SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: The Scientific Details

The World Health Organization finally declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11, 2020. Commonly referred to as "corona virus," Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2, of the genus beta-coronavirus, (SARS-CoV-2), is a newly identified strain of the beta-coronavirus family. COVID-19 is the name of the disease caused by the virus, SARS-CoV-2.

Based on clinical data of the initial 41 patients diagnosed with COVID-19 pneumonia in Wuhan, China, COVID-19 was originally thought to be exclusively a respiratory infection. "The most common symptoms were fever (40/41, 98%) and cough (31/41, 76%). Dyspnoea was present in 55% of patients."1 At this early stage, only testing from respiratory tissue samples was being performed.

Later, scientists discovered that there are receptors in the lining of the intestines to which the virus can also attach. Subsequent peer reviewed clinical data from hospitals were noting an increase of gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. "Based on these findings, the researchers proposed that the incidence of diarrhea may be underestimated in previous investigations and that ACE2-expressing small intestinal epithelial cells might be more vulnerable to attack by the 2019 coronavirus."2 Meanwhile, hospitals were still not initially testing feces as a form of diagnosis for COVID-19.

Now, laboratory analysis has found SARS-CoV-2 RNA, in the feces of sick patients. This strongly suggests living virus in the stool. Thus, the existence of an additional oral-fecal route of transmission is a strong probability. If some hospitals are only testing nasopharyngeal swabs (i.e. swabs from the nose and the back of the throat) but not rectal swabs, how accurately are patients being diagnosed? Moreover, the complexity of this tenacious virus must be considered: "eight patients had persistently positive rectal swabs even after their nasopharyngeal tests were negative. Four patients were discharged after two consecutive negative rectal swabs, but the rectal swabs of two of these patients later became positive again, despite nasopharyngeal tests remaining negative."3

As with respiratory tissue testing, the results of fecal swab testing have been variable. More optimal standardized comprehensive testing is needed. "The findings suggest that we also need to use rectal swabs to confirm diagnosis of COVID-19," says Kang Zhang, a corresponding author of the study."4 Once again, science is playing catch up with ever evolving life forms of nature.

Dr. Xu and Professor Ferrari at Xi Yuan Hospital after treating patients in Beijing, where Western medicine is combined with Traditional Chinese Medicine. ©2020

Traditional Chinese Medicine Rising to the Challenge of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The advent of the novel virus, SARS-CoV-2 has shattered old established medical paradigms and mobilized Medical Doctors, hospitals and government authorities to implement Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as adjunct therapy in effort to help save lives. An unintended consequence of the COVID-19 Pandemic, this historical event is ushering in a new era of Integrative Medicine, perhaps for the greater good. While many eyes watched mainstream media attention to the number of infected cases and deaths from COVID-19, there are little-known facts that have not been circulated to the general public. Pointedly, in the first week of February 2020, the Chinese government mandated that Chinese herbs be used as concomitant therapy for all active cases of COVID-19. Dr. John Chen, Pharm.D., Ph.D., OMD, L.Ac., and Lori Hsu, MTOM, describe the event:

"With Wuhan on Lockdown for more than 10 days, the Chinese government announces a major change in strategy: all patients with confirmed infections are to use Chinese medicine. 2/10/2020.

The Medical Treatment Unit of Wuhan's Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), currently named COVID-19, Prevention and Control Headquarters issued a "Notice Regarding the Agreement to Recommend the Use of Chinese Medicine in the Treatment of Pneumonia due to Infection from the Novel Coronavirus." The "Notice" emphasizes that all designated medical institutions in Wuhan will ensure that all infected patients take Chinese medicine (Chinese medicine decoction or granules) before midnight on February 3, 2020."5

Orthomolecular Medicine Intravenous Vitamin C Joins the Battle Against COVID-19

The term, Orthomolecular Medicine implies "right molecules in the right concentration." Orthomolecular Medicine gained some recognition in the late 1960s after Dr. Linus Pauling "characterized an approach to the prevention and treatment of disease and the attainment of optimum health based on the physiological and enzymatic actions of specific nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, and amino acids present in the body."6 Dr. Linus Pauling, a two-time Nobel Peace Prize winner, including one in chemistry, is renowned for his intensive research on vitamin C. Initially, he found ascorbic acid, a form of vitamin C, useful for dealing with the common cold.

