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With the recent news about COVID-19, many people are wondering what they can do to prevent themselves from getting sick. Everyone should be following proper handwashing techniques, wearing masks out in public, and staying home as much as possible to avoid exposing themselves or others to the virus. Some estimates show that nearly 20% of people may have the virus and not show any symptoms.

But there are other ways to keep from getting sick, such as boosting your immune system through acupuncture and herbal medicine

How the Immune System Works

The immune system is a series of organs, cells, and tissues that all work together to fight foreign pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and parasites. In order to do this, the body must be able to identify the pathogens and target them with white blood cells, without damaging healthy tissue. Many of the symptoms that we experience when we get sick, such as a fever, runny nose, or headache, are due not to the illness itself, but to the work the immune system is doing.

For people who are immunocompromised, which means that their immune system isn’t functioning at its highest level, the novel coronavirus and the disease that results from it, COVID-19, can be especially dangerous. This is because the body will not be able to fight the virus at all. People who are immunocompromised can include:

  • People with autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, or lupus
  • People who have had organ transplants
  • Elderly people
  • People with underlying conditions such as diabetes or heart disease
  • People undergoing certain medical treatments such as radiation or chemotherapy for cancer

It’s particularly important for people with these issues to avoid getting sick at all costs. 

The Immune System in Oriental Medicine

In Oriental medicine, the body is divided into 12 meridians. If  all 12 meridians are strong and well-functioning, Qi (the circulating life energy) flows and circulates in harmony, and the immune system works properly. If Qi flows and circulates well and the internal organs [(zàng(脏)  fǔ(腑)] are working normally without any pain, then the immune system is at its height. But the flow of Qi and the immune system slow down if there is any pain in the internal organ. If the immune system is weak, our body makes “noise”, which we register as pain. 

How Acupuncture Can Boost Immunity

The great principle of acupuncture is moderation, which is what maintains balance in our bodies. Acupuncture harmonizes the balance and awakens the super sense that had been lying dormant in our body. The internal organs all face each other so if you get sick, it shows where the balance is broken. 

The great principle of acupuncture is moderation, which is what maintains balance in our bodies. Acupuncture harmonizes the balance and awakens the super sense that had been lying dormant in our body.

Acupuncture can help restore the balance of the body by treating mirroring organs. For instance, the lung and bladder face each other. One female patient once complained that when she coughed, she had an involuntary urination. This told Dr. Ko that her lung and bladder were unbalanced, so he treated the bladder in order to treat the lung. Acupuncture treats the broken part and harmonizes the balance. If you do not get sick, then your body increases your immune system, and in turn, a stronger immune system will prevent you from getting sick.

Using Herbal Medicine to Boost the Immune System

Herbal medicine plays an important role in immunity by circulating Qi and blood which increases the immune system’s power. Each organ has an herb that makes it strong and healthy, so an acupuncturist will examine a patient and prescribe herbal medicine for the weaker part of the organ to help build a strong and healthy immune system. 

Dr. Ko might prescribe Terminalia chebula Retzius (He Zi) or Platycodon grandiflorus (Jié Gěng) to boost lung immunity. Herbs like Angelica sinensis Root (Dong Quai ), Astragalus membranaceus (Huang Qi), and Ligusticum striatum (Chuan Xiong) can also boost the overall immune system in our body. 

Each herbal prescription depends on the function of the internal organ that you hope to improve. Each organ has a different function, so Dr. Ko prescribes herbal medicine specifically for the organ that needs it.

Of course, each herbal prescription depends on the function of the internal organ that you hope to improve. Each organ has a different function, so Dr. Ko prescribes herbal medicine specifically for the organ that needs it. For instance, generally seniors have weaker bodies and weaker functions of the internal organs. In this case, Dr. Ko prescribes Shi-quan-da-bu-tang (十全大補湯), which support all functions. This herb helps the overall function of our body in normal conditions as well. There is a vitamin that is extracted from the herb, but Dr. Ko has found that the herbal medicine works better than the vitamin.

While avoiding exposure to the virus is the best way to avoid getting sick, making sure your immune system is ready to fight can be extremely helpful to make sure you are ready if you do get sick. If you’d like to learn more about how acupuncture and herbal medicine can help boost your immune system, please make an appointment today. 

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