Dear friends, colleagues and patients,
The Mandala Clinic is encouraging all of our patients and clients to stay home to both guard their own health and that of the community. We will be actively in communication with you to know when our clinic hours get back to normal. We are still here for you and can actively practice telemedicine to support you with both your emotional and physical health. We are actively monitoring new updates from China on how to effectively support our immune systems and fight off this pandemic in both ourselves and our communities. Please to not hesitate to reach out if you need support, please call us and we will be there for you!
In the ecosystem of panic and within the renewal of hope, each of us are on the front line of providing good counsel and compassion to the people we care for. I notice that I’m actively searching for good information in the soup of misinformation and wanting to know what I can do proactively to use my fear and worry to good ends. This is what I have found most useful so far.
This virus is moving through the US very quickly according to most data sources and we should endeavor to be actively prepared as I believe we are still on the front edge of this pandemic that will most likely last the next several months. We need to overcome our normalcy bias by being both prepared on individual and collective levels. In the best of worlds, this strengthens our resilience in our communities and connects us back to the actual means of production within our ecosystems and local watersheds.
With 850 million urban dwelling Chinese workers in lock down and 60 million Italians in country-wide quarantine, a good 18% of the world’s GDP has been taken offline. If you know and understand Chinese culture and its top down government, you know that taking the economy off the rails is not taken lightly. The old fortune cookie adage that the Chinese word for crisis (危机) contains both character for “Danger” and the character for “Opportunity”. We are aware that we have an opportunity to slow the virus spread, boost our own immunity and to take time for reflection on this wild, beautiful and highly interconnected world we live in. We have a danger of our collective ignorance spreading the illness, especially to our elders, and for great disruptions in our economy and governance.
We can learn from the response in China and use an integral view to combine the best of Eastern and Western approaches. What we don’t hear much of in the news is that much of the treatment in China relies on using both microbiome specific plant based medicinals and dietary therapy in addition to using western protocols to treat the illness.
The benefit of the western scientific tradition is that we know that corona viruses are enveloped positive-stranded RNA viruses. Like most RNA viruses they are in a constant dance of recombining their genetic code and will continue to make new variants of themselves. The challenge with viral infections is the main weapon in the western arsenal is immunizations which generally take a while to develop and that the viruses are always evolving around the edges. The first corona virus to hit the scene was SARS but this new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is a close relative called SARS-Cov2 that is a much more aggressive pathogen. We know that when this virus invades it stimulates coughing and sneezing which makes it able to invade more hosts. This virus when it invades the lungs it infects the cilia, the tiny hairs like cells that move mucus and particulate out of our lungs. When the cilia get too damaged, they cease to function and our lungs start clogging up with mucus. This pneumonia caused by SARS-Cov2 is particularly difficult to treat and when the body sends out its messenger molecules (cytokines, etc) which in the worst cases causes an inflammatory meltdown in the body. This virus once it gets into the body attaches to the angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE-2) linkages on the surface of cells. ACE-2 regulates the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) which includes the lungs, spleen, lymph nodes and kidneys and the vascular system. This is particularly useful because understanding how the pathogen hijacks our cells, how it reproduces itself and how they release to new hosts lets us cross-reference data on herbs which affect those particular systems. Science also shows that Sambucus spp (elder), Glycyrrhiza spp (licorice) and many other plants help protect the ACE-2 linkages. For a more indepth look at this aspect, check out Steven Harrod Buhner’s link at the bottom. A particular curiosity for me is whether patients on ACE inhibitors (the cardiovascularly compromised are already known higher risk cases) are impacted more by the virus.
My base herbal recommendations for healthy folks wanting to support their immune systems:
A basic adapatogen herbal: Consider Reishi, Astralagus, Gynostemma, Licorice, Codonopsis, Atractylodes as the main backbones. I highly recommend a product I formulated: https://www.performancetea.com/products/energy-jar-80g Use the code “immortal” to get a friends and family discount.
An Elderberry cordial
Yu Ping Feng San. Known as the Jade Windscreen in Chinese medicine, it is a classic herbal formula to support upper respiratory immunity. This is an especially useful formula if you have been around crowds. Do not take this formula if you are already feeling under the weather.
