Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine for Immunity

by Anne Gordon

Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine to Boost Your Immune System

Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine for Immunity, Atha Wellness in Kirkland, WA

Here we are again!  Fall is upon us, and as the leaves begin to change and the air begins to cool, we begin to actively shift from the warmer summer months into preparing for the winter ahead.  Collectively we’ve been “social distancing” to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and as places open and we begin to venture out, we’re faced with the dilemma of how we can keep ourselves healthy and well, AND begin to rejoin our community. 

This is where acupuncture and herbal medicine can be hugely helpful.

Acupuncture has been shown to boost the immune system by increasing the number of T-cells in the body; these cells can destroy dangerous bacteria and viruses. Scientists believe acupuncture increases T-cells because the body may view the acupuncture needles as a threat, sending white cells and T-cells to fight this off. The boost of T-cells in the body lasts for several days after an acupuncture session. Research also indicates acupuncture increases the body's levels of interferon, one of the messenger hormones of the immune system.  Acupuncture is also helpful in regulating the digestive tract and keeping the elimination pathways open – this is important because if we do come into contact with a virus, we can naturally expel it (along with other waste products😉).

Not only can acupuncture boost the immune system by increasing the number of T-cells, it can help boost the immune system by reducing stress, anxiety and depression.  There have been numerous studies showing that weekly acupuncture sessions can relieve the symptoms of depression or anxiety for months, with results comparable to those associated with counseling. A few clinical trials have found similar results, claiming that acupuncture likely triggers the release of endorphins and other neurotransmitters. 

Herbal medicine can also help us stay well.  Many herbs have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties, and can be used prophylactically.  It’s important to consult with a licensed herbalist to find the right formula for you. 

Prevention is your best friend:

Of course we all know the hand washing bit.  It’s super important to wash off any nasties that we come into contact with, and that we might inadvertently put into our bodies via the eyes, nose or mouth. 

Here are some other things that you can do:

Keep yourself warm, eat warm and nutritious food, and get a good night’s sleep.

Cold enters the body through the bottoms of the feet and through the back of the neck, just under the occiput.  If you know any acupuncturists, that’s why they are always going on about wearing socks and a scarf!

Cold also enters our stomachs. Fall is the time of year when we’ll want to switch from eating cooling summer foods to warmer foods like sweet potatoes, onions, pears, walnuts.  Cook them!  Raw foods are very cooling to the body and overtime can damage the Stomach/Spleen in Chinese Medicine. 

Some other factors that make us more susceptible to catching colds are not getting enough good quality sleep, poor nutrition (highly processed foods, refined sugars, diet sodas, etc), emotional stress, and overwork.  Good food, good sleep and good stress reduction techniques are essential to a healthy immune system. 

Act quickly at the first sign of cold or flu!

Chinese Medicine diagnoses colds as either Wind-Cold or Wind- Heat.  Each diagnosis has its own unique set of symptoms and treatment strategies.  Wind-Cold presents as chills, aversion to cold, stiffness in the upper part of the body, like the neck, and no sweating.  Wind-Heat symptoms are sore throat, feeling warm with a light sweat, irritability and aversion to heat. 

If you have a Wind-Cold:

Watch your diet, cut out any phlegm producing foods (dairy, sugar, fried foods, orange juice) and drink a big cup of hot ginger tea (cut a one inch piece of fresh ginger root and steep it in hot water for 15 minutes and then drink  Don’t have ginger?  Try the same thing but with a cinnamon stick).  Bundle up and take a nap.  The warm tea and blanket will promote a sweat to resolve the condition.  Hydrate well afterwards.  Still not sweating?  Try gua sha on the upper back and neck to open the pores to promote sweating. 

If you have Wind- Heat:

Again, watch your diet, and remove any phlegm producing foods.  You may already be sweating lightly, so hydrate with coconut water which will replace any fluids and electrolytes lost.  As a bonus, coconuts are naturally antimicrobial.  Consider drinking teas that are flowers, as flowers ascend and vent heat from the surface.  Try mint or chamomile. 

If you can, see an acupuncturist and herbalist to stop the cold in its tracks, or to lessen the severity and duration of the cold or flu.  And as always, get plenty of rest.

Chinese Herbal Formulas:

The most common patent formulas for the treatment of early stage colds are “Gui Zhi Tang”, “Yin Qiao”, and “Gan Mao Ling”.  Gui Zhi Tang, or Cinnamon Twig Decoction is used to treat Wind-Cold with cinnamon and fresh ginger, by warming the body and promote sweating.  Yin Qiao contains very cooling herbs such as Forsythia and Honeysuckle.  This formula should only be taken for Wind-Heat.  Gan Mao Ling is neutral in temperature and can be taken for either Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat, or even be taken preventively.  Please follow the dosing guidelines on the bottle, or consult with a Chinese Medicine Herbalist. 

Wishing you a safe and healthy fall,

Anne

Kirkland, WA