Monday, August 17, 2009

H1N1 - A TCM Perspective

The H1N1 "Pandemic" has received a lot of media coverage recently and now the vaccine is top priority. By now we all know that thousands of people die each year from seasonal flu while only a handful have died due to H1N1. So why is the H1N1 considered a pandemic? According to the WHO this is a new virus therefore people have little immunity, which potentially could result in more infections than the seasonal flu. Signs of influenza A(H1N1) are similar to seasonal flu, including fever, cough, headache, muscle and joint pain, sore throat, runny nose and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. H1N1 appears to be as contagious as seasonal flu, with the severity of infection ranging from very mild to severe illness possibly resulting in death. The majority of cases are mild and most recover without medical care. With the more serious cases most people have underlying health conditions or compromised immune systems. Every year people are encouraged to get the flu shot, however it does not prevent all strains and new strains appear each year which begs the question why is the vaccine for H1N1 deemed so vital?

What then is the best way to protect yourself? Keep healthy by strengthening your immune system.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has an advantage because it does not necessarily target the disease but the imbalance in the person, therefore if one's body, mind and spirit is functioning optimally it should be protected from the influenza virus regardless if it is a new strain. In TCM the immune system is closely related to the functioning of the Lung energy system. The Lung system is related to breathing, the skin, the nose and conditions such as allergies, asthma, eczema, as well as colds and flu. How does the lung energy system relate to colds and flu? According to the TCM medical system there are different types of Qi, or "energy" circulating in the body. One form is called Wei Qi, or "defensive" energy, this qi circulates close to the surface and is responsible for protecting the body from invasion by exterior pathogens such as Heat, Cold, Dampness or Wind. Invasion by these pathogens correlates to the symptoms of the flu such as fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, head and body aches and possibly nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The difference with TCM differential diagnosis is that symptoms and treatment vary according to the pathogen and the degree of toxicity. Of course prevention is the best alternative and below are some recommendations.

Of course regular acupuncture treatments can keep the body in balance. It is particularly beneficial to have treatments at the changing of the seasons to help it adapt smoothly to a change in the environment. Prior to flu season it is a good idea to get a series of treatments to boost immunity. There are many acupuncture points on the body that have been shown to have a positive effect on the immune system. In addition to acupuncture many Chinese herbs, such as, Huangqi (Astragalus root), Renshen (Ginseng), Lingzhi (Ganorderma), Dong Chong Xia Cao (Cordyceps), Baizhu (White Atractylodes rhizome), Fangfeng(Siler root)have immune strengthening properties. Generally most herbs are taken as a balanced formula to enhance therapeutic benefits while at the same time decreasing side-effects. Some common Chinese herbal prescriptions to prevent illness or hasten recovery are Yu Ping Feng San, Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang, Gan Mao Ling, Yin Qiao San, Ge Gen Tang. Herbal formulas are based on a TCM diagnosis, therefore not all prescriptions are appropriate in all conditions. Food is also considered medicine in TCM and is often the first line of defense, therefore adding immune boosting foods such as reishi, shiitake and maitake mushrooms can be very beneficial.

Keep in mind all the information here is for general knowledge and no treatment should be taken without the consultation and supervision of a licensed practitioner.

Chinese Herbal Medicine Formulas & Strategies
Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica