I am a little nervous publicly writing about this topic, as I am not sure how it is going to be censored, but now, more than ever I want to make sure that you have the information you are asking for around herbal support protocols. I have been flooded with questions regarding how to use Chinese Herbal Medicine to support health and minimize the symptoms, duration and long term effects of both COVID infections as well as the concerns some have about the vaccine.
Until now I have primarily spoken about this in a one-on-one scenario with my patients but there are so many questions and concerns right now that I think the time has come to address this a little more specifically. If you have deeper questions or concerns please reach out and we can engage in a practitioner-patient conversation around your specific health concerns. The below information should not replace medical advice or treatment and is intended for educational purposes only.
With more and more Chinese Medicine based scientific studies launching in the last month at major US medical research universities I feel that it is an important time to start a conversation about how Chinese Herbal Medicine can best be utilized as a support. It is exciting that we are starting to see some proper research on the topic to pin down the statistics and objective best practices involving the the formulas and clinical protocols Chinese Medicine Practitioners have been refining from the beginning of the pandemic.
Since last February 2020 we have treated over 50 patients with positive COVID tests and COVID-like symptoms that were never confirmed. I know this is just a drop in the bucket when it comes to what is happening on a larger scale but our clinic, pharmacy and network of practitioners have been working directly with this population from a safe distance for over a year and a half with positive impact and we want to share with you what we have discovered to be incredibly useful supports. We encourage you to follow the advice of your doctor and/or official CDC guidelines.
In this time period we have identified clear Chinese Medicine patterns that SARS-CoV-2 infection tends to follow and created protocols to address these patterns. We have not had a single patient require hospitalization that immediately started and followed the appropriate Chinese herbal protocol at first sign/suspicion of infection. The vast majority of patients cycled through a pattern similar to a “bad-flu” within 2-3 weeks or less with no long-term effects. We are aware this is strictly anecdotal information but feel that it is a valuable support to a medically guided treatment plan and we support you in your medical choice.
Most COVID patients under our care were also receiving the conventional medical supports in addition to their herbal protocol, and of course depending on your geography and the time-period of the infection, there have been a variety of recommended western medical treatments that have been prescribed. It is out of my scope of practice to comment on these treatments, and we gladly work along-side a patient’s doctor to give them the best adjunct-care possible.
Chinese Medicine treats the pattern that the patient presents with and we take in to account the effect of pharmaceutical medications as well as any other contributing factors when assessing a patient’s current condition. A Chinese Medicine Practitioner is highly trained in medication/herb interactions and factors all of this into your treatment plan. It is vital to supply us with an updated med and supplement list when using customized, targeted Chinese herbal medicine.
Our Over-the-counter formulas are designed to be safe at the recommended dosages and have no known medication interactions when taken properly. If you have a complicated medical history, extensive medication list or other concerns on this topic you should work directly under the care of a licensed Chinese Medicine Practitioner for a customized treatment plan and consult your physician prior to starting any herbal routine.
In relatively healthy patients with no major complicating health factors who suspect exposure to COVID-19 or the Delta variant we recommend immediately starting on Defend. The dosage for this will range from 1 tablespoon (15ml) twice daily to three times daily. This formula is based on the classic Shang Han Lun formula Chaihu Guizhi Ganjiang Tang with proprietary modifications to reduce sinus inflammation and mucus.
This is a representative formula for a pattern of Shao Yang congestion that results in a ministerial fire flare. The resulting symptoms are described in the source text as being alternating fever/chills, sore throat, extreme thirst, sweating from the head, possible fullness in the chest and rib-cage, and possible inhibited urination.
When the body experiences this type of stasis of the Shao Yang layer of the body it provides the perfect internal environment for the virus to thrive. By using herbs to correct this internal imbalance the body becomes an inhospitable environment for the virus, allowing it to run its course without the same ability to over-run the body’s natural defenses. Because Chinese Medicine is not treating the actual virus, but supporting a healthy anti-viral internal environment and effective immune response and innate strength (Qi) this formula is not virus-specific, but can apply to any viral infection that results in the set of symptoms described above.
This formula should be taken until all symptoms subside or the pattern changes.
