There are many aspects of coronavirus (that would be SARS-CoV-2) that have been shown to be improved with Traditional Chinese Medicine. The ability for herbal formulas to help strengthen immunity and help during the different stages of infection has already been discussed. There is a Harvard Medical School study that shows another way Chinese Medicine, this time through acupuncture, can be of benefit to a major issue that is seen with COVID-19 infection: the cytokine storm.
What is Cytokine Storm?
The immune system is a complex array of different cells and their molecular products that help the body recognize and fight off an invading pathogen (virus, bacteria, etc.). Part of the molecular cascade that occurs during an infection is activation of the inflammatory response of the body, and cytokines are an important part of that cascade. During an infection, the local cells, along with certain immune cells that may already be present, release cytokines that then recruit more immune cells to the area to better fight off the infection.
Infection by SARS-CoV-2 results in a very aggressive inflammatory response, leading to a massive release of cytokines. This cytokine release is followed by a large influx of immune cells to the area which can then have damaging effects on not just local tissue but also a systemic effect throughout the body. This has shown to lead directly to lung damage, multiple organ failures, and the poor prognosis that has been seen in patients with COVID-19.
The cytokine storm is not just a COVID-19 issue. Any infection can result in a cytokine storm, as well as autoimmune disorders or other disease that may lead to an inflammatory response. It may also be caused by different immunotherapies.
Acupuncture acts as an Anti-Inflammatory
The Harvard researchers, using mouse models, found that the use of acupuncture can increase the levels of anti-inflammatory markers in the body and helped the animal mitigate and cope with the excessive cytokine release.
For millennia, acupuncture has been used to help reverse inflammation in the body, whether from injury or from an internal disharmony that may be affecting other systems of the body. The Chinese view of the body as a connected whole, governed by the movements of Qi and Blood and the balance of Yin(cool) and Yang(heat), has always given a direction and pattern for this type of work. Our diagnosis often includes the presence of excess (or deficient) types of cold and heat within the body.
To help with these issues, there are points and channel combinations that have been used over those thousands of years that have shown to relieve that heat and expel it from the body. Among the set of transport points that exist on each channel is the Spring point, which is used for febrile and heat conditions; on the yin channels, this point is associated with the fire element (fight fire with fire), on the yang channels, it is associated with the water element(using water to put out fire). Other points along the channels also help with clearing heat, especially along the Yang Ming Channels of Stomach and Large Intestine. Then there are channel combinations that can be used to clear heat, in particular the use of Liver, Heart, Small Intestine, and Gallbladder as balancing channels to move stagnation and expel heat.
Along with the use of needles to vent and clear heat is acupuncture’s effectiveness at calming the body down when it is in a state of excessive movement, whether that is external or internal. We feel acupuncture’s calming effect on our body after a treatment: feeling more relaxed in the body and a calmer movement of the mind. As the Chinese view the body, what is occurring on the outside is occurring on the inside, which would be the calming of the internal systems.
As always, there may not be one specific treatment that works for everyone. The way it presents for each person depends on each body’s constitution and the deficiencies and excesses that already may exist. This is what we take stock of before treatment to try and employ the best strategy to help each different body.
Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs have been used in conjunction with western intervention during our current pandemic not only to help alleviate symptoms of COVID-19 but to also help the body bounce back from the latent issues that occur. Of course, it helps with many other issues of the body: body pains (headache, neck pain, back pain), digestive issues, allergies, sleep disorders, and many others. Schedule an appointment today to find out how Chinese Medicine can help you!