News & Events

Tips in Traditional Chinese Medicine Views of Epidemics, Cold & Flu

In light of the concerns of the Conrona virus and the common but dangerous flu this winter I think it is useful to take a quick view of Traditional Chinese Medicine in the light of it’s long history dealing with these health concerns.

Chinese classics of medicine and medical records have tremendous references to epidemic febrile diseases. In the form of famine due to crop failures, droughts, floods and wars, they exerted a heavy burden on Chinese populations throughout the ages.  Very serious observational science went into crafting theories to understand, and then care to create herbal formulas to manage these health issues, from the common cold and flu to more virulent strains of potential epidemics.

The early classics of medicine (e.g. Huang Di Nei Jing, Nan Jing, Shang Han Lun, about 200 B.C.–220 A.D.) credited epidemic diseases to the invasion of the body by pathogenic cold and wind, classing them into the category of “cold damage disorders”.  This essentially was the onset of Chinese culture as we know it starting in the colder northers regions and aiming to manage cold and flu which can be deadly if not treated properly. With the Shang Han Lun or Treatise on Cold Damage Disorders (written sometime before 220 AD) by Zhang Zhongjing, this theory was evolved into a clinically highly effective principle regarding these environmental attacks. Considered invisible but clinically impacting dangerous material from the outside, these disorders usually entered the body in the form of 6 potential stages, with the internal health (and proper or improper treatment) of the patient of the patient determining if the disease, here possibly a cold or flu, might move more quickly.

Much like we see in colds and flu now, one can often manage it by monitoring severity of symptoms and it’s aggression or latency.  However, Chinese medicine crafted complicated anti-viral, anti-biotic and anti-microbial as well as immuno-modulating herbal formulas to help stop these disorders.  These formulas work so well from the Shang Han Lun they are still used today all over the world and it is considered one of the greatest text in herbal medicine across the world, certainly in East Asia to this day (although as times moves on, many other classics now exist). Thus, while the common cold and flu is dangerous, Chinese medicine feels that if many more of us used the herbal formulas that have worked for them – and which are taken at the very first sign of trouble, and while if possible practicing a healthy lifestyle, that many more people’s lives would be spared in the winter.

With the creation of the “School of Warm Diseases” (Qing Dynasty, 1644–1911), a new conception of epidemic diseases emerged: distinction between “warm diseases” and “cold damage disorders”, role of a warm “epidemic (or pestilential) qi” or “epidemic toxin” in their occurrence, body invasion through the mouth and nose, high contagiousness, specificity of the epidemic qi according to the species (human or animal) and the nature of the epidemic disease.  This is a result of Chinese culture and the kingdoms moving into the warmer and tropical regions, dealing with malaria and other very different and highly dangerous diseases.  They recognized cold and flu formulas do not work in these cases and things were dire at times. These attacks are not stages like in cold disease theory, they fold into one of 4 stages and the disease was viewed as being able to move right into the deepest stage and are much more problematic if they get out of hand, thus they are more likely to turn into difficult to control and treat epidemics.  

Chinese physicians are a heroic sort and before these theories were understood doctors would go to villages and observe the people and issues.  In fact according to John Chen (PharmD and LAc and scholar) i a lecture I heard, classical Chinese physicians noted in writing that something “invisible to the senses is being passed between the people” a full 600 years before Western medicine would accept germ theory.  When they would find a formula that was working to help, they would inscribe them on stone in the villages so the people and local doctors could have something they cannot lose or forget to get them started on managing these epidemics.  In fact, the Nobel prize for medicine was awarded a few years back to a modern Chinese biologist who also studies classical Chinese herbal medicine. Her findings came from isolating one of the compounds used in an herb formula from in these older classical combinations.

It is worth noting in light of these theories that I have some colleagues who have other colleagues working in China modern day and dealing with Corona virus, and they sent over translated herbal formulas to let us know what Chinese medicine is currently using against the Corona virus.  Based on signs and symptoms, hey do consider it a Warm disease which means it is more aggressive and dangerous if it gets out of hand. The climate of the disease does not matter. What matters is how the disorder presents through a patient’s collective symptomology. That being said, besides taking the herbs they would recommend for this disorder, observing the general rules for not passing germs and not exhausting your internal capacity to fight them back is important. 

To care for yourself is important. It is prioritizing your wellness. 