Later, Dr. Pauling, with the assistance of Robert Cathcart MD, promoted the use of intravenous ascorbic acid to fight viral infections, cardiovascular disease, and other degenerative health problems. From this foundational research, Orthomolecular Medicine treatment protocols, rarely used in a hospital setting, are now being integrated to combat COVID-19.

Intravenous Ascorbic Acid (IVAA) is well-known by progressive physicians who follow in the footsteps of Dr. Pauling's research. IVAA is being used now in relative unprecedented proportions within hospital settings as adjunctive therapy for patients suffering from COVID-19 in PR China, Italy, and Germany in effort to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Preliminary research indicates IVAA is helping. Data from Chinese hospitals, published by the "Expert Group of Clinical Treatment of the New Corona Virus Disease" in Shanghai describes the following:

  • 358 total COVID-19 patients were seen as of March 17th, 2020.
  • 50 of the 358 moderate to severe cases of COVID-19 were treated with IVAA.
  • The IVAA dosing was moderate and affordable (the dose was determined by clinical status). • All patients who received IVAA improved.
  • There was no mortality in the IVAA group. • There were no side effects reported from any patients in the IVAA group.
  • The average hospital stay for all COVID-19 patients was 30 days.
  • COVID-19 patients that received IVAA had a hospital stay that was 3 to 5 days shorter than the non-IVAA treated patients."7

Your Immune System, Why Optimize It?

Your immune system defends your body from attacks by viruses, bacteria, fungi, parasites, and mycotoxins. Different organs, proteins, and cells collectively work together to protect you from microscopic intruders. Your immune system should be vigilant, like a sentry, monitoring for signs of foreign invasion.

There are two parts of the immune system: the innate immune system, which one is born with and then the adaptive immune system, which one develops in response to exposure to microbes or chemicals released by microbes. In Western medicine, the adenoids, tonsils, thymus, spleen, lymph nodes, Peyer's patches, microbiome, bone marrow, and white blood cells play key roles in the immune system.

Daoist girl from Maoshan Daoist Temple, Jiangsu Province, China. Maoshan remains the principal seat of the Shangqing “Highest Clarity” sect of classical Daoism. ©2020

TCM View of the Immune System: Defensive Wei Qi

Traditional Chinese Medicine sees the energy of life as qi. There is one specific kind of qi which analogously describes the immune system: defensive wei qi. It is your most superficial form of protection that will first interact with external elements and pathogens. For simplicity, the defensive wei qi is an extension of your deeper internal qi and blood. It is responsible for warding off invasion from pathogenic exposures such as viruses, bacteria, mycotoxins, parasites as well as excessive elements from nature (wind, cold, fire/heat, dryness, dampness, and summer-heat).

Over thousands of years of keen observation, TCM doctors discovered which patterns from habits, routines, foods, herbs, movements, and acupuncture points benefit a person's wei qi, health and vitality. TCM has brought this pattern recognition to the level of a sophisticated high art. TCM offers detailed recommendations in all areas of life to maintain healthy wei qi, i.e. strong immunity. This ancient system of healing emerged and evolved from astutely recording the patterns of illness and catalysts for recovery in meticulous detail. Since Chinese physicians throughout the millenniums understood that everything is inter-related, they also studied humans and animals in relation to nature and the entire cosmos.

Most significantly, much of Traditional Chinese Medicine stems from ancient Daoist roots, where a life in tune with nature has its merits. As a predominantly agrarian society, even the annual Chinese lunar calendar was divided into 24 solar terms. The 24 solar terms are about 15 days each that evolved to gauge nuances of changes in climate, wildlife activities, insect patterns, optimal planting and harvest times. Daoist philosophy understands humans are merely a part of, and an intermediary between an ever changing integrated micro-cosmos and macro-cosmos universe. Wei qi can be enhanced by living in tune with the seasonal patterns of nature. Thus, TCM recognizes we are not separate from the microscopic world, and we are affected by the phase of the moon, the tides, and the greater cosmos as well.

Preventative Medicine

My Maoshan Daoist Master once told me "If you put a coat on when you are cold, you are too late." This pithy proverb illustrates the wisdom of preventative medicine, a concept from which we all can benefit. Traditional Chinese Medicine embraces five branches for good health: acupuncture, nutrition and diet, herbs, qigong and tai ji, tui na massage as a part of a regular lifestyle for good qi and immunity. From self-disciplined lifestyle, one can build a strong foundation for a healthy immune system: "if...qi is in-tact, no invasion of pathogens…if the root qi is weak, exploitation by exterior pathogen ensues."8

Preventative medicine continues to gain popularity as it offers a myriad of methods for an individual to maintain health and a strong immune system. Boosting one's wei qi can be accomplished via the choices an individual makes. Balanced lifestyle, quality sleep, optimal dietary food choices, herbs and spices, acupuncture, qigong, tai ji are all excellent sources to enhance immunity.

