Chinese Medicine and H1N1

September 9, 2009

This flu season, H1N1 is particularly prevalent. In addition to being a nasty virus, it carries with it a lot of cultural baggage in the form of fears and misconceptions. In this article, I will touch on various aspects of H1N1, and discuss how Chinese medicine can help you stay healthy and virus-free this winter.

Like seasonal flu, H1N1 is spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea. It is possible to be infected and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

Most people who have been sick with 2009 H1N1 virus have recovered without needing medical treatment. However, hospitalizations and deaths from infection with this virus have occurred. You should seek urgent medical care if you experience severe symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, or persistent vomiting.

How can I protect myself from H1N1?

The number one way to prevent transmission is also the easiest: frequent hand-washing. Carry some hand-sanitizing gel with you for when soap and water is not available. You can also practice these simple everyday actions to keep your immune system strong: find ways to reduce stress, eat a whole foods diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables, exercise regularly, get adequate sleep, avoid sugary foods, and reduce alcohol intake.

Should I be vaccinated against H1N1?

Your primary care physician can help you decide whether or not you should receive the vaccine. The CDC recommends vaccination for certain high-risk groups, including people 65 years and older, children younger than five years old, pregnant women, and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma and kidney disease.

What additional precautions can I take?

Give your immune system a boost with a flu-season regimen based on Chinese medicine. Regular acupuncture treatments, Chinese herbs, and select nutritional supplements, such as vitamin D, vitamin C, Omega-3 oils, and elderberry, will greatly improve your chances of staying healthy this flu-season.

What exactly is Chinese Medicine?

Chinese medicine is an original form of holistic medicine, which includes acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, medical massage, diet modifications, and breathing and movement therapies. Safe and cost-effective, Chinese medicine has been continuously practiced and refined for more than 2,500 years.

How does Chinese Medicine prevent and treat the H1N1virus?

From the perspective of Chinese medicine, the swine flu is not so different from other types of flu and can most certainly be prevented and treated by means of Chinese medicine. Traditional Chinese medicines for H1N1 do not attack the virus. Rather, they try to remove those internal conditions in the body that enable the virus to take hold and multiply. “There is no medicine to directly kill the virus. A virus is like a seed: It needs things like temperature and water to grow,” says Dr Xu Wenbing, Chairman of the Hope Institute of Chinese Medicine in Beijing. “When you take away these conditions, the body will cure itself.”

Acupuncture helps by bringing the body back into balance, making it more resistant to potential invading viruses. There are specific acupuncture points for boosting the immune system, including points for increasing your white blood cell count. If you are ill, acupuncture can speed your recovery and lessen the symptoms of illness.

On the herbal medicine front, a formula to prevent the A1/H1N1 influenza has been issued by the Beijing Committee of Experts for Flu Prevention and Control. Dubbed the “flu-prevention drink,” it contains Jin Yin Hua (Honeysuckle flower), Ban Lan Gen (Isatis root), Gan Cao (Licorice root) and Bo He (Peppermint). Pharmaceutical-grade Chinese herbs are available from your local Acupuncturist/Herbalist who will modify the formula for your individual health condition.

Laura LaDue, LAc provides acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine services at VIDA Family Medicine in Salem, OR. For more information, visit