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Get Better Faster: An Herbalist's and Moxibustionist's Chronology of his own Cold/Flu Symptoms

Get Better Faster: An Herbalist's and Moxibustionist's Chronology of his own Cold/Flu Symptoms, Good Hearth in Rockland, MaineEastern Medicine is natural medicine.

Acupuncture, moxibustion and Chinese herbal formulas help support balance in the body. We are well when we eat a balanced diet, manage to stay calm amidst challenging emotional events, get enough exercise and enough rest.  

We get sick when we are out of balance. Despite our body's innate ability to maintain harmony and balance, we all get knocked off our center occasionally. 

Modern Western medicine can suppress our cold and flu symptoms, but offers little in the way of getting to the root of the imbalance.  In fact, some Western cold and flu medications can make the underlying imbalance worse. For instance, anti-histamines are extremely drying. So they work well if you need to dry up an extremely runny nose while you are at work. My case, outlined below, had dryness as a root. So, taking them might have made my overall root imbalance worse, leading to a cycle of recurring symptoms. The heated air we breathe indoors in winter is so dry that it would tend to make this pattern worse.  

At Good Hearth Eastern Medical Arts in Rockland, Maine, we use Chinese Herbal formulas, Seitai Shinpo Japanese acupuncture and moxibustion and massage – proven techniques handed down for thousands of year – to resolve the imbalance that led to your cold or flu, reducing the length of your sickness and limiting the severity of your symptoms.

To help illustrate how we do this: a chronology of my first cold or flu since returning to Maine. 
(Note: it is hard to say whether it was a cold or flu, but for the record it doesn’t matter since Chinese Medicine would diagnose what I had as a “Wind-cold invasion,” which presents differently and is treated differently than a “Wind-heat invasion,” though both often occur during the cold months when the body is stressed.   Had I not diagnosed and treated this pathogenic invasion quickly, the pattern would most certainly have advanced and yielded different symptoms, a different diagnosis, and I would have needed to use different medical techniques.)

Monday, 4:00PM
I felt the first sign of cold or flu – a general malaise with a stiff, achy neck, shoulders, low back and along my entire spine.  My thumbs and first fingers were also very sore as well. This is interesting because it is where the Lung and Large Intestine meridians end and begin respectively.  These meridians are paired and the acupuncture points along them mostly influence the Lung.

4:15 PM
I drank a Chinese herbal formula designed to warm the body to open the pores and cause a sweat.  The goal being to push the invading pathogen and the toxins it creates outward, hopefully before it has overcome or outnumbered my immune system's ability to respond effectively. Tobey Williamson offers Acupuncture / Herbal Medicine / Immune Support in Rockland, Maine
Ma Huang Tang, or Ephedra Decoction is made up of cinnamon branches (Gui Zhi), Ehpedra twigs (Ma Huang), apricot seeds (Xing Ren), and honey fried licorice root (Zhi Gan Cao), which I took in the form of concentrated granules dissolved in hot water -- similar to how instant coffee is prepared.

It took me a few minutes to think through some of my other symptoms to make sure I mixed the right formula.  You see, Eastern Medicine diagnosis is rooted in binary opposites: Damp/Dry; Cold/Hot; Empty/Full; Interior/Exterior; Yin/Yang, etc.  So while my body aches fit a cold pattern, I also had a dry cough, felt more hot than cold and did not have a runny nose or sneezing.  Since I didn’t have a sore throat (a key sign of a heat pathogen) and my feeling hot may have been because I had been sitting in a very warm room all afternoon, I decided it was more of a cold pathogen, and opted for the warming formula.

4:25 PM
I applied moxibustion to the key immune boosting points that I could easily reach on my own.  (There are more on the back and neck that I do for patients.)  No acupuncture needles because deep needling is thought to drive the pathogen deeper into the body.  Besides with limited time, I prefer moxa in this situation since it boosts the white blood cell count within 20 minutes, strengthening the immune system’s defense.Good Hearth in Rockland, Maine
Moxibustion is warming the body with a highly-refined moxa (artemesia vulgaris) on a thin layer of heat dispersing cream directly on the skin. This practice infuses the body with medicinal compounds that boost the white blood cell count very quickly -- giving the body's immune defense system a major boost in its fight against cold and flu pathogens.

4:45 PM
Bundled up against the cold (especially my head, back and neck) I crossed the parking lot and was on the road home from Rockland with the heat in the car on high to try to start sweating.

5:15 PM
Now at home, but still not sweating at all. So, I took a second cup of the same Chinese herbal formula, which is warm, sweet and slightly acrid.  I drank it wrapped in a robe with a towel around my neck and my feet soaking in a hot bathtub. When I finished the tea and was still not sweating, I got all the way into the tub.  Eventually I had a light sweat on my neck and head. 

5:40 PM
Dried off and in my warm bed asleep.

