Surviving and Thriving in a World Full of Viruses – 17 Best Strategies

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St. John’s Wort

The current COVID-19 pandemic has created a lot of fear, and must be taken seriously. Yet potential pandemics have always been a reality of life. We’ve been living in a bubble for the last century thinking that we have everything under control. Yet neither living in denial or living in fear is useful. Fear not only reduces our quality of life; it weakens our immune system and makes us more susceptible to viral and other types of infections.

Since there’s no point worrying about things we can’t control, let’s look at things that we can control in our day-to-day lives. Firstly, we have the recommendations by public health agencies (hand washing, minimizing travel, social distancing, and self-quarantining) to help slow the spread of the virus. Secondly, there are principles that we can implement on our own to increase resistance to viruses and other pathogens. The more of these that we put into practice, the better our chances to reduce the frequency, duration and severity of illness. And if some new disease like COVID-19 for which we have no immunity does come around, we can minimize the risks.  Here are my recommendations:

1)  DIET – Eat a healthy diet of whole, natural, organic foods including lots of vegetables and fruits. Eat grains and grain-like seeds whole as much as possible, not as ground flour products. Reduce consumption of processed foods, greasy foods, animal products (especially red meat and dairy products), and refined carbohydrates (sugar and white flour). If you eat dairy and/or animal protein, purchase it from quality organic sources and consume small serving sizes of these foods. If you have any food sensitivities, avoid those foods as much as possible – preferably completely.

2)  EXERCISE – Get lots of exercise. Walk a lot and include at least 30 minutes of moderate to strenuous aerobic exercise for a minimum of 3-4 times per week. Also, minimize the amount of time you spend doing sedentary activities such as sitting at a computer or with a cell phone, watching TV, reading, or driving for long periods of time. When these are unavoidable, stop, get up, move around and stretch for a couple of minutes every 20-30 minutes.

3)  REST AND RELAXATION – Many people in our society are sleep deprived, and some make it worse by using caffeine to stay alert. Ideally, for most adults 7 to 9 hours of sleep is what’s required – depending on the person. Children, adolescents, and people who are sick need more. Anyone who claims that they can get by on less sleep is fooling themselves. When you start getting more sleep you will feel the difference.

We also need down time. Watching action or violent TV shows and movies, playing video games, or text messaging is not down time! Taking long walks (especially in Nature or more natural settings) or just sitting quietly in a park or backyard is real down time. The key is to do something we enjoy that is calming and doesn’t involve much excitement or mental chatter.

4)  DE-STRESSING – Most people are way too stressed. Being calm about microbes, while exercising and getting sufficient sleep and down time, is a great way to de-stress. We also need to learn to be fully present in our life. We don’t need to be accessible 24/7, nor do we need to be constantly updated about everything our friends and family are doing. This is not real relationship. It is just a distraction which keeps us from being fully present in our real life, which is what is happening right here and now. As a result, one of the best ways many people can reduce stress in their life these days is to keep their cell phone turned off most of the time.

We also need to realize that we create most of the stress in our lives through automatic maladaptive stress-response patterns that we have repeated for decades. Most stress isn’t inherent in situations. We create it through the stories that we tell ourselves about those situations. When our mind spins out our emotions spin out as well. These patterns are learned and they can be unlearned by becoming more mindful and/or replacing them with better response patterns. This is not about blame, it is about awareness!

Disciplines such as meditation, prayer, yoga, and tai chi can be helpful, as well as counseling, if necessary.

5)  CONNECTING WITH NATURE – We are natural beings and we need to nourish our connection with Nature. It is a human need just like air, water, food, shelter, exercise and love. Being in and with Nature both fulfills this need and is one of the best ways to reduce stress. However, racing around in Nature on ATVs, snowmobiles, and motorboats doesn’t really count – and leave the cell phone behind!

