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Expert Advice-Treatment of Immune Deficiency in Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM):

Traditional Chinese Medicine for Immune Deficiency

Nothing is more important to your health than a well-functioning immune system. Such ailments and diseases as the common cold, infections, asthma, food allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, and even cancer are all related to immune system dysfunction. Immuno-deficiency is a condition in which the immune system is suppressed by certain factors, making you vulnerable to disease and infection. It is one of many disorders related to the immune system.

It is clear from Chinese medicine textbooks that Chinese medicine practitioners have been dealing with immune system disorders for thousands of years. The symptoms that are described are those of immune deficiency, allergic reactions, and auto-immune disease. Effective treatments included natural herbs, dietary therapy, acupuncture, and Tai Chi. These treatments are especially effective because they focus on strengthening the immune system and stimulating the bodyís natural defense mechanisms. In this article I will deal primarily with how Chinese medicine treats immune deficiency.

You can often hear someone complaining in the following fashion: "My daughter gets one cold after another." "I just canít get rid of this cold Ė Iíve had it for six months." "I got pneumonia twice last winter." These are typical examples of immune deficiency problems.

One day, a patient came to my clinic looking for help. She had had pneumonia three times in the past six months, and had been taking antibiotics for quite a while, switching from one to another. Sometimes her health was better for a few weeks, but then the infection came back. She was very tired and stressed by her situation, and had no other solution than to continue taking the antibiotics. After she began receiving regular acupuncture treatments, combined with Chinese herbal therapy and diet modifications to support her immune system, her health improved dramatically.

As noted above, preventing disease and maintaining wellness are deeply rooted in the philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine. The idea of taking care of oneís body, and of forestalling illness before it manifests has become part of Chinese culture. There, you will see people drinking ginseng herbal tea with their breakfast, having astragalus chicken soup in a restaurant for lunch, and cooking a shiitake mushroom stir-fry for their dinner. It is not unusual for Chinese people to get regular acupuncture treatments for the purpose of enhancing their immune systems.

Diet and Nutrition
Shiitake mushroom is one of the leading foods recommended by Chinese medicine practitioners for enhancing immunity. It contains lentinan, an anti-viral substance which has a strong immuno-stimulating activity. These brown, beefy-tasting mushrooms are used as a substitute for meat in the Chinese diet. A mushroom and vegetable stir-fry makes the most delicious vegetarian dish. Besides shiitake mushrooms, other foods that are wonderful for our immune systems are garlic, sesame seeds, yogurt, and certain fruits and vegetables. The micro-nutrients beta carotene, zinc, and vitamins A, E, and C are also key elements in strengthening our immune system. A diet rich in these foods and nutrients and low in fat is very beneficial. 

Chinese Herbs and Herbal Formulas
Many Chinese herbs have strong immunity-enhancing effects. Astragalus is very well-known for its powerful "non-specific" immune system stimulating capacity, which works by increasing the numbers and activity of roving white blood cells. A study conducted at the University of Texas Medical Center in Houston showed that astragalus extracts were able to completely restore the function of immune cells in cancer patients. The immune system can certainly be tonified, or even completely restored, by using this herb. This sweet-tasting root is often sliced and simmered in chicken broth, or cooked with vegetable soup. As effective as astragalus is by itself, Chinese herbal formulas actually achieve a much stronger effect than single herbs. An herbal formula is not only more powerful than a single herb, but can cover a wider range of symptoms. Chi Spleen Tonic (Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang) is a formula that has been used in Chinese medicine for hundreds of years. Astragalus is the chief herb in this formula.

Chi Spleen Tonic (Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang)

Astragalus (Huang Qi)

Licorice (Gan Cao)

Agelica (Dang Gui)

Ginseng (Ren Shen)

Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi)

Cimicifuga (Sheng Ma)

Buplerum (Chai Hu)

Atractylodes (Bai Zhu)

Ginseng is the most popular Chinese herb on the market today. It is widely used as an immune system enhancer, and also as a general tonic. Most people do not know, however, that there are several types of ginseng available, including Chinese ginseng, Korean ginseng, American ginseng, and Siberian ginseng. Each of these varieties has a different property, and it is wise to consult with a Chinese medicine practitioner to determine which type is best for you. Literally hundreds of studies have been done on ginseng, and it has been found to have the following properties: it protects the liver; stimulates the immune system; prevents radiation damage to nerve tissue; has antioxidant effects; and prevents cancer. There are a number of ginseng products on the market these days, but the best results can be obtained with a traditional formula, Immunenergy (Shi Quan Da Bu Tang), which has been used for a thousand years to treat immune deficiency and fatigue. Ginseng is the chief herb in this formula. Testing in many countries has proven the efficacy of Shi Quan Da Bu Tang. It is also popular with post-cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy.

Immunenergy Formula (Shi Quan Da Bu Tang)

Angelica (Dang Gui)

Cnidium (Chuan Qiong)

Peony (Bai Shao)

Rehmannia (Shu Di Huang)

Ginseng (Ren Shen)

Atractylodes (Bai Zhu)

Poria (Fu Ling)

Licorice (Gan Cao)

Astragalus (Huang Qi)

Cinnamon (Rou Gui)

Acupuncture is another powerful tool to regulate the immune system. In China, people know how energetic they feel after having an acupuncture treatment, and they will use acupuncture as part of a plan for maintaining perfect health. In the United States, acupuncture was initially accepted as a valid treatment for pain-related issues, but it has the potential to treat a wide range of health problems, including immune deficiency. Research shows that acupuncture treatments can increase the bodyís T-cell count, as well as the number of cells that ingest and destroy bacteria, protozoa, and cell debris. A study shows that white blood cell counts and mobility have increased by 168 percent within three hours after treatment. Many people are beginning to realize that regular acupuncture treatments for their asthma, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, colds, or infections will relieve their symptoms. Actually, acupuncture can do much more than that: it can regulate immune function and treat the fundamental cause of disease.