Many acupuncturists are gradually reopening their practices. At the same time, a second wave of COVID-19 is sweeping through the country as people are becoming impatient with sanitation protocols and social distancing. Even while we have compassion for the hardships that the pandemic has created, it is ever more important to safeguard ourselves and our clinics and not let our guard down just because we wish to believe that the crisis is over. Currently, I am seeing only emergency patients, and am encouraging my other patients to remain in their homes and maintain the safety guidelines provided by those who are carefully watching the trends and the momentum of the disease.
When you do begin to see your patients again, I think you will find that those who contracted the coronavirus will have a wide variety of new and old complaints. Their constitutional weaknesses or chronic ailments will likely need renewed attention, and their immune systems will need support too. Chances are, many will need help balancing their nervous system, because being confined at home with multiple family members can be like a holiday for some, but a powder keg for others. It is important to focus on calming the heart and spirit, lifting depression and encouraging optimism wherever and however we can, while also quelling the mass-mind paranoia that is fed by nightly newscasts. I recommend that my patients watch no more than one broadcast daily, and not right before going to bed. Good sleep is a very important factor in every healing process, and certainly the tendency of the news to dramatize the worst is not conducive to a restorative night’s rest.
Most people think of COVI9-19 as a respiratory illness, and though you may treat many people who have suffered upper respiratory infections (URI), you also must be prepared to see weakened kidneys, hearts and detox pathways. In this article, I will start with some basic ideas for clearing and rebuilding the Tai Yin (LU/SP), and also share some ideas for helping the collateral systems that have suffered some hits.
Cupping to Clear Toxins
I suggest that practitioners start by clearing areas that can accumulate toxins in the body, primarily the large areas just outside the lateral border of both scapulae. This is best done with a suction cupping technique, placing large-sized cups half off and half on the outside edge of the scapula.
Cups should never be left in place for more than ten minutes. The work of the cupping will be accomplished within that amount of time and further retention may cause blistering of the skin on people whose skin is thin or unhealthy. “Follow the color” is the rule of thumb when cupping. Watch carefully as the color begins to show on the skin, and when it is no longer getting any darker (or after ten minutes, whichever comes first), remove the cups and place them elsewhere.
If you are planning to cup the patient’s entire upper back (never cup the whole back on the first cupping session, as you may release too many toxins at once), start in the areas adjacent to DU14 Da Zhui. These are known as the extra points, Ding Chuan/Stop Wheezing. Then building out in a triangular formation, cup until you have covered the toxin areas outside of the scapula and down to the bra-line or UB17 area. If the skin does not show color after cupping, you may remove the cup after a few minutes because is not accomplishing anything. By cupping in the direction of the color that is appearing on the skin, you will release most of the toxins that have lodged in the muscles and joints. If the medial edges of cupped areas on the inside UB channel show color, then it is also a good idea to cup over the spine. If there is no color on these medial margins, it is not necessary.
Please pay specific attention to the patients’ breathing. The cupping process can be intense, and patients who have not previously experienced it (and sometimes those who have) tend to breathe quickly through their mouth, causing them to hyperventilate and become dizzy. Neither the patient nor the practitioner wants to deal with fainting. I always insist that my patients breathe only through their nose, making sure they don’t forget or breathe in through the nose and then out through the mouth. Watch closely, please, or you may have trouble.
Another a word of caution: Do not use fire cupping unless you have extensively practiced on your own thigh first. There is no excuse for burning anyone. You must train yourself to keep a constant eye on your flame. I always use denatured alcohol when fire cupping, as it makes a torch that lasts for the entire cupping session, even if I blow it out and then relight the cotton ball. Be sure to thoroughly squeeze the alcohol out of your cotton ball before igniting it, so that you never drip burning alcohol. It is safer to use pump-style cupping if you have not been properly trained in flame-style cupping techniques. Please see my 8-DVD set, The Ancient Art of Cupping, for detailed training on patterns and techniques.
The Wei Qi is slightly weakened by cupping, so it is absolutely essential to prevent any kind of wind from invading a freshly cupped surface. Warn your patients against drafts and ask them to cover the cupped area for two days, after which it will have regained its protective strength. A cupped area may be extra sensitive and even stiff after the patient sleeps in a still position, so they should take it easy after cupping. If they are sore the next morning, they should get into a hot shower and let the heat penetrate deeply into the muscles. This sore sensation generally goes away by the third day.
