Our very own, Amy Hausman, L.Ac. shares her thoughts on navigating the Coronavirus from a Chinese medicine perspective and the steps you can take to build up your immune system.

As a healthcare professional, it is important for me to stay informed for the well-being of my patients and the community at large.  This post is about the Coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), the disease it causes (COVID-19) and some important steps to take so you can be the first line of defense for you and your family.   I am sharing this information with you along with the hope that it instills confidence rather than fear as new cases are diagnosed.  While much about COVID-19 still remains unknown, it is prudent to parse out the real facts from the misinformation being reported so please refer to the CDC and WHO sites, as well as your state and local health authorities when you have questions or concerns.  I have also included the CDC guidelines at the end of this post. Disclaimer: the statements listed here are not a guarantee against infection, although following these suggestions will provide better health and protection from disease.

Throughout history, Traditional Chinese Medicine protocols (acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas) have successfully treated many plagues and epidemics.  More important, however, is the practice of prevention that is the paradigm of Chinese medicine theory. A quote from the earliest Chinese medical text, the Huang Di Nei Jing Su Wen states, “the Sage doesn’t treat but prevents disease, and doesn’t solve disorder but prevents disorder”.  As a Chinese medicine practitioner, I was taught that the way to do that is to look at the whole body, most specifically the health of one’s Qi (inherent energy) and Blood as pathways to health and wellness.  “If the Qi and Blood are abundant and flowing smoothly in the body, then the 100 diseases will not happen”.  Again, this refers to keeping the body and the immune system strong so that it can fight off those evil pernicious influences that cause disease.  I have treated so many disorders over the years in my private practice, and I have also treated many patients who were not sick but simply wanted to maintain optimal health and wellness.  I’m reminded of a statement made by one of my teachers years ago who referenced an emperor (I forget which dynasty it was) who decreed that all Imperial physicians would get compensated only if the general population stayed well.  They would not be paid if there was an outbreak of disease.  Pretty novel idea, right?  Imagine a health care system today if doctors only got paid for keeping everyone healthy.  Until that happens, here are ways to keep your immune system strong using the pillars of Chinese medicine.

  • Get acupuncture NOW. Acupuncture helps relieve stress, balance your Qi, and boosts the Wei Qi (Protective Qi) in your body.  It is helpful at any time and supports your immune system.  Whether you have pre-existing conditions or simply want to be healthier, acupuncture can help you maintain optimal health and wellness and help when you feel under the weather.  NOTE: only get acupuncture from a licensed acupuncturist.  “Dry needling” by anyone else is not acupuncture and does not follow the strict guidelines of Chinese medicine.
  • Ask your practitioner about Chinese herbs as preventative medicine. With over 1000 herbs in the Chinese pharmacopoeia, some are used for severe illness while others are used more as tonics to promote and maintain wellness.  Most are roots, sticks, and plant products that come in a variety of pills, powders and teas.  I have been prescribing Chinese herbs since starting my practice and I have used them on their own or as an adjunct to other herbal supplements and medications.  I recommend only taking herbs prescribed by a licensed acupuncturist who is board-certified in Chinese herbal medicine.  For more on that click this link https://www.co-creativehealingarts.com/chinese-herbs-and-safety/.  If you have further concerns about where your Chinese herbs are sourced, please ask your practitioner.
  • Proper diet. The Chinese have a long history of using food as medicine.  Fresh foods such as fruits and vegetables have the most vital Qi.  Pungent foods like onions or those in the same family as turnip, ginger, and horseradish are recommended as well as dark green and orange vegetables to protect your Spleen.  The Spleen is an important organ in Chinese medicine, it transforms the food we eat and drink into Qi which is transported up to our Lungs, Heart and the rest of our body.  If the Spleen is encumbered by a poor diet then proper transformation and dissemination can’t happen, things begin to stagnate, and it impacts our immune system.  Stay away from anything processed or with chemicals.  Swap salads and cold, raw foods for soups and warm, cooked food.  Lastly, eat slowly and chew thoroughly, it’s better for digestion.
  • Activity and exercise. Keep your Qi and blood moving by doing any type of exercise, walking, yoga, there are lots of options.  Tai Qi or Qi Gong are great modalities using slow, focused movements incorporating breathing techniques that allow you to de-stress, improve circulation, gain self-awareness and improve your overall health.  You can Google Tai Qi or Qi Gong to find inexpensive classes and teachers near you.
  • Get plenty of sleep. When we sleep important metabolic and functional processes are being restored and our immune system kicks into high gear when we are well-rested.  Conversely, our immune system gets run-down when we are fatigued.  At least try to use the night-time for self-reflection and rest.
  • Don’t panic! An outbreak is scary, but most people will experience COVID-19 as a mild illness. Prolonged, toxic stress inhibits immune function, so whether it is fear about the virus or excess stress at home or work, do what you can to give your system a break and restore. Acupuncture, nutritional and herbal supplements, diet and exercise are all great but a good attitude is tantamount for the nervous system.
  • BONUS: I still have some of my alcohol-free hand sanitizers and nasal inhalers in stock so contact me to get them. They contain organic, essential oils such as tea tree, eucalyptus and other fine oils known for their antiviral and antibacterial properties.  While supplies last.

Finally, here is anecdotal historical context regarding a previous coronavirus, the SARS outbreak in 2002.  At the beginning, the Chinese government was dealing with the following set of challenges: the source of the virus and the mode of transmission were not originally understood, there were problems with the diagnostic tools at first, and there was no effective treatment or vaccine.  Sound familiar?  In an effort to contain the spread, the Chinese government ordered that all hospitals incorporate Traditional Chinese Medicine (acupuncture, moxibustion, and herbal formulas) into their treatments integrated with Western medicine treatments.  Various observations were reported, such as some patients at the early stage of SARS recovered without the need for antivirals agents or steroids.  For those with more severe cases, analysis showed that the mortality rate was lower for patients who were treated with both TCM and Western medicine than those treated with Western medicine alone.  Recently the Chinese government, once again, announced that all patients with confirmed COVID-19 would incorporate TCM into their treatments.  Herbal decoctions were administered to patients based on their presenting symptoms.  It was reported that fevers were reduced, patients who could barely speak due to weakness were now able to talk, and cough was also reported to be significantly less than compared to before.  Wow!

Health is wealth so let’s share the wealth!  I hope you found this post useful and would consider adding acupuncture and Chinese medicine into your routine.  Reach out with questions.

Other guidelines to follow as suggested by the CDC are listed here https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%-90% alcohol if soap and water are not available. COVID-19 can transmit through both respiratory droplets and via stool, so careful handwashing is critical.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw it in the trash can. Cough or sneeze into your elbow and not your hand if you do not have a tissue available. If you contaminate your hand and then touch other objects, you will spread the virus.
  • Stay home when you are sick with respiratory disease symptoms. At the present time, these symptoms are more likely due to influenza or other respiratory viruses than to the COVID-19 related virus.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay hydrated. Water is at the foundation of our health. Clean/filtered water consumed regularly helps keep our whole system functioning optimally, including our immune systems.