6)   PROBIOTICS – It is essential that we have a healthy population of friendly microorganisms living in and on our body. One of the illusions perpetuated by the modern worldview is that we are individuals. In reality, we are intimately connected to the world that we live in, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. Our body functions more like an ecosystem than an individual entity. The microorganisms that normally live in and on us work together with our body cells to help create an environment that is mutually beneficial for both. They also work with our immune cells. In some ways they act like an extension of our immune system.

Many things can disturb our internal ecology. Antibiotics are the worst and should only be used when absolutely necessary—which is very rarely, possibly never for many people. Excessive use of natural antimicrobials can have a similar effect, especially when they are very concentrated such as essential oils. The current over-marketing and over-use of very potent herbs and herbal products — such as oregano oil — can disturb our microbiome.

We also need to eat lots of fibre (the main food of friendly microorganisms in our respiratory and digestive tracts) and have a strong, healthy digestive system. When our digestive system isn’t functioning well it will lead to unhealthy changes in our gut microbiome. The most important contributors to weak digestion are eating a poor diet and overloading our stomachs by eating too much, too often, or too close to bedtime. This system needs to rest – regularly! The other major cause of poor digestion is too much stress.

A good probiotic supplement should contain at least 5-6 strains of bacteria, and 10-15 is even better. It should include Lactobacillus plantarumL. rhamnosus and L. salivarius, and the potency should be at least 10 billion active cells. Probiotics must be refrigerated and they keep better in capsule form because the capsule helps to protect the culture from moisture and oxygen. However, it is essential that we open up the capsule and mix it with water when we take it because it is necessary to get the culture into our mouth and throat. From there it can also spread deeper into our respiratory system. Getting the culture into our mouth, throat and respiratory system is the most important factor in terms of preventing viral infections as most viruses enter our body via this route. Friendly microorganisms improve immune function and compete with unfriendly microorganisms. Swishing the water with probiotic culture around in our mouth before swallowing it will facilitate the culture getting established in our mouth and throat.

Probiotics should be taken on an empty stomach at least 3 hours after eating, 1 hour after drinking anything other than water, and 30 minutes before eating or drinking anything other than water. Empty the capsule into 175-250 ml (6-8 oz) of water that doesn’t contain chlorine. What works even better is to add it to warm water with a tablespoon of organic psyllium husks, whole flax seeds, or whole chia seeds (or a combination of 2 or 3 of them) as mucilaginous fibre helps the culture to adhere to our mucus membranes and supports its growth. This type of fibre is prebiotic. The best time to take probiotics is first thing in the morning.

Even if we eat well and have healthy digestive function, there are lots of things that can throw off the balance of our internal microbiome. For that reason it’s a good idea to take a good probiotic supplement for 3-4 weeks, 2-3 times per year as a preventive measure. We should also take probiotics any time we feel like we are getting sick for the duration of the illness and at least one week afterwards. In some ways this is just important as taking herbs—but taking both is best! Probiotics are also recommended any time we travel a significant distance from home—starting a week before we leave and ending a week after we return—and, of course, any time that it is necessary to take antibiotics and for about a month afterwards.

7)   MICROBIOME OF THE SKIN – Connected to the probiotic issue is the health of the microbiome of our skin. One of the biggest challenges in this regard is our current microbe phobia. Yes, it is important to wash our hands whenever they are “dirty”, however the use of antimicrobial soaps, hand sanitizers and similar products — even if they are ‘natural’ — is detrimental to the health of our skin and the organisms that live on it. Soap alone is antimicrobial enough, and even too much soap is a bad thing. We tend to use too much of it, too often, and often on parts of our body that don’t require it. In reality, unless areas of our body have been exposed to some oily or fat-soluble substance, water alone is all that is necessary to wash most of the surface of our body. Water will remove sweat and urine, and toweling dry will remove excessive sebum (skin oil) without drying out our skin too much.

That being said, the current COVID-19 pandemic is one of those situations when a novel illness is spreading through the population and it has demonstrated the ability to remain viable on some surfaces for hours or even days. This is one of those times when washing our hands more often and the occasional use of (natural) hand sanitizers is a good idea, but I only recommend using hand sanitizers when we do not have access to soap and water.

