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COVID-19 from a Chinese medicine perspective

Healthy Heart
Personal health during the pandemic

Practitioners are looking at the COVID-19 pandemic and are considering the effects on health as being a combination of Wind and Cold elements. Wind is an invitation to change and cold is an invitation to slow down. So how does this work inside the body?

Lungs, Liver and Gall Bladder

The Lungs take in heavens Qi (Oxygen) and the Liver and Gall Bladder circulate the Qi in the form of blood and lymph fluids. The action of the lungs is autonomic, meaning it doesn’t require thought whilst the Liver and Gall Bladder require us to take action. 

To help us to remain in good health, we need to be well hydrated, warm, get plenty of rest/sleep, take moderate exercise and have a good diet.  In particular, having clear sinuses help us perceive clearly what is going on in the outside world, so the Liver and Gall Bladder know when they should act.

The Kidneys

A good way to strengthen our bodies is to nourish our kidneys, this way we are strengthening ourselves at our core.  Kidney energy is the powerhouse of the body.  It is made up partly from what we inherit and the other part, what we take in from the outside world, such as food and oxygen.  This substance or essence, which is stored in the kidney can be transformed into blood and fluids and sent to other organs that are struggling or in less than good health.

Nourishment

Even if your constitution or what you’ve inherited isn’t so great, you can cultivate your health through good diet and lifestyle habits.  However, the reverse is also true. If you’ve got the constitution of an Ox, a bad diet, are a slave to your work and staying up late binge-watching box sets means you will drain these good resources.  Eventually your body won’t be able to sustain the long term demands you are putting it under.

The Kidney forms part of our defensives along with the spleen, which sends nutrient qi derived from food to the rest of the body, and the Lung.   You may have heard Chinese Medicine Practitioners refer to this as Wei Qi.  This Wei Qi is activated in the space between the kidneys and shoots up the spine, the most yang meridian in the body, over the top of the head, to the inner corner of the eyes.  From here, the lung spreads this defensive Qi to the sinuses and to the space between the muscles and the skin, and all around the body.  When you’re sense of smell is impaired, so is your ability to perceive what’s going on, along with the ability for your body to respond in a timely way and fight off any invasion or virus.

The Large Intestine

Another autonomic action in the body is carried out by the Large Intestine This is the yang meridian to the Lung’s yin pair.  This is about maintaining good bowl rhythms and going to the toilet regularly.  If the sinuses are not clear and the body cannot respond to an invasion with sneezing, runny nose and streaming eyes, it then travels inwards.  From here, it will do it’s best to eject this little invader through the bowels, so fibre rocks when it comes to bowl health.

Daily practices to put into practice to improve your health:

  •  When washing your face, massage or gwa sha outwards across your eyebrows, then from your nose and across your cheeks to loosen the sinuses. (also see my Instagram page for details of how to do gwa sha).
  • If you’re inclined towards getting sinus issues, some like to use a neti pot.
  • Diffusing essential oils can stimulate our sense of smell and also keep sinuses open.
  • Keep the spine supple and flexible, and the blood free flowing as this helps the body’s defences, try rubbing the kidneys to warm and activate them, as you’re waiting the kettle boil on a morning.
  • Certain essential oils can be warming and also help work on kidney energetics and what is called kidney yang.
  • Tapping across the chest, down the inside and up the outside of the arms, before tapping down the outside of the legs and up the inside.  This wakes up the body, gets the blood moving. The thymus gland lies just behind the breastbone and tapping between the nipples, on the breastbone daily is said to help stimulate the production of T-cells, which fight infection.
  • Exercise daily, this can be a brisk walk, Qi gong, yoga or some form of movement and stretching, which stimulates the blood and lymph and helps the organs function efficiently.
  • Keep a container with you so you don’t forget and drink water every hour.  This means there is plenty of fluids available if your body needs to try and sweat a virus out of the system  
  • No matter if you’re working at home or going out for exercise, make sure you’re staying warm.
  • Pay attention as much as possible and try to eat a balanced diet.
  • I am very partial to and love my teas; the best teas to help boost your defences and health or Wei Qi are the floral teas like chrysanthemum, jasmine and rose.
  • If you have a balcony/garden and the sun is out, try and take your daily exercise as Vitamin D can help your immunity.  It can decrease respiratory viral and bacterial infections or can decrease severity according to the British Medical Journal.  Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so if obtaining through diet, this will be in the form if fish, egg yolks, cheese, soya milk amongst others. Vitamin D can also have a positive effect on mood.
  • Whilst you don’t want to spend too much time online, try to watch things that are inspiring or uplifting. Better is to WhatsApp a friend or family member. Enforced isolation can be really difficult especially for those living on their own.  Too much time spent idle and not knowing when it’s going to end can create feelings of anxiety, fear, worry and so on. 
  • Tune into things that make you laugh, as laughter can be the best tonic, it unlocks the diaphragm and helps alleviate feelings of stress and anxiety, so laugh your socks off whenever possible. 
  • Chanting or singing is another helpful way to move the diaphragm and keep your spirits lifted.
  • The six meridians in our body either start or end at the feet: the Kidney, Bladder, Liver, Spleen, Stomach.  So, having a foot soak before bed every night will help pull heat down from the head, and warm slowly from the inside out rather than submerging yourself in a hot bath.  By using Epsom salts you’re also helping with detoxification and the magnesium from the salts can be easily absorbed through the skin and aid good sleep
  • Daily meditation is useful to keep the “monkey mind” in check through such unusual times.

Stay healthy and look after your body, so that it can look after you!