In recent weeks, during late April and early May of 2022, I have seen a resurgence of patients actively infected with COVID-19 and experiencing related symptoms. Similarly, I have seen an increase in the number of patients reporting lingering symptoms that are related to long COVID. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine offer useful insight into and effective treatment of long COVID symptoms.
Most common febrile ailments that present as cold, flu, fever, etc. are related to the six pernicious influences (one of the three causes of disease): wind, damp, cold, heat, dryness and summer heat. However, there are particular types of illness, including epidemic and pandemic illness, that are not limited to these factors.
That is to say, epidemic illness presents differently than common febrile disorders. The presentation of epidemic and pandemic illness is more complex and widespread than common febrile illness, and the treatment of epidemic illness does not respond to the usual methods that would effectively treat febrile illness. Beyond the six pernicious influences, epidemic illness is categorized as a sort of toxic, hidden influence referred to as “li qi”, which literally means “evil qi or influence”.
Why do Epidemics Occur?
Chinese medicine cannot answer why epidemics occur, but it can describe how they occur. Read more about the topic of “how” versus “why” in Causality in Chinese Medicine – The Issues of How and Why.
Epidemic illness results from extreme imbalance between celestial and earthly qi. These imbalances are cyclical in nature, and are described in the system of Chinese cosmology. They are also influenced by changes in the earthly climate that result from human influence, such as pollution.
Accordingly, epidemic pathogens possess particular qualities such as cold, damp, etc. It is common that epidemic illnesses are contracted at one time of year, but present symptoms at another. Typically, we think of illness as containing a short period of first being contagious, followed by an incubation period. While this is true on a physical level related to germs and viruses, Chinese medicine considers these as only part of the picture of epidemic illness. For a simple example, epidemic illness may be contracted in the winter as shanghun, or cold damage, linger in the body due to improper treatment and resolution, and then present as damp heat febrile heat illness in the spring. That is to say, we may contract illness in one season and it may manifest in another.
You Can’t Only Kill the Germs
In the West, we think the way to treat viral and bacterial disease, including epidemic, is to kill the organism that is responsible for it. Chinese medicine is not focused on killing the organism. Chinese medicine is concerned with understanding the symptom presentation as it reflects imbalances in the body and in the environment, responding with a more complex and comprehensive treatment. It is not easy or always possible to effectively kill a virus, and even when this is possible there can be lingering symptoms. Such is the case with long COVID.
Hidden pathogens linger deep in the tissues of the body. They cause lingering symptoms such as fatigue, inflammation, cough, headache, dizziness, or general aggravation of previously existing symptoms. Chinese medicine can identify and effectively treat such symptoms.
Treating Lingering Viral Symptoms with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine
One approach to treatment of long COVID symptoms that has shown to be effective (and in my personal clinical experience, as well) is the use of the Thirteen Ghost or Demon Points, organized by the famous 6th century physician Sun Simiao. These points can be used alone or in conjunction with other acupuncture points to treat lingering symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, cough, pain, fever, and skin rash.
Chinese herbal medicine is also important for treating long COVID symptoms. Using the methods of classical Chinese medicine to identify the nature and location of the hidden pathogen, herbal treatment can be administered to resolve the condition. This method relies on the application of theories and herbal formulae that date back over 2,000 years. China has a long history of epidemic disease, and over the centuries has developed an effective system of herbal medicine for its treatment. Rather than using a single herb that possesses anti-viral properties, Chinese medicine relies on complex formulas that address every aspect of the disease, the environment, and the patient.
Chinese Medicine Is Safe and Effective for Adults and Children
Both acupuncture and herbal medicine provide safe and effective treatment for long COVID symptoms for adults and children. It is understandable that in the West we cannot easily believe that acupuncture and herbs can effectively treat COVID related symptoms, as COVID has caused so much illness and death. It’s treatment continues to be a mystery to doctors and researchers.
It is true that treatment of epidemic illness is far more difficult than the treatment of common febrile illness, and requires both skill and collective experience. Nonetheless, because Chinese medicine considers more than simply killing of the virus, it does offer an approach to treatment beyond what is standard in the West. The use of Chinese medicine both within China and the West is widespread, and treatment of long COVID has proven to be effective. My own clinical experience, while vastly more limited, has supported this. I have seen both children and adults recover faster from lingering symptoms when treated with Chinese medicine as compared to prior to treatment.
Proper resolution of symptoms provides not only short-term relief from suffering, but also prevents future illness according to Chinese medical theories. If you have any questions regarding the use of acupuncture and Chinese herbs in the treatment of long COVID, please read more information on my website and feel free to contact me directly.