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Post Covid/Vaccine Treatment with Chinese Medicine


Toronto Long COVID Care with Chinese Medicine

Post-COVID or long COVID is a non-pathogen-specific condition that conventional medicine is having trouble managing, due to its wide variety of symptoms across multiple organs and body systems. On the other hand, Chinese medicine has the advantage of using holistic treatment such as herbs and acupuncture to help the body restore its function and balance. It can be used as a safe and effective alternative for patients who suffer from long COVID.

Read my 3 case studies of using Chinese medicine to treat post-Covid/Vaccine patients.

What is long COVID and its symptoms?

For the majority of people who catch COVID-19, the illness comes and goes in a matter of one or two weeks. However, some people (about 20% of those who contract COVID-19) develop lingering symptoms. This condition is commonly referred to as long COVID, Post- COVID, long-haul COVID, or post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC).

Many of the symptoms that have been reported are similar to those that happen during the initial course of infection.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). these symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog (difficulty thinking or concentrating)
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Skin rash
  • Loss of taste or smell

New symptoms may develop in the weeks or month after the initial infection, many of which are neurological and hormonal symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sleep problems
  • Mood changes
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Pins-and-needles sensation in the body
  • Post-exertional malaise: Exhaustion after physical or mental activities
  • Changes in menstrual cycles

Among all these symptoms, body pain and lung symptoms seem to be the most prevalent symptoms of long COVID or post-COVID.

Understanding the pathology and mechanism

The main pathological factors involved in post COVID have been hypothesised by the medical professionals: uncontrolled inflammation, blood coagulation activation, autonomic nervous system damage.

1. Inflammation in the lungs and phlegm/mucus
Our body mounts an immune response on our (is this correct, “on our”?) respiratory system when we encounter COVID-19, which can result in inflammation and the production of mucus.
The body uses the cough reflex to expel the mucus. If the body produces too much mucus or the mucus is too sticky to cough out, it not only causes less gas exchange in the lung, it also increases the chance for secondary bacterial infection to occur. This becomes a vicious cycle that leads to chronic cough and possible lung damage in the long term.

The fibrositic process is also happening as a consequence of the immune/inflammatory response to COVID-19. The fibres make the phlegm sticky and difficult to expel, which makes the body cough harder and more frequently. This can cause chest pain, muscle tightness, fatigue and disturbed sleep.
For a healthy person, the body can return to normal quickly after the infection. However, if the body has trouble clearing the inflammation and its products in time, it can create a vicious cycle for secondary infections and create more problems for the body to handle.

2. Cardiovascular inflammation and micro-clotting
Scientists have suggested that the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein may play a major role in the pathology of COVID long haulers or long COVID patients. Studies have found that immune cells carry the spike proteins in the blood circulation and cause vascular inflammation with micro-clotting.

Depending on what organs and body parts are affected by the inflammation and micro-clotting, it may cause a ray of conditions such as myocarditis, chest pain, kidney issues, liver inflammation, muscle aches, sciatica, etc.

The similar pathology may also happen to some people who received COVID-19 vaccinations, which can cause these symptoms. I had a case in which I treated a patient with post-COVID vaccine symptoms with Kampo medicine (Chinese herbs).

3. Dysautonomia
There are over 200 different symptoms and 10 affected organs that have been reported by long COVID patients. Some experts think such a wide range of symptoms are caused by Dysautonomia, a condition that is caused by a dysregulated Autonomic Nervous System (ANS).

Dysautonomia may be correlated to loss of smell and/or taste, a common neurological symptom in post COVID patients.

How long does it take to recover from long COVID?

How long the long COVID symptoms last varies from person by person. Based on this article, researchers found some neurological symptoms can last from 11 – 18 months. People who had very mild symptoms during COVID infection are still at risk of having long COVID.


What are the treatments for post-COVID conditions?

Because of the wide variety of 200+ symptoms, there are no effective drugs that have been approved for post-COVID conditions. Depending on the individual symptoms, the treatments to help patients cope with long COVID include: pain medications, breathing exercises, cognitive therapy and antibiotics. Doctors usually suggest post-COVID patients rest and keep the body hydrated.

Can Chinese medicine and acupuncture help me with long COVID?