A special note here to parents: these guidelines also apply to our children. Not only will our paranoia about their cleanliness encourage them to grow up to be anxious, fearful adults, there is a growing body of evidence (officially called the “hygiene hypothesis”) that infants and young children need to be exposed to microorganisms from their environment—especially soil—in order for their immune system to develop normally. Excessive hygiene at an early age is correlated with an increase in autoimmune conditions later in life. As parents we have a double responsibility to learn how to be more chill about these kinds of things. This will not only improve our personal health and well-being, but kids notice if we get anxious in certain situations and the response is contagious. We are teaching them to be over-sensitive, anxious people, which will detrimental to them through their lives.

8)   RECOMMENDED SUPPLEMENTS – There are many supplements that can help boost immune function. At the very least I recommend a low potency multivitamin with minerals (iron-free unless you know for sure that you need it); non-acidic vitamin C (mineral ascorbates as opposed to ascorbic acid); vitamin D; polyphenols such as flavonoids, anthocyanins and catechins; zinc; selenium; and omega-3 fatty acids. N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is an antioxidant that has a particular affinity for the lungs. It helps to reduce lung inflammation and break up thick mucus secretions.

Reversing Chronic Inflammation

Melatonin is also important, but it is better to support our body in producing a sufficient level of its own melatonin rather than taking it as a supplement. This means plenty of exposure to outdoor light (without sunglasses) during the day and sleeping in an environment that is completely dark at night. Looking at devices during the last couple of hours before we go to bed is particularly detrimental. This is because they emit light with a lot of the blue/violet spectrum and the light is shining directly into our eyes. During that time, if we want to engage with something like that it is best to read a book or magazine in soft light (low blue/violet spectrum) that is shining from behind us.

It is best if people who usually need to get up at night learn to navigate their way to the bathroom in the dark rather than turning on lights. If that isn’t possible, use a red nightlight that isn’t very bright. The red light spectrum doesn’t shut off our melatonin production as readily as other wavelengths. It is likely that one of the many reasons that immune dysfunction is so prevalent today is because our melatonin production atrophies with age largely due to stress, lack of sunlight, over-use of devices at night, and sleeping in environments that aren’t completely dark.

Lack of sleep, however, is one of the major factors that reduces immune function. Meditation and other disciplines that help us learn how to calm our mind can be helpful if we are experiencing insomnia due to too much mental chatter. It is better that we improve our sleep habits through our own efforts than relying on taking a pill. However, in the short-term taking something is better than not getting enough sleep. Taking melatonin periodically can therefore sometimes be helpful. It is best to take it in the form of a sublingual tablet; start with a very low dose like 0.5-1 mg and slowly build up the dose until you find the minimum level that works for you. Taking too much is not good, and is sometimes less effective than taking a lower dose. In addition to being a sleep aid, it is possible that the melatonin will have some additional immune-boosting properties.

9)  REDUCE EXPOSURE TO TOXICITY – This includes pollutants in our environment, work place and home, including chemical solvents, air pollution, and household cleaning products. It also includes agricultural and food processing chemicals. And we must avoid drinking, breathing, or bathing in chlorine. That doesn’t mean we need to buy bottled water and fill up the world with plastic bottles. A simple carbon filter for our drinking water and shower will do.

It is also best to reduce our use of drugs. This includes cigarettes, marijuana, “hard” drugs and pharmaceuticals (especially antibiotics). I know this won’t go down well with those who are enthusiastic about marijuana these days, but inhaling burning resin on a regular basis is not a good thing. I am fairly certain that the chemicals that people are inhaling from vaping products are unhealthy as well. If you consume caffeine, alcohol and/or marijuana, it should be in moderation. For coffee, once per day is acceptable. Two cups of tea in a day is OK as that contains roughly the same amount of caffeine as one cup of coffee.

