing, and another media company saying another. We have people telling us that we’re all going to be ok, and likewise, others telling us that we’re all going to die. We have google doctors and real doctors telling us not to take elderberry syrup, and herbalist and responsible doctors telling us there’s no harm, or there’s not enough science (yet) to prove that there’s no harm.
So what’s true and not true? How do we differentiate between all of the chaos. And most of all, can we find peace through it all? I hope this blog will help clear things up for you, and more than anything, give you peace.
Please keep in mind that the statistics in this blog post are has of March 16, 2020.
Before we begin, I want to preface this with the plain and simple truth. I am not a doctor. I won’t ever pretend to be a doctor. I am a family herbalist who is working diligently, every day, for the rest of my life, to become a master herbalist. I am a scientific, evidence based herbal believer. But I also believe there is a time and place for folk medicine (sometimes). I am a mama, a wife, a homesteader, and a believer in Jesus. While I believe in evidence and science, I also believe in miracles and the unexplainable.
I’m not here to preach to you, whine, complain, or spread false information or hysteria.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way . . . let’s just get to the facts.
- In the largest study available on the virus, 86.6% of the patients were aged 30-79. The median age was 47. Everyone is susceptible to getting the virus. Emphasis on individuals 65+.
- Young people are getting the virus but becoming biohazards to older adults. This is why isolation is important. If people just stayed home or in open air environments, or washed their hands and didn’t cough on things, it would help tremendously. But because no one has common sense, people goto work sick all the time, and parents take their kids to play areas, we now have lockdowns taking place.
- We can’t just focus on death rate, but have to focus on disabilities as well. Many people recovering from this have limited lung function afterwards. We do not yet know the repercussions of the virus for those who heal from the virus, no matter the age. Are they going to have asthma in 2 years? Will their lung function cause issues 15 years down the road? We don’t know yet.
- The reason H1N1 and other viruses did not spread as bad is because we were on top of it. People saying “well we didn’t die then”, it’s because the public health system did exactly what it was supposed to do––initiated protocols, warned people, and got it under control. Because of that people think the current pandemic protocols are an overreaction. Is there overreach? Absolutely. Martial law and arrests because kids are out after curfew is ridiculous. I recommend you contact your local legislators over this. But everything else, totally not an overreaction.
- The virus can last hours on surfaces. It lasts longer on moist surfaces, like hands.
- Sanitizing requires 60% alcohol. But cleansing your hands doesn’t require soap or sanitizer. Regular soap works just fine. Even water without soap works. In a 2011 study on children in rural Bangladesh, there was no significant difference found between people who used soap and those who did not when washing their hands. Friction and running water gets rid of microbes on the skin.
- Viruses can only replicate inside of a living cell. If we aren’t out around other people, the virus can’t spread. We are trying not to spread transmission on fomites. Fomites are things like doorknobs, elevator buttons, steering wheels, etc. It is a non-living object that can spread disease. Most of this particular virus is being spread through transmission on fomites, not necessarily people sneezing or coughing directly on you or around you.
- When reading studies, these two definitions are important to understand. R-nought or R0 — the number of people one sick person infects. R0 is unique to the disease and the individual community. It changes, it is not a constant. The R0 in NY is not the same as the R0 in a rural community. Different environmental factors and density make a difference. CFR — case fatality rate. It is specific to a population and is not a constant. It is the proportion of deaths caused by the disease among those who have the disease over a given time interval. Look at your local CFR, not what’s happening in China or Italy. You local CFR could be extremely low, while the rest of the country is high. Just as with the flu, be aware on a local level to assess your risk.
- The doses of aspirin that were recommended during the 1918 flu pandemic caused respiratory distress according to modern researchers data. It increased the death rate. Aspirin had just come on the market and people were recommended to take it. Therefore, it was aspirin, not elderberry or herbal remedies, that caused deaths during the 1918 flu pandemic.
- The United States does not have enough centralized data for epidemiologists on a regular basis. We do not collect enough data in our medical system, this is one of the reasons our medical system fails each year. It is extremely possible for COVID-19 to have been here before January. But when we first saw this in China, it happened because so many people were dying of pneumonia without explanation. China then realized it was a new virus and they were able to follow its carbon footprint back to the original infection from an animal. We have not seen this rise in deaths in the USA until now (and it’s not as bad as of the writing of this blog post). The flu season this year was actually very mild and we did not see high flu and pneumonia cases.
- We expect COVID-19 will stay around in the world now that it is here, just like the flu. Just as H1N1 is still in the world. But because this virus is novel, and we have no antibodies to it, we have to take greater precautions.
- Anti-malarial drugs are currently in top ranking of being most efficient of treating the virus. Many people being hospitalized are part of the studies being done.
- As more tests become available, we will see a major increase in COVID-19 positives. This doesn’t mean the end of the world is coming, it just means statistics are showing more people sick because we are required to test them when they walk through the hospital or doctor doors.
Elderberry and the Cytokine Storm
In regard to herbs: treatments are pathogen, dose, and preparation specific. Just because one antiviral herb works for the flu doesn’t mean it’s going to work for COVID-19. Remember this when listening to herbalists that want to sell you their newest COVID-19 concoction saying it’s the miracle drug. Run away.
With that said, there are no studies showing that elderberry causes cytokine storms in people with COVID-19 or the flu. Elderberry is a modulator, which means it helps regulate cytokines or bring them to healthy levels. In fact, in the study most people quote during the elderberry debate, it says this,
“We conclude from this study that, in addition to its antiviral properties, Sambucol Elderberry Extract and its formulations activate the healthy immune system by increasing inflammatory cytokine production. Sambucol might therefore be beneficial to the immune system activation and in the inflammatory process in healthy individuals or in patients with various diseases. Sambucol could also have an immunoprotective or immunostimulatory effect when administered to cancer or AIDS patients, in conjunction with chemotherapeutic or other treatments.”:: The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines.
