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The COVID-19 pandemic has not yet completely ended, yet other contagious viruses such as influenza A—or more commonly, the flu—continue to spread. How should we protect ourselves and our families from epidemic diseases?
In an online program, Hu Naiwen, a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) physician from Taiwan’s Shanghai Tongdetang Chinese Medicine Clinic in Taipei, introduced some ways to prevent epidemics. He pointed out that in addition to vaccination, the most important way to prevent illnesses from spreading is to build up one’s immunity, and to make oneself less vulnerable to all viruses.
Hu pointed out that if you want to keep your body strong, you can start by having regular mealtimes.
According to TCM theory, energy in the body flows from the viscera along the meridians and circulates around the body. The 12 meridians correspond to the 12 viscera. Both the viscera and the meridians have their respective times of being most active in the day.
Between 7:00 and 9:00 in the morning is called the “chen.” This is the time when energy starts to flow to the stomach and is thus the time for breakfast. Food taken during this period will be digested and utilized most effectively.
Between 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. is the “wu,” time of the heart. By this time, the food eaten will be converted into energy and finds its way to the heart, which then supplies the whole body via the vitality (blood-pumping action) of the heart. This is a good time for lunch, which is beneficial to nourish the heart, but be careful not to eat too much.
From 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. is the “you,” which is the time for the kidneys. This is the best time to have dinner and replenish lost water during the day. Doing so will help essence of the food enter the body, and also helps you sleep at night. If you still do not eat by 7:00 or 8:00 p.m., and only do so until 9:00, the nutrients you obtain from the food will not be absorbed completely to fully nourish your body.
There is an anti-epidemic sachet called the “Plague-Repelling Sachet” mentioned in ancient Chinese literature. It is said that frequent smelling of the fragrance can help prevent epidemics.
It can be prepared by crushing six kinds of Chinese medicinal herbs: Bupleuri radix, Notopterygium incisum, Asari radix et rhizoma, Atractylodes iancea, Evodia rutaecarpa, and rhubarb, into fine powder. Put all of them in a small cloth bag and lay it on top of your mobile phone or on the bedside, where you can enjoy the Chinese medicine’s fragrance.
In addition, aromatherapy essential oils can also be used at home. Among them, eucalyptus essential oil, cypress essential oil, rosemary, lavender, clove, and thyme all have an immunity-enhancing effect.
Commercially available essential oils vary in quality and may contain chemical residues from their extraction process. Hu suggested that you can use a solvent of mixed glycerin and water to soak lavender, rosemary, thyme, and other herbs, and then put the resulting solution in an air humidifier, which will fill the room with aroma.
Hu pointed out that after inhaling the aroma, special neurosecretory and endocrine substances will be produced in the body, thereby increasing the body’s immunity, and achieving a wide-ranging preventive effect against various viruses and bacteria. Aromatherapy has also the added benefit of repelling mosquitoes.
Tea With Peppermint and Perilla Frutescens
Hu also recommends making tea with spices such as peppermint and perilla.
A study on more than 3,000 existing drugs and health products conducted by Academia Sinica in Taiwan found five drugs, among them peppermint and perilla extracts, with the most antiviral potential. Experiments also found that feeding hamsters infected with COVID-19 peppermint and perilla extracts effectively reduces the amount of virus in the animals’ lungs.
Lily and white fungus (tremella mushroom) decoction can maintain the body’s qi (vital energy) and has the effect of purifying the lungs.
According to TCM theory, different organs correspond to different colors. Within that theory, we have the lungs corresponding to white, and therefore most white foods have the effect of nourishing the lungs. Colloid-rich foods can also moisturize the lungs and help clear phlegm from the respiratory tract. In addition to lily and white fungus, almonds, yams, peanuts, and lotus root are all good for the lungs.
Ingredients: 10 grams (0.4 ounces) of lily, 10 grams (0.4 ounces) of white fungus, 10 grams (0.4 ounces) of rock sugar
- Wash the lily and white fungus and soak them in water until they start to become soft.
- Put the lily and white fungus into a pot, add water, and bring it to a boil. Turn to low heat and cook until the white fungus is completely soft, then add rock sugar to serve.
