What is the Coronavirus?

Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is named for it’s distinctive halo that looks a bit like a crown. You can only see this halo under a microscope. It was first observed in Wuhan in China and was reported to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in December 2019. WHO have declared this virus to be a public health emergency of global concern. It belongs to a family of viruses responsible for causing respiratory, gut and neurological diseases in mammals and birds.

What are the signs and symptoms of the Cornonavirus?

Signs and symptoms are similar to the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Symptoms include: a fever that is 38 degrees or higher, cough, and shortness of breath. It is a serious virus because it can develop into pneumonia. These flu like symptoms are shared by a number of viruses so it is important that you get it checked out by a health professional. There is a laboratory test to confirm whether you have contracted this virus.

What to do to minimise exposure to the Coronavirus

Just like the common cold, this virus is spread by droplets shared from human to human. For example, coughing, sneezing or just breathing out. It can also be spread by touching things that an infected person has touched (including themselves). Doorknobs are a very common way of transmitting viruses.

Therefore, it’s important to be on top of your respiratory, hand and food hygiene and to isolate yourself if you are sick. If you need to sneeze or cough, make sure you are coughing and sneezing into a tissue or the crook of your elbow. If you are sick, go to your doctor to get this possibility ruled out.

Wash your hands:

  • after you have coughed or sneezed – throw the tissue away and wash your hands
  • when you are near people who are unwell
  • after using public transport
  • before, during and after working with food
  • before eating
  • after going to the toilet
  • after touching animals or animal waste
  • whenever you look at your hands and think they could do with a good wash

Handwashing involves more than a quick rinse under the tap. Please take a moment to make sure that children know how to wash their hands effectively by following these top tips.

Top tips for effective hand washing

  1. Place your hands under clean, running water that is as hot as you can comfortably tolerate.
  2. Turn off the tap and lather your hands with soap by rubbing them together and then giving them a good scrub.
  3. Do this for at least 20 seconds.
  4. Turn the tap on and rinse your hands under the hot water.
  5. For an added extra, apply an alcohol rub to your hands after you have dried them.

Treatment options

This is a new virus so there isn’t a vaccine available at this point in time. However, there are a number of herbs which have plant chemicals that inhibit coronavirus. These include: myricetin, scutellarein which is found in Scutellaria baicalensis, and some phenolic acids. (Liang-Tzung Lin et al, 2014).

kawakawa leaf

Myricetin is found in many New Zealand natives, particularly kawakawa (Macropiper excelsum) leaf. It is also found in parsley leaf and seed. Sambucus nigra (Elderberry) contains phenolic acids and myricetin. There are also a number of other broad spectrum antiviral herbs which were effective in treating SARS. Personally, I have begun a preventative mix using a combination of antiviral herbs, including elderberry and kawakawa. If this is of interest, contact your local medical herbalist.

You can also increase your immune boosting foods. Begin by favouring nutrient dense foods of all colours. Increase your intake of mushrooms, horseradish, turmeric, garlic and onion. Check out my recipe for onion syrup here.

create a nutrition plan rich in colour

Where to go for more information

The Ministry of Health in New Zealand is providing updates on coronavirus and they ask that if you have a fever, cough or are having trouble breathing, to telephone Healthline (for free) on 0800 611 116.

The WHO has provided a one stop shop for information on coronavirus. You can access it here: https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019


Abubakr, M.D. et al (2013) Natural Compounds against Flaviviral infection. Natural Product Communications Vol8, No 10. Pp 1487-1492. 

Birt, D. et al (2009) Hypericum in infection: Identification of antiviral and anti-inflammatory constituents. Pharm Biol. 47(8): 774-782.

Lai, M.M.C and Holmes, K.. (2001) Coronaviridae and their replication. In Fields’ Virology. Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins. U.S.A pp 1163-1185.

Liang-Tzung Lin et al (2014). Antiviral Natural Products and Herbal Medicines. Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine. Jan-Mar 4(1) 24-35.

Sohail, M.N. et al (2011) Plants as a source of Antiviral agents. Asian Journal of Animal and Veterinary advances. Pp 1125-1152.  V Viapiana, A. and Wesolowski, M. (2017) The Phenolic contents and antioxidant activities of infusions of Sambucus nigra. Plant Foods Hum Nutr.March. 72(1) 82-87.

Weng, Jing-Ru et al (2019) Antiviral activity of Sambucus Formosana Nakai ethanol extract and related phenolic constituents against human coronavirus NL63. Virus Res; 273:197767. November 2019.