We carry all these herbs at the clinic and we are happy to put them in the mail to you.
I have more complex recommendations for folks who are ill but please email, call or text and we can set up a skype call to get your herbs. Chinese medicine doesn’t have the cure but it can ameliorate many of the symptoms and it has been used very effectively in China to help people recover.
The benefit of the Chinese medicine tradition is the ability to see complex patterns in complex ecologies and to treat them with complex plant based medicine that accounts for both the patient’s microbiome, the environmental factors and the pathogen’s virulence. From all the Chinese medicine doctors that I’m hearing from, one common pattern is at the heart of this illness. There is not a good western analogue for it, but it translates as “dampness” and the COVID-19 is looked at as a “damp plague”. From the doctors in China, a useful early diagnosis is that the microbiome on the tongue changes and will develop a thick, sticky, white coating. I’m curious if the illness is caught early though tele-medicine and by looking at a patient’s tongues, can we use this pattern recognition to head off the current shortage of adequate antibody or polymerase chain reaction testing?
This concept of the “damp” biome is worth exploring from a Chinese medicine perspective because I think it gives us both preventative steps to take individually and to understand where the illness will hit the most and which populations will be most impacted. Many Chinese medicine doctors are predicting that places with a cold and damp spring are most likely also to have environmental conditions where the virus outside of the hosts have a longer life span and that it is likely we will see a rebound Fall viral epidemic.
I’ve been explaining to my patients that “damp” in the human biome translates to a collection of mucous, bacteria, yeast and viral factors that are imbalancing our healthy microbial balance. The questions that a Chinese doctor will ask to screen for dampness are usually around digestive health and they use the examination of the tongue to look for thick or greasy looking coating. While the thick coating does not presuppose that you have COVID-19, it shows an imbalanced microbiome that is more susceptible to illness and also can lead to the virus going deeper in the body.
The good thing about treating “damp” in the body is that it has a huge amount of ancillary benefits. Chinese medicine looks at “damp” as the beginning of many chronic illnesses. The treatment of it is in alignment with good common sense recommendations that can boost your immunity and are worthwhile regardless of pandemics.
Exercise is essential. There is a saying that a damp cloth doesn’t mold if hung out in the sun on a clothe’s line. Appropriate exercise moves more oxygen into the body.
Avoid alcohol and tobacco. Alcohol converts to glucose in the body and imbalances blood sugar and creates excessive “damp” over time.
Avoid too much raw, cold, sweet or mucus-forming foods. Eat lots of fresh vegetables that are cooked as the cornerstone of any diet. Avoid soda, sugar, packaged foods, industrial farmed meats and eggs.
Add bitter herbs and vegetables that dry “damp” such as pumpkin, amaranth, aduki beans, celery, scallions, turnips and lettuce. Slow cooked stews and soups are particularly helpful.
I hope this is helpful to you in these challenging times and I pray for your good health and that of your family.
Marco Chung-Shu Lam
Clinic Director, Mandala Integrative Medicine Clinic
Cc: Links and a prayer below. I’ve said this prayer out loud with friends over a meal and I highly recommend it. Positive psychoneuroimmunology is your friend!
Virus map tracking (updated)
Reports from doctors treating Covid-19 in China with Chinese Herbal Medicine
This is especially useful for Chinese medicine clinicians
Cytokine regulating properties of a traditional Chinese Medical formula
This is quite technical but useful for a scientific background on why Yu Ping Feng San is useful at this time.
Treatment on the frontline in China for practitioners
The best of western herbalism and a great science background on SARS group viruses
How SARS viruses attach to ACE-2
I was inspired to write this article from a prayer from Navlyn Wang:
I call on my ancestors
I call on the sages and enlightened masters from the past thousands of years
I call on the spirit of the noble dragons
I call on Heaven (天) and Earth (地)
May my family be healthy
May all of the 老百姓 be healthy
May all the doctors, nurses, caretakers working tirelessly on the front line find courage
May all who have lost someone they love find peace and serenity
May all who are infected find faith
May all who lost income have a warm place to sleep and enough food to eat
If suffering is necessary, may it also be accompanied by openings to deeper love and wisdom
May the suffering required to ride this crisis be as minimal as possible
May this be an opportunity for the realization of more love and compassion