From here, often we see patients shift into one of two other acute patterns:
- Sinus infection as the imbalance is moved to a more surface layer (Tai Yang). The dysregulation of this most surface layer of the body results in a fairly classic sinus infection presentation. We use the representative formula for this layer of pathology, Guizhi jia Gegen Tang. This is our Breathe Free formula, additionally to it’s Classical Shang Han Lun formula base it includes herbs to symptomatically open and clear out dampness trapped in the sinuses and nasal passages.
- Cough: The second pattern that we see this morph into is a deep respiratory cough with copious phlegm. Keeping the lungs clear early on with patients who have this lower respiratory presentation is absolutely vital. Encouraging gentle movement to keep fluid from building up in the lungs and becoming the turbid dampness/phlegm that we sometimes see is a necessary part of this as well. For this pattern we go straight from Defend to Breathe Deep. Dosage again is 1 tablespoon 2-3 times daily, depending on severity and body weight.
Defend at first signs of infection until fever/chills, thirst, sore throat and other acute viral-type symptoms have passed.
Breathe Free: if it settles into a sinus infection
Breathe Deep: if it settles into a cough in the deep lungs
Custom Formula: if it is a mixed pattern or there are complicating factors
COVID vaccine protocol:
Chinese Medicine Practitioners in my lineage have been working with our formula Chaihu Guizhi Ganjiang Tang (Defend) extensively throughout the last year and a half to support bodies in the initial stages of infection with positive treatment outcomes. This year we have begun to use this formula not only with patients experiencing active infections, but also patients experiencing the uncomfortable inflammatory flare up and immune reaction that can follow the vaccine. This is because we treat the pattern the body shows us, not the virus, and for patients experiencing the flu-like aftermath of the vaccine Defend works well to minimize and shorten this effect without compromising the body’s inoculation.
Recommendation: Defend for 5-7 days prior to first injection, continue until inflammatory or flu-like symptoms subside. We have generally seen a much diminished post-vaccine flare up in patients that have followed this protocol vs. patients that have gone without, though it does not appear that there is any long-term difference either way. This is a good way to minimize discomfort and potential immune system over-reaction in those who have cause for this concern.
RECAP: Defend 5-7 days prior to first injection, continue until inflammatory and/or flu-like symptoms have fully subsided.
Custom formula if it is an atypical presentation or there are complicating medical factors
Post -Vaccine Rebalance:
This is a good time to consider a Chinese Herbal Consultation to identify your body’s specific vulnerabilities and areas of imbalance. This assessment will allow us to create a precise herbal formula to meet your body’s needs at this moment in time. This may be an excess pattern that requires detoxification, as many have asked about, but it may also be a different presentation that requires an approach to build a deficiency or helping the body to move resources around to create a more healthful internal environment.
This is largely based on the pattern that presents for each individual here. Once we assess your body’s needs we might discuss general liver and kidney support treatments we can do to make sure the body is able to efficiently clear any unwanted preservatives or chemicals. This type of treatment is focused on making sure the elimination/detox pathways are open and efficient at clearing out waste. Alternatively we may discover a clear pattern of imbalance that requires a more specific herbal formula to allow us to correct some underlying and potentially long-term issues. We want to support the body’s overall balance and thereby health in whatever way it requires at this time.
If a custom herbal formula is not necessary, we can make the best recommendations for you for Over-the-counter formula(s), diet, and lifestyle modifications to help you feel your best and optimize your health.
We recommend this route once your initial vaccine reaction has subsided because there has been no clear pattern in post-vaccine reaction patients and a “one size fits all” detox that folks are generally asking for is not always the wisest approach if you have specific health goals. This isn’t a quick fix, this is a treatment to create balance and strength in your body as a whole to allow it to utilize its innate resilience in response to pathogens and external influences that might otherwise create patterns of dis-ease and unwanted symptoms.
You can reach out to your Chinese Medicine Practitioner to do this or check out our referral page for a trusted local Practitioner. You can also connect with us directly for a consultation here:
Personalized recommendations via Chinese herbal consultation: Potential custom formula or tailored over-the-counter formula(s) to address the body’s current pattern of imbalance and vulnerabilities as they currently present.
None of this is a replacement for medical care, if you believe you have COVID or are experiencing symptoms of infection please inform your doctor and work under their supervision for the appropriate medical treatment. Consult with your physician before starting any herbal or supplement routine.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is for educational purposes only. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Hayley Gardner MSOM DCCM LAc
Chinese Medicine Practitioner, Consultant and Herbal Medicinary Specialist at Estuary Herbs