Get Ready For Cold and Flu Season with Chinese Herbs

I have some great herbal formulas to keep you and your children healthy during the upcoming cold and flu season. For example:

1) Yin Chiao Chieh Tu Pien: This formula treats a cold that starts with a sore throat. Also for the kind of cold that feels like allergies with itching and sneezing, and a scratchy throat.

2) Sang Zhu Yin Wan: This formula is for a cold that starts with a dry hacking cough and a dry blocked nose. A “dry” cold.

3) Gan Mao Ling: This formula contains herbs with powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties. It’s especially good for the kind of cold that starts with feeling chilled or very tired and run-down.

Stock these, and other traditional Chinese herbal formulas in your medicine cabinet and you will be well-armed with natural and time tested remedies to keep you and your children healthy this season. Better, schedule a wellness appointment with me when you are not sick. Based on your constitution and health history, I will determine which preventative herbs and other measures will be the most effective for you.

Remember: Regular acupuncture and moxabustion treatments boost immunity and prevent illness.

More on moxabustion in my next blog!

How to Stay Healthy This Autumn

In autumn, the yang/warmth of the sun decreases, giving way to the yin/cooler season of winter.  In the Fall, one must begin to store vital energy in order to make it through the winter in a healthy state.  People who feel poorly during the winter benefit greatly from receiving acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in the Fall.  Acupuncture and herbal therapy can help stoke the metabolism, increase immunity, circulate warmth and vitality throughout the body, balance circadian rhythms and improve one’s mood.

Conditions such as frequent winter colds, bronchitis and asthma, seasonal affective disorder, winter holiday depression, binge eating, and arthritic conditions which worsen in cold and damp weather can all be resolved if they are effectively treated in the Fall, by helping the body to store the vital energy it accumulated during the warmer months.

Here are my suggestions for a healthy Fall and Winter season:

  • Increase your intake of root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, burdock root, and winter squash.  A good guideline about what to eat during the autumn is to locate what is available at your local farmer’s market and use that as a template for building a meal that is appropriate to the Fall season. This goes for every other season as well.
  • Eat more soups.  They are warming and nourishing.  Soup helps keep you hydrated during this cool, dry season.
  • Also, drink warm tea and plenty of warm or room temperature water throughout the day.  Avoid cold drinks, large raw salads, and icy desserts. 
  • Adjust your schedule to wake up earlier and go to bed earlier.  Take walks outside to soak in the warming rays of the sun.  Sleep more during the dark, chilly nights.
  • Carry an extra layer (thermal undershirt or sweater) even if it feels warm outside.  Autumn is cold in the shade and warm in the sun.  Autumn temperatures can change drastically during the course of the day.  Try not to get chilled, and change your clothing immediately if you get sweaty.
  • See your acupuncturist.  Even if you are not sick now, receiving preventative acupuncture and/or Chinese herbal medicine now can shore up your protective qi and help you have a healthy and happy winter

How To Resolve Your Immune System Imbalance: Start With The Gut

The immune system is called “Wei Qi” (pronounced “Way Chee”) in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).  Wei Qi protects the body from “Evil Qi”.  Evil Qi can be any invader, external (such as “germs”) or internal (chemicals or signals produced inside your body), which place a stress on the proper functioning of your body.  External forms of Evil Qi include: viruses, bacteria, drugs, alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, sugar, pasteurized dairy products, processed foods,pollution, and overexposure to cold, dampness or wind.  Internally generated Evil Qi can result from trauma, overwork, sleep deprivation, depression, stress and anxiety.  The stronger your Wei Qi, the better you are able to cope with Evil Qi.  If you have a Wei Qi imbalance, it is best to reduce your exposure to Evil Qi as much as possible.

Wei Qi is manufactured by the Spleen.  In TCM, the Spleen has to do with your stomach, pancreas and other digestive organs: how well they are able to absorb and utilize nutrients and beneficial bacteria from the foods you eat.  “Spleen Qi” is “Digestive Qi”.  The Lungs assist the Spleen by circulating the Wei Qi produced by the Spleen.  In TCM, the Lung complex includes the skin, mucus membranes and nasal passages.  This is very similar to our Western understanding of the immune system.  In order to have a healthy immune system, there must be a predominance of healthy bacteria in the gut (intestines).  A healthy gut is a tropical rainforest of bacterial diversity.  There are over 5,600 different strains.  This healthy bacteria forms a natural flora, or protective coating in your large and small intestines, which further disseminates via the mucus membranes in your lungs, mucus membranes (eyes, nose, throat) and skin.  Intestinal flora protects your immune system in several ways.  First, just by taking up space, and being more proficient at obtaining nutrients, it provides a physical barrier to colonization by foreign, deleterious microbes.  Second, healthy flora sends signals to the lymph nodes to help the body differentiate between pathogenic and benign substances, preventing autoimmune attacks. Third, intestinal flora implanted in the gut during breast feeding influences the growth and formation of organs crucial to proper immune function, such as the thymus gland

Now for the interesting part: 90% of cells in the human body are microbial (bacteria), and a mere 10% are “human”.  Think about that!  Western science is only beginning to grasp the implications of this fact.  So many aspects of our modern lifestyle put our internal ecology at risk.  For example:

