Updated: Mar 2
Everyone wants an answer to Long Covid, (even celebrity sufferer Gwyneth Paltrow), and a quick one. But Long Covid is a long haul lingering illness, isn't it?
Wide swathes of the international social media would have you think so. Here in the UK, BBC Radio 4 broadcast recently that between 2-10% of all those in the UK who have contracted Covid 19 (an estimated 695,400 people, or 1.28% of the population) are now suffering from ‘long Covid’ - that’s roughly between 14,000-70,000 people (so far). This ‘long term draining illness’ has a huge range of symptoms – chronic fatigue, brain fog, fibromyalgia, breathlessness, tachycardia, autonomic nervous system (ANS) dysfunction, aching joints, intense daily migraine headaches, sinus pain, tinnitus, digestive problems and even gastroparesis, nerve pains – the list goes on. A list that sounds very similar to the clients I regularly deal with who suffer from another mystery illness 'POTS' (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome).
Sadly there is a sparse range of outpatient treatment protocols to match this plethora of symptoms for either of these complaints. Allopathic treatments are at best palliative and might just fill one shelf of a corner shop chemist's dispensary – painkillers, betablockers, steroids, decongestants, anti-depressants… plus a few other hopeful talking therapy adjuncts such as CBT, group therapy and mindfulness sessions aka ‘it’s all in the mind’. I am sure it is the same worldwide.
It is definitely not ‘in the mind’. I have worked with some of these Long Covid cases and a whole heap more clents with POTS. Those with ‘Long Covid’ have been genuinely suffering for a long time, carrying the stigmata of lost health, lost jobs, even lost homes and lost relationships from the first wave in March/April 2020 of COVID onwards and have been clearly limping ever since. POTS sufferers have usually been suffering a lot longer, well before the pandamic kicked off.
The set up of NHS ‘Long Covid’ clinics (60 in England so far) has given some hope but actually very little more than a promise of genuine relief or resolution. Meanwhile homeopaths and other complementary health practitioners, myself included, are dealing with these long Covid cases every day, and are getting results, sometimes great results, (we’re not allowed to say ‘cure’ but I might venture ‘ongoing remission’?) after a mere two or three consultations. More about that in a minute, please read on.
Firstly, a quick rant. Are we acknowledged by the UK National Health Service? No. Has anyone bothered to reach out and ask us about our work with Long Covid patients? No. Are we saving the NHS ‘Long Covid’ clinics thousands, possibly millions? Absolutely, yes. Finally, have we bothered to tell the NHS about our results? No. It’s our own fault then, surely? May be, but we’ve had a very strong message from the establishment that our services are not wanted and are definitely not to be trusted.
In the last 10-15 years the NHS has cut any funding or outsourcing to homeopathic practitioners due to ‘lack of empirical evidence’, which, in layman’s terms, means even though someone says they feel better after a course of homeopathic treatment, it doesn’t hold any clout with the funding managers. What big data-reliant, publicly funded organisations like the NHS needs is hard scientific ‘under the microscope’ proof that homeopathy has worked, meaning mere subjective 'evidence’ from the patients themselves doesn’t count. The Bristol study of over 6000 homeopathic patients is a case in point – 70% reported feeling better. Action taken by the NHS - 0% . It’s clear that funding for the collection of the kind of empirical data the NHS will listen to - blood tests, MRI’s, PET scans etc is as rare as dragon’s eggs. Hence, no evidence… ergo Homeopathy has no proof. Hence no funding. And so it goes on.
Luckily other countries aren’t so behind the curve – India, which now has its own governmental Department of Alternative Medicine (Ayush), is happily pumping out results where allopathic testing and alternative treatments meet. Likewise the published results of the Indian Journal of Research in Homeopathy including the work of homeopath Professor Vithoulkas in association with Indian doctor homeopaths show results are truly impressive to anyone with an ounce of curiosity.
None of this would matter much except my experience is that homeopathy can really help Long Covid. Just two of the clients I have seen in the last week are evidence enough to me that far from peddling placebo, or whatever other mud allopathic extremists might throw, homeopathy can clearly mitigate and shorten the symptoms of Long Covid in a big way.
Take patient A. This lady from Norfolk is in her 50s and now has long Covid after having had Covid not once but twice – both confirmed by NHS testing. Her initial infection was in April 2020 during the first wave, and again in October 2020. Since that time she has been on the ropes with Long Covid; off work, off living any kind of life outside the distance from her bed to the bathroom or kitchen kettle for another hot drink. Her main symptoms have been feeling so cold 247 that no amount of blankets, duvets and hot water bottles can take away the deep-in-the-marrow sensation of shivering coldness, a crushing migraine from dawn to dusk made a 100 times worse by talking or trying to read even a page of anything, sinusitis and ear pains worse for even the slightest draft. Add to that a constant head banging level of all day all night tinnitus, brain fog, photophobia and the de rigueur supercharged exhaustion and fibromyalgic pains that mean getting out of bed before 1pm or even getting to the local shop for provisions is like trying to run a marathon after having run a marathon. She’s had every test under the sun via the NHS since her original diagnosis of Covid – heart, kidneys, blood screening, diabetes, MRIs, ECGs to no avail… You can almost hear the pound signs in NHS staff hours stacking up as you read.