Lifestyle Balance


Let's start with balanced lifestyle. The essence of TCM stems from the wisdom of seeking balance between yin and yang while living in harmony with nature and the seasons. For good health, one should strive for an equilibrium between stillness and movement with both mind and body as "balance and harmony are the highest virtue."9 Rest should offset work, physical activity should counter excessive sitting, and inward reflection needs to balance activity with the outside world. The intermingling of Yin and Yang are necessary for life. Just as the moon waxes and wanes and the tides rise and fall, we too benefit from seeking balance and harmony.

A balanced lifestyle includes maintaining a regular sleep routine. It includes choosing to eat on a relatively consistent schedule. It includes eating a variety of vegetables and fruit per day, at least five varieties. It includes physical activity. In fact, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health analyzed five lifestyle factors with data from 122,000 women and men.

Analysis of their lifestyles found that "maintaining five healthy habits – eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, keeping a healthy body weight, not drinking too much alcohol, and not smoking- may increase years lived free of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer."10

Deep Sleep Revitalizes Your Immunity

Quality sleep is crucial for an optimally functioning immune system. How well you sleep sets the foundation for your whole day. It is recommended to get at least 7 hours of sleep per night. One estimate from the National Institute of Health, approximates 30% of the population in USA complain of some form of disrupted sleep. Fortunately, there are natural remedies to correct some of these issues.

Within a classical Chinese garden, careful placement of architectural patterns conveys a delicate balance between yin and yang. ©2020

Deep, sound sleep strengthens your immune system, your wei qi. Wei qi is your first line of defense. During sleep, the body's defensive wei qi, under the cover of darkness, quiescence and stillness, travels deep into the organs to replenish itself in preparation for the activities of the next day. If there is not enough sleep, or poor quality sleep, then your wei qi is denied the opportunity to properly refuel. Put simply, it is easier to receive a flu or illness if you are tired.

Eating too much food too close to bedtime can cause insomnia. This is especially true for foods that take more time to digest, such as large portions of protein, rich oily food, or chemically processed items. The old adage, "Eat like a king for breakfast, a prince for lunch, and a pauper for dinner" conveys the idea of eating a stronger breakfast with protein to give lasting energy for your day, while the last meal is optimally something easy to digest, like warm soup, vegetables, a little protein, but not a grandiose meal. Why? Because in the evening, your digestive tract begins to wind down to rest.

Sleep and Digestion

"Food Stagnation" is a diagnosis in TCM that can be associated with poor sleep. Ideally, allow at least 3 hours from the time dinner is finished until sleep. Licensed Acupuncturists recognize that normal digestive peristalsis begins to slow down around 05:00 pm and gradually becomes more active by 05:00 am.

Orthomolecular medicine essentially substantiates this ancient knowledge "the intestinal tract's functional timetable…follows a regular biological rhythm…about 7PM, intestinal activity is minimal…It is clear that even otherwise healthful and nourishing foods, if eaten too late in the day, become increasingly indigestible."11 Again, balance; there is an active time for digestion from morning to evening, and a passive time for digestion during the nighttime. Eating too much and too close to bedtime can promote insomnia or disrupted shallow sleep.

Sleep Hygeine

Sleep hygiene is important. This includes keeping a regular schedule with a relatively even rhythm of sleeping and waking. It is also prudent to keep your bedroom as sleep friendly as possible. Computers, smart phones, and electronic devices with screens emit blue light. There is a frequency of blue light waves, (460 nm) which tells the brain it is still daytime. Research reveals "two-hour exposure to blue light (460 nm) in the evening suppresses melatonin."12 Melatonin is the hormone that tells the body it is time to relax and go to sleep at night. Do your best to avoid or reduce blue light exposure in the evening and early morning when it is still dark.

