Integrative Medicine Blog

Point of the Month: Lung 11 (For Prevention)

Liza Pollock L.Ac, M.Ac.O.M. Friday, February 15, 2019

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

The best way to prevent colds and flus is to proactively take care of yourself now. Decisions and actions you take today will determine how you feel tomorrow. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are gentle and supportive ways to boost immunity and maintain health. Have you heard the adage, ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?’ Benjamin Franklin actually said this, but for integrative practitioners, preventative medicine is ideally how to ensure good health. In ancient China, the doctors who were considered the best and who were highly regarded, were those without any sick patients, rather those who helped their patients to maintain good health.

That being said, the human body is not a machine, it is a highly complex and sometimes sensitive entity, susceptible to multiple influences from the outside world, from our internal structures and systems, from our minds, emotions, and spirits. If you have trouble conceptualizing or experiencing the mind-body connection, think about biting into a lemon, or even just the act of slicing a kiwi and getting ready to eat it—what happens? You salivate. Now imagine what could be happening to your body with all your various thoughts.

This isn’t to say that you can think yourself into a cold or flu, but if your thoughts are so negative or disturbed, or you’re under uncomfortable stress too often, this can suppress the immune system. This in turn opens the body to be more susceptible to those outside influences, such as viruses, which in Chinese medicine are considered external wind-heat or wind-cold invasions. Acupuncture and herbs at initial onset and along different stages of respiratory illness are very effective, at stopping illness in its tracks or at least decreasing severity and duration. Signs and symptoms of a wind-heat invasion are sore throat, thirst, fever, headache, sweating, sometimes yellow phlegm in the nose or throat; whereas a wind-cold invasion would manifest as tight neck and shoulders, chills, no sweating, with clear and watery mucus. In either case, acupuncture points are chosen that release the exterior (think of this as pushing out what is trying to invade), expel wind, and either clear heat or cold.

At initial onset of a sore throat, there is an acupuncture point that can almost immediately take this away. Again, we are not machines, so this may not happen every single time, but I have had a sore throat gone in 20 minutes after needling this point. It is the last point on the lung channel, Lung 11, located on the radial side of the thumb at the bottom corner of the nail. The very first or last points on channels are sometimes used in emergency situations, in this case the sudden onset of a sore throat, to clear heat causing that burning pain. This point is even used in emergencies such as fainting or loss of consciousness, to revive consciousness.

So this winter, however you can, send loving thoughts to yourself and find ways to de-stress. This is one of the ways that acupuncture encourages the body to heal, by bringing the nervous system into a parasympathetic state, which is the relax, rest & digest state. Far too often we are in a sympathetic state, which is the fight or flight state, where our bodies are preparing and acting as if we are about to engage in intense physical activity like running from danger. This takes a toll on our health, and in order to allow the body to do what it is built to do- to heal itself- we must bring ourselves into the rest and digest mode. Acupuncture does this, meditation does this, creative and joyful activities can do this, as well as enough good quality sleep. Allow yourself time to slow down, even if it’s just for that hour long acupuncture appointment.