La Vida: Health & Fitness

Integrated approaches to Western and Eastern medicine

By Virginia L. Clark
Posted 4/20/20

People have been mixing Western and Eastern approaches to health care forever. Tai chi, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, breathing exercises and a bastion of herbs are often used to contribute to many people’s wellness in Taos and the world over.

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La Vida: Health & Fitness

Integrated approaches to Western and Eastern medicine

Posted

People have been mixing Western and Eastern approaches to health care forever. Tai chi, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, breathing exercises and a bastion of herbs are often used to contribute to many people’s wellness in Taos and the world over.

As Taos Herb Company co-owner Rob Hawley said in his My Turn op-ed piece (Taos News, March 26-April 1) and as he reiterated April 2 by email, alternative medicine advocates like himself “believe strongly that there are many things that can be done to help support a body’s immune system.”

While no vaccine or supplement has yet been proven to inactivate the novel coronavirus that causes the respiratory COVID-19, many herbals and routines, both ancient and new, are part of “an overall approach to maintain or improve our health,” Hawley said, thereby reducing “our risk of becoming ill or reduce the severity of an illness.”

Traditional Chinese medicine’s herbal and acupuncture treatments are part of many Taoseños’ health regimens, including approaches to prevent infection by COVID-19.

Acupuncture

The ancient practice of acupuncture – placing thin needles on the body along so-noted “meridians” of energy – claims to boost qi (pronounced “chee”) to relieve pain, decrease stress and add to overall health and well-being.

While National Institutes of Health of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health doesn’t specifically endorse alternative and Chinese medicine per se, it does note the following:

“Some mind and body practices used in traditional Chinese medicine practices, such as acupuncture and tai chi, may help improve quality of life and certain pain conditions. Studies of Chinese herbal products used in traditional Chinese medicine for a range of medical conditions have had mixed results.” (nccih.nih.gov/health/traditional-chinese-medicine-what-you-need-to-know)

Of course, many Western and alternative medicine approaches have had mixed results. So, while alternative approaches are not substitutes for a cure for COVID-19, alternative medicine proponents like Hawley and others believe strongly in “many things that can be done to help support our immune systems.”

Herbal treatments

Herbal treatments, both ancient and new, are promoted to shore up resistance to viral infections, like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), illnesses caused by a coronavirus such as the one that leads to COVID-19, as well as other coronaviruses identified in the past.

As with all supplements and drugs, consumers must be aware that allergies to any food or drug are possible and to alert health care providers immediately if untoward effects are experienced.

Some doctors of Oriental medicine in Taos are providing “preventative” Chinese medicine treatments to people who have few or no symptoms, but who want to boost immunity and help relieve anxiety about the pandemic.

“People who don’t qualify for testing because they have no symptoms, and certainly don’t want to be exposed to the virus at the hospital test sites, still can be supported with good traditional Chinese herbs and acupuncture,” said Caroline Colonna, DOM, by phone of Willow Clinic, where she has been practicing in Taos for over 22 years.

Colonna offers both acupuncture and herbal support for prevention and treatment of COVID-19. “I think our community should be aware of what’s available to them. This knowledge may ease the uncertainty and discomfort a lot of people are experiencing at this moment.”

Clara Wetmore, DOM, from her Artemisia Clinic in Taos said in an email that the reports of herbal treatment she’s seen from China over the past months have shown classical Chinese herbal formulas for prevention, treatment and recovery.

“The Chinese government mandated traditional Chinese medicine treatment for all citizens who tested positive for COVID-19 in early February, which lessened the frequency of infection and sped up recovery time,” Wetmore said. “The reports of what doctors in China prescribed for different stages of the disease have been guideposts for DOMs like me here in the U.S. who are just now beginning to see more cases. The most successful and commonly used preventative formula is Yu Ping Feng San, a combination of astragalus root, Saposhnikovia root and white Atractylodes rhizome. The formulas for active infection vary widely depending on symptoms, timing, severity, etc., and are most successful when tailored to individual needs,” Wetmore said.

“I’ve treated a handful of presumptive [COVID-19] positive patients here in Taos, but none of the confirmed cases,” Wetmore noted. “The confirmed cases I’ve treated have been out of state, via telehealth and mailed herbal prescriptions.”

Wetmore stopped in-person visits March 18 since she doesn’t have staff to handle the extra workload. She does see patients over video-chat on doxy.me, and does herbal prescription pickup and mailing. Her patients typically go home with bags of herbs, moxa and instructions on body points to massage and use moxa on, which she says in a way can be more empowering for them, “than just coming to me to ‘fix’ them.”

Moxa, for moxibustion, according to American Institute of Alternative Medicine “is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves the burning of mugwort, a small, spongy herb, to promote healing both with and without acupuncture. The purpose of moxibustion, as with most traditional Chinese medicine, is to strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of qi, and maintain general health.” (aiam.edu/acupuncture/moxibustion)

Lilly-Marie Blecher, DOM and naturopathic doctor with Taos Whole Health Integrative Care, said their clinic is open because they are an integrative primary care clinic providing essential services, as New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has ordered. At Taos Whole Health, both Western and Eastern medicine practices are used. By closely following the medical treatment and patient progress reports from China and the world, Blecher is even more edified by her clinic’s integrative health approach using Western and traditional Chinese medicine.

“My teachers of Chinese medicine, and their teachers in China, have been reporting some important integrative approaches to preventing and treating the symptoms and disease caused by coronavirus,” Blecher said by email. “There is certainly a place for the use of any and all tools when it comes to this pandemic.”

While there are claims of COVID-19 underreporting by most industrialized nations in the world (India, China, Japan, Iran, etc.), U.S. Centers for Disease Control disclaims its annual influenza statistics as reflecting only such cases as proven by laboratory testing and outpatient visits for influenza-like illness, noting that rates of infection and deaths may be higher because of untested or nonhospitalized cases.

“Data gathered are used to estimate age-specific hospitalization rates on a weekly basis and describe characteristics of persons hospitalized with influenza illness. The rates provided are likely to be an underestimate as influenza-related hospitalizations can be missed if testing is not performed.” (cdc.gov/flu/weekly/overview.htm)

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Common over-the-counter herbal support

Herbs and products commonly recommended to support immune health include:

Zinc lozenges

Elderberry

Immune modulating mushrooms like reishi

(Taos Herb Company – Taos herbalist Rob Hawley

710 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, Taos (575) 758-1991 taosherb.com)

Elderberry Immune Syrup (with elderberry, local rose hips, fall-harvested osha root, horehound, local honey, ginger and orange zest)

(Wild Earth Remedies – Taos herbalist/wildcrafter Cindy Stone

(575) 613-0211, wildearthcreams.com)

Osha cinnamon honey

Root defense honey (turmeric, ginger, ashwaganda, osha, cinnamon, cardamom and clove)

Elderberry osha root syrup

(High Desert Honey – Ranchos de Taos beekeeper/herbalist Katee Kleiber

(575) 999-1812, highdeserthoneyco@gmail.com)

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Contacts

Lilly-Marie Blecher, DOM, naturopathic doctor

Taos Whole Health Integrative Care, 1331 Maestas Road, Taos

info@taoswholehealth.org, (575) 776-7806

Caroline Colonna, DOM

Willow Clinic, 1103 Don Juan Valdez Lane, El Prado

colonna@nets.com, (575) 758-5070

Clara Wetmore, DOM

Artemisia Clinic, 125B La Posta Road, Suite 16, Taos

info@artemisiaclinic.com, (575) 737-8007

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