As we discussed before, long COVID is a non-pathogen specific condition (negative COVID test) and it is difficult for Western medicine’s pathogen-specific methodology to deal with this very new situation. Chinese medicine focuses on improving the organ functions by applying a holistic approach that can address the underlying factors. Both herbal medicine and acupuncture can address multiple organs and body systems simultaneously in a cohesive manner with low risk.

Your Chinese medicine practitioners use the TCM assessment tools to identify the imbalance in your body and create a treatment plan to address these problems, either with herbal medicine, acupuncture, cupping therapy, manual therapy, or a combination of one or more modalities.

How to treat chronic cough with TCM?
The lung is the organ that is the most affected by COVID infection. Chronic cough is one the most common symptoms among people recovering from COVID disease. According to this study: (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8983072/)

“Conclusion, About 44.9% of COVID-19 survivors appear to have developed pulmonary fibrosis.”

The vicious cycle of inflammation -> mucus production -> second infection -> more mucus can go on for a long time. And it may cause permanent damage to the lung and other implications in the future.

After the health history intake and examining the signs and symptoms, your Chinese medicine practitioners can customize a herbal formula with different ingredients based on your condition, There are Chinese herbs that can inhibit the fibrosis process. Some herbs are good at reducing the inflammation and other herbs can loosen the mucus from the membrane so the body can expel it more easily. Thanks to the teamwork from those herbs, patients suffering from chronic cough can recover faster and avoid, or reduce, the damage to their lungs.

Well trained and licensed acupuncturists can use cupping therapy and needle the points that connect to the lungs to help remove the phlegm/mucus, improve the lung’s function, and help the body recover faster.

How to treat vascular inflammation with Chinese medicine?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the blood clotting problem is considered “blood stagnation” or “blood blockage”. In the Kampo tradition, this is called “Oketsu” or “blood toxicity“. We believe the main cause of the pain, including chest pain, is “blood stagnation”. This theory is consistent with long COVID cases and makes sense with the above findings from the CDC that musculoskeletal pain is one of the prevalent symptoms among long COVID patients.

Chinese medicine practitioners often use a group of herbs that can reduce the coagulations and increase blood velocity along with acupuncture to treat pain-related symptoms.

Can Chinese medicine help my loss of smell or taste?
The loss of smell or taste is a stubborn and strange symptom that can last several months before long COVID patients can regain their senses. Medical professionals consider this a neurological problem, but in Chinese medicine, it is not only a neurological dysfunction, it is also a digestive disorder. That is because smell and taste are closely connected to our digestive system, especially digestive juice and enzyme secretion. Have you had the experience in which once you smell some delicious food, you begin salivating and your stomach starts gurgling? From my clinical experience, the decrease of loss of smell and taste is usually accompanied by decreased appetite and other digestive issues.

In Chinese herbology, we use aromatic herbs to treat decreased appetite and indigestion. These aromatic herbs are also recommended by other health professionals to help regain the loss of smell and taste for long COVID patients. The difference between aromatic treatment and Chinese herbal treatment is that we don’t only use aromatic herbs. We also use other herbs to restore overall digestive function, such as regulating peristalsis, reduce congestion, and increase blood circulation in the digestive organs, etc. Chinese medicine is a true holistic medicine that always looks at and treats the body as a whole, not as separate organs and systems.

A typical combination of two formulas: Xiao Chai Hu Tang and Xiang Su San, is what I often use to treat loss of smell or taste after a viral infection. The first one is go-to formula to treat viral infection such as influenza, the second one it a formula for digestive health. Both formulas were developed almost 2000 years ago, the use of treating loss of smell was recommended in the Song Dynasty’s herbal book, which is about 1000 years ago. Similar to the many repurposed drugs(i.e ivermectin, monoclonal antibodies etc.) being used to treat COVID-19 effectively, Chinese medicine has a vast collection of formulas that can help long COVID patients to manage their symptoms and restore body function.

Other symptoms, such as insomnia, anxiety, myocarditis, heart palpitation, and brain fog can also be addressed by Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture treatment.

For the details of how I use Chinese medicine to help long COVID patients, you can read my case studies HERE.

Dalu Wang is a licensed Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner and Acupuncturist in Toronto, Ontario. He provides in-person treatment at Kampo Health Clinic in Yorkville, Toronto. He also provides remote consultation and treatment for people who have suffered from post-COVID conditions.

Disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only. The author of this article is not approved by the FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. You should consult with your physician for your medical conditions.

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