The cycles of sleeping and waking through the twenty-four-hour period is called the circadian rhythm. A good sleep rhythm is crucial for a robust immune system: "Many systems are under circadian control, including sleep-wake behavior, hormone secretion, cellular function and gene expression. Circadian disruption by nighttime light perturbs those processes and is associated with increasing incidence of certain cancers, metabolic dysfunction and mood disorders."13 More and more electronic devices have crept into modern life, to the point where many people spend more time looking at screens in a day than they do in looking at the real world. With all that blue light, our circadian rhythms can get disoriented, affecting sleep. And when we do not sleep well, our defensive wei qi is unable to refuel for next day's adventures.

In Daoist households, the bedroom is considered sacred, and should be protected from the vagaries of the outside world. Shoes are not worn in the house, jackets worn outside are not brought into the bedroom to prevent bad qi or disturbing energy, which can in part be equated to outside pathogens from entering. It is also important to keep the television and news outside the bedroom to give your mind, body and spirit a real respite. Before bed, rather than watch news or a movie riddled with loud noises, explosions, and violence, consider light reading or relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, soft harmonious music. Research shows that exposure to stressful sounds and imagery within two hours prior to sleep can waft into the subconscious and effect your caliber of sleep.

Solutions for getting better sleep:

  • Allow 3 hours from your evening meal before going to bed ake a walk after dinner
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Consider a silk eye mask during sleep Read an inspirational magazine or book
  • Practice meditation with mindful breathing
  • Try a hot cup of your favorite non caffeinated herbal tea
  • Eschew looking at bright screens, including smart phones, two hours before sleep
  • ower the brightness level for the screen on your electronic devices in the evening
  • Contemplate installing special blackout curtains that block outside light for your bedroom

Botanicals with Relaxing Sedative Properties

Certain plants and mushrooms have a sedative action. These botanicals have been known to promote relaxation and sleep quality: Matricaria chamomilla: chamomile; Passiflora incarnate: passion flower; Scutellaria lateriflora: blue skullcap; Valeriana officinalis: valerian; Ganoderma lucidum: reishi mushroom.

Food is Medicine

One basic concept in TCM is to keep clear of ingesting cold drinks and foods on a regular basis. If the average body's temperature is 98.6 F, and you drink a cold beverage that is 50 F, where does the difference in kinetic energy come from? You! Cold beverages can also slow blood circulation towards the stomach, thus inhibiting optimal assimilation. Warm cooked foods, balanced with harmonizing spices and herbs are easier to digest.

The Chinese idiom, bìng cóng kǒu rù translates "disease starts from the mouth" insinuating whatever you put in your mouth has an effect, so take notice. Whenever possible, select fresh organic produce. If organic food products are not in your budget, at least choose items labeled "non GMO". Here are some foods to build immunity and good qi: (see list on left)

Savvy Shopping for Culinary Choices:

Food is fundamental for vitality and vigor. The old Hippocrates adage, let food be thy medicine, aptly brings us to face a modern day conundrum: what is your definition of food? In 1992, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved FLAVR SAVR tomatoes to become the first genetically engineered food crop and by 1996, the first insecticide-producing crop was introduced.14 Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), are a modern controversial scientific experiment.

To date, the United States of America is rated as the highest producer of genetically modified organism crops grown; Brazil ranks second. Some of the most common GMO crops are soy, corn, sugar beets; and to a lesser extent, papayas, zucchini, potatoes. Approximately 75% of Canola oil, made from rapeseed, is from GMO crops. In 2019, "94% of soybean crops were genetically modified to be herbicide tolerant."15 and 80% of corn crops in USA were GMO.

Germany Bans Glyphosate by the End of 2023

Glyphosate is one of the most widely manufactured herbicides on earth. With the advent of scientifically manipulated GMOs, "usage of glyphosate has since amplified, after the introduction of genetically modified (GMO) glyphosate-resistant crops that can grow well in the presence of this chemical in soil.16 But by March 2015, glyphosate was classified as a probable carcinogen in humans. Research also suggests glyphosate reduces the amount of friendly bacteria in the microbiome of the human body, which can then weaken immunity. Since then, Germany has taken a notable voice and voted to ban glyphosate by 2023.

Food Additives: How Much Do You Ingest Per Day?

Whether we are discussing TCM, or Western medicine, your liver is a vital organ. Learn to love your liver. Treat it with respect. If your liver is working overtime processing a myriad of extraneous pesticides, and synthetic food additives, then it may be unable to properly accomplish other important duties such as filtering your blood to support your digestion, lymphatic and immune system.

