Eastern Medicine & the Common Cold, Influenzas, and Covid-19
Holistic Healthy Living Blog
Whether dealing with the common cold, influenza, upper respiratory infection, or even Covid-19, dealing with patients such as the elderly or immune-compromised with weak constitutions has always been more challenging. Patients with weaker immune systems tend to develop complications much easier which makes recovery more difficult. Infectious diseases have been with us throughout our entire history. The main symptoms of Covid-19 are fever, cough, fatigue, productive cough, and shortness of breath. Minor symptoms include headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and even diarrhea can exist.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been shown to be effective in treating Covid-19 and preventing spread. It was first noted that the none of the medical staff in TCM hospitals who took herbal medicine decoction were infected treating others. Ganjiang Gancao decoction was one of the main herbal formulas used. The reason behind this is this formula like other classic formulas allow the wei qi or exterior protective qi of the body to have much higher resistance to an outside pathogen such as a virus.
The very first TCM monograph on infectious diseases believed that the transmission of disease in the human body was ultimately divided into 4 main steps. These include defense, qi(energy), nutrient, and most severely blood level like sepsis. The first organs affected are typically lung, stomach, intestine, and gallbladder. With different influenzas, we see the lung and stomach, and lung components affected such as nasal, sinus, head symptoms.
The pathogens from common cold, influenzas, and now Covid-19 can be categorized by exterior wind invasion, seasonal pathogens, epidemic pathogens, non-seasonal pathogens, and/ or having an overall deficiency with exterior attacks on the immune system. These symptoms range from simple nasal congestion, itchy, sore throat, cough to aversion to wind, chills, fever, headache, and body ache.
Treatment is based off of individual assessment and the stage of pathogen in the body. For wind-cold presentation, acrid and warm herbs are used to induce sweating to rid the body of the pathogen along with acupuncture points which correlate in doing so. Wind-heat invasion will show signs of heat such as fever, sore throat, yellow productive sputum and specific herbs which are both acrid and cool are used to clear and release the exterior wind-heat pathogen. However, with a pre-existing deficiency such as an immuno-compromised patient, we have to first support the righteous qi to release the pathogen so to not weaken the individual.
A person with constitutional qi or yang deficiency has more of a high-risk of being affected by wind-cold. Whereas, a person with constitutional blood or yin deficiency, has a higher risk to wind-heat invasion. This is observed by the Eastern Medicine Practitioner to assess to prevent further invasion of the virus. For more severe complications like those seen with the epidemic Covid-19 , this is seen as a cold and dampness epidemic and its pathogenic factors are actually found in the body’s mucous membranes. Dampness is a huge factor with treating Covid. Not just the lungs should be treated but the body as a whole. The connection between the spleen, stomach and lungs should be of major concern. Also, the liver is an organ of great concern with Covid and is addressed with TCM.
The initial treatment in the early stages of Covid is what is called releasing the exterior, ridding the body of the pathogen, and improving lung ventilation. With advanced stages, removing dampness blocking the lungs and stomach and clearing heat are the main goals. TCM focuses on one’s immune system which helps in the overall regulation of the body and its ability to respond fully. Certain herbal formulas are used as antivirals and to induce interferon and immunoglobulin to help regulate the immune system response. In 2020, a study was performed in Hunan Province in China which treated nearly 1,000 patients with Covid-19 diagnosis with moderate to severe symptoms and they were discharged successfully without complication.
Both acupuncture and herbal therapy have made major contributions in the history of epidemic times in China. Studies have shown that TCM can regulate the immune system helping to prevent both infection and inflammation from progressing and even preventing the pathogen all together. Certain acupoints are known to do just this such as lung, urinary bladder, large intestine, stomach, and spleen points which are located on arm, hand, back, and leg area. These points help to stimulate the vital energy and function of both the lungs and spleen both. This enhances the viscera’s defense to prevent pathogens from entering in the body further.
The national Health Commission and the State Administration of TCM jointly issued a health notice recommending Qing Fei Pai Du Tang to be used for Covid-19 hard hit areas where patients are not responding to conventional treatment. The rate of relapse is also lower than when Western medicine is used. The demand for Chinese medicine has increased. Some of the TCM research with Covid-19 has been published in PHYTOMEDICINE. 2021 May;85:153308
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