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Energy and immunity strengthening in lockdown: the Traditional Chinese Medicine guide

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has made us all change the way we live in a very short time.

My clinic remains open to patients, but I am also offering online consultations to anyone who prefers to continue their treatment from home.

Either way, the combination of lockdown and working from home (for those lucky enough to remain in employment) are an opportunity to look after your energy and immunity. Here are some tips from Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Get enough sleep

Try to get enough sleep each night. Many patients have come to my clinic this last month saying they are having trouble sleeping because they are worrying about the current world situation.

Try to be in bed half an hour before you want to fall asleep without any radio, television, or online news. Listen to music, escape in a good book, do a guided meditation, or unrelated podcast. Allow yourself time to unwind and calm down before bed.

If you find you are still waking at night, try having a 20-minute power nap in the early afternoon to top up sagging energy levels.

Eat well

Nutrition plays a key role in keeping us well and strong. Focus on eating a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, and avoiding sugar and short release carbohydrates, such as chocolate digestives. If you are working from home, it can be tempting to snack more on sugary foods. Try to have healthy and protein-based snacks at hand to prevent this from happening.

I love snacking on almonds with kalamata olives, boiled eggs, or medjool dates.

Fight stress with meditation or nature

This is a stressful time for everyone, and stress can leave us open to falling ill. We need to focus now more than ever on doing things to give us a break from the constant barrage of stress. Even 5 minutes’ guided meditation or mindfulness can help to calm our central nervous system. If you have never meditated, there are many great apps you can put on your phone to guide you through.

My favourite is Insight Timer (download app for iPhone or Android), which gives you access to hundreds of different types of meditations and guides.

Being in nature is another great way to de-stress. Even a walk around the garden for 5 minutes can really bring us back to our centre.

Exercise to strengthen the lung

As you may know, I am a big fan of Qi Gong (which is an ancient Chinese exercise system that includes meditation, controlled breathing and movement exercises).

Peter Deadman has shared a free Qi Gong sequence specifically to strengthen the lung. Watch it below:

Acupuncture

Of course acupuncture treatment makes pretty much everyone feel calm. I am working hard to keep everyone’s energy and immunity strong in the clinic at the moment.

Herbal medicine

There are many Chinese herbal formulas that are traditionally used to strengthen energy and immunity. If you would like a tailored formula to be sent out to you, contact the clinic.

However, there are also a few herbs that you may have at home that can help you, should you feel that you are starting to become ill:

Ginger (Zingiberis rhizoma)

The traditional use of ginger in Chinese herbal medicine is to warm interior cold.

It also transforms cold damp or phlegm in the lungs. Ginger is used for the beginning of a cold (that is the traditional cold without fever) because, as well as transforming phlegm, it is hot and pungent and warms the body.

It’s great for mucussy issues like a head cold. I often sip ginger tea on the colder mornings if I am feeling a little sinussy. To make your own ginger tea, chop a thumbnail-sized slice of fresh ginger and steep it in hot water. Add a lemon slice for flavour and vitamin C. If you have a dry cough or tickly throat, add a little honey and sip sip sip.

For a twist, you may want to try this ginger tea with egg recipe, which will add some Vitamin B, D and Zinc to the mix.

Cinnamon (Cinnamomi ramulus)

According to the TCM Materia Medica, cinnamon affects the lung and unblocks the energy in the chest.

Again, this is a warming herb, so it is not to be used with fever or sweating. But it is very effective in the beginning stages of a cold. Cinnamon tea should not be taken if you are pregnant as it also increases blood circulation.

You can make a tea by boiling water and adding cinnamon to taste, or by boiling a small saucepan of water with a rolled stick of cinnamon (cinnamon cortex). I also like this BBC recipe for adding cinnamon to black tea.

Mint (Menthae haplocalycis herba)

You may have a mint plant in your garden with fresh leaves that you can pick, or possibly some dried leaves in your spice rack.

Mint is cooling and clearing and we use it in Chinese herbal medicine when there is fever, headache, cough, and heat in the head and eyes. You will have noticed in the clinic that I often infuse a little fresh mint and lemon in water in the summer months.

To use mint medicinally, steep fresh leaves in hot water.

Of course, if you start to develop symptoms of COVID-19, you must contact your GP or nearest hospital

Wishing everybody patience, strength, and calm in this strange time. Stay kind to yourself and others.

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