Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Human Immune System

A woman running at sunset.

Maintaining strong immunity is a key factor in ensuring that diseases are kept away as much as possible. (Image: via Pixabay)

Maintaining a strong immune system is a key factor in ensuring that diseases are kept away as much as possible. While modern medicine explains immunity in terms of cells, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) looks at immunity from the perspective of the body’s vital energy called qi.

The immune system

As far as the immune system is concerned, three types of qi are important — wei qi, ying qi, and yuan qi. Wei qi refers to the body’s outer immune system. In fact, a large portion of your overall immunity is said to be dependent on wei qi, which acts as a protective blanket of your body. Ying qi refers to the immunity that you gain from consuming food. If you consume good, nutritious food, it will inevitably contribute to the strengthening of your immune system. Without proper nutrition, your immune system will only become weaker over time. 

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Yuan qi is the protective energy that comes from the kidneys. This energy is believed to activate the essence of the blood, thus ensuring that the oxygen circulation system keeps functioning optimally. A healthy body is that which has a balanced flow of various types of qi. To check whether you have weak immunity, take a picture of your tongue. In case your tongue has a greasy coating or scallop outline/teeth marks, it would indicate that you suffer from a deficiency of qi and weakness of immunity. Other signs of a poor immune system include digestive issues, chronic fatigue, frequent cold or aches, chronic skin conditions, etc.

Strengthening immunity

TCM offers several ways to boost immune system health. According to the Five Element Theory, the body’s digestive system is regulated by the spleen and is linked to the color yellow. As such, it is recommended that you consume yellow-colored food. This is thought to improve gut health. Ideal yellow foods to eat include ginger, sweet potato, turmeric, pumpkin, etc. TCM recommends eating foods that are in season.

A lack of sleep and chronic stress can lead to the weakening of qi and the immune system. TCM places high importance on getting proper rest. You should sleep for at least 7 hours every day. Some people cut down on their weekday sleep, thinking that they can compensate for it by sleeping longer hours at the weekends. Unfortunately, such a move can end up affecting the overall quality of your sleep.

A bowl of pumpkin soup.
It is recommended that you consume yellow-colored food, such as pumpkin. (Image via Pixabay)

Another immunity-boosting solution from TCM is acupuncture massage. Three points are of key importance — zhong wan, qi hai, and guan yuan. You can either use finger massage or palm massage on these three acupressure points. For finger massage, press the point and rotate your fingers for up to 5 minutes at one time. For palm massage, place one palm facing the abdomen and the other palm on top of the first palm. Then, rotate them together for a period of 10 to 15 minutes per time. 

A lack of sleep and chronic stress can lead to the weakening of qi and the immune system.
A lack of sleep and chronic stress can lead to the weakening of qi and the immune system. (Image: Via Pexels)

Medicinal herbs

TCM recommends the consumption of various medicinal herbs to boost your immunity. These include Asian ginseng and Ganoderma.

Asian ginseng has excellent anti-inflammatory effects in addition to high immune-boosting properties. Asian ginseng is also known to sharpen the mind and cut down stress. In case you are troubled by your blood sugar level, you can use Asian ginseng to keep it under control.

In TCM, Ganoderma is known as “The Great Protector.” The herb can inhibit bacteria and viruses that are connected to the flu. As far as immune health is concerned, consuming Ganoderma can raise the number of white blood cells as well as boost immunity.

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