Here are some tips on how to stay healthy this winter:

  • Good sleep (before 11pm) for 8 hours or more
  • Eating according to natural concerns (stop icing drinks, over eating sugar or fake foods, eating too much or little or unregulated times.
  • Proper hygiene, washing one’s hands (20 seconds), not touching one’s face, cleaning surfaces you use often, covering ones face and mouth if sneezing, coughing or not well (incidentally this is where face masks are helpful, not as much if you are not sick).
  • Not walking into cold or wind without proper protection of the body, especially the back of the neck and face and especially after opening the pores from exercise.
  • Use a saline nasal rinse and gargle with hot salted water (this is more Auyervedic but a nice way to keep this tissue healthy and clear out any material unwanted in the area).
  • Taking herbs to help strengthen the body (adaptagens) like ginseng (American ginseng is most balanced) reishi fungus and astragalus
  • Taking herbs to fight off a condition as SOON as you feel you may be getting sick. I started my own cold and flu line called HERBS FROM EAST, to help my clients fight back against these issues and have these easily on hand in easy to administer liquid tinctures. They are based on the Warm theory formulas.    

Needless to say I take my herbs every day, whether to strength my body or relieve something coming on.  I rarely get sick and have seen radical changes in my clients who learn to treat their cold and flu in the model I have been discussing.  

I have herbs prepared and ready to go if anyone needs a bottle – for clients or family or friends. I feel this information needs to get out.  We don’t handle cold and flus very well in the States I feel.  Inoculate (get the flu shot) if you feel you need it – for certain for those with lower potential natural immunity, or if you live or work with them, then protect yourself at every turn with Chinese herbal medicine. This is the best method I have found. The reactions to these formulas has been often nothing short of astounding for many who take them.  The main goal and reality being one never gets fully sick and “dodges” these full on symptoms which would take you out of commission.

The ideas in Chinese medicine is that as soon as a virus (or pestilent qi) is in the body, attack it before it embeds itself deeper and it is more complicated to kill and the body is now compromised.  Close the door in the invading intruder in other words.  While we don’t know if it fights off every strain of new flu, or the coronavirus specifically, these herbs have been helpful for centuries.

Here are the names of the herbal formula I based on traditional ones to help the immune system fight off viruses and in some formulas secondary bacterial infections while benefiting the immune system:

PREVENTION – to protect yourself before you get sick. Filled with adaptogens to help immunity.
INVASION – take this as soon as you feel issues especially in the throat and sinuses and head Our most commonly sold item with strong anti-viral herbs.
ELIMINATION – take this if the issues move into your chest and there is mucus and difficulty expectorating.

You can buy them here or in my offices for a $5 discount. otherwise they are shipped to you with priority mail asap.

One bottle will last you for many dosages and tinctures do not go bad on the shelf for years as they are partially preserved in alcohol. Take 2 to 3 half droppers full 2 to 3 x a day with a little water or add boiled water to evaporate the alcohol and then drink when cooled.

Of course integrative medicine is a smart way to be a modern human. So if these herbs are taken at first signs and your initial condition does not improve in 4 days, and particularly if it gets worse, you should contact your physician as usual.  Lungs are “delicate organs” according to Chinese medicine and in reality.

Also of course with Corona virus – it is less likely you will catch than that a typical cold or the seasonal flu. However if you feel you have specific symptoms alert your physician as soon as possible. Do not let the Lungs suffer unattended for long. Chinese herbs have been used for thousands of years, but Mother Nature finds new ways to express these illnesses and there are times where there is a gap between what we know can work and what is working. Stay vigilant, as there are no guarantees in medicine – just best bets for fighting back.

The idea with adding Chinese herbs to your cold and flu regiment is not to sit ideally by while it gets worse and instead fight back.  Also a reminder antibiotics don’t help initial viral infections (most all colds and flu) so be careful about asking for some.  We don’t want to create a super-bug who is resistant to these drugs one day.

I hope this email is helpful for those of you curious about the evolution of medical perceptions on epidemic diseases through Chinese classics of medicine and how we can use them to help modern day concerns. Chinese medicine stresses the importance of the growing awareness of variations in local and regional environments, and how we can use these ideas to effectively fight back and aim to manage these issues while they arise.

Any questions please email me.

Warm regards,
Mitchell Harris LAc

Comments are closed.