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Immune-Boosting in Chinese Medicine: Therapeutic Strategies (Part II)

Immune Boosting is a Two-Step Process

Boosting the immune system in Chinese medicine is a two-step process. Immune stimulation includes everything we do to kick your immune response into high gear when it is actively fighting off “the bugs.” Immune tonification includes everything we do when you are well to strengthen your immune system and your metabolism as a whole. That way, you are in good shape to mount a robust response when under attack by “the bugs” and can avoid becoming ill.

It’s worth noting that this is more than simply a theoretical distinction. In Chinese herbalism, the herbs and foods used for immune stimulation and for tonification are completely different. In fact, mixing the two up can be contraindicated. Please consult your professional herbalist!

Immune Tonification

Immune tonification includes all of the lifestyle tips discussed in Part I of this blog post. Those are your first line of action for preventing illness during the cold and flu season. However, in certain situations, a healthy lifestyle may not be enough. Extra care should be taken by people who are:

  • working in schools, hospitals, prisons and other public institutions, where there are frequent and high levels of exposure to infectious illness.
  • elderly, frail or recovering from a chronic illness or serious injury.
  • under high stress from death of a loved one, divorce or other major life challenge.


Therapeutic strategies for immune tonification include:

  • regular acupuncture treatment, typically every one to four weeks.
  • a Chinese herbal formula, such as Evergreen Herbs Immune Plus or Cordyceps 3 , designed for immune tonification. Consult your herbalist to prescribe the right formula for you!
  • dietary strategies that specifically focus on incorporating foods, such as certain mushrooms, meats or herbs, which have immune-boosting properties.
  • receiving gentle, restorative body work, such as Zero Balancing.  This is especially recommended for those under high stress.
Immune Stimulation

As soon as we feel the slightest sign of a cold or flu coming on, it’s time for immune stimulation! The therapeutic strategies recommended in Chinese medicine are varied, and depend on the stage of illness, the severity, and the symptoms.

Herbal medicine really shines in treating viral and bacterial respiratory illnesses. Herbs are gaining recognition as a way to avoid the excessive use of antibiotics.

In general, we recommend:

  • take an appropriate herbal formula such as Evergreen Herbs Lonicera Complex, Herbal ENT, or Pinellia (XPT) prescribed by a professional herbalist.
  • stay home from work and rest if you are coming down ill. That way, you recover more quickly and don’t pass the illness to others.
  • acupuncture can be performed at the early stage of a cold or for a mild cold, and will help “kick it out.” If you are severely ill or have a fever, please stay home in bed.
  • avoid bodywork of any kind, including massage. Bodywork tends to create a mild stress which, when you are healthy, is helpful for “detox” and tissue recovery. However, when you are fighting off a cold, it’s an additional stressor that can drive the illness deeper.
  • cupping can be highly effective for bronchitis or a tenacious cough
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