One of the many benefits of being a health care provider in Oriental Medicine is the resources and knowledge I have on hand when I, or someone in my family, gets sick. I feel really grateful for access to this medicine, and I’d like to pass some of these tips on to you. Please note this is not an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination–and I encourage you to recommend your own tried and true home remedies and herbal formulas in the comments below…
First, three good supplements for overall health and prevention of disease:
There are so many supplements on the market and not a lot of straightforward information, free of marketing, behind them. I take supplements daily, but not many. Here is my short list that I would recommend to *almost* everyone (all supplements should be stopped 5-7 days before surgery; some people have allergies or other medical conditions that may make certain supplements inappropriate):
1. Take a high quality Omega 3 (with Vitamin D3) supplement. (I like Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega D3, but there are many, many brands on the market). For the most part, I recommend staying away from Fish Oil supplements that contain Omega 6s and 9s–our diets already have too many 6s and 9s. (Click HERE to understand why.) Even if you eat fish, I still recommend taking an Omega 3 supplement to ensure you are getting enough. This one supplement can make a huge difference in how you feel. (Omega 3 health benefits.)
2. Take Probiotics. They help with sleep, immunity, skin, digestion, mental wellbeing, cholesterol levels, allergies…the list goes on.
HOW TO TAKE PROBIOTICS: Pick a brand of probiotics that has as many strains as you can find (I like MegaFood’s MegaFlora). Start the probiotics slowly. Take less than the recommended dose, or take one probiotic pill every few days. On occasion, probiotics can cause a die off of unhealthy gut bacteria and result in gas, bloating, and diarrhea (as well as acne and rashes). It’s not a “bad” reaction–your body is detoxing–but an uncomfortable one that will be diminished if you start slowly. Increase your daily water intake to help with any possible detox side effects. Once you are taking probiotics without a bad reaction, take the normal dose and finish the bottle. After a few weeks, purchase a different brand of probiotics with different strains. Finish that bottle and take another break. In addition to taking probiotics out of a bottle, live probiotic cultures are often found in fermented dairy products such as yogurts and milk drinks. Fermented foods like pickled vegetables, tempeh, miso, kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut and soy products may also contain some lactic acid bacteria so these foods will also help to balance your gut.
3. If you feel the need to take vitamins, make sure they are Plant-Based Vitamins and not synthetic. Most vitamins on the market are synthetically produced in a lab. These are hard for your body to assimilate. Plant-based (sometimes called food-based or whole food vitamins) are made from food. Your body knows what to do with them! You can find plant-based vitamins in good grocery stores and natural pharmacies, or I can order them for you from my favorite company Standard Process. A word of warning–some of these vitamin companies like to add a variety of herbs into their mix that can interfere with other herbs or medications you are taking, so I don’t recommend these unless you do your research and make sure these herbs are right for you.
By the way, Standard Process has vitamin and supplement support for most health conditions (from infertility and high blood pressure to diabetes, depression, and memory loss). I have found, in some cases, the addition of these food-based supplements to have quite extraordinary results. I can help you to decide if adding these supplements would be right for you– just ask!
Second, common Chinese Formulas to have in your medicine cabinet:
1. Yin Qiao San for colds: Yin Qiao is well known and popular. To take it correctly, take it on first signs of a cold. Increase the first one or two doses by about half (sometimes you can stop the cold in its tracks when you do this). Yin Qiao can be found in good grocery stores or natural pharmacies, or can be ordered online. A common, good brand is “Plum Flower” by Oakland-based Mayway Company. However, my favorite brand is Kan Herbal (which can’t be found in stores); I find it to be most effective. Let me know if you want me to order the Kan Herbal Yin Qiao for you to have on hand.
2. Lonicera Complex by Evergreen Herbs for the flu. The flu is harder to treat than colds without help. Cupping and acupuncture and herbs make a huge difference. My new favorite flu formula is Lonicera Complex from Evergreen Herbs. It has strong anti-viral herbs and anti-bacterial herbs. I helped a number of patients this year recover from flu with this formula. I was also exposed repeatedly to the flu this year, and found myself coming down with flu symptoms. I heavily dosed with this formula the first day of my symptoms and the next day was symptom free. I am happy to order it for you if you want it in your first aid kit. You can also find Gan Mao Ling, another herbal formula for the flu, in most good grocery stores / natural pharmacies.
3. Supplements for Cold sores: There is a lot of help for cold sores beyond the Abreva type topicals that tend to come with awful side effects. Here are my favorite proven supplements and topicals: Calcium Lactate by Standard Process, Watermelon Frost (a topical formula that’s not pretty, but it works), and Lysine (an amino acid that can be found most places that sell vitamins). Note that the HSV1 virus that is responsible for cold sores can be ‘awakened’ by stress and by consuming a diet that has a high ratio of Arginine to Lysine. Eating lots of foods high in Arginine like chocolate, peanuts and almonds, and not enough foods high in Lysine, like red meat, dairy and eggs can promote the recurrence of HSV1 symptoms, especially during times of stress or illness. You can avoid high Arginine foods and supplement with Lysine routinely or specifically during times of high stress or low immunity.
4. Herbs for Headaches: Occasional headaches can sometimes be remedied simply with hydration and rest. Chronic headaches, sinus headaches, stress headaches or hormonal headaches can be more of a challenge. Cupping to the upper back and shoulder area can often help to relieve stress headaches. With acupuncture we often use points on the feet to treat the head (to bring the energy down). Sinus headaches are often related to digestion, and a need to recondition the gut (with probiotics and dietary changes and herbs). Other stubborn headaches require commitment to treatment with acupuncture and herbs. I have had a lot of success with patients using two Chinese Herbal formulas— Corydalin (AC) for acute headaches and Corydalin (CR) for chronic headaches. These are both purchased through Evergreen Herbs and typically cannot be purchased online without a license. Hormonal headaches require acupuncture and herbs to regulate the hormones.
5. Bao He Wan or “Curing Pills” for stomach aches due to overeating. These can be found in most natural pharmacies, or I can order them for you from my favorite herb suppliers.
6. There are also good formulas to have on hand for other common complaints, such as occasional hemorrhoids and heartburn. I am happy to talk with you about herbal formulas or teas to have on hand for these and other common ailments.