In this article we will look at Chinese Medicine for Respiratory Conditions.
We will consider:
- acupuncture for managing viral symptoms
- active clearing of infection and accelerating recovery.
- viral infection with underlying severe illnesses
- and more
Let’s get started…
Chinese Medicine for Respiratory Conditions
Outbreaks and spread of viral diseases have caused immense loss of lives… and also affect quality of life all around the world.
In the past, Chinese medicine has been shown to be effective in the treatment of the SARS* outbreak in 2003(1,2).
*Severe acute respiratory syndrome
The same treatment principles for SARS also applies to a variety of upper respiratory conditions such as:
- Common cold
- Viral infections
So what is an upper respiratory infection you ask?
Well simply put, it is a contagious infection that affects the nose, throat and airways.
But this can also cause symptoms that are more widespread such as fatigue, body aches, chills, fever… triggering existing health conditions and causing flare ups.
The current treatment advice from Western medicine is “at home care” with “over the counter” products and “home remedies”.
The “over the counter” products include pain relief medication, decongestants and antihistamines.
It is when symptoms are not resolving or worsen that a person should contact their care provider…. similar to how you might treat a seasonal flu.
In the absence of specific drugs, supportive treatments remain the primary treatment.
Yet, the waiting out approach, advised by Western medicine, can affect our daily life and activities…
Which brings us to a more ideal focus of Chinese medicine: active clearing of infection and accelerating recovery.
Basically, early intervention equals faster recovery… minimising impact of the mass amount of inflammation caused by infections.
Chinese medicine support during active infection
In Chinese medicine, respiratory infections can be divided up into stages of early, middle, severe and recovery.
Our body processes the infection by passing it through our body via our immune response.
Supporting the immune function in fighting infection, greatly reduces the duration of you feeling sick (3).
When treated with Western and Chinese medicines in hospital the stay is shorter(3)(4)
In the early stages, the pathogen is considered to still be on the surface level of the body.
As it progresses, it moves deeper into the body, creating more widespread effects.
It is when it is still at its superficial stage, that the infection is most manageable.
This can be correlated with the inflammatory storm that occurs following a viral infection.
As the virus interacts with the immune system, it creates more and more inflammation in response to the pathogen.
So Chinese medicine treatment has significant advantages with acute and chronic respiratory conditions.
Including the symptoms below:
- Reducing duration of fever(5)(8)(9))10)
- Reducing inflammation(6)(8)(11)(12)(13)
- Increasing recovery rate as shown by CT scans(7)
- Relieving cough(8)(9)(10)
- Loss of appetite(8)(9)
- Regulate immune system(6)(15)
- Manage fluid in the lungs(15)
- Improving lung function(15)
Speed up recovery with Chinese medicine
Typically the duration of sickness lasts one to two weeks.
However, respiratory infections have a tendency to linger.
- residual cough
- hoarse voice
- low energy
- shortness of breath
- runny or stuffy nose
In some instances there have also been longer post viral symptoms, such as long COVID.
So even when we have gotten over the worst of it, symptoms can continue on for a lot longer.
Certain infections such as COVID-19 viruses can cause long term infections due to the pathogen inducing an immune response(6).
Evidence shows that integrating Chinese medicine into treatments can significantly delay the progression…
… here we refer to mild and moderate disease to severe and critical(6)(14).
In the hospital setting, clinical trials have demonstrated that treatments that include Chinese medicine promote a clinical cure and chest image improvements… this is when compared to routine treatments(16).
Additionally, Chinese medicine can be used in adjunct with Western medicine…
… as well as the usual at home care strategies, such as bed rest, increase water intake and electrolyte intake.
But it can also be used alongside medical interventions such as:
- antiviral treatments
- antibacterial treatment
- and corticosteroids.
Chinese medicine supports as well as mitigates any side effects that may arise(6).
Acupuncture for managing viral symptoms
Acupuncture is a fantastic tool to help support the body in making a comeback.
Because acupuncture utilises your body’s own healing mechanisms, it is extremely safe… with no side effects such as ones that you can experience with medications.
Acupuncture elicits a healing response by signalling specific pathways within the body.
These pathways include targeting:
- the nervous system,
- immune system
- and pain relieving mechanisms(17).
By inserting needles into specific areas, acupuncture is able to activate or unblock meridian pathways….
It is used often to instantly relieve congestion… as acupuncture unblocks the channels that overlay our sinus areas.
Unblocked channels allow the free flow of body fluids, energy and blood… our lungs are then better able to function.
