Coconuts are currently being explored to create medicinal solutions against COVID-19. Photo from Nipanan Lifestyle on Unsplash
Culture Spotlight

Coconut, acupuncture, and other natural preventive measures against COVID-19

Former Health Secretary and herbal medicine advocate Jaime Galvez Tan wants everyone to fortify their immune system with natural ways to combat the deadly novel coronavirus. BY BARBARA MAE NAREDO DACANAY
| Mar 26 2020

With many Filipinos ill-prepared for COVID-19, the virus-turned-global pandemic that has the country in community quarantine, many are turning to different means to protect themselves. It is urgent for everyone to increase their immune system and keep their lungs healthy through natural remedies, advised former Department of Health secretary and long-time community doctor Jaime Galvez Tan.

“Filipinos are blessed with affordable and natural remedies. With God’s grace, we shall overcome COVID-19. We had overcome past plagues like SARS bird flu, and the HINI Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)-corona,” says the doctor, who is also known as Dok Jimmy. 

Galvez Tan has placed one such natural resource at the center of his arsenal against COVID-19—the coconut.

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The doctor says that the coconut’s lauric acid or laurine, which si also found in mother’s milk and is good for baby’s bones and brain development, has been scientifically proven as anti-viral and anti-bacterial. “Feast on coconut water, coconut meat, and coconut milk. Take also one tablespoon of  virgin coconut oil (VCO) at least once a day, at best three times a day,” Galvez Tan prescribes.

Galvez Tan consistently promotes KKMSS, his signature salad dish composed of kamote tops, kangkong, malunggay (moringa), saluyot (chorchorus), and sili (capsicum). Photo by Serye Cafe Filipino

He also says that the public should practice oil pulling with VCO, referring to the 3,000 to 5,000 year-old Ayurvedic traditional medicine that is still alive among Indians today. “Keep one tablespoon of VCO in your mouth, swish it around your tongue and teeth  for 15 minutes,” Galvez Tan instructs. “Spit it into the toilet bowl because it clogs sinks. Don’t rinse mouth. VCO removes viruses, microbes, and other contaminants in the mouth and nasa-pharynx.” Dentist Sonia Estabillo adds that VCO is like a miracle worker: it whitens teeth, and eradicates bad breathe and plaque. 

The skin needs utmost protection from bacteria and viruses, and Galvez Tan similarly prescribes VCO. “Apply VCO lightly  from head to toe at least once a day, in the morning; at best, in the evening,” he says. 


Natural medicine

Currently, coconut and the herb tawa-tawa—and their anti-viral properties—are being tested and explored to fight COVID-19.

Ateneo professor Fabian Antonio Dayrit, and Dr. Mary Newport, a specialist based in Spring Hill, Florida, have studied lauric acid of coconuts and its derivate, monilaurin. The two researchers said that monolaurin can disintegrate COVID-19’s envelope, inhibit its late maturation stage, and prevent its binding to the host’s cell membrane. They were inspired by Monolaurium, a food supplement prescribed by veterinarians to protect chicken against avian flu. The same supplement is also given to dogs and swine.

Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan was Health Secretary in 1995 during the Ramos administration.

At the same time, the Philippine Council of Health Research and Development (PCHRD), under the Department of Science and Technology, are exploring tawa-tawa with the help of De La Salle University-DasmariƱas’s Medical and Health Sciences Institute. The herb has been used by a lot of Filipinos to combat dengue, although its efficacy is yet to be proven.

Galvez Tan, who has authored eight books including one on Philippine herbs, is looking to make plant-based medicine. “The medicinal plants that our forefathers, grandparents, and traditional healers have used are effective and safe,” he insists.

Basing his claims on research and scientific studies, the doctors says that we should look at Philippine fruits and vegetables as well, saying these “are like affordable gems on the table, can knock out COVID 19. They are packed with anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-free radical properties. They taste good. They nourish and heal.”

Filipinos should stop patronizing imported fruits. They should keep looking for more sources of Philippines exotic and medicinal fruits to encourage farmers. These include anonas, atis, avocado, balimbing, chico, duhat, guava, mangosteen, pomelo, tamarind, and star apple.


