As a long time practitioner of Chinese medicine and long time proponent of eating a macrobiotic diet, I often think of the opening passage of the seminal book of Chinese Medicine, “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine,” also know as the Nei Jing.
In the beginning of this 2,200 year old book, the Yellow Emperor asks his personal physician, Qibo, why people aren’t as healthy or live as long as people once did, to which Qibo replies that people have gotten out of balance with the natural order of things and have lost the Way (the Way meaning the Tao), and that because of this, their poor dietary and lifestyle choices were leading them to serious health issues.
That’s an interesting observation from Qibo, especially since his observation came 2,200 years ago, in an epoch that was much simpler than our current times. If Qibo and the Yellow Emperor thought people had lost the Way back then, imagine what they would think now.
In our era, people have surely lost the Way, what with the level of serious health issues that abound. And as we currently see with the threat of the coronavirus, nature is on a trajectory of self-regulation to help reestablish the natural order of things – as nature will do – since people have lost the Way. Yet, as the virus, or the threat of the virus, wreaks havoc on routines and lives, this can be seen as a learning opportunity – just as the Chinese word for crisis, 危机, is composed of the words danger and opportunity. The opportunity is there, if we so choose to see it.
A virus, including the coronavirus, is a biological agent that reproduces inside the cells of a living host; once the host cell is infected by the virus, it’s forced to produce thousands of identical copies of the original virus at an extraordinary rate. Viruses are not malicious; instead they are intelligent, full of information, and always on the lookout for a susceptible host. And when humans lose the Way, that’s when they become a susceptible host.
To date, 5,000 species of viruses have been discovered; each time a new virus is mapped out, it’s considered a novel strain – that’s why the coronavirus is considered novel, because it’s a new strain. And because it’s a novel strain and there’s no known way to stop its trajectory right now – outside of the public health measures that are being advocated in order to “flatten the curve” – it’s creating a certain level of heightened anxiety and panic.
But if we come back to the Way, to the Tao, we can help arrest the growth of the virus and at the same time, not be susceptible hosts. According to the Tao Te Ching, we should never destroy that which may appear to be our enemy; instead, we must seek to achieve the harmony of opposites. This is the teaching of the Way. Within our body are trillions of microbes; when we are in proper balance, these microbes are beneficial and help maintain good health. Viruses are also microbes, but they only proliferate in the body when we are not in proper balance.
As I said above, viruses are intelligent and full of information; there is much complexity within the makeup of a virus. The best way to overcome a virus and achieve the harmony of opposites is to introduce complexity into the body, which then overwhelms the virus. That is why the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus – HIV – turned the tide when drug cocktails were introduced: instead of just one drug used to stop HIV, a multitude of drugs were used, and in the process, created much complexity within the body, thus overwhelming and neutralizing the virus.
Chinese medicine has intuitively understood this need for complexity in its long and storied history. Over hundreds and thousands of years, China has had to withstand epidemic diseases, and over time, the wisdom of the ancient Chinese doctors realized that the best approach to dealing with viral epidemics was complexity, in the form not of drug cocktails but of herbal formulas, which is a cocktail of usually four to 20 different herbs. Famous herbs used in these formulas, and still used today, include Qing Hao, or Wormwood; Huang Lian, or Coptis; Chuan Xin Lian, or Andrographis; Yin Chen Hao, or Artemisia capillaris; and Sheng di Huang, or Rehmannia root. All of these herbs are readily available today and can be used as part of a formula to help overcome any virus situation.
Most importantly, you can restore balance, create complexity in your body, and bring yourself back into alignment with the Way/Tao through diet. This is where the wisdom of macrobiotics comes into play, as the macrobiotic approach to eating has always understood the healing power and Way of food. Before a whole foods, plant-based diet was a popular conception, there was macrobiotics, pointing to the wisdom of eating a grain based, primarily plant based diet. Macrobiotics is based on the traditional Japanese approach to eating, with an emphasis on whole grains, various vegetables, and legumes, including tofu and tempeh; included in this are certain high quality, medicinal foods that nowadays some would call superfoods: foods such as miso; tamari; seaweeds; umeboshi plums and paste; mochi; tekka; root vegetables such as daikon, burdock, lotus root, jinenjo, and taro potato; seitan; pickled foods; kuzu; kanten; natto; shitake mushrooms; and others.
All these macrobiotic foods are capable of creating complexity in the body by mobilizing the trillions of microbes in your body to be activated, energized, and invigorated, which then catalyzes the microbes to immobilize microbial life that is seen as detrimental to the body, such as viruses; in addition, it makes sure the body is not capable of being a susceptible host to any sort of virus that is looking to invade the cells of your body and infect it.
While using Chinese Medicine and eating a macrobiotic diet doesn’t supplant or negate the commonsense public health advice being advocated right now to stop the spread of the coronavirus, at the same time, the Chinese Medicine/macrobiotic approach can help protect you from the coronavirus by guiding you back to the Way, allowing you to live a more balanced life, and eliminate the opportunity for you to be a susceptible host.
As this is just a short overview of the Chinese Medicine and macrobiotic approach, I’d be happy to answer any questions. You can email me at email@example.com.