COVID-19 first erupted late in the year Ji-Hai (2019), which represents the warmest period in the entire 60-year Jia-Zi cycle designated by the traditional calendric system of the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches. Winter is normally characterized by cold weather, but this year’s winter was warm instead, creating an abnormal climate pattern that most likely aided the eruption of this disease. The Treatise on the Differential Treatment of Warm Disease (Wen bing Tiao bian) states: “Winter is supposed to be cold, but if it turns out to be warm instead, then yang is not going into its customary state of storage and the populace will fall ill with warm diseases as a result.” The author Wu Tang (1758-1836) also remarked elsewhere “Warm diseases can be differentiated into wind fevers (feng wen), heat fevers (wen re), and epidemic fevers (wen yi)… All pathogens that cause warm disease enter through the nose and mouth, and advance deeper and downward from there.” In similar fashion, the government’s standardized treatment approach has made it clear that this disease is transmitted via fine droplets originating from the respiratory tract. The disease first erupted in winter moreover, and was caused by the novel corona virus a pathogen that exhibits highly contagious and pandemic qualities. Just like in Wu Youke’s (1582-1652) classic definition of an epidemic “Epidemic febrile diseases can occur during any season. The epidemic soaks up the pestilent qi between Heaven and Earth… and when it arrives, everyone who comes in contact with it—no matter whether old or young or weak or strong—will become infected.”
Most importantly, what an investigation of COVID 19 by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can reveal for us in the face of a widening epidemic are the keys to its prevention. In addition to good hygiene practices and social distancing regulations that are being widely enacted, TCM can inform us on the actions that we can all take right now for ourselves and our patients to increase resistance to Covid-19.
FIRST AND FOREMOST, PROTECT THE MIDDLE.
A virus must find the appropriate terrain within which to take hold and replicate. This particular one seems to prefer damp, stagnant conditions. This means adjusting dietary choices to prevent damage to the Spleen and Stomach yang qi by eating lighter, easy to digest, mostly warm, cooked foods. Visiting the supermarket yesterday, I noticed that the very foods we should be cutting back on were the ones that had been completely bought out, namely meat, milk, yogurt and eggs.
Cut back on or completely avoid processed foods, sweets, alcoholic beverages, and any cold and frozen items from the refrigerator/freezer.
Augment meal preparation with plenty of fresh herbs and fragrant spices. If juicing is part of your daily health regimen, stick mostly to vegetable juices and supplement with fresh ginger, turmeric, pepper, parsley, coriander and small amounts of garlic.
Keep up with basic daily supplements like pro-biotics, Vitamins C and D and trace minerals.
Add Chinese herbal medicine into your daily health regimen: ask Dr. Kienitz about preventative formulas for the respiratory system, colds and flu’s
MAINTAIN APPROPRIATE DAILY EXERCISE.
Exercise helps alleviate all forms of stagnation, dispel constrained heat through sweating and keep the surface open to alleviate pressure on the respiratory system.
Those with an established exercise routine should stick with it; those who don’t can start with something as simple as brisk walking 30-40 minutes a day.
If you feel more comfortable exercising at home, there are any number of YouTube channels dedicated to body weight interval training circuits, yoga and calisthenics; 30-45 min of sustained elevated heart rate to break a light sweat is sufficient.
MAKE TIME FOR AT LEAST ONE EXTRA HOUR OF SLEEP EVERY DAY.
With all of the cancellations and closings going on, invest that time in recharging your vitality extending that opportunity for the Kidney to store. Sleep is the foundation of immunity; aim for 8-9 hours of good quality sleep each night and schedule in a short nap period during the day.
LASTLY, REMAIN PRESENT AND GROUNDED IN THE FACE OF GENERALIZED ANXIETY AND UNREST.
TCM emphasizes the importance of the intimate connection between spirit ( shen) and essence (쑹 jing) as the foundation for the orderly function of vital qi. When the spirit is strongly identified with essence, meaning we are calmly present and attuned to our life situation, immunity will flourish. Our body’s natural discerning wisdom will clearly distinguish “what is you from what is not” and your immune system will take action accordingly. Nothing disturbs the clarity of this integration of mind and body like the cascading effects of continuous adrenal stimulation brought on by fear and panic. The simple fact is that while highly communicable, the virulence and mortality risk associated with this virus is fortunately low for otherwise healthy individuals. News and social media rely largely on a negative emotional response in order to keep their audience engaged; try not to get caught up in this circle of fear and frustration.
As we all know from experience, decisions made from a place of anxiety for ourselves or others are often likely to produce unsatisfactory outcomes. This includes rushing to apply treatment strategies, whether eastern or western, those have been published as effective for “fighting the virus” without first pausing to assess the current state of our personal health. Begin with a clear and careful assessment of your own vulnerability as well as that of immediate family members and exercise an appropriate corresponding level of caution in deciding how best to proceed. If you are feeling vulnerable and unsure of how best to apply these recommendations to your personal situation, please reach out to myself or another qualified medical provider or schedule a tele-medicine session.
I would like to conclude with the simple reminder that no effort is wasted when it comes to encouraging health and vitality both in ourselves as well as in those around us in order to bring this public health challenge to a timely conclusion. It is abundantly clear from the classical emphasis on the relationship between unseasonably warm temperatures and the failure to store yang qi both on an individual and universal level as an essential precondition for an epidemic of this nature, that as the rate of human induced climate change continues to accelerate, episodes of this type are only going to increase in frequency. It is yet another way we see the inextricable bond between humanity and nature manifest (天 人 合 一 tian ren he yi) and in moments like these, feel the sense of shared responsibility to care for the well-being of ourselves and one another.
Yours in good health,
Robert Kienitz, DTCM