Eight months later Patient A came to my office – she is now on anti-depressants and waiting for referral to group therapy and the Long Covid clinic occupational therapy options. It takes me roughly 1.5 hours to take all her details. Within an hour later I have worked out a treatment protocol and prescribed the same day. This is patient A’s response 24 hours later:
“Wow! Since the remedy, my tinnitus seems to have almost gone!!?? I don’t seem to be getting the awful migraine as I was previously either. My sinuses have definitely improved and the sensitivity to light has also definitely improved!"
And one week later?
“I’ve had a remarkable week. After my long walk on Friday, I felt quite energised and rejuvenated.”
One month later (I am hoping we can consider taking ‘placebo effect’ out of the conversation at this point):
“ Hi, I think I’m feeling much better. I managed to get out to see my relatives at the weekend and my family said that I looked better than they’d seen me in months”.
I saw the patient last week who was keen to finish her appointment with me as she was about to go out for a long walk with a friend.
Let me take you straight to patient B. This woman from Cornwall is in her 40s and was a superfit, go-getting CEO and even now is a no nonsense patient, including her obvious scepticism about the efficacy of homeopathy. Friends had finally persuaded her to give homeopathy a go after nearly 10 months of her trying everything else.
Her Long Covid symptoms had started after a week of suspected Covid back in April 2020 where she put up with seven days of sinus headache, flu like body pains, low grade fever, tachycardia on any kind of exertion including going up stairs or a hill of even the slightest gradient, and a continued feeling of breathlessness with her ribs feeling squashed like a ‘boa constrictor' was rapped around her. Suitably stoic like many sufferers, she hadn’t bothered to get a Covid test at the time, but all her subsequent health checks over the coming months came back ‘presumed long Covid’. She started to feel better by May 2020 but by June 2020 she had relapsed and all the symptoms came back and have stayed.
When she ‘arrived’ for her appointment in Jan 2021 via a Zoom consult she was being kept up all night with muscle pains followed by waking in the morning with that ‘just run a marathon’ feeling in her legs, arm aches like she’d spent the night lifting weights, as well as the boa constrictor sensation making an appearance as soon as she challenged herself to walk up any stairs or slight incline. There was also the curious change in her menstrual health since Covid where each month she was thrown into exhaustion, dark PMS and terrible cramps as well as a flare of ‘Coviditis’ once again. What bothered her most of all though was the brain fog, “I used to be the person who everyone turned to, I used to be the one who knew what was going on”. Now, even an hour’s conversation would leave her feeling exhausted and needing a nap.
Cut to three days later after taking her first homeopathic prescription:
“I took two doses on Saturday evening and felt almost immediate relief in my legs, slept really well and felt amazing the Sunday. Walked, including uphill, like normal and my heart rate was really normal. It feels like it has been “wearing off” ever since. But I would say I still feel mostly 50% better than my pre-remedy baseline."
After her next dose the same day:
“I took another two doses of the remedy a little over an hour ago. My legs felt immediate relief again, and I went for a walk, about 3,500 steps and had the same experience as on Sunday, heart acting ‘normal’ and no strange feeling returning up the hill. Only a little weakness in my arms, upper arms but this really could just be down to deconditioning.”
Two weeks later:
“I held out through the weekend without any more remedy. In addition to the leg pain, I started to get a little pain in my ribs and upper body yesterday and noticed low blood oxygen and exhaustion when walking. And a little pressure in the back of my head. I’m due to get my period on Saturday, so all things considered, I’m feeling really good. Usually I would be fully relapsing and/or experiencing really emotional down."
Three weeks on after another repeat of the remedy:
“So far so good! Since the last dose, just low level discomfort at my period but no need to curl up in pain as usual. Working with no difficulty. So maybe this homeopathy is more powerful that I thought. Impressed.”
These two clients are not out of the woods yet, but they can definitely see a world beyond. Are their stories anectodal? Yes. A subjective patient experience? Yes. Dismissable? I can’t answer that. But if you had long Covid and your GP said it’s steroids, anti-depressants and a six month waiting list for group therapy… or a couple of hours with a homeopath, what will you decide? One will cost you nothing except a year or more of your life and a lot of time in NHS waiting rooms, the other will cost you less than a couple of weekly family food shops from Tesco’s. One day, just one day, the NHS might pick up the bill if evidence based medicine includes the patient’s experience. Here’s hoping.