Flu-Like Viruses and Traditional Chinese Medicine

(Modified from 4/1/2020)

Before microscopes and antibiotics, Traditional Chinese Medicine was a predominant way to sustain youth and to heal the sick. Chinese Medicine, a medical art form more than 2,500 years old, is comprised of Acupuncture, Chinese Medical Theory, Herbology, Nutrition, and Martial Arts.  From its foundation, other medical systems branched forth with similar acknowledgement to the mental, emotional, and spiritual connection of all living things. Today we find ourselves able to see the microscopic structure of Covid-19, but what about prevention and long-term effects?

Chinese Medicine differs from Allopathic (Western) Medicine because its foundation is based more on qualitative rather than quantitative analysis. To diagnose a patient requires specific awareness of details a practitioner can only see if trained to see them. Historically, without the consistent reliance of today’s diagnostic tools, in order to make a diagnosis Chinese medical doctors have to feel the nuances of a patient’s pulse quality in addition to its rate or rhythm, analyze a patient’s tongue coat, color and size, and place heavier importance on the overall characteristics of a patient’s mannerisms: smell, color, the way they communicate. An in-depth study of hundreds of individual herbs and their synergistic qualities are also learned and then matched according to a patient’s tongue, pulse, and symptom presentation. Although many Chinese Medicine practitioners today combine the best of both Eastern and Western medicine, TCM practitioners are trained to diagnose based on tiny gradations not typically noticed in the Western medical model.

In my experience and what I’ve encountered with other colleagues, both the prevention stage and the early stages of COVID-19 can be greatly helped utilizing the Chinese Medical theories, Shan Hun Lun (Cold-Induced Disorders) and the Wen Bing (Warm-Diseases), which are unparallel to anything in current modern medicine.  Cold induced diseases have been explained to me as more viral in nature and warm induced diseases as more bacterial and fungal in nature. However, this does not discount their mutual presence in either cold or warm temperatures.  The Shan Hun Lun was created during the Three Kingdoms around 220 AD, the bloodiest time in Chinese history, where constant invaders brought new diseases and with it much death. In this environment, Dr. Zhang Zhong-Jing was inspired to create the theory of external pathogens attacking the body from the outside and traveling inward to different levels listed accordingly in the body: Taiyang, Yangming, Shaoyang, Taoyin, Shaoyin, Jueyin. Dr. Ye Gui created the Wen Bing (Heat-induced disorders) which addresses the geographic differences of diseases caused in warm weather conditions: Wei stage, Qi stage, Ying stage, Xue stage.

What is most important, is for a trained practitioner to identify which stage the patient is currently in, as each stage has a parallel herbal formula and treatment protocol.  Not identifying the correct stage and administering the wrong formula would delay or worsen the symptoms. (The early stage is both the Taiyang and Yangming levels of the Shan Hun Lun and the Wei and Qi stages of the Wen Bing.) The further the pathogen travels, the worse the patient’s symptoms become.

The EARLY STAGE is divided into three stages in the order of which the pathogen begins to travel from outside to inside the body.  Each level has a specific corresponding herbal formula. Note here, the reason “Damp Cold in the Lung” is number 3 signifies the pathogen is now just beginning to affect the lung.

  1. Wind-Cold Invading the Interior: onset of low-grade fever, aversion to cold, chills, headache, ticklish throat, soreness of muscles, no sweat or just night sweats
  2. Toxic Heat Attacking the Lung: fever, aversion to cold, sore and dry throat, scanty sputum, sore and painful muscles in limbs, weakness, headache
  3. Damp Cold in the Lung: Aversion to cold, absence or presence of fever, dry cough, dry throat, fatigue, weakness, chest stuffiness, epigastric distention, nausea, diarrhea, tongue will be pale with a greasy coat.

Once a flu-like virus starts to affect the lung lining and begins to significantly replicate within the lung cells, the body has reached the next stage: PNEUMONIA or the Shaoyang Stage or Ying stage. This stage is divided into four levels with those listed from the beginning signs of pneumonia to the more severe. Herbal formulas tailored to each stage are given but at this point Western pharmaceuticals and hospitalization are in place.

  1. Shaoyang Syndrome with Damp: alternating fever/chills with worse fever in afternoon, cough, absence of wheezing, bitter taste in mouth, dry mouth, chest stuffiness, stifling sensation in chest, chest and hypochondriac distention, nausea or vomiting, no appetite, weakness, CT scan now reveals obstructions in the lung (GGO’s)
  2. Damp-heat Afflicting the Lung: low grade fever or absence of fever, dry cough or scanty sputum, dry and sore throat, fatigue, weakness, poor appetite, chest stuffiness, epigastric distention, nausea or vomiting, loose stool, CT scan reveals both lungs with GGO’s.
  3. Toxic Stagnation obstructing the Lung: Cough, stifling sensation, stifling distention in chest, asthma/wheezing worse upon exertion, accelerated respiration, thirst, irritability, reddish/yellow urine, CT scan reveals GGO’s and fibrotic changes to the lung, possible ICU status
  4. Closed Interior/Abandoned Exterior Syndrome: Mental incoherence, burning or heat sensation in the chest and abdomen, cold extremities, accelerated respiration and need for assisted breathing, multiple organ failure, ICU status

When patients are discharged from the hospital, Western patients don’t have an additional plan of care other than to rest and to continue isolation at home. However, the patient still has lung inflammation and needs to recuperate from the toxic load contributed by pharmaceuticals and the excess energy expended. 

Here, TCM shines as herbal formulas, acupuncture and whole food rebuilds the patient. While home, patients are given herbal formulas to restore their overall physical energy and Lung yin, essentially, the thin layer of fluid on its pleura which helps expand and extract the lungs with each breath. As the yin of the body is severely depleted in the later stages of this flu-like virus, repairing and restoring the body is paramount to healing.

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