"If you don't want to be sick, don't get ill."
-An Old Tai Chi Master
A significant part of Chinese Medicine, is designed to prevent disease and keep the patient healthy year round. We are well versed in treating patients with serious, chronic illnesses, but, unlike allopathic medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine, excels at preventing disease from ever occurring in the first place. With regular treatments, adequate sleep, proper diet and exercise, optimal health is most often achieved.
With the cold and flu season in full swing a few traditional tonics are worth considering to keep you on top of your game. Here are three of my favorite herbs for strengthening immunity and staying healthy this winter season.
Astragalus (astragalus membranaceus) (huang qi)- This herb has been used for centuries in Asia to strengthen the immune system and enhance energy levels. Traditionally, astragalus is used as an adaptogenic herb, meaning it helps protect the body from viruses, stress, and physical fatigue. Begin taking this herb before you get sick, on a daily basis throughout the flu season. If you are pregnant or have an auto-immune disorder consult with your physician before taking this herb.
Mushrooms (shiitake, reishi, maitake)- Mushrooms are amazing! They are loaded with antiviral and anticancer properties, and the Shiitake variety specifically has been shown to lower cholesterol. (study) Shiitakes and maitakes can be found in many mainstream grocery stores and most certainly in Asian markets. Your local acupuncturist or supplement shop will carry reishi in pill and tea forms. For those in the UK, here is a brand that I trust (link) (The owner, Richard Enion, is a great guy but I have no affiliation with his business.)
Garlic (allium sativum) (da suan)- Long before studying Chinese Medicine and acupuncture, I have been at the helm of the garlic bandwagon. This delicious bulb has been used as medicine throughout the ages in every culture. As one of my old Polarity Therapy teachers used to say, "Nothing can live in raw garlic." At the very first sign of a cold, the first chill, chop 2-4 garlic cloves (only 2-4 cloves, not the entire bulb!) and let it sit on the counter for 10-15 minutes before consuming. Allicin, the active medicinal component in garlic, needs oxygen to form. To consume, add the garlic to a soup or sauteed veggies. Or you can swallow it whole by chasing it with water. However, I would not recommend chewing it raw or your loved ones, include the dog, will avoid you until next Tuesday.
As you navigate the remainder of the cooler months, as always, thoroughly and frequently wash your hands with soap and water. Also, for the time being, consider preparing your own food avoiding restaurants until this flu epidemic passes. And, lastly, get plenty of sleep and stay hydrated with good clean water and green tea with fresh squeezed lemon juice.
If you are currently suffering from a cold or the flu, call my office to schedule a phone consultation so we can speak directly. This time of year I keep a hefty supply of herbal formulas on hand specifically for those in the throes of a lingering cold. However, if you are an adult and have a fever over 103 F, or if your child is 3 months to 3 years of age and has a fever of 102.5 F or over, seek medical attention immediately. Be well, my friends. Love, laugh, and thrive as you do everything you can to stay healthy.