Food Additives Banned in Some European Countries, But Legal in USA

Your liver diligently works day and night, metabolizing whatever food additives you might ingest: sodium benzoate, carrageenan, monosodium glutamate (MSG), binding agents, anti-clumping agents, artificial food colors, recombinant bovine growth hormone (RBHG), ractopamine, or foods with residue of antibiotics. Certain food additives may induce immune system dysfunction and an inflammatory response. Some food additives, RBHG and ractopamine are a few examples, that have actually been banned in European countries, yet are still legally used in USA.

The Chinese saying, “Is food medicine, or is medicine food?”, has reminded generations how food can heal and promote good health. ©2020

Excess Sugar Can Weaken Your Immune System

Before purchasing any more packaged food, experiment for a day and begin a new habit of reading all ingredients on the label. Avoid foods with high fructose corn syrup and a high concentration of sugar. One author wrote, "Early clinical studies suggest that reducing sugary beverages and total fructose intake, especially from added sugars, may have a significant benefit on reducing hepatic fat accumulation."17 When reading ingredients, start to note how often you see sugar or high fructose corn syrup. Become aware of how much processed sugar and high fructose corn syrup sneaks into your mouth on a daily basis.

High fructose corn syrup and sugar are more and more ubiquitous in many places you might never suspect: canned soup, frozen meals, crackers, catchup, chips, tomato sauces, peanut butter, mustard, mayonnaise, salad dressing to name a few. Sugar and high fructose corn syrup may be causing congestion in your liver. Moreover, "recent evidence suggests that diets high in sugar (from sucrose and/or high-fructose corn syrup [HFCS]) not only increase the risk of NAFLD, but also non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH)."18

Not only can consistently excess amounts of high fructose corn syrup interfere with liver function, but 75 to 100 grams of processed sugar is also known to lower white blood cell count and immunity: "Consuming too much sugar can affect the cells in your immune system that target bacteria"19 In fact, I teach my patients to stop all processed sugar for at least two days to give the body's immunity a chance to fight back the moment they sneeze, have a runny nose, "have allergies", a cough, a tickle in their throat, or feel unwell.

Nutrition Rich in Vitamins, Minerals, and Probiotics

A body well-fortified with superfoods rich in these key immune strengthening vitamins, minerals and probiotics can benefit immune health: vitamin A, vitamin B complex, including folinic acid and vitamin B12, vitamin C, vitamin D3, vitamin E, manganese, zinc, selenium, magnesium, and essential fatty acids. Eat a variety of vegetables and fruit, a minimum of five a day, and strive for nine a day.

Additionally, incorporate fermented foods which are rich in immune building friendly bacteria called probiotics. More scientific data continues to recognize the importance of having a variety of beneficial bacterial flora for a healthy immune system, "a huge proportion of your immune system is actually in your gastrointestinal tract."20 The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition21 further elaborates on foods and the immune system; regard this link on Functional foods and the immune system: a review:

Vitamin C

In my clinical practice, I prescribe specific organic foods and herbs based on the patient's constitution, current symptoms and diagnosis. After that, Vitamin C ascorbic acid is one of my most common prescriptions for immune support. Mentor, Robert Cathcart, MD instilled the importance of Vitamin C ascorbic acid for prevention and treatment of colds and especially flu viruses.

Other benefits of Vitamin C, "Vitamin C reduces the wrinkling and sagging of the skin that occurs with aging. Vitamin C also helps maintain mucous membranes, adrenal hormone production, and immune function, oxygen free-radical damage, inflammation, and glycation."22 The current Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin C per day is 75 mg. for women and 90 mg. for men. The following fruits and vegetables contain a high concentration of vitamin C per one cup (see table 1):

Table 1: Fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C Herbs, Spices, and Mushrooms Enhance Immune System to Fight Infections

TCM has a long well documented history of categorizing the quality and actions of herbs, spices, mushrooms, and food according to their medicinal and immune building properties. More specifically, the Chinese medical pharmacopeia is organized into multiple categories and functions which address TCM diagnoses. Each herb is described for its temperature ranging from cold, cool, neutral, warm, and hot. For each herb they note for the flavor it gives: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, pungent. For each herb they note the organs and meridians for which the herb has an affinity. Each herb has a list of numerous indications for which it might be used.

