FLU SEASON - A CHINESE MEDICINE PERSPECTIVE

Lingering Pathogens

Many of you commented on last year’s Flu Facts article I sent out. Since then I’ve been digging a little deeper into the lingering effects of externally contracted illnesses.

One of the central theories of externally contracted disorders in Chinese Medicine is called wen bing. It means warm disease. Usually the flu and other highly contagious epidemics are categorized as, “wen bing” or, “warm pathogen diseases.” This means that the nature of the bacteria or virus is warm, hot, or toxic. Warm pathogen diseases usually come on fairly quickly and can cause any range of symptoms such as body aches, fever, chills, dark urine, nasal/sinus/lung congestion, cough, nausea, malaise, vomiting, dizziness, sweating, thirst, perceptual disorders, diarrhea, etc.

The symptoms of a pathogenic influence will be more or less severe for each person, and there can be a range in what symptoms a given individual will experience. This is because everyone has differing strengths and weaknesses, and some individuals have stronger qi than others. How to keep the qi strong is the topic of another article, but focusing on healthy breathing, healthy lifestyle (see flu facts article on blog as part of healthy lifestyle), and practicing qi gong or therapeutic (not rigorous) yoga is advised.

Most of us have weak spots in our bodies. Some of us may have systemic weakness, others may have a particular place or places in the body where agni, or the function of transformation is weak. Transporting function in the body may be weak, or the qi may be flowing poorly, too much, congesting, or flowing in the wrong direction. The body’s yin (fluids) may be weak or congested, or the yang (function/movement/warmth) may be weak, or misplaced. These things may occur over time as a result of poor diet, thinking, lifestyle, etc., or may happen suddenly as the result of trauma, illness, or the mismanagement of illness.

In the case of warm disease, once the weak spot(s) forms, there is a place available for a pathogen to make it’s residence. If the strength of the pathogen is greater than the strength of the host, or the weak spot in the host, it will find a home. Once it does this, it can hang out in the tissue for an extended length of time and one day re-emerge as what appears to be one of two things: A newly contracted ailment or a chronic illness.

The Chinese have endured centuries, perhaps millennia of horrible epidemics. There are several well documented epidemics that have wiped out complete families and villages. This history of being plagued by epidemics has resulted in the Chinese developing a highly sophisticated system for determining the nature of a pathogen, it’s predicted course through the body, and how to treat the person suffering from it.

Scores of herbal formulas have been documented and utilized to this day, hundreds of years later. Practitioners of Chinese Medicine can tell by signs, symptoms, pulse diagnosis and looking at the tongue what type of pathogen is present and what herbal formula to treat the person with. Formulas are designed to assist the patient’s wei qi, or immune system, successfully fight the pathogen without further damaging the person’s qi (prana vata), blood, yin (kapha), yang (pitta), or shen (spirit).

We often wait until we are so sick we can’t stand it anymore. Only then do we seek help and usually end up on antibiotics. In Chinese Medicine it has been observed that the effect of the antibiotic on the body is one of cold. Cold can damage the functioning of the spleen qi or yang (digestive functioning) resulting in changes to bowel function among other things. Cold can also congeal and block the channels causing further problems down the road. If a person is taking antibiotics I generally advise dietary supplementation and hold off on herbs until they are done with the pharmaceuticals. Afterwards, the patient is assessed and if herbal medicine is advisable it is administered.

What if we could nip something in the bud and avoid another round of antibiotics? What if, knowing a predisposition for coming down with a certain type of ailment, say, a sinus problem at a certain time of year, we could actually be proactive and prevent it? These are two great situations to look to Chinese Medicine for help. What if there is a cold that turns into a cough that doesn’t go away for weeks? This can also be a great time to look into Chinese Medicine. What if there is a flu and tamiflu is unwanted or unavailable? Another time to look to Chinese Medicine for relief.

Chinese Medicine offers treatment strategies and solutions for the signs and symptoms of cold, cough, sinus congestion, and flu that help to vent or clear a pathogenic influence without repressing it. In addition, Chinese medicinals support the body at a deeper level with little to no side effects. Now back to the weak spots.

A pathogen that lodges in a weak spot can hide out for days, months, or even years. This phenomena is known in wen bing or warm pathogen disease school as, “lingering pathogen.” The most obvious example of a modern day lingering pathogen is lyme disease. The pathogen invades, then hides out in the tissues and reemerges as various other ailments. Other examples include chicken pox manifesting as shingles, herpes, or HPV infection resulting in cervical cancer. Perhaps other undetected viruses manifest as other cancers, as fibromyalgia, or other chronic disorders.

At Ageless we have hundreds of dried herbs and countless formulas. Our herbs are organic when available, and always tested for harmful pesticides and residues. If a crop is contaminated we don’t carry it until a clean source is available. Our herbs are supplied by reputable companies with the highest standards in the industry.) We carry both dried whole herbs and formulas in pill form that we can offer for relief of these lingering pathogens, and with the aim of eradicating their haunting flare ups. We do this by helping the body release pathogens, toxins, and/or ama (for you ayurvedic people out there). With herbal medicine so much can be accomplished.

So the next time you get that tickle in your throat, remember you can get some herbs to help your body push the pathogen out before it digs deep and makes you miserable for days or weeks. And if you experience something chronic, please consider trying out Chinese Medicine.