10)   IMMUNE STIMULATING HERBS – Immune stimulants are short-term immunomodulators that stimulate an immediate response by our immune system. To give our immune system a boost, it is best to combine 3-5 of them and take them for short periods of time followed by a break. Their effectiveness drops off if they are used for more than a week or two. An immune stimulant formula is taken 3-4 times per day.

In general, herbs are best taken on an empty stomach for optimum assimilation. So, we take the immune stimulants 3-4 times per day on an empty stomach for 1-2 weeks and then stop taking them for at least another week. For the average person that might mean taking them one week per month during the time of year when they are most susceptible to infections, probably September to April for most people in the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere. In tropical areas and the Southern Hemisphere it can be different.

For a stronger boost, an immune stimulant formula can be taken for 1-2 week periods followed by a 1-2 week break for several cycles. This is called pulsing. Taking them continuously for a longer period doesn’t increase their effectiveness, but pulsing them longer does. During a period of time when we are at a greater risk of getting sick such as during the current COVID-19 pandemic—or whenever there seems to be a lot of viruses going around—it’s a good idea to pulse an immune stimulant formula one week on, one week off for the duration of the pandemic. If we do get sick it’s necessary to shift from preventative to acute protocols.

Immune stimulants can also be used according to acute protocols to treat an infection in progress. The sooner we start using them the more effective the results. When treating an acute infection in progress we begin by taking the formula every couple of hours or maybe even every hour if the symptoms are very intense. Then we gradually decrease the frequency of the dose while the symptoms are resolving. Sometimes people who use immune stimulant herbs obtain poor results. It’s usually because they weren’t taking enough and/or they started too late. Also, for acute infections it is more effective if we combine immune stimulant herbs with herbs that treat the specific kind of infection that we are suffering from.

Stinging Nettle

Some effective immune stimulants that are versatile and easy to use include purple coneflower herb and root (Echinacea spp.), elecampane root (Inula helenium) [maximum 30%], plantain herb (Plantago spp.), pot marigold flower (Calendula officinalis) [maximum 15%], boneset herb (Eupatorium perfoliatum) [maximum 20%], yarrow herb (Achillea millefolium) [maximum 20%], black elder flower (Sambucus nigra) and stinging nettle herb (Urtica dioica). The proportion limits are due to their level of bitterness, astringency and/or pungency (heat).

11)   IMMUNE TONIC HERBS – Immune tonics work more slowly and deeply than immune stimulants. They must be taken continuously, 3-4 times per day for at least 2 months. Immune tonics are not recommended for acute infections, but are very good for chronic autoimmune conditions and as long-term tonics to boost overall immune function when we aren’t sick. They work best when following a period of time pulsing a good immune stimulant formulation.

Adaptogen Herbs - Ginseng


The immune tonics that I often use include North American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), Chinese milkvetch (Astragalus membranaceus), turmeric rhizome (Curcuma longa) [maximum 30%], and a number of fungi including lacquered polypore or reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), artist’s conk (G. applanatum) hemlock varnish shelf (G. tsugae), birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus), tinder fungus (Fomes fomentarius) and turkey tail (Trametes versicolor).

12)   ANTIVIRAL HERBS – There are many herbs that have antiviral properties. They are important to include—along with immune stimulants—in formulations for the treatment of active viral infections such as colds and influenza. During an outbreak of a particularly nasty viral infection, these herbs can be pulsed along with immune stimulants to boost our resistance. Although the action of antivirals doesn’t wear off in the same way as immune stimulants, if they are used continuously there is a risk that viruses could develop a resistance to the herbs that we are using. Therefore, taking them continuously is not recommended and it’s best not to use the same herbs all the time. When treating an active acute infection, antivirals are combined with immune stimulants and taken more frequently according to acute protocols (see ‘Immune Stimulants’ above).

Some common and effective antiviral herbs include all of the immune stimulants that I mentioned above (with the exception of plantain and elecampane), as well as lemon balm herb (Melissa officinalis), hyssop herb (Hyssopus officinalis), heal-all herb (Prunella vulgaris), mad-dog skullcap herb (Scutellaria lateriflora), peppermint herb (Mentha x piperita), St. Johnswort herb (Hypericum perforatum), blue vervain herb (Verbena hastata) [maximum 30%], oregano herb (Origanum vulgare) [maximum 30%], marjoram herb (O. majorana) [maximum 50%], thyme herb (Thymus vulgaris), wild bergamot herb (Monarda fistulosa) [maximum 30%], sage herb (Salvia officinalis) [maximum 20%] and cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum verum) [maximum 15%].

When using antivirals for very serious conditions it is necessary to add a potentizing antiviral herb to the formulation. These are herbs that are less tonic and more intense and, as a result, tend to have some side-effects and potential toxicity associated with them if they are over-used or misused. We usually only include one of these herbs in a formulation at a proportion of about 10%, supported by some of the more tonic antivirals listed above. There are medium and high potency potentizers. I am only going to mention a few of the medium potency herbs because the high potency herbs are associated with a much greater potential for toxicity and should only be used under the guidance of a qualified herbalist or other practitioner who is experienced with the use of these herbs.

Some of the medium potency antiviral herbs that I recommend include black walnut leaf or fruit husk (Juglans nigra), tansy herb (Tanacetum vulgare), creosote-bush or chaparral leaf (Larrea tridentata) and wild indigo root (Baptisia spp.) [all maximum 10%].

Another and simpler way to potentize a formula for an acute viral infection is using essential oils. These are very powerful and the way some of them are being recommended these days is inappropriate. However, they can be added to tincture formulations to boost their antiviral properties. The best essential oils for this purpose are thyme (Thymus vulgaris), marjoram, oregano and frankincense. The appropriate dose is one drop of essential oil for each 50-100 ml of a tincture formula.

All of the immune tonic herbs that I mentioned are antiviral as well. We don’t use them in immune stimulant formulations or for acute infections, but we do get additional antiviral benefits from taking immune tonic formulations when we are healthy.

13)   USING HERBS EXTERNALLY – Although the herbal protocols for prevention are strictly systemic (internal) and the primary treatment for this kind of infection in progress is systemic as well, if you get a respiratory infection the treatment of the symptoms can be further enhanced by using herbal essential oils in addition to taking them internally.

There are many essential oils that are both antiviral and also can help reduce respiratory symptoms. These include all of the ones that I have already mentioned (thyme, oregano, marjoram and frankincense) as well as anise, lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint and rosemary. The essential oils are added to a stable oil base (olive oil works well) and gently massaged over the surface of the chest, upper back, and throat. Do this 2-3 times per day depending on the severity of your symptoms. It’s best to combine two or more. The dilution is one drop of all of the essential oils combined for each ml of base oil (not one drop of each essential oil per ml). So if you add three essential oils in equal proportion to 30 ml of base oil the amount would be 10 drops of each essential oil. Keep in mind that if you do this before bed, peppermint, eucalyptus and rosemary could be too stimulating for some people and make it more difficult to fall asleep. For children under three years old use half the amount of essential oil per ml of base oil.

14)   DIFFUSING ESSENTIAL OILS – There are many kinds of diffusers that disperse essential oils in the air. There is some evidence that using antiviral essential oils in this way can help to reduce the spread of viruses in indoor environments. Any of the essential oils that I recommended can be used this way. It is better to combine at least two of them. In particular, I recommend combining either lavender and thyme, or lavender and marjoram. These combinations work well, smell great, can help reduce respiratory symptoms, and are calming—which can help to reduce the stress than many of us are feeling right now. The other essential oils that I mentioned also work, but many of them are less calming and aren’t necessarily the best aromas that we might want to use in our home or workspace.

Some diffusers use candles such as tea lights to warm the essential oils. When using this type of diffuser it is best to use natural wax candles such as beeswax as it’s not good to be inhaling paraffin when dealing with respiratory issues. This is also a source of indoor pollution that is best avoided.

