by Maureen Cromey
An Acupuncturist and Chinese Medicine Expert
I’m always being asked at my clinic if Acupuncture can boost the Immune System. The answer is yes... it is amazing at doing this.
Acupuncture is thousands of years old and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has understood immunity for a long time. As early as the 11th Century the Chinese were using 'nasal vaccinations' to prevent the spread of smallpox. The secretions from a smallpox lesion were diluted and a very small amount inserted into the nose and inhaled by the healthy person. This triggered a natural reaction of the immune system to produce antigens and prevented the smallpox epidemic in China that devastated Europe.
In TCM theory the first line of defence is the wei qi. This is qi energy that circulates just beneath our skin and regulates sweating and immunity. It is dependent on lung function and controls the opening of pores on the skin. It keeps pores closed preventing disease factors getting into our bodies. Long before viruses and bacteria were recognised as pathogens which cause disease, TCM doctors referred to pathogenic factors. These they interpreted as environmental, wind, cold, heat and damp. This theory was based on careful observation and to this day we naturally understand it; if we sweat in a cold wind our pores are open and it is easy to catch a chill or cold. A cold wind on our back or neck can cause a stiff neck or shoulder and excess heat or sun can cause heat stroke.
A healthy balanced body has a strong and effective immune system. All the things that leave us feeling run down, tired lethargic or depressed will lower immunity and compromise how our bodies response to pathogens.
To boost our immune system we need to improve wei qi.
- A cool shower once a day boosts wei qi.
- Exercise outside, whatever the weather, is beneficial.
- Eat good quality food in appropriate amounts.
- Sleep well and regularly.
- Manage stress and working hours where possible.
- Avoid antibiotics, antihistamines and sinus medication.
- If you are ill then rest, take extra nutrients and herbs, have a few acupuncture sessions and support your body giving it time (which is very important) to naturally overcome an infection.
- Trust your body to be strong.
- Regular monthly acupuncture sessions support and strengthen immunity. Scientific research shows that acupuncture increases the white blood cells in the body and moderates the immune system allowing it to react swiftly and strongly to threats.
It may be that your immune system is already very low. This can be caused by long term stress, recurring infections or excessive use of antibiotics, chemotherapy, surgical operations and bereavements also lower our resistance to disease. In these cases the steps listed above will not be quite enough. You will also need to increase acupuncture to weekly sessions for a month or so and maybe take herbs. Chinese herbal medicine has many herbs which enhance immunity. Huang qi for example greatly increases white blood cells and natural killer cells. A combination of the steps above, regular acupuncture treatments, prescribed herbs and rest make a massive difference and will restore an ailing system quickly and effectively.