In Long Covid Ayurveda support can make a potential difference in the intensity, severity, and duration of the disease. Much is still in the early stages of research. Last month it was estimated that 2 – 4 million people are unable to work due to Long Covid, and that currently more than 16 million working age adults have long Covid in the US. There are a huge number of us who are quietly suffering with continued fatigue, inflammation, difficulty breathing, chest pain, digestive symptoms, joint pain, brain fog, or loss of taste and/or smell. Hispanic adults, women, and young adults have been particularly hard hit.
Long Covid can result from mild or intense acute Covid cases. Researchers are just beginning to appreciate the long term effects of the COVID-19 virus. Medically, chronic viral infections and post viral conditions can be insidious and dangerous, as witnessed by Epstein-Barr virus infection’s association with the disease multiple sclerosis, and human papillomavirus’ connection with multiple cancers. Some researchers are hypothesizing that long COVID may not be just COVID, yet rather in some cases a reactivation of another virus, such as Epstein-Barr. It’s worth being careful.
Enhanced Connections with Nature
From the perspective of the person with long Covid Ayurveda support needs to be affordable. Ayurveda emphasizes establishing healthy rhythms, bringing one in sync with nature and biological cycles. This connection with nature can start very simply. You might notice how the sun feels on your face, whether a cloudy day is more soothing. Tracking with nature can begin as simply as this. What feels supportive for you?
If you are able to sit near a stream, fountain, or other moving water, in Ayurveda, this is considered a way to build immunity. Another key strategy is to get oneself out for a walk in the early morning. With long Covid, this may be nothing short of heroic to accomplish at first. Even a few minutes to start can be powerful. Some people’s strategy is not to force themselves to walk further, but rather to add just one extra minute of walking per day. (Or Tai Chi or Chi gung, if you like.)These can be gentle ways to expand endurance and range.
The pandemic has pushed many of us to spend more time outside in fresh air. This is a plus, from the perspective of Ayurveda and prana. Prana or chi (its name in Chinese medicine) is the subtle energy carried by breath and healing foods. It helps us feel more alive. Yet many conditions can block our access to prana. Climate change has shifted the relationship of millions of sentient beings to our environments, as flood, wild fires, drought, pollen, and extreme winds come between us and our daily connections to earth. Climate change pushes war and displacement. Many long Covid people are struggling to recover under extreme and unusual conditions for their regions.
Pranayama is one of the Ayurveda tools recommended for long Covid recovery, to strengthen the lungs’ capacity and enhance the uptake of energizing prana. Finding a comfortable safe place to be able to try breathing exercises is the first step. There are even clinical trials that have begun to train survivors in these techniques.
Therapeutic self touch can be a key long Covid Ayurveda support. Marma therapy has been a form of healing practiced for centuries in India in Ayurveda and yoga. Key points on the surface of the body can be stimulated to improve energy and circulation. When a client seeking long Covid Ayurveda support comes to me for an appointment, sometimes they are too tired to think clearly. As we talk, between the medical history and the pulse assessment, I might invite them to rest, then try some marma for themselves. Here’s an example.
Marma Therapy and Ojas
Building ojas is a concept unique to Ayurveda. Ojas is our vital cushion, our primal vigor. It is associated with immunity from the Western perspective. When our ojas is depleted, we can feel exhausted and sensitive to the least bit of unpleasant stimulation. (Lyme’s sufferers can know this experience well.) As my hypothetical client and I take a bit of a break, I might guide them in touch points to strengthen ojas and build immunity. Here’s three marma points that can feel very good that are also easy to do on oneself. Despite their formidable Sanskrit names, the marma points Parshvasandhi, Uru 2, and Gulpha are not hard to do.If you want to take a metaphoric break with us now and support your immunity, here’s what we’d do.
Place the heels of your hands at the small of your back, at the waist. Rub as vigorously as you are inclined. Take a breath. This is Parshvasandhi, a key point for building immunity.
Move your hand to the outsides of your thighs, working with the heels of your hands again or your fingertips, whichever feels easier. Rub strongly along the outside seam of your pants or skirt, on the ilio tibial band. Take a breath. You’re on the marma point Uru 2, another long Covid Ayurveda support.
Finally slide your hands down to both ankles, grasping the insides and the outsides just below the ankle bone, holding firmly (simply hold very gently if you are pregnant). Rest, take a breath. This is Gulpha. Breathe in fresh air to every cell.
If you are seeking long Covid Ayurveda support, you need to be taken seriously by whatever practitioner you work with. This includes the practitioner hearing what you’re saying and respecting your views. For practitioners, if you’d like to learn more about how to do this skillfully and integrate the marma therapy mentioned here, I’m teaching a course Marma, Mind, Mahagunas this October 5 and 12 to deepen these communication and touch skills.
