During the change of seasons a lot of people are worried about getting sick. I am cautious too, because during the change of seasons we are especially vulnerable; a sneeze, cough, or a cold wind can easily give you a cold. Acupuncture can help prevent a cold by improving your immunity through boosting your energy, or qi. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are powerful therapies to build up immunity and qi.
How Are Qi and Immunity Related?
As you all know, the immune system is responsible for protecting you from all types of invaders like viruses and bacteria. In Chinese medicine, immunity comes from qi, the body’s energy. Qi is similar to our general idea of energy in the West. It is the energy that gives us the power to do things, like work, study, grow, and exercise. It also protects us from getting sick. When we say, “I am wiped out, I have no energy,” you can also say you have no qi. The main way we build qi is through eating a good diet. We also store it while we sleep. This is why having good digestion is vital for having enough energy and building up your immunity. It is also why we often get sick easily when we don’t sleep well.
One difference between the idea of energy in the West and qi in Chinese medicine is that qi circulates through the body in channels, or meridians. Sometimes, qi slows down or gets blocked, which is a major cause of disease. We call this qi stagnation and it often happens as a result of emotional stress. This is why we get sick when we are under a lot of stress.
In Chinese medicine, poor immunity usually comes from a qi imbalance. Sometimes there is too little qi or the qi can become stagnated. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs work by helping to improve the circulation and the amount of qi.
Those with too little qi may experience the symptoms of frequent colds, fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing, soft voice, poor digestion, a weak pulse, and pale tongue. This is also true often for people with chronic respiratory infections or autoimmune conditions, such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, or sinusitis and chronic sinus headaches.
Acupuncture works by correcting imbalances in the qi. Research has shown that acupuncture stimulates the immune system cellular activity and gene expression as well as influencing enzyme activity. In Chinese medicine terms, we say that acupuncture is boosting the qi.
Many Chinese herbs also improve the immune system. For example, ginseng, an herb known for its ability to boost qi and improve immunity, has been shown to prevent colds and upper respiratory tract infections. Also cordyceps, a mushroom originating from Tibet, is now widely used to improve immune function. This herb can help in the winter and the change of seasons to boost immunity when everyone else is getting sick. It is especially good for those with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma and sinusitis. Remember, Chinese herbs are most effective when taken in a formula that is tailored to your specific imbalance. It is important to get a recommended formula from a Chinese medicine practitioner.