It wasn’t until I had been operating my clinic for several years that I came to appreciate the transformative power of a very simple Chinese medicine formula, often know as Jade Windscreen, the herbs from which are the basis of Immunity Support.
One of the most important uses of this formula is for strength during cold season, particularly for individuals who tend to need additional TLC. As a new practitioner, I found common colds relatively uninteresting. Everyone gets sick from time to time, and usually with a few days of rest, we are all back on our feet. I wanted to focus my energies on treating more complicated, intractable conditions, something more “heroic.”
Allergic to Air Conditioning?
Not surprisingly, I wasn’t particularly interested in Jade Windscreen, until one day I got a call from my grandmother. She was 90 years old at the time, living on her own in St. Petersburg, Florida, still leading an active and fulfilling life. Like many of the elderly, she had daily regimen of drugs to take, and she was very reliant on several doctors to manage her health. Although she was a quite active and mentally sharp for her age, she would become extremely anxious whenever health concerns arose. She was often frustrated that her physicians, no doubt well intentioned and quite accomplished, each saw her through the narrow lens of his or her particular specialization.
These illnesses were not just physically taxing but emotionally quite hard on my grandmother. After my grandfather has passed away, the center of her social world had gradually shifted from Pennsylvania, where she grew up and had lived her entire life, to a new circle of friends in St. Petersburg, Florida. Every winter, she would enroll in classes at nearby Eckerd College. She had been sick so frequently that winter that she hardly attended any classes and saw very few of her friends.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, my grandmother had correctly realized that part of her problem was the frequent and unavoidable movement between the warm humid outdoors and strongly air-conditioned indoors. She realized that her body was struggling to adapt, but the only language she could find to explain it was this odd phrase: an “allergy to air conditioning.” It amused me to think of my father, the highly empirical, evidence-based physician, throwing his hands up in the air at such a claim.
After I heard my grandmother‘s story, I knew that she was a perfect fit for Jade Windscreen. Her phrase – an allergy to air conditioning – actually captured several dimensions of her problem as understood from the perspective of Chinese medicine. As I have discussed in an earlier article, “wind” is the key pathogen in Chinese medicine that causes colds, the flu, and other upper respiratory tract conditions. Air conditioning can be considered a modern source of “wind” and was indeed a major factor in my grandmother’s repeated illnesses. Although the notion of being “allergic” to air conditioning sounds a bit silly, this idea wasn’t that far off the mark either. She was using the term to express her vulnerability to an external irritant, in this case the chilly gusts of air that assaulted her every time she entered a building.
Defensive Qi and its Role in Pollen & Cold Seasons
Because Immunity Support is an excellent formula during pollen season, I will address this issue in greater detail below. What was missing from my grandmother’s explanation was the concept of “deficiency,” which is so distinctive to Chinese medicine. Not only is there no effective way to describe a pathological state of vulnerability in Western medicine, but there is almost no way to treat it either. In Chinese medicine, however, there are dozens of herbs that address various sorts of deficiencies. In my grandmother’s case, she was suffering from a deficiency of “defensive Qi.” I immediately sent her a prescription of Jade Windscreen and had her take it for several weeks. She did not get sick again for the rest of the flu season and never had another bout of repeated colds before she passed away at age 99.
With my grandmother’s recovery, I developed a new appreciation of the power of Jade Windscreen. She had quickly returned to her usual activities and busy social life. It was almost as if nothing had ever been wrong. I have since used Jade Windscreen in my clinical practice numerous times to treat patients who, like my grandmother, needed more support during cold season. The results have almost always been as “magical” as they were in my grandmother’s case. What I didn’t appreciate initially was how useful this formula was during pollen season. From the Chinese medicine perspective, hay fever and other pollen allergies have a underlying pathological mechanism that is similar to my grandmother’s condition: an internal deficiency combined with external “wind.” In my early clinical practice, I often used more complicated formulas to treat allergies. Sometimes complicated cases do indeed require complex treatments. But over the years, I have found that Jade Windscreen can be an excellent during pollen season. I always keep a bottle at hand for just such situations with my family.
Breaking Down the Concept of Qi Deficiency
Although we think of allergies and colds as two very different conditions, they can also come together and cause a great deal of misery. A recent case will serve as an example. Last fall, I started a Pilates class, taught by a friend whose children are close in age to my own. Over the winter, I noticed that she got sick several times. The first couple of times, she blamed her children for bringing home “a bug” from pre-school. But when the colds kept coming, she got concerned that mold might be the cause. She had recently moved her studio to a new location at a tennis and fitness facility. Built in the 1980s, the buildings felt a bit damp and moldy to me. Recently, the management had confirmed that there was indeed a significant mold problem. Were her kids the source of her problem or was the mold? Was she getting sick because of viruses and other microorganisms or was she reacting to the mold in the building where she now works? From the Chinese medicine perspective, it doesn’t matter. The root of the problem was that she had become vulnerable, run down, or in the language of Chinese medicine, “Qi deficient.” It is important to point out that “Qi deficient” is not necessarily related to age. Even though my Pilates teacher is young and fit, she ended up in the same state of “Qi deficiency” as my grandmother had. Her “Qi deficiency” was probably the result of her busy work schedule, the exhaustion of being a mother to two young children, and the colds themselves. She got sick again in early April and was bemoaning her mold allergies. I suddenly remembered just how frequently she had been sick this past winter and immediately suggested she give Immunity Support a try. Like my many cases before, she quickly started feeling better. Two months later, she hasn’t gotten sick again. Although I do have some concerns about the mold situation in her new studio location, she fortunately no longer seems to allergic to it.