15) INHALATIONS – For anyone with an active respiratory infection, inhalations can also help to reduce the severity of the symptoms and speed up recovery. This involves filling a bowl with an aromatic herbal infusion, or hot water, and adding a couple of drops of essential oil (or both). We need to breath the steam deeply for a few minutes. The best way is to place the face over the bowl and put a towel over the head to create a contained space to breathe in the steam and herb vapours. All of the essential oils that I mentioned above are effective or we can use the herbs that they are derived from as infusions.

16)   CHEMICAL-FREE CLEANING – Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces during a pandemic can be important to help reduce the spread of the virus. However, we don’t need to go overboard with disinfectants—especially the chemical kind. I use a very simple homemade all-purpose cleaning product that can be used for almost anything, and is antimicrobial as well. In a typical size spray bottle (750 ml to 1 litre) mix 10% white vinegar with 90% water. Add 2-3 drops of natural dish detergent, and 2-3 drops each of a couple of antimicrobial essential oils. It’s good to use essential oils that you like the aroma of, and in this case we don’t need to be concerned about respiratory properties. In addition to the essential oils that I already mentioned, lemon also works well for this purpose.

17) BREATHING TO PROTECT YOUR LUNGS – Our nasal passages are designed to filter and condition the air that we breathe. When we breathe through our nose, particulate matter and potential pathogens get trapped in the hairs and mucus. This helps to prevent them from getting deeper into our respiratory system where they are more harmful. They can then be eliminated when we blow our nose.

Many people have a tendency to breathe through the mouth. This increases susceptibility to infections and chronic respiratory conditions. In the long-term it is important to practice nose breathing as much as possible. It is particularly important if we need to be in public during a pandemic. Breathing through our nose will not only reduce the likelihood that we contract an airborne infection, it will also reduce the potential for us to spread an infection to others if we are carrying it ourselves and don’t realize it.

Some people recommend that we breathe in through our nose and out through our mouth. This can be useful during aerobic exercise when our oxygen demands are higher than normal, but we don’t want to be only drawing air inwards through our sinuses. This will increase the likelihood that anything trapped there will penetrate deeper into our respiratory system. It’s best to breathe in and out through our nose and blow our nose when things start to accumulate.

In Conclusion

To summarize the herbal recommendations, pulsing an immune stimulant formula for a period of time, possibly followed by an immune tonic taken for 2-3 months, is an excellent way to improve immune function and prevent illness. If we are sick with a respiratory viral infection, combining immune stimulant herbs with antiviral herbs and taking the formula according to acute protocols—which means larger doses more often—a little bit longer than the duration of the illness is far more effective. It also might be a good idea to take a break for a week and then pulse with an immune stimulant formula a couple of times to give our immune system an extra boost after being sick.

There are many immune, cold/flu and antiviral formulations available over-the-counter. They are going to vary from region to region. For convenience it is possible to purchase these products rather than attempt to make your own formula. Although some of them might be effective, unfortunately most of the formulations that I have seen out there aren’t very good. Many of them include chronic immune tonic herbs in acute formulations. Many also include higher potency herbs that are not recommended for unsupervised use. Many are just poorly formulated. If you follow the basic principles that I have provided you are likely to end up with a formula that is better than most of the products that you can purchase—and learn something in the process!

In general, I prefer to use tinctures that are made from fresh herbs. Although other forms will work, in my experience these get the best results. Nevertheless, infusions (teas) can be used as well. The individual dose depends on the potency. Use the guidelines on the label of any products that you purchase. Keep in mind that they will usually be guidelines for chronic use. For acute use the dose and frequency of dosage needs to be higher.

Anyone who is pregnant, nursing, has a serious health condition, or is taking pharmaceuticals should consult with a qualified herbalist or other natural health care practitioner who is trained in the use of herbs before using any of these protocols. Similarly, if you try any of these herbs and have an unusual reaction or don’t get sufficient results, your condition may be too complicated for self-treatment and it’s best to consult with a practitioner. Also, if you are giving herbs to children the doses are lower, roughly corresponding to body weight. Potentizing herbs should not be used for children except under the guidance of a qualified practitioner.

