Recovery from long COVID with TCM

4 min read

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By Physician Pan Chien Ying of Han TCM

Key Takeaways

  • Long COVID is a sign of a weak body constitution caused by impaired lung, spleen and kidney systems.
  • Excessive herbal tea and coconut water to soothe COVID symptoms may do more harm than good for individuals with a Yang-deficient body constitution.
  • Regular consumption of American ginseng (泡参 pào shēn), astragalus
    (北芪 běi qí) and red dates (红枣 hóng zǎo) aids in strengthening the spleen
    and boosting Qi.

Various studies show that more than half of COVID-19 cases experience post-COVID conditions that last for months or more.1

Even people who experience relatively mild COVID-19 symptoms may develop long COVID conditions, weeks or months after infection.

What is long COVID?

People who suffer from long COVID experience a wide range of conditions such as cough, stubborn phlegm, runny nose, a significant decline in physical strength, difficulty concentrating (brain fog), proneness to asthma and sensitive skin. Symptoms vary from mild to severe and are difficult to diagnose, because they may develop weeks or months after testing negative for COVID-19.

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How long does it take to recover from COVID-19?

Complete recovery varies from person to person. For many people, symptoms disappear within 3–10 days after they first test positive for COVID-19. However many people too have reported post-COVID conditions lasting 1–3 months and beyond, even after they test negative for the virus. 

This is often due to a weak body constitution caused by weakened spleen, lung and kidney systems. Patients have reported long COVID conditions such as fatigue, back pain, shortness of breath, decline in physical fitness, brain fog, irregular menstrual cycles and sensitive skin with wheals or rashes.

Can COVID-19 aggravate an underlying condition?

Yes. Patients with a sensitive nose or skin have experienced more severe conditions in those areas
after a COVID-19 infection. This is due to compromised lung function after being exposed to the virus. Replenishing Qi in the body can help patients manage their underlying conditions.

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What should I eat to recover from long COVID?

COVID-19 affects different people differently. Similarly, it is not a one-size-fits-all treatment. People suffering from COVID-19 and long COVID should choose a diet according to their body constitution.

Some people believe they should consume large amounts of cooling foods such as herbal tea and coconut water to help soothe the symptoms of COVID-19. However, individuals with a Yang-deficient body constitution need to be extra careful. As they tend to be more sensitive to cold and vulnerable to health issues such as diarrhoea, excessive cooling and cold foods can lead to aggravated cough, excessive phlegm and diarrhoea. 

Instead, consume herbs that tonify the spleen and replenish Qi, like American ginseng (泡参 pào shēn), astragalus (北芪 běi qí) and red dates (红枣 hóng zǎo). Boil 6 grams of each in water for a Qi-invigorating decoction. The same at half the dosage is recommended for children aged 3–12.

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Any self-care tips to help manage menstrual pains?

1.Avoid cold drinks, reduce water sports, and keep warm before your expected menstrual period.

2.Drink Brown Sugar Ginger Tea 2 days before menstruation starts or when menstrual cramps occur. Boil 15g of brown sugar and 15g of young ginger in a pot of water.

3.Acupressure massage for pain relief:

He Gu Acupoint

Location: Tender point found on the back of the hand between the thumb and the index finger

Function: He Gu Acupoint is a common point used to relieve pain and can help to relieve painful period cramps

How to massage: Press the acupoint with your other thumb and massage for 1 minute each time

Tai Chong Acupoint

Location: Tender point between the big toe and second toe

Function: Tai Chong Acupoint belongs to the Liver meridian and can help to improve Qi circulation to help improve mood and reduce irritability

How to massage: Press on the acupoint with your thumb and massage for 1 minute each time

Qi Hai Acupoint

Location: 1.5 inches below the belly button

Function: Qi Hai literally translates to “Sea of Energy” and is believed to be the point on the body where Qi gathers. Pressing this acupoint can help to increase Qi and energy and reduce bloating

How to massage: Press with your index and middle finger and massage for 1 minute each time

4.Add TCM herbs to your cooking or as dietary supplements

  • Angelica root (当归): Nourishes blood, regulates menstrual cycle and improves blood flow
  • Rehmannia (熟地): Nourishes Kidney, regulates menstrual cycle and improves blood circulation
  • Red peony root (赤芍): Improves blood circulation and relieves pain
  • Sichuan loveage root (川芎): Improves both Qi and Blood circulation

5.Exercise moderately to improve blood circulation, strengthen immunity, and increase Qi to overcome fatigue during menstruation.

Any self-care tips to help manage menstrual pains?

The information above serves as a general guide only. Please consult a certified TCM practitioner for a more accurate diagnosis and treatment.

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About the author

Physician Pan Chien Ying

Physician Pan is a Singapore Board certified TCM physician and an Acupuncture Doctor qualified by the World Federation of Acupuncture-Moxibustion Societies (NGO in official relations with WHO). As an active member in her field of expertise, she is often invited as a guest speaker at various events and director of the Acupuncture-Moxibustion Society of Taipei.

She currently works full-time at Han TCM and is also pursuing a Master's degree in Acupuncture at the Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine.  

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