Recently, "China's National Health Commission reported last month that of the more than 80,000 people infected with COVID-19 since the outbreak began in December, 90 percent took some form of traditional Chinese medicine to treat their symptoms."23 In fact, "for prevention of COVID-19, 23 provinces in China issued Chinese Medicine (CM) programs. The main principles were to tonify qi to protect from external pathogens, disperse wind and discharge heat, and resolve dampness."24

The Lotus exemplifies how Chinese herbal medicine utilizes the many parts of the entire plant: flower, leaf, rhizome, stem and seed. The lotus leaf is used to cool summer heat while the lotus seed is used to nourish the heart and calm the spirit for palpitations of anxiety. ©2020

Here are a few of the hundreds of herbs studied and employed by acupuncturists:

  1. Fructus forsythia: lian qiao, is cool, bitter and slightly acrid. It goes to the liver, gallbladder and heart. It helps clear heat and toxins25. Fructus forsythia might be used for indications including sore throat, fever, slight chills and headache. Fructus forsythia is one of the herbs used in China against COVID-19 as it has been noted to "interfere with spike protein binding to ACE2 receptor to block viral entry of SARS-CoV."26
  2. Radix Scutellaria: huang qin, is cold and bitter. It goes to the lungs, stomach, gallbladder and large intestine. It helps clear excess heat. Scutellaria might be used for indications including respiratory infections, fever, irritability, cough, headache, red bloodshot eyes, yellow sputum, and diarrhea. Scutellaria root extracts can inhibit replication of HCV-RNA virus and one of its extracts, "Baicalin has very good anti HIV-1 activity."27   Scutellaria has also been used on COVID-19 patients in a TCM hospital in Wuhan, China as part of an herbal formula to treat pneumonia. Recent studies found that Scutellaria interferes with binding to ACE2 receptor to block viral entry and that baicalin also inhibits the replication of SARS-CoV.
  3. Rhizome Coptidis: huang lian, is cold and bitter. It goes to the stomach, large intestine, liver and heart. It helps clear and discharge excess heat that might present as high fever, sore throat, insomnia, red painful eyes, diarrhea, ulcerations on tongue or mouth, delirium, disorientation, and dysentery.   Rhizome Coptidis is also one of the herbs used in TCM formulae as a part of integrating Traditional Chinese Medicine with Western medicine protocols for the treatment of the COVID-19.
  4. Ganoderma lucidum: ling zhi, "the spiritual herb", commonly known as reishi mushroom, is neutral in temperature and sweet and bitter. It goes to the lungs, liver, heart, spleen and kidneys. It nourishes the defensive wei qi and the blood, thus supporting the immune system. Indications it might be used include: weak immunity, bronchitis, fatigue, allergies, anxiety, insomnia, restlessness. Ganoderma lucidum is known to have immune enhancing properties. It has anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetic, and anti-oxidative attributes; it "has been used for the prevention as well as the treatment of various diseases, such as chronic hepatitis, nephritis, high blood pressure, bronchitis and tumorigenic afflictions."28 Extracts of Ganoderma lucidum "inhibited SARS-CoV RdRp in a dose- dependent manner."29

Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal formulae are being used to combat the pathogen SARS-CoV-2. China's General Office of the National Health and Health Commission announced and recommended the formula Qing Fei Pai Du Tang formulae for all provinces to treat COVID-19 patients in conjunction with Western medicine. This is a complex formula containing 21 herbs in varying dosages. One drawback of formulae is that it does not address an individual's constitution and specific symptoms. However, formulae can be made even more effective when they are adjusted to a patient's specific symptoms and TCM diagnosis.

Another Chinese medicine formula is showing promise during the pandemic, "Shuang Huang Lian, a formula with prepared from Lonicerae japonicae Flos, Scutellariae radix and Fructus Forsythiae, purportedly had the activity to inhibit SARS-CoV-2".30

“Qigong on Huang Shan, China”. Qigong is known to strengthen the immune system and is being used as adjunctive therapy for less severe COVID-19 patients in certain hospitals in China. ©2020

Physical Activity for Health and Good Immunity

Physical activity, especially outdoors in fresh air, can jump start your immune system. Exercising several times per week is one of the lifestyle factors noted for better health and longevity. Qigong, tai chi, yoga, vigorous walking, cycling, running, swimming, all can be done by oneself. White blood cells are a key component for a strong functioning immunity. Qigong practice has been studied with regard to its effect on the immune system. Research found "white blood cells increased significantly 2 hours after actual Qi-training but not sham training compared with pre-intervention. There were significant increases in lymphocytes 2 hours after actual but not sham Qi-training and monocyte numbers were significantly increased immediately after actual Qi-training."31

Useful Acupuncture Points to Promote Strong Qi and Immunity

Acupuncture is a complex skill which takes many years to master. However, there are some acupuncture points which one can stimulate by massaging them which can provide general benefit. This type of TCM manipulation and massage of a specific point is called acupressure, and one can do it to oneself. Below is a brief list from A Manual of Acupuncture32 of acupuncture points for self-massage that are generally beneficial.

