One of the best-kept secrets of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine is how well it prevents and treats the flu, common colds and other illnesses we encounter with the seasonal onslaught of pathogens during the winter months.
A story from my practice illustrates the potential I’m speaking of. Some years ago an emergency room physician came to us for care. The condition was a long-term gastrointestinal condition similar to IBS. As part of her intake, the physician shared that she and her colleagues in the ER called themselves “the walking dead” because of the frequency they were catching the illnesses that pass through their department on an ongoing basis. As I recall, the physician shared that they were all coming down with something on average of one-to-two times per month.
In helping to resolve the GI condition over the first three months of her care, we also developed a preventive strategy for her workplace. She was given a prepared tea that she could drink at her desk, which supported her immune system in that environment. As a result of the tea alone, she avoided sickness for a period of time! The next time she did come down with something, she called into our office from her bed at home saying she wasn’t going to make it to her appointment that day. We persuaded her to honor her visit impressing on her that the acupuncture and herbs would be used appropriately to aid her body and reduce her fever and aches. She came in and we treated her with acupuncture and cupping, as well as gave her a liniment and important herbal medicines to treat the congestion, cough and achiness she was experiencing at this “stage” of the illness.
Seven days later, she marched into the clinic to where I was changing over a treatment room, picked up the waste table paper I’d just crumpled and tossed on the floor and threw it at me. Surprised, I asked what this was about. “I awoke the next day with no flu and no symptoms, the fever and aches were gone!” She paused, “I’m humbled,” she said. “I’ve been practicing medicine for 20 years and I can’t make people as well as you can!” She was referring to both her GI symptoms being resolved and the overnight healing of the flu.
In the case of my doctor friend, Oriental Medicine not only inspires a profound understanding of how it can address, treat and resolve a complex GI condition, it also aids us in understanding how each condition is potentially related the to one’s immunity. In our clinic, New Harmony Center for Health & Wellness, we teach patients the basics of how to use these effective remedies for themselves and with members of their families. As a result we have many young children who are not catching colds at school and when they do catch something, their body is able to heal it in a shorter time than usual. As one mother said to me yesterday, “I used to wait through three or four days of fever before bringing my sons in to see you. Now I bring them the first day they’re home from school and they’re back in school the next day. It is much easier on everybody.”
In our class, the “Medicine Cabinet Makeover”, we teach our patients how to use a variety of Chinese herbal remedies, known as patent medicines, to assist one’s immune system during the flu season, as well as all year long. We demonstrate how Chinese medicine, and thus the formulas, recognize a difference between a “wind heat” cold and a “wind cold” cold and which formulas to use for each type. We examine effective preventive strategies, how to identify the “stages” of a cold and when one needs the help of a practitioner.
Lastly we introduce one of the great gifts of AOM, herbs that assist in maintaining optimal health and can contribute to one’s longevity.
Among the common herbal formulas for colds are remedies that can be purchased at some natural food stores, like: Yin Qiao and Gan Mao Ling. Yin Qiao is an excellent formula for the first signs of a sore throat. Gan Mao Ling has some antiviral herbs in it and can be used preventively – I take it when I’ve been treating sick patients in my clinic – as well as with most kinds of acute colds. Combine them and see how quickly the symptoms turn around. If you wake the next day without the sore throat, be sure to keep taking them for at least another 36 hours. The effectiveness of the two main herbs in Yin Qiao, honeysuckle and forsythia, has been confirmed in recent research as being effective in directly inhibiting influenza. This research also shows their effective in stimulating the body's own immune system to fight the pathogen. Wouldn't you like to have these in your medicine cabinet?
There are books available that cover similar content. Most importantly your licensed and certified acupuncturist can be an indispensible resource for your ongoing wellness. They can be a profound partner in your wellness and can be found on Jill’s List as well in the find a practitioner section of the NCCAOM website.
Do you have an acupuncturist as part of your health care team?