Stay Healthy During the Covid-19 Pandemic with Advice from Traditional Chinese Medicine

April 7, 2020

Based on the belief of striking a balance between yin and yang to enable qi – an individual’s vital energy – to flow smoothly along the meridians in our body to keep us healthy, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been used for thousands of years to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases. In recent months TCM has also played a substantial role in the fight against COVID-19, a global pandemic, the likes of which humanity has never seen.

While working from home, you may practise good habits like time yourself for using electronic devices and have 15 minutes interval rest for every 45 minutes.

During the peak of COVID-19 outbreaks in China, 91.6% of the patients in Hubei province; and 92.4% of patients nationwide were treated through TCM. These traditional formulas and medicines have proven to be effective in many cases when treating the infection, reported China’s State Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

As what Huang Di Nei Jing, a classical TCM document had stated, the best doctors are those who perform preventive treatments. Preventive measures are therefore highly valued in TCM practices.

Dr Heng Aik Teng, Head of Programme, Traditional Chinese Medicine, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, INTI International University stated, “TCM’s diet therapy and guidance for overall wellness helps people to boost their immunity and enhances the body’s cardiopulmonary functions to fight against the virus.”

According to Dr Heng, individuals need a healthy qi within us to withstand the external pathogenic factors. When there is a sufficient amount of healthy qi in our body, pathogenic factors are less likely to invade or harm us. Generally, TCM physicians believe that by promoting a healthy qi, the human body will build up its immunity towards diseases and develop a better ability to recover. On the contrary, a lack of good qi will lead to internal injury and illness.

To preserve our healthy qi, TCM practitioners believe that it is vital to nourish the spleen and stomach, as these two organs are the sources of qi and good blood circulation.

“TCM reinforces the earth element to generate the meta. Supplementing the spleen and nourishing the qi will further improve the lung functions – the primary target of COVID-19. Chinese herbs that are commonly used to achieve this goal include Ginseng, Huangqi, Baizhu, Cordyceps and so on,” stated Dr Heng, who has been lecturing at INTI since 2009. He attained his PhD degree from Tianjin University of TCM, China in 2017.

He added that Traditional Chinese Medicine always focuses on overall regulation. Besides medicines that help to improve the lung function, a TCM physician may also need to prescribe other supplements according to the symptoms of each individual.

“For example, if a patient has a dry mouth, common medicines to strengthen the lungs may not be suitable as these are classified as ‘warm herbs’, and may increase other symptoms. In this instance, we will prescribe a milder Ginseng or add on with some Baihe together with Maidong,” shared Dr Heng.

Huangqi, a good choice of Chinese medicines which help to supplement the spleen and nourish the qi, and further improve the lung function.
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As the main route for airborne infectious diseases to enter the body are mainly through the mucous membrane of the nose and mouth, improving one’s hygiene is of the utmost importance in keeping healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr Heng reiterated the importance of wearing a medical face mask when visiting crowded places and emphasised the value of practising social distancing during this time.

He stressed, “Our hands can easily become the main channel of transmission, therefore, we must avoid touching our face or rubbing our eyes or nose. Washing or disinfecting our hands frequently becomes an important habit to keep infectious diseases from entering the body – both for COVID-19 as well as other diseases.”

During the Movement Control Order (MCO), when the general public are confined to their homes and have minimal physical activity, they should think of alternative ways to maintain the best state of health. Dr Heng suggests that looking at our daily diet is one of the easiest changes to help improve overall wellbeing.

“Eat less fried, greasy and salty food to avoid increasing the risk for hypertension and high cholesterol levels. Also, eat less sugary foods to avoid the exacerbation of existing diabetic conditions,” warned Dr Heng.

He also suggested that there are many alternative ways of preserving our healthy qi levels and the most fundamental way of getting rid of pathogenic factors is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. There are six areas that we should consider, especially during this period when we are homebound under MCO:

1. Avoid being overworked – Get sufficient rest or take a break when you get tired. Bad habits such as staying up late will lead to other physical dysfunctions, such as liver function deficiency. Dr Heng advised everyone to practise a healthy lifestyle and get adequate sleep.

2. Take note of your surroundings – You living environment could pose issues to your physical wellbeing. If a room is too cold or too hot, it could easily lead to discomfort and illness. It is best to avoid hastily entering a room with low or air-conditioned temperatures when the weather is hot outside.

3. Take care of your emotional wellbeing – Being emotionally stressed is one of the main causes of illness. Negative emotions such as sadness can lead to a loss of appetite and poor digestion; anger can affect blood pressure. It is advisable to balance one’s emotions by cultivating a hobby to ease everyday pressures.

4. Take care of your diet – Overeating leads to obesity or digestive disorders. Also, there are certain types of food which TCM practitioners consider unhealthy, such as diets with too much fried or salty foods, that may cause vascular diseases. One should take supplements whenever there is a deficiency, for example, take a protein supplement if you are protein-deficient; consume milk when you have a calcium-deficiency, or take green leafy vegetables such as amaranth and other foods which are rich in calcium.

5. Avoid bacterial and virus infections – Bacterial and virus infections are invasive and increase the risk of diseases being transmitted from person to another. Avoiding crowded spaces and paying attention to personal health and hygiene habits can minimize the risk of infection and help maintain health at ideal levels.

6. Practising good work from home habits – Detach from 3C (computer, consumer electronics, and communication) products every 15 minutes after working for 45 minutes. Do not look at any electronic devices during this time. Instead, take a look at the green scenery outside the window and massage the area around the eyes. If you feel tired, take a short nap, which will revitalise you for the second half of the day. Although you can’t go out to exercise right now, use yoga mats and carry out some simple physical exercises. Indoor sports tutorials can be obtained from numerous apps or Youtube.