Hu said that this dessert is rich in nutrients, delicious, and good for children, as well as for the elderly with the “three highs (cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure).”
Chinese Medicine to Prevent Severe Illness
If you come down with an illness, you can take Chinese medicine for treatment. However, for safety’s sake, it is best to speak to a TCM physician who can prescribe an appropriate formula that suits your constitution.
Research by the National Research Institute of Chinese Medicine (NRICM) of Taiwan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare (MOHW) has shown that taking the Chinese medicine “NRICM101″ (known as Qingguang No. 1 in Taiwan) can effectively prevent COVID-19 patients from getting worse. The medicinal materials used in NRICM101 include Schizonepeta tenuifolia, Saposhnikoviae radix (parsnip), peppermint, mulberry leaves, Scutellaria (skullcap), Radix isatidis, Houttuynia cordata, Trichosanthes, Magnolia officinalis, and licorice.
Su Yi-chang, director of NRICM, said that compared with antiviral Western medicines, Qingguan No. 1 can have a “multi-target” therapeutic effect. At the same time, it can reduce symptoms, prevent viral infection, and stabilize cardiopulmonary function. The efficacy is applicable to different virus variants.
If Vital Qi Exists Within, Evil Qi Can Hardly Interfere
The TCM classic “The Yellow Emperor’s Canon on Internal Medicine” writes: “Vital qi exists within, evil can hardly interfere.” This means that if there is enough vital energy inside the body, evil energy has no way in.
“Evil qi” is the material and energy that causes people to become sick, while “vital qi” comes from both material and spiritual aspects. When the physical condition is balanced and the mind is free from worries and fears, and when body and mind are both in a normal state, then “evil energy,” which is the cause of the illness, will not be able to interfere with your well-being.
In regard to disease causes, modern medicine looks at only the material level and believes that germs and viruses can make people sick, or too many or too few of certain vitamins and minerals can cause disease. TCM, however, looks at diseases from the perspectives of both internal and external factors. The external causes include “wind, fire, heat, dampness, dryness, and cold,” while the internal causes are “joy, anger, worry, pensiveness, sadness, fear, and shock” at the spiritual level. There are other factors such as physical injury, diet, fatigue, and the like, which are neither internal nor external causes.
In addition to health care, Hu also pointed out that spiritual cultivation is crucial to epidemic prevention and told the story of two ancient people who dealt with the plague.
During the Eastern Han Dynasty around 2,000 years ago, plague was prevalent in China. The monk Zhang Daoling asked infected people to write down the wrong things they had done in their lives on a piece of paper, then pray to God by the riverside and vow not to do these wrong things again, or be subject to more of God’s punishment. The patients threw the notes into the river, sincerely repented, and soon got healed.
Zhu Yiqing, a scholar of the Qing Dynasty, wrote in his “An Anthology of Burying Worries” that during the great plague at the end of the Ming Dynasty, five members of scholar Chen Junshan’s family died of the plague overnight. Because people were so afraid of the sickness, no one dared to collect the bodies. Only Chen’s student Wang Yuxi went resolutely to bury them. Seeing that the teacher’s infant son was still breathing weakly, he carried the child to see a doctor, who revived him. Wang remained well during the plague.
Modern research has also confirmed that people’s expectations of the world, life, and happiness are all different, and thus, their antiviral immunity will also be different.
A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the States in 2013 found that compared with those who pursued just enjoyment in life, people who had higher life goals had healthier immune cell gene expression, less inflammation in the body, and their antiviral interference protein and antibody productivity were also stronger.
Then who will live long and remain healthy in old age? Hu quoted again “The Yellow Emperor’s Canon on Internal Medicine” and said that these are the people who live by observing closely the cyclical principle between heaven and Earth. He believes that there are thousands of ways to prevent sickness, and it is necessary to maintain a balance in all aspects of the body and mind to fundamentally improve immunity.
*Some herbs mentioned in this article may be unfamiliar, but they are generally available in Asian supermarkets.
Note: Because different people have different constitutions, it is recommended to consult your doctor or TCM experts.