Chinese Medicine & Today’s Immune System Issues
More and more diseases have been found to be related to the immune system today. The term “immune system” has to be borrowed from Western medicine. A new term for the immune system had to be created. With this new term, the inconvenience in language, when describing the immune system in traditional Chinese medicine, would be avoided.
Nei Wei Qi (internal defensive Qi) is that word. It comes from the understanding that the body is nourished by acquired nutrients from the foods we eat and the air we breathe.
We also have something called Wei Qi. It is the basic ability of our bodies to push out external pathogens that invade us (known in Western medicine as colds, flu, allergies, or anything that disrupts the continuous flow of Qi within our system).
A common formula for Wei Qi Deficiency or anyone who gets impacted by pathogens more than 5 times a year, is called Jade Screen. It is aptly named as you can almost visualize the body covered in jade and making it difficult for anything to penetrate its mantle. Protection from nature’s elements in extremes such as Wind, Cold, Heat, Dampness & Dryness and other factors are ways our Wei Qi gets disrupted.
Nei Wei Qi is very different from Wei Qi and that needs to be understood. We need both to be strong, functioning, adjusted humans.
The three functions of Nei Wei Qi are defense, surveillance and tolerance.
Defense means that Nei Wei Qi recognizes, mobilizes, attacks and eliminates things such as pathogens, microbes, vaccines and toxins. When Nei Wei Qi is deficient, the body suffers from infections.
Surveillance refers to Nei Wei Qi attacking and eliminating cancer cells. When Nei Wei Qi is deficient, the chance of tumor development is high.
Tolerance means that Nei Wei Qi can recognize and differentiate the foreign from the self. If the foreign is attacked, then the self is preserved by Nei Wei Qi. When tolerance is disturbed, Nei Wei Qi will act against the self and cause autoimmune diseases (as seen by Western medicine).
Today, by combining modern science with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Chinese scientists have found many herbs that regulate immune functions.
Boosting the immune system refers to allowing the immune system cells to readily do their job. If the body is perfectly healthy and functioning, this will be much easier. If the body is taxed by stresses, illnesses, or malnutrition, it will be harder. Thus, in Chinese medicine, the focus is not always on strengthening the immune system (or Nei Wei Qi) specifically, but rather the whole body to allow the immune system to function optimally.
To keep us healthy inside and out, we need first and foremost to have a proper diet and emotions in order to obtain any benefits. Having successfully accomplished that, here are some amazing herbs to boost the entire body and immune system.
The key to gaining results through these herbs is by finding the proper herb(s) to match your body or constitution. When in doubt always contact a professional Chinese Medical practitioner to help you do this.
Below are 3 herbs that can be combined in a formula or used as an extract or tea.
Many mushrooms like Reishi, Himamatsumake and Chaga are also excellent in helping us stay well.
Astragalus Root (Radix Astragali, Huang Qi, 黄芪)
Astragalus Root is one of the best herbs to bolster the ability of the immune system to function. This herb would be best used for patients who have slightly weaker bodies and get sick easily or have trouble with digestion or breathing.
Asian Ginseng (Chinese/Korean Ginseng, Panax Araliaceae, Ren Shen, 人参)
There are actually over 30 different species of Ginseng, and the Asian Ginseng is the most widely known. It is not to be used in healthy individuals for an extended length of time. It is a hot herb and people who should be taking Asian Ginseng have more cold-type bodies, possibly with cold hands and feet and suffer from fatigue (Yang Deficiency).
American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius, Xi Yang Shen, 西洋參)
The other widely used species of ginseng is the American form. Similar to the Asian form, it has a strong action of boosting the immune system. People who have a dry mouth/throat, are thirsty and feel weak will find this helpful as it generates fluids and is often used to help with Menopausal issues (Yin Deficiency).
Laura Mignosa is a Certified Chinese Herbologist and Director of the CT Institute for Herbal Studies for 23 years. She offers an annual study on Traditional Chinese Herbology beginning March, 2016. It is a year-long certification course and is taught to many holistic practitioners who want a different way to treat and see the body according to a 5000 year old tradition of health. Please call for information at 860-826-2705 or visit her website, CTherbschool.com or at Lauramignosa5 on Facebook. Appointments for Care are always available at the school.