I want to discuss viruses from a Chinese Medicine point of view, but also from a Complementary Medicine view. What can we do to help not only boost our immune systems but also steps we can take to heal quicker if we catch a viral infection in the coming months. Please note I am not a medical doctor and my advice is from 20 years in complementary medicine and 15 years in a Chinese medicine.
What actually is a Virus? A virus is a microorganism - meaning it's absolutely minute. In fact a billion viruses would fit on a single pin head. A virus cannot grow or reproduce outside a living cell / host i.e. a human or animal.
A virus invades the human body through our mucus membranes in our mouth, nose, and eyes. Once the virus has entered the body it’s incredibly clever within seconds it finds the host's cells, invades and uses the host's DNA and the hosts chemical machinery to replicate and spread.
Viral infections include; Influenza, Swine Flu, HIV, Herpes and the common cold.
The CoronaVirus (Convid 19) - Originated in China in Wuhan late last year, from animal source and now the virus is being spread from human to human for the first time.
Like influenza Coronavirus is spread through human contact, human secretions such as sneezing, coughing, kissing. As i am not a Medical Doctor I will leave them to explain more about it. Visit World Health Organisation for more information.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we have something called Wei Qi circulating around our outer areas of the body and skin, protecting and destroying pathogens on a daily basis. We all come into contact with viruses/bacteria/fungus all the time and our incredible immune system is built to attack and destroy and get stronger in the process.
Imagine your immune system as a large army of soldiers. How would you make your the strongest, best fighting team imaginable?
Well firstly you would make them strong. Feeding them the best, freshest, most nutrient rich diet available to you. In TCM we encourage people to eat with the seasons, so winter to spring is all about eating warming foods, soups, stews, root vegetables, potatoes, plant based protein, onions, garlic and ginger. We recommend reducing sugar intake and eating lots of fresh citrus fruits, berries, spinach, broccoli, nuts and seeds.
It is really important to limit ice based or very cold foods at this time. These tend to slow down digestion and make the body work harder at a time when it needs plenty of nutrients in the easiest form of absorption. Chicken Soup or Broth (vegetable if Vegetarian or vegan) is food for the soul, This is a perfect addition to an elderly person's diet during a flu epidemic. (Recipe Below).
Then maybe more importantly we would make sure our army is always kept fully hydrated. This in my opinion is vital and a key to reducing the length of time a virus resides in your system. From a TCM point of view drinking hot water is of more benefit to the body and more easily absorbed to where it is needed most. Drinking hot water all day long, tell your elderly relatives or friends, just keep hydrated. Adding a slice of fresh root ginger, or lemon or both makes it more palatable for some. If you have a virus water really can help flush it out of the system.
So now your immune system, your own army of protection is that bit stronger and more able to fight infection.
For the coming months everybody is going to be more vigilant about their hand hygiene and their immune systems. Remember catching any virus, especially Coronavirus along with the influenza virus can be significantly reduced if we continue to WASH OUR HANDS. Good old soap and warm water, for at least 20 seconds. If you use a hand towel, replace it regularly. Disinfect your phone, Laptop, tablet, remote control, steering wheel, door handles, and anything else that you handle regularly.
What else can we do to protect ourselves?
Acupuncture is proven to help strengthen the immune system. Acupuncture has great success at helping immunity by regulating energetic imbalances in the body and stimulating body signalling chemicals such as hormones and neurotransmitters to bring the body back into good health.
If you can’t get to see an acupuncturist here are some really powerful acupressure points to help strengthen immunity, help relieve coughs and reduce fever. These are found at the bottom of this blog.
Supplementation - These are my personal antiviral must haves. Also I love making sure the body has enough Vitamin C, D and Zinc.
Black Elderberry (Sambucus) - Numerous studies in vitro show that elderberry exerts its antiviral activity on influenza through a number of mechanisms of action, including suppressing the entry of the virus into the hosts cell. Elderberry can be taken as a precaution and also during an infection (at a higher dose rate). Safe for all the family.
Echinacea - also called purple coneflower is one of the most popular herbs worldwide. Native Americans have used it for centuries to treat various ailments. Today its best known as an over the counter herbal remedy for common colds and flu. High in antioxidants - these are molecules that help defend our cells against damage. Numerous studies have found this plant may help your immune system combat a flu virus and improve your recovery time.
Essential Oils - I have been an Aromatherapist for 20 years now and Essential Oils play a very important role at The Clonmel Acupuncture & Therapy Centre. Each therapy room has essential oils diffused into it. Not only does this aid relaxation and general ambience, many of these powerful oils have strong antiviral actions that make them so important in a health clinic. My top 3 antiviral Oils; Tea Tree, Eucalyptus and Bergamot.
Research has found that these oils have significant anti-influenza virus properties. Bergamot oil is effective against the flu virus as a vapor after just 10 minutes of exposure.
If a cough is established steam inhalations can help, adding eucalyptus into the shower (flick the oil onto the tiles and step in).
Diffuse oils in the home or at work to help reduce infection risk. Diffusers can be bought in most health food shops, or online.
Diluting 6-10 drops into 30 mls carrier oil (veg oil) of Tea tree and Eucalyptus and applying onto the chest if presenting with a cough. This can also be done using Coconut oil which solidifies at room temperature and makes a great chest rub. Also add 3 drops of lavender to help sleep.
So to Clarify...
1- Take pride in your immune system. Look after your body, up your intake in vegetables and fruit, plenty of hot meals, soups and stews. Keep sugar to a minimum.
2 - Keep hydrated, throughout the day. Hot water is best if you can.
3- Keep your hands clean and virus free!
5- Disinfect your surfaces regularly,
6- Get lots of fresh air, sunshine on your face.
7-If you do catch a virus, stay at home and rest. Let your body heal, sleep and hydrate.
Katie Murphy Lic Ac MTCMCI
Acupressure point St36 (Zusanli) Helps Boost Immunity
Lung 5 Chi Ze - My go to point to stop a cough
FEVER POINT - GV14 Dazhui