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What An Herbalist, Midwife & Integrative Medicine Doctor Says About The Coronavirus

Jason Wachob
mbg Founder & Co-CEO By Jason Wachob
mbg Founder & Co-CEO
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth.
What An Herbalist, Midwife & Integrative MD Says About The Coronavirus

When it comes to COVID-19, there's a lot of unknown. While it can be helpful to embrace this unknown and find peace in the mystery, being informed with evidence-based sources can also help quell some anxiety. 

That's exactly why we spoke to Yale-educated integrative medicine doctor, midwife, and herbalist Aviva Romm, M.D., on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast. With her breadth of knowledge on all things herbs, supplements, and clinical medical research, it only made sense to consult her during this global pandemic to get some of our questions answered. 

Here's exactly what Romm has to say about the coronavirus—from the herbs we should be taking to any implications of COVID-19 on pregnancy:  

1. Embrace herbs and supplements.

In terms of supplements, needless to say, this herbalist is on board. Romm says there's an arsenal of herbs and supplements we can take to support our immune systems—from widely recognized players like zinc and vitamin D to ones we might not be familiar with for immunity, like astragalus and lavender oil. 

Let's start with those common supplements: "Nutritionally, if you had to pick the top three we can feel confident about in terms of safety, it would be zinc, vitamin D, and vitamin C. They're safe for anyone at any age, safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding," Romm says. 

As for the lesser-known herbs, Romm is partial to adaptogens in order to support the immune system (that includes medicinal mushrooms, like reishi and ashwagandha, and holy basil). She also touts echinacea and astragalus as herbs worth trying for immunity—while there's no data on them for COVID-19 yet, they do have purported benefits for the common cold.

But Romm's favorite herb in her medicine cabinet is none other than lavender oil, as it helps reduce her anxiety (which, as we know, has quite the impact on our immune systems). "One of my favorites right now is lavender oil—it's incredibly effective for a good night's sleep, especially when it's disrupted by anxiety," she explains. 

With these herbs and supplements, feel free to take them by capsule, tincture, or even add them to soups and smoothies. While they're great to have on hand, Romm emphasizes that they're not totally necessary (hence the term, supplement). "Don't freak out if you can't find them; just do your best," she assures me. 

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2. Combating loneliness has never been so important.

Romm agrees with most experts during this time of social distancing: Social connection, despite the quarantine, is crucial. While this doesn't mean ignoring the 6-feet rule, there are some ways you can foster social connection and combat loneliness during this time. 

"Make sure you're getting face-to-face time, even if it's virtual. It's so healthy for us," Romm says. She mentions that stress and loneliness can negatively affect our immune systems (a topic we're familiar with here at mbg), so finding ways to combat both is paramount. 

"FaceTime with at least two people per day," Romm tells me. "As much as we can do to connect with each other is so powerful."

3. If you're trying to conceive, proceed.

In terms of what this virus means for pregnancy (all stages of pregnancy: from couples trying to conceive, to the first trimester, to time of birth, to postpartum), Romm mentions that there is limited data. However, from the data that we have, there has not been an increased risk of pregnancy loss or stillbirth, she explains. "The virus hasn't been found in umbilical cord blood or transmitted during time of birth or in breast milk." 

What there are large studies on, however, is the implications of fever during pregnancy, in general. Romm tells me that studies have shown a fever of 102.2 degrees Fahrenheit or higher can put the baby at risk of birth defects, but that this risk is mitigated entirely by taking medications like acetaminophen or supplementing with folic acid.

"What we do know is that women who take at least 400 grams of folic acid around the time of conception and in the first trimester, that risk is mitigated almost entirely during pregnancy," she explains. That said, "If you're trying to conceive, this is an important time to get on folic acid." 

It's always best to limit your information intake to science-backed sources (as opposed to scary headlines on news feeds), especially during this time of uncertainty. While a lot of the knowledge surrounding the coronavirus remains unknown, hopefully with Romm's tips, your head can be a little more clear.

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