As with any illness, it can put a strain on other organ systems which results in a sluggish body… affecting it’s normal function.
Systems that suffer include digestion, menstruation, sleep and urination.
And of course acupuncture helps to redistribute the body’s energy sources… ensuring the deficient organ systems are receiving supply and performing their tasks.
Viral infection with underlying severe illnesses
The rate of sickness and severity of symptoms are greater for those with chronic health conditions…
In part this is due to the hyperinflammatory response… causing damage to the microcirculation of the body.
The result, organ dysfunction!
And for those who already have impaired organ functions it can cause more long term effects following an infection(6)(18)(19)(20)(21).
This list includes people with:
- autoimmune conditions
… and of course children are at risk too.
So for this subset of people, treatments will be aimed at addressing their root condition…
… we will also look at any manifestations that arise from viral infections.
Helping with the robustness of the organ systems strengthens the inflammatory response.
It is also particularly important to focus on the regulation of their immune function… reducing the inflammation that can arise.
Reduce the time to recovery
With each individual’s unique health status, viruses will present differently between people.
Where Western medicine treatments are focused on eliminating the pathogen
Chinese medicine aims to naturally clear infections by:
- reinforcing the immune system
- clear inflammation
- and support the body
On the flip side Western medicine treatments are focused on eliminating the pathogen.
Chinese medicine’s targeted approach depends on organ systems and symptoms presented… thus eliminating unnecessary medications that your body may not need.
A combination of Chinese medicine and acupuncture is best to help recovery following a viral infection.
However, there are circumstances where face to face treatments for acupuncture are not possible… so we provide Telehealth consultations for Chinese herbal medicine.
Our experienced practitioners treat a range of respiratory conditions for adults and children.
Your initial consultation includes an in depth investigation of your health and a treatment plan to get you back on your feet.
- Zhang MM, Liu XM, He L. Effect of integrated traditional Chinese and Western medicine on SARS: a review of clinical evidence. World J Gastroenterol. 2004;10(23):3500-5.
- Liu J, Manheimer E, Shi Y, Gluud C. Chinese herbal medicine for severe acute respiratory syndrome: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Altern Complement Med. 2004;10(6):1041-51.
- Wan S, Xiang Y, Fang W, et al. Clinical features and treatment of COVID-19 patients in northeast Chongqing. J Med Virol 2020;92:797–806
- Zhou LP, Wang J, Xie RH, Pakhale S, Krewski D, Cameron DW, et al. The Effects of Traditional Chinese Medicine as an Auxiliary Treatment for COVID-19: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J Altern Complement Med. 2021;27(3):225-37.
- Wang C., Cao B., Liu Q.Q., Zou Z.Q., Liang Z.A., Gu L. Oseltamivir compared with the Chinese traditional therapy maxingshigan-yinqiaosan in the treatment of H1N1 influenza: a randomized trial. Ann. Intern. Med. 2011;155(4):217–225
- An X, Zhang Y, Duan L, et al. The direct evidence and mechanism of traditional Chinese medicine treatment of COVID-19. Biomed Pharmacother. 2021;137:111267. doi:10.1016/j.biopha.2021.111267
- Hu K., Guan W.J., Bi Y., Zhang W., Li L., Zhang B. Efficacy and safety of Lianhuaqingwen capsules, a repurposed Chinese herb, in patients with coronavirus disease 2019: a multicenter, prospective, randomized controlled trial. Phytomedicine. 2020
- Xiong W.Z., Wang G., Du J., Ai W. Efficacy of herbal medicine (Xuanfei Baidu decoction) combined with conventional drug in treating COVID-19:a pilot randomized clinical trial. Integr. Med. Res. 2020;9(3)
- Ba Y., Wang L., Li W., Li M., Tao R., Zuo X. “Pneumonia No. 1” in the treatment of 451 cases of novel coronavirus pneumonia. World Trad. Chin. Med. 2020;15(13):1962–1966
- Lv R., Wang W., Li X. Clinical observation on the treatment of 63 suspected cases of novel coronavirus pneumonia with Lianhua Qingwen granules combined with Western medicine conventional therapy. Chin. Med. J. 2020;61(08):655–659
- Chen L., Liu F., Wu J., Song H., Xia J., Sheng B. Retrospective analysis of the clinical efficacy of Shufeng Jiedu Capsules combined with Western medicine in the treatment of patients with common new coronavirus pneumonia. Chin. J. Exp. Formulas. 2020;26(16):14–20.