If your patient has had pneumonia or any other kind of URI due to the coronavirus, or if they had a pre-existing condition such as asthma, allergies, bronchitis, emphysema or bronchiectasis, then Tung’s thigh points 88.17-88.19 Four Horses are going to be your best choice for recovering the lungs’ energy and boosting the immune system. To these, I always add A04 San Cha Three (similar location to SJ2, but needled toward HT8), which is also very good for any kind of immune disorder, and sometimes I also add 1010.19/1010.20 Water Through/Water Gold, Tung’s points on the chin that are excellent when used for any kind of acute or chronic cough, asthma and kidney weakness. “Water” in the point name, refers to the kidneys, while “gold” refers to metal and therefore the lungs. The above combination of points is profoundly powerful, for immune recovery and for strengthening the lungs. Four Horses is found between the stomach and gallbladder channels on the thighs, giving these points a powerful influence over wind and phlegm, as well as in clearing and strengthening the spleen and liver through internal/external relationships. Because they are found in the very large muscles of the thighs, these points also have a huge nerve and blood supply – therefore, they have tremendous force. (For more information, please see my 5,000-word essay in the articles section of my website.)
Huang Qi/Astragalus is a marvelous base for a Wei Qi tonic, as it is neither hot nor cold, and can be used when there is still some lingering pathogen with immune deficiency. By adding herbs that clear toxic heat, my favorite being Yu Xing Cao/Houttuynia, we can finish clearing the lungs without the risk of tonifying the virus. If the mucus has color (yellow, green or brown), the emphasis must be on resolving phlegm, with herbs like the above or Qing Fei Tang. But if the mucus is clear or white, then strengthening the spleen and clearing the phlegm with Shen Ling Bai Zhu Tang or Er Chen Tang might be more appropriate. Carefully check the tongue and pulse, as formulas must be individually tailored to each patient.
If your patient has a pre-existing liver disease or weakness, think about 88.12-88.14 Three Yellows. These points are some of my all-time favorites in Tung’s system, as they deal with real liver disease and also exhaustion due to the liver. They are found on the liver channel of the medial thigh and will be easy to locate because they are always extremely sensitive on anyone with liver disease. If these points are not sensitive, you must rethink your diagnosis. When treating liver disease, I always add 11.20 Wood Inflammation points, found on the ring finger. Consider Pu Ji Xiao Du Yin to clear pathogenic heat from the upper body, but only with a rapid pulse.
If your patient has a history of coronary heart disease, 88.01-88.03 Heart Passing Points are fantastic, found along the stomach channel on the thighs. These points increase circulation in both the chest and the extremities and are very helpful in treating heart and lung disease. Consider Hua Tuo Zai Zao Wan (Hua Tuo Restorative Pills) to move the blood and strengthen the heart.
If your patient previously had chronic kidney deficiency, then COVID-19 will surely set them back. There are many formulas for strengthening the kidneys, as these could be considered “anti-aging” herbs. The Chinese have a saying, “if the elderly live through the winter, they will live until the next winter.” This is to remind us, that wintertime (aka. kidney time), takes the old people. It is much more difficult to strengthen the body through the winter; instead, the body is much more likely to decline or struggle to maintain its current state. With some patients we might need to use Ren Shen/ Ginseng to rebuild, but be careful if they have a red or dry tongue or if the virus is not yet completely cleared, as it would be easy to refuel the fire with a strong herb such as ginseng.
For kidney weakness, there are many formulas based on Liu Wei Di Huang Tang / Six Flavor Formula. To this basic formula, two more herbs may be added to create a variety of Eight Flavor variations. By adding two cooling herbs, we get Zhi Bai Di Huang Tang, good for heat and dryness in the body. When using Six or Eight Flavor formulas, we must watch the tongue carefully, as Rehmannia is greasy and cannot be used in situations where you see teeth marks on the tongue. To deal with this cloying characteristic you may dry it out overnight in an oven set to very low heat (200-250*F) until it has a kind of “chinking” brick sound when the pieces come in contact with each other, then it will not add dampness to an already wet situation in the body.
If someone has both Kidney Yin and Yang deficiencies, and if the body of the tongue is pale or white (not the coating), with large teeth marks on the sides, then Fu Gui Di Huang Tang / Eight Flavor is a good choice, as this formula has the two hot herbs for drying dampness, Fu Zi and Rou Gui. This Di Huang formula goes by many names, such as Golden Book, Sexotone or Jin Gui Shen Qi Tang, and is used when Yin and Yang have separated, and the patient is cold and exhausted. I once had a 72-year-old woman, who was unable to stop taking estrogen without getting horrible hot flashes. Her hands and feet were freezing cold, and her tongue had almost no color at all and large teeth marks. When I urged her to stop the hormone replacement therapy, she refused. I assured her that I understood her situation and so she became hopeful and willing to try. Within three weeks of taking Golden Book tea pills, her hot flashes had completely stopped. Within a few months, she felt more energy than she had in many years and had resumed exercising. She was amazed, as she had tried to stop her HRT several times and always reverted back to it. “We must find the right key to the right lock,” my teacher Dr. Miriam Lee always said. And when we do, “Bingo!”
