Build Your Immune System: Protect Yourself From Infectious Disease


Since the first Century BCE, when discussions of infectious diseases first appeared in the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic, Chinese medicine has successfully treated infectious disease.

Chinese Herbs Have Well-Documented Antiviral Effects

Several Chinese herbs have very well-documented antiviral effects and stimulate the immune system. For example, one of the most effective immune stimulating herbs is Siberian Ginseng. Almost all of the pharmaceutical drugs used today originally came from natural sources, but currently drugs are synthesized from chemicals in laboratories. While synthetic drugs work, they also have harsh side effects, which make using herbs a safer and gentler option without compromising effectiveness. Herbal formulas can be used to build the immune system without damaging our underlying constitution.

The Center for Disease (CDC) guidelines of hand washing and coughing into the elbow are posted all around us. Many places have hand sanitizers everywhere. While this helps people keep their hands somewhat clean, the sanitizers are more anti-bacterial than anti-viral and thus widespread use adds to the creation of the Superbugs that are becoming more and more resistant to antibiotics. The CDC guidelines are important, but equally important is building and maintaining our immune systems.

The Basics of Building and Maintaining a Healthy Immune System

  • Get an appropriate amount of good quality sleep.
  • Gargle twice a day with warm salt water. This simple method prevents the proliferation of viruses.
  • Clean your nasal passages once a day with salt water. You can use a cotton swab dipped in salt water or, for under $20, you can get a sinus rinse kit or a Neti Pot at your local drugstore.
  • Exercise on a regular basis.
  • Support your immune system with anti-viral herbs and acupuncture.
  • Eat mostly foods that promote health like fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts, foods that support the body rather than tear it down, such as sugar and alcohol.
  • Supplement with vitamin D if you don’t get enough sun to make all you need as vitamin D plays a crucial role in our innate immune system.
  • Keep stress manageable with strategies to deal with its build up. There are many ways to do this. Acupuncture and Qi Gong both work very well for stress management.

Perhaps as you read this you are thinking, “This isn’t new information.” You are right, these issues of lifestyle, which should be posted along with the CDC guidelines, are not new. They are the tried and true basics of staying healthy. Over the long term, they are the only things that work.

In our culture, doing the above can be difficult. We work sedentary, high stress jobs and are bombarded by technology, fluorescent lights and high noise levels. We tend to spread ourselves too thin trying to accomplish more in a 24-hour period than is realistic and we often neglect taking proper care of ourselves.

Chinese Medical Theory and Infectious Pathogens

The condition of your immune system and your constitution are just as important as the virulence of an infectious disease. In Chinese medical theory, infectious pathogens enter the body from the exterior via the nasal passages and skin, and if they are not stopped, move to the interior where they damage the organs. Pathogens first invade the protective layer of the body, then move to the nutritive layer and then deeper to the blood level. Our protective layer, called Wei Qi in Chinese, regulates our body temperature, mainly by opening and closing our pores via sweating. It is also part of our immune system. Wei Qi works with our innate immune system, called Zheng Qi, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to protect against disease by identifying and destroying pathogens.

Maintain the Strengths of Your Constitution, Strengthen Your Weaknesses

One of the many wonderful things about Chinese medicine is that it does not work from the standpoint of “one size fits all.” As a practitioner of Chinese medicine, I work with each person’s constitution and seek to help people achieve the best level of health they can. Chinese medicinal therapies help you maintain the strengths of your constitution while strengthening your weaknesses. If the quality of your sleep is poor, Chinese medicine can help make it better. If you are having a difficult time managing stress, I can help you find the appropriate strategies.

Swine Flu Vaccination

Almost daily people ask for my advice on the swine flu vaccination. Whether or not to get a vaccination is a very personal decision and one that each person must make for her/himself given their health history. While I am not against all vaccines, with the current information I have, I will not be vaccinated for H1N1. This vaccine has had extremely limited human testing. Moreover, the virus does not appear to be virulent in the adult population at this time. Of the million plus adults in the US who have had swine flu, most recover in about a week of typical flu symptoms of body aches, high fever, and respiratory distress. Most adults who come down with the swine flu aren’t even aware they have it and think they just have a bad cold or a regular flu. For a recent historical perpective on swine flu, have a look at this YouTube video of the 60 minutes segment from 1979 on the Swine Flu.


The best way to protect yourself from infectious disease is to follow the guidelines above for building and maintaining your immune system.


Please call Cynthia at Singing Crane Acupuncture with any questions or for further information at 503-233-2549.