During the current COVID-19 pandemic we also need to follow the guidelines being provided by government health agencies to help to control the spread of this illness. Anyone with moderate to severe symptoms should not be attempting to self-treat. They should consult with a doctor for regular health care, and with a qualified herbalist or other natural health practitioner for natural health care.

The issue of viruses and infectious disease is very complex. I have tried my best to provide as complete a picture as possible and to cut through a lot of the media hype and general paranoia within these space limitations. The most important thing to remember is that there are a lot of positive things that we can do if we choose to. To live a healthy life means living in balance and that comes from the quality of our relationships—with our body, our food, our family and community, and with Nature.

Factors such as global warming, habitat destruction, human overpopulation, extensive global trade and travel, and poor diet and lifestyle practices among much of the population (due to poverty in some regions and affluence and over-consumption in others), make the possibility of global pandemics more likely in the coming decades.

Should we be concerned about this? Aware and concerned yes, but we need to do our best to minimize fear. What’s important is that we not lose sight of the bigger picture. Firstly, no one really knows for sure if a global pandemic is going to occur, and, if it does, when, where, what kind, and how severe it’s going to be. There’s no point worrying about something that may or may not happen and over which we have little control!

Unfortunately, we modern Western humans tend to be obsessed with control. We live our lives in an illusion of control and fear anything that threatens our illusion. What we need to do more of is live each moment to the fullest and embrace the Mystery! This is a recipe for a happier, healthier, more fulfilling life. We need to acknowledge that there are Natural Laws. We can manipulate them to a degree—sometimes to our benefit and often to our detriment—but what we really need to do is learn how to dance with Nature in a good way. Although we have convinced ourselves otherwise, life is not a free-for-all where we can do whatever we want whenever we want.

The same thing applies to death. We’re all going to die! It is the only thing that we can count on with certainty. What we don’t know is where, when and how. Traditional cultures get this. They grieve and mourn death, but they also accept it as a fact of life and see it as the next stage in our sacred journey. In modern Western culture we do not have a good relationship with death. We see it as something evil and like to pretend that it’s not going to happen. We want life at all cost—even if there is no quality to life and we are kept alive by drugs and machines; and even if it is at the expense of other people and future generations. Maybe there will be more pandemics…and each one of us is potentially at risk. All the more reason to live our life to the fullest right here and now! Whether we die tomorrow, next year, or in 50 years, what a waste it will have been if we have lived our life in fear of some hypothetical future rather than fully embracing each precious moment that we have.

When it comes to microbes, we need to stop seeing them as our enemies and realize that for the most part they are our friends. Life would not be possible without them and most of them are directly or indirectly beneficial to us. Even potentially pathogenic organisms are mostly good for us. We are exposed to millions of them every day and many of them live in and on our body all of the time. Mostly, they just provide ‘exercise’ for our body defenses—which is necessary for proper immune function.

Fully living, loving, and embracing each moment of our lives will do more to protect us from viruses than taking any number of herbs and supplements!

Michael Vertolli is a Registered Herbalist practising in Vaughan (just north of Toronto). He is the Director of Living Earth School of Herbalism, which offers in-class and online general interest courses, certificate, and diploma programs. More information: 905-303-8723, ext. 1. Visit: Blog:


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  1. p
    April 06, 20:04 pat

    Wise words! Thank you, Michael.

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  2. F
    April 07, 16:08 Farida

    A holistic and wholesome overview of the need to live in balance and view life and living through this lens. I have one question for Michael – how do you feel about olive leaf extract and how is it best utilized during the current pandemic?

    Reply this comment
  3. M
    April 08, 09:09 Michael

    Unfortunately, I can’t say much about olive leaf. I only write about herbs that I use in my practice and have a lot of experience with. 95% of the herbs that I use are herbs that grow or can be grown in southern and central Ontario. From what I know of olive leaf, theoretically it might be helpful. But I can not say with certainty.

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