- 2012elections - 9/11 Special Coverage - aca - africanamericanalzheimers - aids - Alabama News Network - american - Awards & Expo - bees - bilingual - border - californiaeducation - Caribbean - cir - citizenship - climatechange - collgeinmiami - community - democrats - ecotourism - Elders - Election 2012 - elections2012 - escuelas - Ethnic Media in the News - Ethnicities - Events - Eye on Egypt - Fellowships - food - Foreclosures - Growing Up Poor in the Bay Area - Health Care Reform - healthyhungerfreekids - howtodie - humiliating - immigrants - Inside the Shadow Economy - kimjongun - Latin America - Law & Justice - Living - Media - memphismediaroundtable - Multimedia - NAM en Espaol - Politics & Governance - Religion - Richmond Pulse - Science & Technology - Sports - The Movement to Expand Health Care Access - Video - Voter Suppression - War & Conflict - 攔截盤查政策 - Top Stories - Immigration - Health - Economy - Education - Environment - Ethnic Media Headlines - International Affairs - NAM en Español - Occupy Protests - Youth Culture - Collaborative Reporting

Traditional Healers Choose to Fight H1N1 Naturally

New America Media, News Feature, Elena Shore, Viji Sundaram, and Vivian Po Posted: Nov 09, 2009

Traduccin al espaol

SAN FRANCISCO -- As the death rate of the H1N1 (swine flu) virus surpassed 1,000 people in the United States, Chinese medicine practitioners, Ayurvedic healers, and Latino yerberas (herbalists) faced a dilemma: whether to tell their clients to get the vaccine - which is recommended by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) - or to prescribe alternative treatments.

Charles Garca, director of the California School of Traditional Hispanic Herbalism, in Richmond, Calif., says that when it comes to the H1N1 virus, There is a lot of fear - and fear-mongering on the part of alternative health practitioners.

Im not anti-vaccine at all. I know that a lot of alternative health practitioners are. Im a little older than some of my colleagues and I still remember killer flus and epidemics, said the 55-year-old.

After a stroke some 12 years ago left him debilitated, Garca decided to follow in the footsteps of his mother and her father, practicing herbalism that California Hispanics evolved here, steeped in both native and Spanish cultures. The tradition is one that goes back generations in California, where his family is from, incorporating all of the influences of the state, from the customs of the Franciscan padres and Native Americans to traditional medicines used by the Chinese who came here as miners and to build railroads.

Garca has successfully treated at least 10 people who had the H1N1 flu. But, he cautions, its a bear to treat.

The H1N1 virus is easy to catch; it strikes the upper and lower lobes of the lungs; and it strikes healthy people. It is better to get a vaccine and prevent it, he said, than to get H1N1 and try herbal remedies once you have it.

He recommends steam therapy with essential oils, thyme, rosemary, white sage and eucalyptus; garlic and Vitamin C to strengthen the immune system; and strong rosehip syrup or tea. All of these things will help your body fight off the flu, he added, but it will not prevent it.

To do that, Garca says, people should wash their hands regularly, avoid large crowds of people, use hot water and soap, and get the vaccine.

But Garca has noticed that immigrants who have a traditional view and an economic fear of medicine, tend to be more resistant to getting vaccinated than those who were born here.

I explain to them what I know about the vaccine, that Ive had it myself, I believe it is safe, my entire family has gotten it, and were okay, but that Ill respect their decision, Garca said.

Ada Almenderez, who has worked as an herbalist for 13 years at La Casa de la Salud in San Franciscos Mission District, understands this hesitation. Im 50 years old and Ive never gotten a vaccine in my life. My grandparents never took vaccines, said the native of Nicaragua.

Do you know who has the worst health in the U.S.? The people who were born here, she said. When I came to this country when I was 22 years old, I went to the supermarket and I couldnt believe what people were eating - everything was canned, recounted Almenderez, who says she eats only fresh foods.

Only one client has called her about the swine flu, she said - a mother who told her that her 8-year-old and 6-year-old had contracted the virus and she didnt know what to do. I told her to follow the recommendations of her doctor, Almenderez says.

Its a personal question, whether or not to get vaccinated, Almenderez says, but her kids were so young, I told her to call her doctor.

Cynthia Senter, a Seattle-based naturopathic physician and certified Ayurvedic practitioner since 2000, says she has been seeing a lot of flu cases this year, but that this year does not appear to be any worse than in previous ones.

I say this because when a patient considers whether to receive a vaccine, they must consider risks versus benefits.

Senter, who has a practice at the Kerala Ayurveda Center, observed that since the swine flu appears to be a rather mild illness this season, with the average length of time of the flu between three and five days, and no one has died from it in Washington state.

Ayurveda, the Sanskrit word for science of long life, originated in India more than 5,000 years ago. Ayurveda believes that herbs, meditation and lifestyle changes, including diet, bring the mind in sync with the body. When that happens, the bodys own healing responses are triggered.

