Role of naturopathic medicine in COVID-19

Photo: Dr. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu, RND, PhD 

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization Foreword from WHO Global Report on Traditional and Complementary Medicine 2019 has this to say:

Traditional and complementary medicine (T&CM) is an important and often underestimated health resource with many applications, especially in the prevention and management of lifestyle related chronic diseases, and in meeting the health needs of the ageing populations”.

The World Naturopathic Federation (WNF) represents naturopathic organizations around the world with the aim of promoting, supporting and enhancing the global naturopathic profession. The federation recently published a white paper on Naturopathic role in the management of global pandemic and I deem it as a step in the right direction to publish their findings.

According to the Word Naturopathic Federation(WNF), Managing the current global pandemic requires utilizing all available treatments and resources both within conventional medicine and within the field of Traditional and Complementary Medicine (T&CM).

Naturopathic Practice is Science grounded

The World Naturopathic Federation(WNF), 2017, defined Naturopathy by its philosophies, principles and theories and includes treatment modalities such as lifestyle counselling, nutritional support, clinical nutrition, herbal medicine, physical medicine, hydrotherapy and other therapies.

Steel et al 2020, agrees that, research in whole-system, multimodality naturopathic medicine shows that it is effective in the management of conditions such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, anxiety, and a range of complex chronic conditions.

Myers et al 2019 also opined that, the international naturopathic research community has produced peer-reviewed literature for over 30 years and has demonstrated sustained commitment to codifying existing knowledge, generating new knowledge, and disseminating this knowledge to the wider clinical and research community.

Steel et al 2020 results from a cross-sectional study in 14 countries revealed that Naturopathic practitioners provide health care for diverse health conditions in patients in different age groups.

According to Oberg et al 2015, the quality of research assessing clinically relevant disease-oriented and patient-centered outcomes of whole practice naturopathic medicine is positive. Naturopathic medicine is a system of medicine with positive public health implications for a wide variety of chronic health conditions.

The WHO, 2019 report asserts that, Naturopathic medicine / naturopathy is an established T&CM system of medicine that is practiced in 98 countries around the world.  This current pandemic highlights the need to focus on lifestyle factors and to address noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), both of which are strengths of naturopathic practice. Recognizing that there are limited treatment options and no cure for COVID-19 and building on contemporary research evidence, the global naturopathic profession undertook the task of analyzing the current research and conducting rapid reviews to assess the role of specific naturopathic recommendations which may be useful in the management of COVID-19.

Lifestyle factors and NCDs

The World Naturopathic Federation (WNF), 2017 report opined that, a strength of the naturopathic profession is that it addresses lifestyle factors as an integral part of practice. Naturopathic practitioners support informed decision making and address diet, exercise, breathing and other aspects of healthy living as part of their general treatment strategy for all health conditions and Foley et al 2020 is in agreement with this position.

Foley et al 2020, further argues that, Non-communicable diseases (NCDs), in particular diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases and mental and neurological health conditions are common conditions treated by naturopathic practitioners.

Steel and Lloyd, 2020, posits that, an International Study of Health Promotion and Community Education Activities of Naturopathic Clinicians demonstrates that the naturopathic profession is actively engaged in community education and the promotion of a healthy lifestyle.

Foley et al 2020 further argues that, in a recent survey, those with chronic diseases indicated that they were the most satisfied with the service they received from naturopathic practitioners. LIoyd et al 2020, research also demonstrates that, there are over 100 naturopathic-based community clinics around the world providing naturopathic care to the underprivileged, vulnernable and to specialized groups such as Indigenous and those with AIDs.

Human Studies of Naturopathic Medicine and COVID-19

The WNF, 2020, has produced research-based rapid reviews focusing on human studies of natural products in treating acute respiratory tract infections. The results of these studies are an important consideration for COVID-19.

Vitamin C: Schloss et al 2020, research demonstrates that when taken at onset of acute respiratory viral infections (ARI), oral vitamin C may reduce the duration of symptoms including fever, chest pain, chills and bodily aches and pains. It may also reduce the incidence of hospital admission and duration of hospital stays.

Vitamin D: Bradley et al 2020, asserts that, experimental evidence indicates that deficiency and insufficiency of vitamin D is associated with increased risk of Acute Respiratory Infection, and supplementation for those with deficiency/insufficiency may lead to clinically meaningful reductions in the incidence of Acute Respiratory Infection.

Zinc: Arentz et al 2020, demonstrates that Zinc may reduce the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infections and shorten the duration and severity of illness. Indirect evidence from systematic reviews have found zinc supplementation effective for the prevention of acute respiratory infections in young children and zinc lozenges may reduce the duration in adults.

N-Acetyl-Cysteine: Schloss et al 2020, is also of the view that, recent evidence suggests that N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) may improve outcomes in people with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and acute lung injury (ALI) – conditions that closely resemble the signs and symptoms of COVID-19. NAC may assist in improving markers of inflammation or oxidation, systemic oxygenation, the need for and duration of ventilation, rate of patient recovery and overall clinical improvement score.

Essential Oils: According to Prall et al 2020, Clinical evidence from published clinical trials suggests that oral administration of blends of certain essential oils (EO) can reduce symptoms of acute viral respiratory infections

Sambucus nigra L. (Elderberry): According to Harnett et al 2020, evidence obtained from across five clinical studies involving 996 adults indicate that Sambucus nigra L. berry (S.nigra), when taken within 48 hours of onset of acute respiratory viral infection, may reduce the duration and severity of common cold and influenza symptoms in adults.

Echinacea spp. (Echinacea): Harnett et al 2020, agrees that, Echinacea supplementation may assist with the symptoms of acute respiratory infections and the common cold, particularly when administered at the first sign of infection.

Hedera helix (Ivy Leaf): Barnes et al 2020, also agrees that, Hedera helix preparations may be a therapeutic option for treating early symptoms of respiratory tract infections. The best effectiveness for H. helix preparations has been proven for coughing, as an expectorant and to reduce the frequency and intensity of cough.

In conclusion, Naturopathic doctors / naturopaths are an integral part of the global healthcare team and it is time for policy makers to complement conventional efforts with Naturopathic treatment to fight COVID-19. 

The writer is on a mission to provide you and your family with the highest quality nutrition tips, scientific herbs and healthy recipes in the world.

DISCLAIMER This post is for enlightenment purposes only and should not be used as a replacement for professional diagnosis and treatments. Remember to always consult your healthcare provider before making any health-related decisions or for counselling, guidance and treatment about a specific medical condition.

The writer is an honorary Professor & Naturopathic Physician-Vinnytsia State Pedagogical University, Ukraine.  President, Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine and currently, LLB law student. Contact: 0241083423/0541234556

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