Chinese Herbal Medicine, Acupuncture and Immunity

flu season ahead

Chinese Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture have been used for hundreds of years to treat immune, lung and respiratory conditions of all kinds. From asthma to allergies, coughing, hayfever, and both resistance to and treatment of viral and bacterial infections (bronchitis, pneumonia, and the like).

If you’re thinking ‘What? Wow! How can this be possible? And why didn’t I know this?’ Then you certainly aren’t the only one, as I get many surprised people in clinic learning through personal experience exactly how effective Chinese Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture can be for these kinds of conditions!

I’m including plenty of information here for you to get both a better understanding of what kinds of immune conditions can be treated with Chinese medicine (complete with references if you are curious). Every year come autumn through spring I see a numerous individuals who have had several cold and flu type infections – and several rounds of anti-biotics – who come and get excellent results quickly!

Some of the respiratory diseases shown to be effectively treated with Acupuncture and/ or Chinese Herbal Medicine include:
– Allergic Rhinitis (here)
– Immunity (here)
– Asthma (here)
– Common cold and flu (here and here)
– Pneumonia (here)
– Allergies (here)

Both Chinese Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, immune-regulatory, anti microbial, anti-influenza activities (here, here, and here) and have been extensively used throughout many epidemics in Asian cultures since the 12th century.

The oldest Chinese text for the treatment of External Pathogens (our name for a germ/ bug) was published in 1065 – around 800 years before European cultures had any idea such a thing as a ‘germ’ might be possible. This book is around the size of a bible and is one of several texts detailing treatment of these kinds of conditions.

Chinese Herbal Medicine is in fact being specifically mentioned (here) as a potential solution to one of the most concerning issues of our era: the rise of Antibiotic resistant bacterial infections This is a situation when bacteria become resistant to antibiotics that were once effective to treat them. The most serious concern with this is that the most commonly available anti-biotics will become ineffective: more people will be seriously unwell for longer periods, and those with immune system compromising health conditions will be at serious risk. (and no, they can’t just develop new ones – scientists have been trying for 30 years!). This has been occurring in many countries as a considerable issue of concern for decades and Australia has just has our first case in Victoria earlier this year. Believe me when I say this is a momentous event – and a terrifying one. (You can read more about the warning here)

While new understandings of the mechanisms of Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine are continuously evolving (research into Eastern medicine is developing at a rate more than double that of western/ mainstream medicine) some of the major reasons Chinese Medicine can potentially assist with almost anything respiratory and immune related is certainly due to the activation and regulation of certain natural immune responses in the body. For those with medical training, this includes Immunoglobulins (IgG and IgM) and the InterLukins (3 and 6 especially) which are known to be specific for immunity and infection in the human body. You can read a general summary here)

Things you should do if you are fighting off a cold:

  • Drink more fluids
  • Reduce your stress
  • Take a day off work (if you can) as soon as you feel sick or have a quiet weekend to have some recovery space
  • Get more sleep
  • Adjust your diet: warm fresh vegetables, soups, broths, warm foods and drinks. Reduce your sugar and dairy intake.
  • Take a zinc supplement and increase your vitamin c.
  • Book an Acupuncture/ Chinese Herbal Medicine appointment pronto and get some immune system TLC 🙂
  • When you should go to your (western medicine) Doctor:

  • If you have a history of serious respiratory tract infections, an auto-immune or compromised immune system issue. (Go now! Do not collect $200)
  • Young children have numerous signs and symptoms when unwell that are not concerning for adults (in fact many health issues in children have the reverse presentations for adults – this is why paediatrics is a specialty).
  • If you are seriously unwell for more than 5 days its worth booking a visit. This does not mean post viral fatigue, or lingering symptoms at a low level.

  • Keep in mind: the vast majority of colds are viral, rather than bacterial in nature. Anti-biotics are completely irrelevant for use against viral infections and should not be generally used as any sort of ‘just in case’. The single most common cause of anti-biotic resistance is the prescription of anti-biotics for conditions that do not require them.

    Please…. Seriously reconsider going in sick and sharing your bugs with the rest of your workplace. Air conditioning will circulate your germs….. very effectively…. to everyone else! While this is irritating (on a number of levels) for anyone, it is considerably past that for anyone with a compromised immune system – especially those going through chemo/radiotherapy and pregnant women. Don’t presume they will have told you!! I have had numerous clients hospitalised in this kind of situation so please don’t share.

    About Jade

    Jade is a Registered Acupuncturist with a Bachelor of Health Science in Acupuncture, currently completing a Masters in Applied Science in Chinese Herbal Medicine. She has passion for mental health and recovery, having recovered from Post Traumatic Stress herself, and has a clinic space in West End, Brisbane with a focus on chronic health, pain and mental health disorders. Jade loves good food (cooking and especially eating), tea, and thinks you are never running too late to greet a cute furry animal. She does not believe in Magic Bullets.