A Father's Quest to Help His Son Leads to a Formula for Coughs & Colds

By Dr. Eric Karchmer, PhD, MD (China), LAc /

A Father's Quest to Help His Son Leads to a Formula for Coughs & Colds

Bounce Back is the first proprietary formula produced by DAO Labs. It is designed as a general formula for treating fevers, chills, and body aches associated with typical cold season annoyances and needs. We felt compelled to bring this unique herbal blend to market as our contribution to the global efforts to combat the worst cold and flu season in a lifetime.

Although this formula is uniquely suited to our current moment, it originated many years ago when I was struggling to combat a similar situation within my own family. My young children were frequently bringing illnesses home from school and pre-school, producing a very dangerous situation for one of my kids, Asa, who has a rare and intractable form of epilepsy, known as infantile spasms. 

Every time Asa contracted a fever or even just got sick with a few sniffles, he was in danger of having more seizures. Because 90% of children with infantile spasms will be left with profound cognitive impairments, each seizure represented a setback for Asa, leaving him with more brain damage and an ever diminishing chance of overcoming this terrible form of epilepsy.

Chinese Herbal Medicine in the 1930s and 1940s 

Chinese medicine is very effective at treating all manner of acute, infectious, febrile conditions. But few patients are aware of this fact. Even many practitioners are ignorant of the incredible potential of herbal medicine for dealing with acute needs. I was no different, until I had the opportunity to interview 40 elderly practitioners of Chinese medicine in China beginning in 2009 as part of research project to collect oral histories about the practice in Chinese medicine.

Before I began the project, I strongly suspected from my own readings and research that the practice of Chinese medicine in the 1930s and 1940s was quite different than the contemporary world of clinical practice in China, which I knew quite well because I did my medical training in the late 1990s at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine.

One of the most surprising discoveries of this project was that all of my elderly interviewees concurred that in the 1930s and 1940s Chinese medicine was universally celebrated in China as being superior to Western medicine in treating all forms of acute, infectious diseases. I was personally stunned by these claims because, like most young practitioners, I had been taught that Chinese medicine was best for chronic conditions.

"Acute Versus Chronic" Leads to My Academic Paper

Indeed, many of the doctors I interviewed had national reputations for treating chronic and intractable conditions, like rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, renal disease, infertility, and so on. However, as young doctors in the early 20th century, they had all made their reputations by focusing on the treatment of acute diseases. As they pointed out to me, few people had the financial means to mend their chronic complaints during this difficult period in Chinese history. Most patients only sought medical care when they were hit with a sudden and serious disease. 

This research led to one of my most important academic papers, “Slow Medicine: How Chinese Medicine Became Efficacious Only for Chronic Conditions,” exploring the social, political, and economic reasons why the clinical skills for treating acute illnesses with Chinese medicine had not been effectively passed on to later generations.

Coming Full Circle: Treating My Most Important Patients - My Kids

Not long after completing this project, I found the words of my interviewees, echoing in my ears as I tried to manage my son’s health needs. There were no good pharmaceutical solutions to the colds, fevers, and various acute ailments my kids were bringing home. Most parents simply ride out these episodes, dosing children and themselves with ibuprofen, Tylenol, DayQuil, and various other over the counter nostrums, until the illness has run its course through the family.

But Asa didn’t have the luxury of riding out these illnesses, because he would inevitably be hit with another bout of seizures. As much as possible, I was determined to prevent Asa from getting sick in the first place. I knew from my oral history project that Chinese medicine had to have better solutions.

But like many young practitioners, I wasn’t sure where to begin. Most of my clinical training in China, as well as my own clinical practice in the U.S., was focused on the treatment of chronic conditions. Out of desperation, I dove back into the clinical writings of the doctors of my oral history project and other renown doctors of Chinese medicine from this period.

Just as my interviewees had told me, there was a rich literature on how to treat colds, coughs, fevers, and all the acute ailments that were plaguing my family. Once I had digested the basic principles from these writings, I immediately started seeing good results with my herbal formulas. Often my kids would feel better in a day or two. On many occasions, I was able to prevent Asa from getting sick at all, sparing him the many seizures that had been unavoidable before. 

As I became more confident in my formulas, I actually began preparing in advance a standard decoration of what seemed to be the essential components of these treatments. I would then store it in the freezer until the inevitable next sniffle appeared, quickly thawing it to treat the child in need and giving some prophylactically to everyone else in the family.

This standard decoction ultimately became the basis for Bounce Back. 

Bounce Back - A Powerful General Blend 

Chinese medicine doctors are famous for tailoring their herbal prescriptions to the unique presentations of each patient. Bounce Back, which we sell as a general formula suitable for most cold season ailments, would seem to violate this principle. In fact, Chinese medicine also has a rich tradition of using standardized formulas, particularly for the treatment of contagious conditions. In many cases, a standard formula will suffice for the average sufferer.

However, when patients have preconditions, it may be important to combine this formula with other herbs that address the patient’s longstanding symptoms. In fact, I found that Asa responded the best when I treated him with Bounce Back in combination with additional herbs to help address the root of his epilepsy. If you have a pre-existing condition and are interested in using Bounce Back, we suggest that you work with a local acupuncturist or use our virtual consultation services to learn how to get the best results for your situation.

Dr. Eric Karchmer is a practicing Chinese medical doctor, medical anthropologist, and co-founder and Chief Doctor of Chinese Medicine for DAO Labs. From 1995-2000, Eric studied at the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine and today is both a licensed acupuncturist and professor at Appalachian State University. Eric can be reached at drkarchmer@mydaolabs.com.

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