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Everything starts somewhere.

California, in 2010, saw its worst whooping cough outbreak in 60 years. Previously vaccinated individuals were getting it, babies were dying. It was a terrible time for anyone prone to worry.

In California, in 2010, I was a first time mom.

Of course life continues through an epidemic, the same as now but to a greater degree since the outbreak was only California and, while terrible, we knew what to expect of it.  At that time I was attending classes at PCOM, learning acupuncture points, diagnosis, and herbs. Doing ok mostly, keeping the baby home, staying away from people as much as possible, but fear doesn’t care about your precautions and it doesn’t care if you’re in class. When it wants to try to knock you over, it will.

One of these waves of terror washed over me during a points prescription class. I tore through my note cards, searching for the prescription for whooping cough so I could practice it. Memorize it. Get it on a tattoo.

One thing you learn pretty quickly in acupuncture school is that trying to match a Western medical diagnosis one-for-one with a Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis is an exercise in futility. Because we treat not only the symptom that brings people to us, but also the underlying condition that caused or allowed it, five different people with one western diagnosis could require five different treatment plans, five different herbal formulas. The exact prescription for “whooping cough” wasn’t there.

Before class was over I approached the teacher, a calm lady with a sense of humor. Hesitatingly, knowing our diagnosis method was different but desperately wanting something I could cling to, I said casually, “So…what do you do for whooping cough?” Her reply informs my practice to this day. She responded with a smile (perhaps I was not as casual as I thought) and no hesitation:

“You have to remember that everything starts somewhere.”

She encouraged me that while a condition may grow into something that can receive a diagnosis from Western Medicine, it all starts somewhere along the different stages that we learn in Chinese Medicine and if you can interrupt its progression, what it “was” according to testing is less of an issue.

One of the first diagnoses we learned was a process of differentiating types of what most people call “a cold.” There are heat varieties, cold varieties, a component of deficiency…so if you can clear the heat when the symptoms first start, or if you can release the cold from the channels, or if you can strengthen where there is deficiency, the disease process becomes interrupted or sped along and you never find out what would have happened if you hadn’t treated it. She discussed whooping cough with me in this context and by the end of that discussion I felt a lot more calm, a lot more capable, and I had some signs in mind to keep out for symptoms that would come long before the wracking cough that could be so detrimental.

I share all of this with you now because while we are in the middle of a pandemic, a novel coronavirus that, to our knowledge, has not been seen in humans before, everything starts somewhere. Interrupting a disease process, lessening a disease process, aiding in recovery for a disease process are all in the scope of TCM, no matter what that disease is or how long the world has seen it.

From all appearances, COVID-19 has a strong element of dampness to it, as you may have seen in a previous blog post. People experience a range of symptoms that may include what we are told to watch for: fever, dry cough, difficulty breathing, but the symptoms vary by person and constitution and may also include diarrhea, loss of smell/taste…couple that with the fact that this is still the typical flu season, as well as the typical time for allergies, and it can be very difficult to know how much you should worry.

It’s important to remember that it’s not only about what does the disease do, but what does the disease do in your body and that will vary based on individual constitutions, genetic tendencies, stress levels, and so on.  So if you’re in the stages where you would stay home anyway, it’s a perfect time to seek an herbal consultation.  Herbs can also help if you have been diagnosed one way or the other and are sent to recover at home. Herbs can also help in a hospital setting but that’s not our model of healthcare (yet) in the United States, but you get my point: herbs can help.

And we’re here.

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