I am reaching out to the profession regarding the issue of the H1N1 virus and swine flu. Regardless of your perspectives on the illness, I ask that you consider an idea that may have a profound impact on both this disease and our profession.
People are becoming more concerned that swine flu will become a widespread pandemic. Heightening these concerns is the steady increase of infected patients while the Western health care system's drug companies are having difficulty producing an adequate amount of vaccinations to meet the growing need. Furthermore, a significant portion of the population does not want to receive the vaccination.
As practitioners of acupuncture and Oriental medicine, we have the capacity to be of great benefit in this potential medical crisis. Chinese medicine has addressed cold and flu conditions for thousands of years using Shang Han and Wen Bing strategies.1,2 We need to educate the public about who we are and what can we do for them. We cannot cure or prevent the swine flu, but our strategies can strengthen immune systems to limit the potential of infection, and we can help diminish and alleviate the symptoms of those who become infected.
Let us consider the idea of offering one aspect of Chinese medicine and presenting a simple acupuncture treatment protocol or rationale that can be quickly and repeatedly implemented throughout the country. Let that aspect be on the preventive, particularly as that is where there is a shortage of medical resources. Perhaps this also creates an opportunity to develop the largest Western research project in history that uses Chinese medicine. We could have a sample population of millions to test the efficacy of acupuncture in an epidemic scenario.
A significant factor not discussed to date is that of fear. What the American people hear is the President issuing a decree that we are in a national health crisis, there is a lack of a vital protective vaccination, and that children are the most susceptible to serious complications of the disease, including death. All these factors are making fear an ally to this virus. As we understand, this fear will affect the kidney yang's ability to support the lung and wei qi. Stress, including fear, taxes the adrenal glands and evokes a sympathetic reaction that, over time, weakens the immune response. Treating with acupuncture as a preventative swine flu measure helps allay the fear by supporting the kidney, and giving the public something that they can do to protect themselves.
A specific clinical strategy I am suggesting comes from an eloquent treatment protocol I learned from Keikobad. That protocol calls for for boosting the qi, utilizes the points LU9, LI11, SP6, ST36, Ren4, and ear points right LU and Shen Men, and left ST, KI, SP.
Keikobad explains, "ST36 is, of course, a powerful tonic, but when used with LI11, becomes the yang ming pair of vessels, which carry much qi. Both are Sea points for their own vessels, so that one catches the qi as it flows from the surface to within the system. This pair also holds a position of power on the horary grid. LI begins its flow exactly at sunrise at 5 a.m. and continues until 7 a.m. when it passes its qi on to the ST channel, which carries it all the way to 9 a.m., when the day is well into its stride."
ST36 also is uses alone as a strong immune tonic point. He goes on: "SP6 is chosen because with one needle, one can regulate all three Great Leg Yins. If you palpate the location, massage it till the qi arrives, and then place the needle, wondrous results follow. LU9 is the point where all qi begins its diurnal journey and in 24 hours, ends it, to begin again. An interesting combination is when a LU vessel is chosen together with a SP vessel, for the two form another of the six pairs of channels, the Tai Yin. Ren4, Gate of Origin, holds primeval qi, which serves to produce a fortifying yin under all circumstances."
It also is at the root of both the kidney yin and yang.3 Keikobad also recommends alternatively using moxabustion on BL12 and ST36 for the prevention of a cold or the flu, specifically.4 The protocol is recommended for people 12 years of age and above. For children younger than 12, acupressure or use of a Tiger Warmer is recommended. The ideal frequency of application is recommended at three times the first week and then twice weekly for another three weeks. The frequency of application can be modified to address practicality and compliance. A more comprehensive understanding of his ideas can be found on his Web site at www.acu-free.com, and his article is titled "Acupuncture for Preventing Swine Flu."
We may all have our own strategies and protocols we can recommend to accomplish a similar result described above. Let us use it as the model to present to our patients and the American public. We can apply these principles to our regular patients, and establish "acupuncture swine flu prevention clinics." Working with your local public health officials, local medical doctors and schools will allow for the greatest utilization of the services. The financial reimbursement may come from a number of possibilities: strictly fee for service, a package fee for all sessions, a family package, government funding, and/or research money.
The clinics will not require the extensive individual one-on-one that regular patient care requires. I rather envision multiple patients in a clinic setting where the practitioner goes patient to patient, applying the protocols described above. A simple brochure explaining the rationale, efficacy and safety should be presented to patients. We can also show people the locations of the treatment points and teach them to do acupressure self care for themselves and their families. It may have value to teach the medical doctors how and where to treat these points, in the spirit of addressing the crisis.
The concept I present is somewhat unreasonable. I am suggesting that our profession unite to develop an organized nationwide plan to care for a health crisis, get approval of government and medical systems that at best do not understand what we do, have the American public understand it sufficiently to buy in to the concept and utilize it, and do this in a expedient, effective way. Crisis, however, brings out the best in people. We know what we do can make a big difference here. What happens comes down to our ability to rise up to this challenge. For it to work, it will take those with their particular skills and relationships to fully participate. I suggested that we come together to share our experiences and work to promote our medicine for the sake of our current patients and potential patients, letting them know that they have an option.
Zhang Zhong-Jong. Shang-Han Lun (Treatise of Exogenous Febrile Diseases or Discourse of Cold Damage Disorders).
Wu You-Xing, Wen Yi Lun (Discussion of Epidemic Warm Disease).