Skip to content

Staying Healthy (Mentally and Physically) During Testing Times

Herbal Resources

As we all adapt to 'the new normal', herbalist Iulia Barta explores how herbal medicine can support every aspect of our health.


These are strange times, no doubt. It is normal to feel a wide range of feelings, from helplessness and boredom, to guilt and perhaps excitement. Excitement for a new world emerging, a new world with less pollution, stronger community spirit, more time to pursue gardening, to learn about herbs and become more self-sufficient.

At the moment, most people are experiencing higher levels of depression and anxiety. Parents are struggling more than ever, and those living by themselves can feel very isolated. You are not alone. Please connect with others and reach out for help. Also reach out to help others that might be feeling lonely too. A phone call or a friendly message can make someone's day.

Rest and good quality Sleep

Sleep is essential for a well-functioning immune system. Feeling restless and struggling to get some good quality sleep? You might want to reduce your caffeine consumption and limit it to the first part of the day. Caffeine can stay in the body for over 8 hours! Therefore, that 5pm cuppa of tea or coffee might be keeping you up at night. It is especially important to cut out caffeine if you are suffering with anxiety as it can make it worse. Other tips to improve your sleep: avoid Blue light emitted by devices in the evenings and keep lights dim generally, to enhance your production of melatonin, our sleep hormone. Instead, you might find it helpful to take an Epsom salt bath which would increase you magnesium levels and lead to a more restful sleep.


Herbs which can help reduce stress & anxiety and improve relaxation include:

  • Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
  • Lime blossom  (Tilia x europaea)
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
  • Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
  • California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica)
  • Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

Herbal Medicine Support

Covid-19 is a new virus which is still being studied, however, many remedies have been traditionally used to support the immune system and cardiovascular function, to soothe coughs and fevers, as well as to prevent and treat chronic post-viral fatigue. Ashwagandha root (Withania somnifera) is a brilliant example of an immunomodulator herb that can support you through periods of illness, stress and fatigue. It is always best to have a one to one consultation with a medical herbalist in order to discuss your health and drug history and to receive the right herbal medicine for you. Some of the most frequently used Traditional Chinese medicine herbs used in SARS  coronavirus treatments in the past included Astragalus (Huang Qi), Licorice root and Baikal or Chinese Skullcap root as well as Schisandra berries.

Traditional "physiological masks"

In addition to following social distancing and hygiene measures, you might also find it beneficial to gargle with salt water, herbal teas or diluted tinctures of ginger, licorice, coriander and cinnamon. Steam inhalations of essential oils (only a couple of drops are needed) have also been used traditionally against viral infections and to improve breathing. Essential oils such as cinnamon, eucalyptus and peppermint may be soothing.

Diaphoretic herbs

These are herbs which have been used traditionally to manage fevers and improve sweating. Fever is our body's natural mechanism to kill viruses and bacteria and it should generally not be suppressed. Diaphoretic herbs include Mentha x piperita (peppermint), Achillea millefolium (yarrow), Sambucus nugra (elderflower), Matricaria recutita (chamomile), Tilia x europaea (lime flowers) and Asclepias tuberosa (pleurisy root). These herbs have been used widely by the Eclectic healers during the Spanish Flu pandemic.


Please always check with your local medical herbalist or another health practitioner such as your GP before self-prescribing herbs or supplements as these are not suitable for everyone. Do not stop taking your medication unless you have been advised by your doctor to do so.


Instagram: herbalist_iulia_barta
Facebook: @

Nourish your body

I cannot emphasise highly enough the importance of having a varied, healthy diet. Studies have even identified a link between low selenium levels and low vitamin D levels and a poorer recovery rate from Covid-19 infections. We can no longer deny the impact of food on our health.

Our health and wellbeing starts in the gut. Over 90% of serotonin, our happiness neurotransmitter is produced and absorbed in the gut. Junk food, excess alcohol and sugar can all cause inflammation in the gut, which in turn may reduce absorption of nutrients and increase anxiety. Did you know that an imbalance in the gut flora, our microbiome, can lead to feelings or irritability, increased fatigue as well as make you crave junk food? I can help you heal your gut and therefore your general wellbeing and appetite for healthy food.

I recommend trying to eat "a rainbow a day", meaning a variety of fruit and vegetables, as well as complex carbohydrates and protein. Each colour present in foods represents a distinct group of phytochemicals, each of them having different health benefits. Therefore, if you tend to miss out on one of the colours, you're actually depriving your body of certain therapeutic nutrients.

Focusing on our immune system at this time, it is important to ensure that you have good vitamin D levels as well as good levels of micronutrients such as zinc and beta glucans. Increase your amount of mushrooms particularly Maitake and Shiitake mushrooms for a balanced immune system (they contain beta glucans which support immunity). Pumpkin seeds, beans, lentils and chickpeas also provide good amounts of zinc. If you suspect that you might have low vitamin D levels due to being indoors, you can have a finger prick blood test at home and then supplement accordingly. 15-20 minutes a day in the sunshine will also help improve your vitamin D levels. Please note that your body cannot absorbed vitamin D through glass

This particular virus that has turned the whole world upside down, also seems to affect cardiovascular function and lead to increased clotting and endothelial dysfunction. Which foods are preventative for these issues? Most vegetables, particularly greens, roots like beetroot, carrot, pasnips, onions and garlic. Coloured fruits such as tomatoes (yes, it is botanically-speaking a fruit!), berries and red grapes. Nuts and seeds, herbal teas including green tea, as well as cocoa/dark chocolate! These plants contain beneficial polyphenols including flavonoids, anthocyanidins and lignans which can help prevent many forms of heart and cardiovascular disease. Asian spices such as turmeric, ginger and cinnamon can also help improve immunity and microbiome defences.

Check for more info.

Move your body

Movement is so important. Humans were not meant to be as stationary as we are nowadays. When we exercise, our bodies produce endorphins which make us feel happier and help boost our self-esteem. Our blood pressure lowers (if it's high), we sweat out toxins and improve our immune systems. Whether it's promising yourself that you will go for a walk in nature regularly, or taking up an exercise or dancing class over Zoom, it is essential that we keep moving our bodies to stay healthy.