A central feature of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the emphasis on disease prevention in living a healthy life. In TCM, health is built upon the balance of Yin, Yang, Qi and other energies. Chinese herbal tonics are used to maintain such balances, much like how Americans take vitamins to prevent illness.
Herbal tonics represent a major part of Chinese herbal medicines. While the terms like Yin, Yang and Qi remain vague in the modern medicine, studies suggest many herbal tonics may modulate the immune function of our body one way or another. As we know, the immune system basically functions to distinguish substances (like proteins) of ourselves from that of the invaded (like virus) or the diseased (like cancer cells) and to eliminate the bad substances.
The immune system requires antibodies (immunoglobulins), T-cells (lymphocytes), macrophages, and cytokines like interferons. When the immune system is weakened, it does not fight off pathogens like viruses, or remove diseased tissues. When the immune system is overactivated, it may attack the normal tissues. Thus, regulation of herbal tonics on the immune system makes sense to maintain health.
Here we briefly introduce several herbal tonics that may boost our immune system.
1. Yu Ping Feng Wan is an ancient Chinese herbal medicine used for building up the body's immune system. Today, it is the most recommended herbal remedy for boosting the body's natural defense against infections.† Studies consistently found that Yu Ping Feng San increases production of antibodies IgG and IgA, enhances macrophage activity, and inhibits the growth of influenza A (H3N2).1
Yu Ping Feng Wan was the basic herbal formula recommended by Chinese health authorities to the public for prevention of SARS a few years when SARS occurred in China. (Please see more discussion on Cold and Flu.)
2. Reishi. Reishi is one of the most precious herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. Reishi is a symbol of immortality in the Chinese culture. Modern studies suggest Reishi may enhance the body's immune system and may be used as a complementary treatment for tumors after chemotherapy.†
3. Cordyceps. Cordyceps is perhaps the rarest and most precious herb in traditional Chinese medicine. Cordyceps has been used in China for general health and well being for centuries. It wasn't until the 1992 Olympics, when China's women's track team broke multiple world records and attributed their success in part to Cordyceps that it was popularized. Modern studies suggest Cordyceps may enhance the immune function of the body, stimulate progesterone production, and boost energy and endurance.†
1. Chen Q. Renowned Patent Traditional Chinese Medicines: Pharmacology and Clinical Applications (1998).
by X. Li, Ph. D.