For patients who are stressed out by life, illness or traumatic events, use 11.17 Wood (Anger) Points with Four Gates (LV3 and LI4) and Prefrontal Scalp Points for insomnia, anxiety and depression. Location and needling techniques are further explained in my 4-DVD set, Master Tung’s Magic Points: Point Location and Needling Technique. The formulas Xiao Yao Tang and Tian Wang Bu Xin Tang can be enormously helpful for stress and anxiety. If patients also have digestive disorders such as IBS or Crohn’s disease, use ST43 and SP4 with PC6. Formulas for digestion are plentiful; some of my favorites are Mu Xiang Shun Qi Tang, Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang, and Curing Pills.
Reopening Your Clinic
I’d like to discuss a few practicalities of returning to your clinic. As mentioned above, many people are getting impatient and frustrated by the restrictions they have been experiencing over the past few months, and they are rebelling -- especially the younger adults who are healthy and strong. But as practitioners, we are responsible for ensuring that patients will be safe if they venture out of their homes to come to our offices. Start by seeing just the more urgent patients and those who have suffered the most, either physically or mentally. Try not to bring the entire world through your doors until this virus comes to an end.
When patients come to your office, ask them to leave their outer garments in the car, as these are seldom laundered. Ask them to wear a face mask and freshly laundered clothes that they put on just before they leave their house, and to bring a fresh sheet in a clean bag. Have them wait at the office door until they can be escorted directly into the bathroom. If you have a handheld no-contact thermometer, by all means use it at the front door. The are reasonably priced and easy to acquire!
My office manager, Kristal, escorts each patient from the office door to the bathroom. She turns on the faucets and gives the patient soap to wash their hands and arms up to the elbows for 20 seconds. Then Kristal sprays their hands with homemade hand-sanitizer (25% fresh aloe vera from my garden and 75% 95-proof alcohol), after which they are invited to use the toilet. At that point, they are deemed clean enough to operate the faucets themselves. Then, they are ushered into their treatment room and asked to take off their shoes (ideally without touching them) and get onto the treatment table, which is completely covered in table paper. Their fresh sheet from home is then placed over them, and on top we put a warm flannel sheet.
After I have placed all of the needles, put the heat lamp shining on the underside of the patient’s feet and begun playing soft music, I will remove the elastic of one side of their face mask from behind the ear, so that they may breathe easily during their treatment and maybe even take a little nap. Though some of you might be less comfortable with this last instruction, I think that the debate about breathing excessive CO2 and O2 deficiencies must be heard.
I do not see anyone with known active COVID-19 at my office. Patients who are under quarantine at home, are prescribed herbal formulas and given nutritional advice. It is the carriers of the Coronavirus that we must handle carefully, and the weak or elderly that we must safeguard.
I hope this article has given you a few tips to consider and good needle and herbal formulas to use. If you have not already visited my website, www.tungspoints.com, please do. You will discover our brand-new 565-page book, Master Tung’s Magic Points: A Definitive Clinical Guide. If you’re not ready to buy the book, you are welcome to sign-up for ten free excerpts, delivered to your in-box, one per month. You also will find some amazing sales on book and DVD bundles. Thanks so much for your interest and for taking care of the people in your world.
My very best wishes to you all!
Susan Johnson, L.Ac., has been studying and practicing acupuncture since 1982, and is an esteemed teacher of Master Tung’s Magic Points, a potent system of acupuncture handed down as a treasured family secret for generations and made public by Master Tung Ching Chang. Susan graduated from The American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, California, in 1984. By then, she’d begun an internship with Dr. Miriam Lee, OMD, whose influence was life changing for Susan. Susan became Dr. Lee’s primary student and trained extensively with her for twelve years. Together they traveled to Hefei, China, to study bleeding techniques with Dr. Wang Xiu Zhen. Susan studied Tung’s Acupuncture with both Dr. Lee and Dr. Wei Chieh Young.
Throughout her career Susan has relied extensively on Master Tung’s Magic Points. Her passion for Tung’s Points and her desire to share this remarkable system with other practitioners has inspired her to teach seminars and give lectures worldwide, and to write articles and produce webinars and tutorial DVDs on Master Tung’s Magic Points and the ancient art of cupping. Susan continues to work on innovative ways to share Master Tung’s Points with a global audience, making this incredible system available to as many people as possible. She and her student, Eric Renaud, recently published a book, Master Tung’s Magic Points: A Definitive Clinical Guide.
Susan will be teaching a live-streaming bleeding class in the fall, at Mayway Corporation in Oakland, California, if COVID-19 safety guidelines allow. Stay tuned and check the Mayway website for updates. Many thanks to Mayway and the Lau family for their continued commitment to the profession and their outstanding support for Traditional Chinese Medicine since 1969.