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COVID-19 Q & A

During these stressful times, everyone is turning to Western medicine for new drugs and a vaccine for COVID-19.  Is traditional Chinese medicine still relevant during this global crisis?


Actually, Chinese medicine is suddenly more relevant than ever before.  As a country, China has historically experienced over 300 epidemics, so they have cultural expertise in this field.  Also, China is the only nation on earth that has flattened the curve.  Keeping in mind that the possibility that the Chinese government may have under-reported some of the numbers, they have still set an exemplary model.  And certainly the Chinese give a lot of the credit for their success with containing COVID-19 to Chinese medicine.


So Chinese medicine has effective treatments for COVID-19?*


Before talking about treatments, we should talk a little bit about traditional Chinese medical ideas.  Almost a thousand years ago, Chinese doctors introduced tissue from patients with smallpox into the nasal passages of healthy patients.  This was the start of vaccinations to prevent disease.  Centuries later, in 1642, Wu You-Ke wrote the Treatise on Acute Epidemic Warmth.  In his book, Wu coined the term pestilential qi and theorized that infections enter the body via the nose and mouth.  He even suggested that some epidemics are “transmitted described from the heavens” or, in other words, airborne, while others pass from person to person through touch.


Surprisingly modern, but I thought vaccines were invented in Europe.


Edward Jenner, the 18th century physician credited with discovering vaccines, improved on the ancient technique of variolation by using cowpox from cattle to prevent human smallpox infection. Jenner’s approach offered the advantage of greater safety for patients.


While it is impressive that the Chinese were so far ahead of their time, is there anything else useful that Chinese medicine can teach us about epidemics?


Definitely.  Chinese medical theory is based on careful observation of natural patterns over hundreds, even thousands, of years.  It provides a different perspective from that of modern virology, much of which is based on laboratory studies.


For example, many people are asking about the seasonality of COVID-19. Over the course of centuries, Chinese medicine has found that common cold and influenza peak during the fall and spring due to the cyclical weakening of the body’s self-defenses in cold weather.  This is corroborated by scientific observations that the added demands on maintaining body temperature along with less exercise and reduced sun exposure compromise immunity.


Due to the timing and main clinical characteristics of the COVID-19 illness, Chinese medicine places this pathogen into a category called spring-warmth. The explosive spread mimics the rapid development of flora and fauna maturing during spring from fragile incubation to viable independence. Similar to other natural phenomena, however, Chinese medicine predicts the current pandemic will begin to slow as summer approaches, eventually ceasing its expansion in the heat.


Is getting sick more dependent on our immunity and less on exposure to infections?


In Chinese medicine, we weigh the virulence, or strength, of a pathogen against the capacity of the body’s own protective resources.  Since we have no control over the how infectious, or dangerous, an epidemic might be, we can only observe it and take the appropriate steps to avoid exposure.  On the other hand, we do have some control over our own immunity.  By creating a healthy lifestyle and using effective wellness tools like acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, we can reduce our overall susceptibility to illness. 


Is it too late to build immunity?


For someone who is currently ill, the focus needs to be on getting better.  For those who are recovering or have not gotten sick, you can never be too healthy.  We recommend taking an active role in building solid wellness with basic measures.  These include a diet of freshly prepared, natural foods with tons of veggies, restful sleep, moderate daily exercise, and a daily practice aimed at reducing stress, all supported by Chinese medical care as necessary.


How do I know when acupuncture or Chinese herbs are appropriate?


Smart dietary and lifestyle choices get us close to our goals of staying well, but you might need extra help for the “touchdown”.  A lot depends on circumstances.  During times like these when the threat to well-being is greater, we need more assistance.  In general, think of acupuncture as a great way to fight stress, indirectly increasing our immunity, while Chinese herbal medicine more directly builds vigor and fortitude. We offer many different options for cultivating wellness.


Will Chinese medicine help me if I get COVID-19?


Practitioners of Chinese medicine are not permitted to treat Western medical diseases, but we have many effective techniques to manage symptoms and improve wellness.  For anyone with a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, they may require testing, medical care, and strict quarantine.  Only in cases of patients quarantined at home after assessment in a clinic or hospital would we recommend considering a telemedicine consultation and the possibility of having an herbal supplement drop-shipped to your home for wellness support.


What Chinese herbs should I take to stay healthy?


Among those of us who specialize in internal medicine using Chinese herbs, the standard-of-care is custom formulas that optimize safety and effectiveness.  For almost 20 years, this has been our specialty at White Pine Clinic.  We invite you to book a telemedicine appointment so we can discuss your health history and current symptoms.  This allows us to determine exactly what form of herbal supplement will be most appropriate to get you back on the road to being you.  Go to http://www.whitepineclinic.com/scheduletreatment to schedule.


Are herbs from China safe to take?


Since the corona virus is only viable for a few days on surfaces and it takes months to import products from China, you can rest assured that our products are completely virus-free.

Our dispensary carries Tianjiang granules, the brand most respected by medical doctors and researchers in China. Recently, healthcare authorities in Hong Kong agreed to use Tianjiang granules exclusively in their hospitals. This is truly pharmaceutical-grade Chinese herbal medicine, carefully laboratory tested for purity and potency. For more information on these exceptional herbal concentrates, please visit serenityherbsandsupplements.com.


Do you have any other recommendations on how to get through this?


Almost 3,000 years ago, the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic gave this advice about avoiding opportunistic infections: “Settle yourself into emptiness so that the true qi will arrive…and disease will never encroach upon the body.”  While being mindful in our every action, we cannot allow fear and anxiety to plague our hearts and minds or ravage and exhaust our bodies.  Cultivate kindness, compassion, and positivity, and know that together, guided by the insights of our traditional wisdom and the innovations of modern science, we will soon find a solution to this crisis.


* These statements have not been approved by the FDA. Treatment recommendations are not intended to prevent, diagnose, cure, or treat any disease.

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