COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has already infected more than 3.4 million people globally and its rampant spread has forced virtually the entire world into a lockdown.
The absence of a vaccine or a specific treatment for the disease means that the pandemic remains a major health risk for a significant portion of the global population.
So far, treating the symptoms of an infected person has been the only viable recourse against the disease.
The virus manifests itself with various flu-like symptoms ranging from a fever, cold, sore throat, headache and in some instances, respiratory distress. Patients with acute breathing difficulties are usually given oxygen treatment or in extreme cases, hooked up to a ventilator.
Considering these factors, your body's natural defences may be your only reliable shield against the virus. Strengthening your immune system is therefore vital and physicians recommend doing so by incorporating nutrients packed with proteins, vitamins and minerals into your diet, reports bdnews24.com.
Traditional herbal remedies may also help enhance your immunity and contain the symptoms of COVID-19, according to the Alternative Medical Care Department of the Directorate General of Health Services.
In a statement in April, the department suggested consuming warm water with ginger and clove extracts, black cumin seeds, honey and fruits with vitamin C to keep the symptoms at bay.
The World Health Organization has also recognised the different health benefits of herbal ingredients such as ginger and garlic. But none of these have been proven to protect against the novel coronavirus, the WHO noted.
Prof Shahidullah Sikder, former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, successfully beat the disease at home.
He recommends a diet rich with proteins, carbohydrates, fats and vitamins to boost immunity.
“One should eat fish, meat and eggs for protein intake. Rice or bread is not needed in huge quantities but should be included in the diet. People should consume foods that contain vitamin C, A, E, B complex and minerals along with fruits such as oranges and guavas.”
Sikder also touted a few ‘alternative’ foods that could be beneficial. “You can eat black cumin seeds with a little bit of honey every morning and evening. You can also have ginger, cinnamon, cloves, black pepper in small quantities every day. All these herbs can help boost the immune system.”
Nazmul Huda, a lecturer at Government Unani and Ayurvedic Medical College, suggested the same.
“Ayurved is an ancient and effective treatment practice, which mainly focuses on prevention of diseases,” he said.
Following the Ayurved rules can boost the immunity and also reduce ailments like the common cold and cough, according to Nazmul.
A FEW NATURAL REMEDIES TO ENHANCE IMMUNITY, RECOMMENDED BY NAZMUL HUDA
>> Rinse your mouth at least twice in the morning and before bedtime with warm water infused with ginger and cloves or only salt
>> Drink herbal tea mixed with ginger, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper both in the morning and evening. Lemon juice or basil leaves can be added to it
>> Consume black cumin oil with honey both in the morning and evening
>> Have raw turmeric juice with honey or jaggery. Drinking milk mixed with half a teaspoon of turmeric powder is also beneficial
>> Chawanprash, which is made of 35 herbal ingredients, enhances appetite and is also beneficial for respiratory tract infection.
Nazmul also recommends consuming vitamin-rich fruits such as lemon, Indian gooseberry, guava, starfruit, pomelo and vegetables, including carrots, green papayas, pumpkins along with milk and eggs.
Cold, spicy, fried foods and soft drinks should be avoided, according to Nazmul Huda, who suggested drinking warm water regularly.
"A combined guideline on alternative treatment formulated together by Bangladesh, India, China and Sri Lanka can ease the task for doctors while benefitting people in the grassroots," said Nazmul.
Mohammad Nurul Huda has been practising homoeopathy for more than 40 years. He believes homoeopathic medicines can help reduce the symptoms caused by the novel coronavirus. But one should consult a registered homoeopath doctor before taking any remedies, according to Huda.
Traditional spices like ginger, cloves, black cumin seeds, black pepper and fenugreek can be used to make a herbal tea which could limit the chances of catching a cold, cough or asthma, by boosting the body's immunity.
"A clove of garlic and a pinch of black cumin seeds consumed in the morning can help in this regard," said Huda.
“You can add a bit of honey to it. A cup of ginger tea without sugar should be taken three times a day. This can provide relief from a cold or cough as well as asthmatic symptoms,” he added.
In recent months, Bangladesh has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases which have infected nearly 9,500 people and killed 177 others. The government has since enforced a nationwide lockdown, extending the shutdown period in phases to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
India too is battling a similar predicament having recently extended its lockdown by another two weeks on May 1.
But Nurul Huda points out that the number of coronavirus cases have been relatively low in some Indian states. He attributes this to the prevalence of homoeopathic medicine in those parts.
“We can use homoeopathic or herbal medicine to strengthen the immunity of individuals and the community. We can use it to save the country from the pandemic if the health ministry looks into it,” he said.
“Our doctors in the alternative medicine care department are focusing on ways to prevent the disease. They have prescribed some medicines to boost people's immunity. But the DGHS has no plan to suggest specific alternative medicine,” said Monowara Sultana, director of the health directorate's Homeopathy and Local Medicine Department.
People should be wary of anyone who claims to have a cure for the novel coronavirus, warns Shahnila Ferdousi, director of DGHS' Disease Control Department.
“We haven’t considered the use of alternative medicine as yet although we have heard about it. Many of the homoeopathic and Ayurved doctors claimed that their medicines will cure the coronavirus,” she said.
“But it takes time to determine the efficacy of a medicine on human health after it is invented. It can’t be applied to a human just like that. We could never authorise that. We reiterate that we haven’t approved any alternative medicine as a cure for the coronavirus infection.”