  1. Overuse of antibiotics in humans and livestock.
  2. Overuse of antibacterial soaps and industrial cleansers. 
  3. Lack of contact with soil.  A little dirt left in your garden vegetables might be a good thing!
  4. Formula feeding of infants instead of breast feeding.
  5. Refined sugar: The average person consumes 150 pounds of sugar per year–compared to just 7 ½ pounds consumed on average in the year 1700. That’s 20 times as much!  Sugar feeds pathogenic bacteria, yeast and fungi in your gut.  
  6. 98% of public drinking water facilities use chlorine or chloramine to disinfect the water.  These are powerful antimicrobial agents.  They combine with organic matter to form compounds called trihalomethanes (THMs), also known as disinfectant byproducts.  One of the most common of these THMs is chloroform, a known carcinogen.  These compounds are toxic when consumed, inhaled or applied to the skin.  Furthermore, they kill beneficial bacteria in the gut, contributing to dysbiosis.
  7. Too much processed food and refined starches.  Not enough fresh food, and not enough variety in our diets.
  8. The birth control pill, steroids, other hormone pills, and immunosuppressant drugs promote dysbiosis of the gut.  If you must take these medications, consider getting regular acupuncture treatments to balance their harmful effects.

How to undo the damage?

  1. Filter your water and clean up your diet.  Avoid toxins, and try to eat organic as much as possible.
  2. Eat a wide variety of whole foods. 
  3. Avoid the overuse of antibiotics!  Many conditions, such as urinary tract infections, sinus infections and acne can be cleared up easily with Chinese herbs.  Herbal remedies strengthen your Wei Qi, and destroy the pathogens while leaving your immune system intact.  Antibiotics are also present in factory farmed meats and dairy products.
  4. Eliminate, or cut way back on refined sugar and alcohol.
  5. Probiotics may help, but only if you follow the other guidelines.
  6. Acupuncture heals inflammation, regulates Qi, and helps the body expel toxins.  There are several wonderful classic Chinese Herbal formulas that strengthen the Spleen Qi, clear pathogens, and fortify immunity. 

Here’s a mind-blowing video about “fecal transplants”.  This icky but effective treatment is gaining in popularity for people with severe intestinal dysbiosis and devasted immune systems. 

So now you know:  If you keep your gut and immune system healthy, you won’t have to “take “sh#t” from anyone!

How To Tell If Your Immune System Is Imbalanced

Do you have any of the following symptoms?

  1. Susceptibility to catching colds.
  2. Difficulty recovering from colds or infections.  For example, if you catch a cold does it frequently develop into a sinus infection, ear infection, bronchitis, gastritis, or some other lingering problem?
  3. Chronically swollen lymph glands in the neck, armpit or groin.
  4. Fatigue
  5. Poor digestion, gas, bloating, bowel problems.
  6. Allergies or asthma.
  7. Autoimmune diseases: There are hundreds of known autoimmune disorders. Some of the more common ones I encounter include: celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, endometriosis, thyroid disorders such as Graves disease, interstitial cystitis, lupus, Lyme disease, Meniere’s disease, multiple sclerosis, psoriasis, Raynaud’s syndrome, restless legs syndrome, Sjogren’s syndrome and ulcerative colitis.
  8. Connective tissue disorders.  Many connective tissue diseases feature abnormal immune system activity with inflammation in tissues as a result of an immune system that is directed against one’s own body tissues (autoimmunity).  Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), scleroderma and ankylosing spondylitis are examples of connective tissue disorders.  Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, is also an autoimmune disorder.  In osteoarthritis, chronic inflammation causes breakdown, and the eventual loss of cartilage in the joints.  Chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia are still not well understood by Western medicine.  Many people who suffer from chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia have associated autoimmune disorders*.  In my clinical experience, balancing the immune system is an essential component of treatment for these patients.
  9. Injuries that don’t heal.  This is a big problem, which is often overlooked.  Even if you don’t have an established disorder such as arthritis, do you suffer from injuries that heal slowly and cause repeated problems?  For example: do you keep spraining your ankle?  Or do you have a shoulder injury that keeps acting up?  Chronic tendonitis, weak knee ligaments and similar problems are strongly indicative of an imbalanced immune system.  Scars and adhesions that don’t heal also point to an immune imbalance.  Weakened connective tissue caused by an imbalanced immune system can make organs more prone to prolapse, and herniations more likely to occur (herniated intervertebral disks as well as inguinal hernias).
  10. Lastly, if you’ve tried everything for your disease or complaint, and you are still not getting better, an immune system imbalance is often the culprit.

Occasionally, a new patient suffering from an autoimmune disorder asks me if acupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine may have an adverse affect by strengthening their immune system, when their immune system is already overactive.  Cancer patients, RA patients, and others who take immune suppressing medications may have the same concern.  Acupuncture and properly administered Chinese Herbal Medicine do not crank up an immune system that is already in overdrive.  Instead, the treatments are regulatory.  It calms what is hyper or overactive (Yang) and nourishes essential substances (Yin) of the body which may have become depleted due to the effects of the disease or medications.  Restored to a state of balance, your immune system will start acting more appropriately.

Here is a list of autoimmune diseases.

And, here is a list of immunodeficiency diseases.