8:00 PM?
I woke up with a dry cough and a feeling of dryness in my chest and head. So, I took another Chinese herbal formula (this time in pill form) designed to moisten the lungs and sinuses and I drink some warm water.  As I drift back to sleep, I think about what might have led to me getting sick: the dry, slightly bloody nose I noticed a day or so ago, but did nothing about, and/or the overeating and staying up late watching the Super Bowl.  

Tuesday, 6:00 AM
I read a story to my son, who had climbed into bed with me, while I decided if I was getting up or not.  My nose was still not congested (not even a drop) and the dryness in my head and chest seemed a bit better.  I had no appetite and still felt pretty achy.

6:30 AM
I decided that between the achy body, low energy, and lack of appetite after having not eaten for more than 12 hours, staying in bed a bit longer was the best thing.  Except for getting up to drink water, take some more moistening herbs and to take another hot bath, I slept all day. 

4:00 PM
After a bath, a sinus headache came on strong.  I tried to read and rest more hoping the headache would go away.

7:00 PM
The headache was keeping me from resting more.  Not having the motivation and energy to do the manual technique and moxibustion I use with patients with headaches and since the Chinese herbal headache formula was at the clinic, I opted for 400mg of ibuprofen. The headache went away and I fell back to sleep. (There is a time and place for Western Medicine -- for me not being able to get any rest meant reaching for a bottle of pain reliever, since rest was what my body needed to heal itself.)

Wednesday, 5:30 AM
I woke up feeling rested and definitely on the mend.  I went downstairs, started the woodstove and made a big breakfast for the still sleeping family.  I was starving for eggs, so I made mushroom and asparagus omelets with toast (no jam -- sweets make colds worse) and green tea.  

10:00 AM
I taped an herbal hot pad on my still achy low back and headed out to snowblow the driveway.  I stayed all bundled up even as the air warmed up, so I worked up a bit of a sweat.

12:30 PM
I was back inside with a powerful appetite.  So, I heated up some vegetable soup and a grilled cheese sandwich (not the best option given that dairy tends to make a lot of mucus) with spicy pepper.  The hot soup and spicy pepper together made me sweat some more around my head and neck.  I also drank more warm water.

1:30 PM
I snuggled into bed with my young daughter as she went down for her nap.  Laid low for the rest of the afternoon getting more rest since I was tired again. I also took another hot bath to ease my still achy back. Acupuncture and moxibustion or massage would have done wonders for this residual low back pain from the cold/flu. But, I was on my own.

4:00 PM
Wednesday I began writing this blog post and was feeling well enough (energy coming back, no nasal congestion, cough minimal and no longer dry) to know for sure I could be in the office and ready to help three patients tomorrow.  

Does this story of a cold/flu story end differently than yours usually does? The worst of it over with 36 hours and all major symptoms gone within 48 hours? I hear so many people in Maine talk about their lingering cold or flu… congestion and coughs that last for days or even weeks.  Low energy that just won’t bounce back.  A relapse of the worst symptoms of fever or aches and pains. 

It does NOT need to be that way.

Here in Maine, colds and flus are common.  So are stomach bugs, ear aches, and sinus infections. Used at the earliest stage of invasion, acupuncture, moxibustion and Chinese herbal medicine can prevent you from getting sick. But, when you inevitably do get sick, Eastern Medicine can keep your symptoms and length of sickness to a minimum.  Of course, eating right and getting enough rest are also hugely important– especially when our body calls out for rest in the strongest way possible: low energy and achy joints and muscles.

How can I take so much time in bed?

I make my health a priority. (And yes, my wife gets to do the same thing when she gets sick, while I take care of the kids.)

Luckily this time a snowstorm followed by an ice storm encouraged my patients to reschedule during the time when I needed to rest.  But if the weather had not forced it first, I certainly would have taken the initiative to reschedule them, rather than give them a poor treatment when my energy was low. Also, avoiding spreading my sickness when I was most contagious.

By taking care of myself first, I am able to take care of others.

EleanorBrownn Vessel Self Care Good Hearth Rockland Maine


Get Better Faster: An Herbalist's and Moxibustionist's Chronology of his own Cold/Flu Symptoms, Good Hearth in Rockland, Maine

The next time you start feeling a cold or flu coming on, please call for an acupuncture or moxibustion treatment and get yourself some custom Chinese herbal formulas to take home.  Prevention is the best medicine. But at the very first sign of the inevitable cold or flu, the next best medicine in Midcoast Maine is Good Hearth Eastern Medical Arts. You cannot afford to have lingering and recurring symptoms and many insurance plans will cover the cost of treatment. Better yet, use your insurance coverage to help maintain your balance and keep from getting sick in the first place.

Good Hearth currently bills in-network with Cigna insurance and can help get patients reimbursed through Anthem. Other major health insurance billing is coming very soon...
    Anthem Acupuncture Rockland Maine Good Hearth   Cigna Acupuncture Rockland Maine Good Hearth