My position is this, Senter said. Why have the vaccine when the disease is minor and responds very well to Ayurvedic and naturopathic remedies? I have been using herbs, homeopathics, home physical modalities and some IV nutrients for those who became very ill. All have recovered."

Compare that to the risk of the vaccine, Senter said. Both H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccines contain thimersol, a mercury preservative. Mercury is a known neurotoxin. Vaccines contain other preservatives such as formaldehyde and aluminum.

She added, the H1N1 [vaccine] has not been well evaluated, it was fast-tracked to get it out to the public. It was not thoroughly tested for safety. Specifically, not tested on infants, children or pregnant women. Those people are at the highest risk of being affected by vaccine additives.

Senter said that the vaccine, however, may be beneficial for those who are immune-compromised or suffer from asthma.

For healthy individuals, Senter advocates improving their immune status with natural therapies. All those in my practice who got the flu did not give it to the rest of their family. Those family members stayed healthy by supporting their own immune system even though they were all living together.

To boost your immune system, Senter recommends having protective levels of Vitamin D, sleeping eight hours a night, eating healthy foods, including nuts, seeds or fish, vegetables, fruits, olive oil and whole grains, and avoiding junk food, such as soda, candy, and high fructose corn syrup.

Also important, she said, is to keep stress levels under control, perform mind-body exercises such as meditation or yoga, and use herbs known to protect the immune system, including tulsi, ashwaghanda, amla, astragalus, maitaki, reishi, other antioxidant-rich foods.

While some Chinese Americans are rolling up their sleeves to get the H1N1 vaccine, other members of the community said they are still skeptical about getting the flu vaccine because their Chinese medicine practitioners do not recommend it.

I do not recommend that my patients get the flu vaccine, said Hui Lin, a licensed acupuncturist who has practiced Chinese medicine in the United States for more than a decade.

In Chinese medicine, it is believed that illness occurs when there is an imbalance of the five elements in the body, represented by various internal organs or parts within the body, such as the liver, heart, pancreas, lung and kidney.

Flu is caused by the invasion of wind heat into the patients body and causes an imbalance. Wind heat, along with cold, summer heat, dampness, dryness and fire, is one of six different environmental conditions the ancient Chinese believed lead to an imbalance in ones inner body conditions.

Getting H1N1 vaccines and other seasonal flu vaccines are unnecessary, said Lin, who said vaccination to prevent the flu has greater limitations and side effects than using Chinese medicine.

The effects of vaccination are limited, Lin said, because the flu virus can mutate rapidly. Vaccines are developed only for a specific strain of flu and are ineffective in preventing new strains.

Chinese medicine teaches resisting illness by building a strong immune system. This can be done through maintaining a strong flow of energy (Qi) throughout the body, especially the immune energy (Wei Qi), which is controlled by the digestive system and lungs.

Undergoing acupuncture treatments, which stimulate the circulation of body energy, and drinking antiviral herbal formulas are the most common ways to prevent flu in Chinese medicine, Lin said.

Moreover, Lin said that more patients are seeing her to remedy the side effects of flu shots. She believes that it is not worthwhile to risk side effects when Chinese medicine provides better protection without side effects.

Some Chinese medicine practitioners take a different view.

William Zhao, president of the United California Practitioners of Chinese Medicine (UCPCM), supports flu vaccines, especially for kids and seniors, who usually have weaker immune systems. Zhao recommends that anyone who has the opportunity should get the vaccine because H1N1 is a widespread disease.

I would get vaccinated myself if I have a chance to receive it, said Zhao, a licensed acupuncturist who has been practicing Chinese medicine in San Francisco's Chinatown for more than 20 years.

Zhao said that some people are reluctant to get a flu vaccine because they fear it will medically conflict with Chinese medicinal treatments.

Undergoing Chinese medicine treatments and getting vaccines are two unrelated processes. They will not affect each other, said Zhao.

In the bigger picture of fighting the flu, he said that those who decide not to get the vaccine or who are unable to get the vaccine should take preventative measures and seek treatment immediately once they are infected.

Zhao agreed with Lin that Chinese medicine has been relatively successful in the flu-fighting area.

In fact, Chinese medicine has long been recognized for its efficacy in fighting the flu in China.

According to China Daily, Chinese methods have been used to treat H1N1 flu patients in China with great success: Nine patients fully recovered and were discharged in June. Chinese medicine was also used in combination with Western medicine in fighting SARS in 2003.

Zhao explained that one of the advantages Chinese medicine has in treating the flu is that its practitioners conduct detailed analyses and tailor treatments specifically for each patient.

Common treatments for influenza in Chinese medicine include herbal treatments, acupuncture and inhaling evaporated medicine to the upper respiratory system.

Related Articles:

Swine Flu Could Hit Minorities Hard

Can We Avoid the Swine Flu?

Regular Flu Shots Easier Sell in Time of Swine Flu

Page 1 of 1




Just Posted

NAM Coverage