Barak V1, Halperin T, Kalickman I.
Doesn’t sound so bad, does it? People who are screaming that Elderberry causes cytokine storms . . . shame on them. There’s no proof of this, at all, period. The amount of doctors regurgitating this is insane and they should have their hand smacked (if not more). The only thing this study proves is exactly what herbalists have known for years–elderberry has the potential to raise cytokines to healthy levels in order to activate the immune system. But it also has the potential to lower them.
Here is a great article about elderberry and cytokines.
Please remember that when you see doctors quoting information about herbs, that they are doctors. Most doctors are not ever trained in herbalism. Ever. Period. Yes, there’s a difference. Herbalism works completely different than modern medicine. In fact, it’s a lifestyle, not a drug. I have yet to see a single doctor produce a study showing me that elderberry can cause a “cytokine storm”. They only produce studies saying that it can raise cytokines to a safe level to activate the immune system. Period. Over it.
With that said, we cannot say that, depending on the person and their condition, that elderberry could not adversely affect someone. Just like aspirin killed people in the 1918 flu pandemic, but aspirin doesn’t generally cause a cytokine storm on a regular basis. Actually, it never does. This was truly the perfect storm. Could elderberry be the perfect storm? Maybe, but highly unlikely. Elderberry is a food first and foremost. It is not a drug. I’m hoping someone studies this more in the coming months, but it’s doubtful considering it’s not essential.
Peace in the Midst of Chaos
I think what surprises me the most during this entire thing are the amount of individuals losing their minds, losing their peace. I have watched everyday average people turn into blubbering messes. I have watched leaders that should be encouraging and strong turn into a rubble of broken pieces and rants. Likewise, I have watched some of the most anxious people turn into some of the most encouraging ones. Thank God for balance in such an unbalanced place.
Earlier this week I did a podcast called “Peace in the Midst of Hysteria + Empathy over Apathy”. I talk about finding reality, but also peace, in the midst of the chaos. And how we need to employ empathy over apathy during this time.
I’m discovering that those people dissolving to rubble….those leaders ranting…it all stems from fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of losing money. Fear of not knowing what to do with their time. Fear of dying. Fear of loved ones dying.
Fear is a liar.
We are not promised a life without trouble in the Bible. In fact, John 16:33 says,
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”John 16:33 NIV
In this world we will have troubles, but God has overcome the world. It doesn’t mean He canceled out the troubles, but it does mean we have hope in Him. It does mean that even if we die tomorrow, if we are believers, we will live forever. That’s what so many of us refer to as the “blessed hope”. And what a blessed hope it is.
But through it all, God wants you to have peace. Fear is a liar. Fear is not of God, we know this to be true.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”1 Peter 5:7 NIV
Friend, God cares about you. He cares about you during the good times. He cares about you during the hard times. He doesn’t think your worry is frivolous, but He does tell you to cast your care and anxiety on Him….and for good reason. Not only is it not our burden to bear, but stress and anxiety can weaken the immune system like no other.
There is no true peace outside of God. So today, more than ever, find peace in Him.
You can listen to my recent podcast, “Peace in the Midst of Hysteria” here:
Isolation and Old Time Skills
During social distancing, our lives haven’t felt much different than any other day. I get up every morning and go about my regular schedule. I have worked from home for years, so this isn’t any different. We homeschool, so that’s not a change from daily life. My husband’s job is in trade work. Everyone always needs a job done when it’s a trade. You’ll always need someone to fix your heat or air conditioner, electric, or do odd jobs for you that you can’t do yourself.
In 2010, right after having our first son, we learned quickly just how bad life could get during a recession. We got hit, hard. And we promised ourselves then that we never wanted to live in a place where we didn’t have the money to pay for food or our bills. Of course, life always has twists and turns. Anything could happen. But we’ve taken steps over the years to make sure it’s easier if it were to happen again. My hope is that many of you going through hard times right now––who’s lives have been stressfully interrupted––will learn that you never want to feel this way again either. Because I promise you, when you take control of your life, your food, and your health…it is liberating.
There is such a freedom in becoming more and more self-sufficient. In becoming more and more LESS dependent on the grocery store because you grow your own food. Becoming less dependent on doctors and hospitals because you learn how to eat healthy, change your lifestyle, and treat common things at home with herbal remedies. Freedom. That’s what we preach in America, and I think it’s time to get back to it.
During this time of isolation, I hope that you’ll learn a new skill, take up a new trade, or even learn to love a simple life. A simple life is to be praised. It is beautiful, busy, challenging, but oh so worth it. Busy planting crops and preserving them. Beautiful watching your children and family play in the dirt and be exhausted by days end. Worth it because you grew it yourself, did it yourself, and you’ll never “be there” again…that place of fear.
In fact, I think this is a gift of time that we have so desperately needed. Time to reconnect with our families. Time to slow down. Time to look at the clouds in the sky. When is the last time you really looked at them for longer than a few seconds?
And, if you want to learn more skills, join us March 23 through March 28 for the How to Grow Your Own Food youtube series. Don’t worry, if you can’t catch it live, it will be there for forever. For free. Promise.
Amy K. Fewell is an author, family herbalist, entrepreneur, homesteader, and homemaker. Living in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, her and her family live a natural homesteading lifestyle where they promote self-sufficiency and liberty. Amy is the founder of the Homesteaders of America organization and annual events. You can discover more on this website and at homesteadersofamerica.com