Green and clean

For decades, Galvez Tan has been promoting KKMSS, his signature salad dish composed of kamote tops, kangkong, malunggay (moringa), saluyot (chorchorus), and sili (capsicum). “The healthy KKMSS has affordable and ‘from the backyard’ ingredients,” he says, adding that KKMSS is number one in his list of boosting the immune system. “KKMSS salad  should be eaten raw, not cooked, not steamed, to get 100 percent amino-acids, anti-oxidants, anti-viral, minerals, and vitamins of the vegetables. Boiling removes 70 percent of the properties of green leafy vegetables.”

To clean KKMSS leaves, immerse them for five minutes in a mixture of baking soda, coconut oil, and vinegar (one tablespoon each). Wash and rinse with running water; add slivers of ginger, slices of onions and tomatoes; and taste with coco sugar; coconut vinegar; ginger (yellow), and kalamansi. Tri-Mona, a health restaurant on Anonas Extension in Quezon City, has a health smoothie made of KKMSS, but slightly sweetened with saba, says its manager Vim Santos.

To fight COVID 19, Dr. Tan, an acupuncture specialist since 1979, prescribes self-help acupressure massage (without needles) to strengthen immunity and the lungs.

Carrot, celery, cucumber, colitis (amaranth), and turnips should be eaten raw, to maximize their priceless gifts to fortify the immune system, a major wall against COVID 19, says Galvez Tan.

In the time of COVID-19, 500 mg of Vitamin C or one gram (1,000 mg) of Vit C  (at best) should be taken three times a day. “Vitamin C is one of the world’s best anti-oxidants and immune boosters,” he explains.

He also advises to drink a lot of water. Drinking may push down the virus from the mouth to the stomach, which is inhospitable and acidic. “Drink one glass of water every hour from 6 am to 6 pm, for a minimum of 12 glasses a day. Ideally, one should drink 15 glasses of water a day,” Galvez Tan says. “For senior citizens, after six pm just take sips of water or gargle to quench thirst and avoid frequent urination at night. Good sleep is a priority over being hydrated.”

Break out of the bad habit of drinking water only when one is thirsty, Drinking water should be a lifestyle, the doctor lectures. The importance of water is easily ignored by almost everyone, although it is cheap, accessible, and good for health.


Sleep, exercise, and non-negotiables

“Sleep in total darkness to make the body produce melatonin which, in turn, energizes the immune system,” Galvez Tan explains. “Sleep in total darkness for seven to eight hours a day. Use an eye-patch if necessary.” Everyone must observe the art of sleeping well, he says, adding that sleep (equivalent of rest) has a peculiar way of strengthening the immune system.

Don’t forget to walk 30 minutes a day, Galvez Tan adds. Apart from enhancing muscle tone, “exercise produces endorphin, a happy hormone which invigorates the immune system,” he says. “Exercise also improves normal breathing functions that strengthen the lungs.”

Galvez Tan recommends drinking at least 12 glasses of water a day. Photo by Manu Schwendener on Unsplash

Galvez Tan said his “no-no” are non negotiable because of COVID 19. “Stop drinking alcoholic beverages, cola drinks, and three-in-one coffee. Stop seeing people who smoke, avoid second hand smoking. They lower immunity,” he cautions.

Because of COVID 19, learn to self-massage by pressing on acu-pressure points that boost lung power and the immune system, says Galvez Tan, one of the country’s ace and pioneer acupuncturists since 1979. Galvez Tan says that intentional pressing on different acu-pressure points can help give you a better immune system to defeat the virus as well as strengthen your lungs and calm you down. 



Galvez Tan has embarked on creating a wellness village and a re-planting progra in the wellness forest of the Blaans, an ethnic group in Mount Matutum, off Mt. Apo, since October 2018. It is the project of his more than 20-year old Health Futures Foundation, Inc.

Apart from his abovementioned tips, Galvez Tan says that enhanced psychological and spiritual weapons are needed in fighting COVID 19. “Just be happy. Be healthy. Trust in God always. Believe that Jesus loves and protects us.”

The doctor says he was born with a desire to help others. “There is an inner voice that constantly gives me encouragement that this is the way to live life to the fullest,” he says. “I am an optimist who believes there is a God that loves and forgives. Loving and forgiving are intertwined in body and mind in a Christian doctor.”