How Do We Work with Now?
According to Dr. Greg Vanichkachorn, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Covid Activity Rehabilitation Program, “Symptoms are only “half of the picture.” The other half is how those symptoms affect a person’s ability to live their lives.” The extreme limitations some long Covid survivors face triggers the necessity to work with the mind, feelings and energy in whole new ways. There will be more about mind, emotions, and energy in Part 2, the next blog.
Remembering the Basics of Food
Long Covid Ayurveda support includes an Ayurvedic diet, in many ways similar to the Mediterranean diet some researchers are advocating, with generous amounts of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Omega 3 rich foods are being acknowledged as important modulators of inflammation. Clinicians are keeping an eye on adequate iron – rich foods, as the bodies of people recovering from long Covid seem to use and store iron differently. Dr. Vanichkachorn emphasizes the need for adequate protein, especially if one is fatigued, while minimizing obviously inflaming substances, like red meat and white sugar. These recommendations share much with traditional Ayurveda approaches.
Need for More Research on Long Covid Ayurveda Support
Zeynep Tufekci, in her excellent column in the New York Times in late August of this year, called for a National Institute for Postviral Conditions, “to oversee and integrate research”. So far the focus is on Western pharmaceuticals, such as generic dexa methasone, being used in the UK Recovery study, or the combination drug Paxlovid, here in the US. Survivors Corp is one resource connection to learn more about these studies.
Yet research also needs to be done on long Covid Ayurveda support herbs, such as kalmegh, ashwagandha, guduchi, dashamula, and amla, among others. One WHO case report related to acute Covid with hypertension concluded, “Ayurvedic treatment module appears to be safe and efficacious with early recovery and better outcomes.” Ayurveda works with medicinal plants in a coordinated way, using compounded formulas more often than single herbs. What combinations, and for how long are the questions, as Dr. Alakananda Ma points out, as specific as the individual who needs healing. There is tremendous interest in ashwagandha as an adaptogen in long Covid Ayurved support, with a range of research trials in process. One early study tracked the positive effects of ashwagandha in normal Covid recovery for just seven days. In terms of supporting all seven dhatus in long Covid Ayurveda support and prevention, the minimum length of study would ideally need to be at least six weeks, to nourish each essential tissue. Ayurveda’s slow and steady support of every tissue can be an asset in long Covid recovery.
Ayurveda and yoga are being included in integrative trials with a variety of modalities. Likewise, there are Western nutraceuticals that need to be researched for their potential use as adjunctive therapies in long Covid recovery. Vitamin D3 has been hypothesized to have antiviral effects, and a number of studies show Vitamin D3 reducing severity and improving outcomes in acute Covid. Magnesium enhances serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels when they are low (under 30 ng/mL), a potential co-factor in immunity, yet this mineral has not yet been shown in research to have a measurable impact on long Covid. It does help muscle relaxation and mood; it is a mild laxative.
Glutathione can reduce oxidative stress, inflammation, and enhance immunity. NAC (N-Acetyl-cysteine) and glutathione both need more research in their potential roles in alleviating long Covid. A Spanish study on NAC’s impact on acute Covid-19 infections during the pandemic showed reduced mortality in patients using NAC. Liposomal glutathione in particular is an unusual form of glutathione that it is readily absorbed orally, unlike most other supplemental forms. It can support energy and the ability to breath more easily. More research needs to be done to ascertain its value in this condition.
Alpha lipoic acid is both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, with the ability to reduce elevated blood glucose levels. It improves mitochondrial and endothelial function, and enhances glutathione production. It is being researched especially for those at risk of cardiovascular and diabetic diseases concurrent with Covid. One preliminary study of alpha lipoic acid showed promising results in reducing short-term mortality among critically ill Covid patients. It is also being used in studies to recover taste and smell.
There is So Much to Be Learned
So many factors have not yet been adequately explored, and need to be. Specifically, it’s important to differentiate, research, and support the needs of people with long Covid as compared to those with acute Covid. What helps long Covid may turn out to be a little different than what has been shown to be useful in acute Covid. It’s essential to be open to the healing that can happen, especially in the realms of Ayurveda and complementary medicine.
Disclaimer: While the author works with long Covid Ayurveda support in her practice, she has not had long Covid herself.
Image Long Covid Ayurveda Support by Iza Bruen-Morningstar
Amadea Morningstar, MA, RPE, RYT has a private practice in nutrition education, Marma Therapy, Polarity Therapy, and yoga. She is teaching a series about Dynamics of Ayurvedic Nutrition as they relate to Marma, Mind, Mahagunas in early October. In November the series offers how one can Adapt Recipes for Individual and Cultural Needs.
Her latest book, Easy Healing Drinks from the Wisdom of Ayurveda highlights tasty simple ways to build health and immunity.