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The immune system is linked to core health in Chinese medicine. When we are fatigued, stressed, overwhelmed, or engaging in unhealthy lifestyle habits, our immune system will naturally suffer. To combat this problem and keep our immune systems strong, Chinese medicine focuses on strengthening our energy (qi) and improving our overall vitality.
Qi is the basis for a healthy immune system. We are all equipped with a special kind of qi called defense qi that has the focused job of keeping invaders out. When our energy is low, this is one of the first things to lose strength. To keep our immune systems strong, we must keep our energy strong.
Stress is a culprit in most health issues, and weak immunity is no different. Chronic stress puts a heavy weight on all of our body systems and wastes energy. Reducing stress is crucial for boosting the immune system.
The Spleen is the core organ system in charge of the immune system. It manages our lymphatic system, immune response, and general energy. Weak Spleens are common with ongoing stress, poor diet, and irregular sleep habits.
The Kidney system provides the root energy for the entire body. While some of this core strength comes from lifestyle and habits, much of it is constitutional or genetic. Those with constitutionally weak Kidney systems (often sick as children, earaches, allergies, fatigue) are more susceptible to immune challenges.
Common Immune Support Treatments in Chinese Medicine
Because immunity has its basis in the overall health of the entire body, Chinese medicine takes a simple, yet profound approach to supporting the immune system. A healthy lifestyle is key, so exercise, sleep, and a nutritious diet are all part of the bigger immunity-boosting plan. Acupuncture is often used to stimulate the body’s qi and encourage detoxification. Acupuncture can also reduce stress and strengthen the Spleen and Kidney systems.
Chinese herbal medicine is used either preventatively or in conjunction with treatment for current immune issues or illnesses. One of TCM’s most famous immune-boosting formulas is called Jade Windscreen Powder, named after the robust jade screens used in ancient homes to block out wind. Similar to the jade screen, this formula helps to out up a strong defense against germs, cold, and invaders. Many herbal formulas take this same approach by boosting the body’s natural defenses to prevent illness, starting with:
Yu Ping Feng San (Jade Screen): Comprised of 40% Huang qi (astragalus root) and 40% Bai zhu (white atractylodes root), this formula is ideal for those who are susceptible to catching colds and flu. You do need to take it for 3-5 months for the herbs to effectively build up the defensive qi of the body and ward off illness. Although effective as a prophylactic treatment, it will not help to take this formula once you are already sick.
Bu Zhong Yi Qi Wan: Another formula that contains both Huang qi and Bai zhu; thus, one of its actions is to boost processes directly involved with fighting off illness (according to TCM theory). Furthermore, this formula also helps boost digestive qi (Spleen qi) which means the body will do a better job of extracting nutrients and energy from food (which has the knock-on effect of boosting immunity).
Jiao Gu Lan: A single herb (available in teapill form or as a liquid tincture) with a brodd range of actions, among them is to clear heat and toxins from the body and to modulate the immune system (depending on the individual).
The following are important herbs used in our popular immunity enhancing formulas.
Huang Qi/ Astragalus root: Huang qi is a popular qi tonic in many herbal formulas. This herb is similar to the famous ginseng (Ren shen) , but has a particular affinity for boosting immune health and supporting the upper body.
Bai Zhu/ White Atractylodes root: Another big immune boosting herb in the Chinese pharmacopeia, this herb also drains dampness from the Spleen and Stomach (which, among other things, aids digestion and the extraction of nutrients and energy and food.
Reishi/ Ling Zhi/ Ganoderma lucidis: Reishi mushroom has many health benefits, but it is most commonly known as an immune tonic. It can be used both preventatively to prevent disease, as well as in conditions like cancer to keep the body strong during treatment.
Wu wei zi/ Schizandra berry: Wu wei zi, or “five flavor fruit,” is used to strengthen both physical and mental health. With its five flavors, wu wei zi is able to support all organ systems while greatly reducing stress and fatigue.
A strong immune system is our best defense. Chinese herbal medicine uses the power of plants to support our immunity, protect us from disease, and enhance our overall health. Shop our collection of immune-boosting Chinese herbal formulas.