Large Intestine 11, Quchi

Quchi is a Sun Si-miao ghost point. Sun Si-miao is considered one of the most profound and important TCM doctors.

Actions: clears heat, cools the blood, eliminates wind, relieves itching, drains damp, regulates the qi and blood, activates the channel and alleviates pain.

Indications: high fever, sore throat, loss of voice, toothache, painful eyes, redness of eyes, poor memory, hypertension, dizziness, distension and pain of the abdomen, manic disorders, dry skin, pain and itching of the whole body, goiter, vomiting and diarrhea, numbness of the arms, hemiplegia, pain of the elbow and shoulder.

Location: at the elbow, on the lateral end of the transverse cubital crease, when elbow is bent Of clinical note, upon palpation of Large Intestine 11 in the past 3 years, approximately 70% of patients in my demographics report tenderness. Acupuncture, acupressure, and tui na, a specialized massage technique all can help clear the obstruction of qi and blood and the tenderness can subside once the blockage is cleared.

The powerful effect of acupuncture points has been documented by western science. Blood tests confirm “one modern hypothesis that acupuncture enhances anti-cancer immune functions.”33

Stomach 36, Zusanli

Zusanli Stomach 36 is one of the most important and commonly used acupuncture points for supporting qi. Sun Si-miao recommended the use of hot moxibustion over Stomach 36 to preserve and maintain health.

Actions: harmonies stomach, fortifies the spleen and resolves dampness, tonifies qi, clears fire and calms the spirit, nourishes blood and yin, activates channels, alleviates pain, revives yang and restores consciousness.. Indications: nausea, vomiting, epigastric (stomach) pain, hiccup, belching, flatulence, distension and pain of the abdomen, hunger without desire to eat, diarrhea, palpitations, dysenteric disorder, heaviness of the four limbs, dizziness, tinnitus, hypertension, chills and fever, headache, etc.

Location: below the knee, one finger-breadth lateral to the anterior crest of the tibia Daily lifestyle habits can profoundly better one's overall health, well-being, and immune system. A balanced lifestyle includes knowing when to rest, recognizing when a person is overextended with too many commitments, staying aware of how much free time is spent interacting on electronic devices, and perceiving what it feels like sitting at a desk for too long. Pause for a brief while, without any interruptions, to self-reflect where you are now, in this moment, and what habit you might be willing to improve. Empower yourself with self-knowledge. For sometimes it is the smallest changes that make the biggest differences. n

None of the above content should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your medical doctor, acupuncturist, osteopathic doctor, or other qualified clinician.

Photos and text ©2020, L. Francesca Ferrari. All rights reserved.

This article was originally published in Qi Journal, Summer 2020 issue

Professor L. Francesca Ferrari is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Department Chair of Medical Qigong at Five Branches University, and an initiated 80th generation disciple at Maoshan Daoist Temple in China. Her medical clinic on the Monterey Peninsula, California combines Chinese medicine with orthomolecular medicine providing clients the best of integrative medicine. Professor Ferrari meets the challenge of difficult and complex differential diagnosis, especially in areas associated with digestive disorders such as SIBO, candidiasis, microbiome dysbiosis, mycotoxic infections, sinusitis, and chloramphenicol poisoning.



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  2. Boggs Will, Diarrhea Likely Underestimated in COVID-19; Medscape Mar 02, 2020
  3. Hindson, J. COVID-19: faecal–oral transmission? Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol 25 March, 2020.
  4. ibid
  5. Chen John, PhD, Pharm D., OMD, L.Ac., Hsu Lori, MTOM, MS. How COVID-19 (2019-nCoV) is Currently Treated in China with TCM. 19 February, 2020;
  6. Marinacci B. "Linus Pauling — In Memoriam" (Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine, 1994, LPISM. Oregon State University Linus Pauling Institute; 2020
  7. Anderson Paul S. Expert Group on Clinical Treatment of New Coronary Virus Disease in Shanghai. China Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2020,38: Online Prepublish. DOI: 10.3760/cma.j.issn.1000-6680.2020.0016
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