Author: Michael G. Pingicer, M.S., L.Ac.

Immunity Boosting with Traditional Chinese Medicine

Immunity Boosting
Acupuncture, Chinese herbs and diet change boost immunity

True secrets regarding Immunity Boosting are a step away…

Oh, winter. Yes, it’s that time of year again. Coworkers in the office are out of (or in) the office with a cold or the flu. It seems like everyone on the subway and on the street is sneezing, coughing, sniffling, and blowing their nose. You see it every year, or you might be one of those people I am talking about. Do you tend to get sick multiple times during a season? Do seasonal bugs hit you hard and put you down for the count for weeks at a time? Do you have a hard time getting over a cold resulting in you having the sniffles all season? These patterns can tax your quality of life to a great extent. You may miss a lot of work because you are at home in bed. The holiday cheer that you were dead set on spreading has been put on the back burner along with that lengthy shopping and baking list for family and friends. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a winter where you are not continually catching the latest strain of the common cold or flu? Maybe you would catch a cold only once during the winter like the others. Well, have no fear – Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is here.


What is the Immune System and Immune Response?

The immune system provides an individual’s body with the ability to fight disease. It is a complex of organs – including highly specialized cells and even a circulatory system (the lymphatic system) separate from blood vessels – all of which work together to clear infection from the body. The organs of the immune system, positioned throughout the body, are called lymphoid organs1. You may have felt your lymph nodes around your throat swell when you are sick because they are working overtime to battle the acute infection that is in your body. This is part of the immune response, how your body recognizes and defends itself against bacteria, viruses, and substances that appear foreign and harmful to the body2.

The immune system produces cells that travel throughout the body looking for foreign invaders & pathogens that are aiming to makeImmunity Boosting you sick. There are cells that can destroy the pathogens and other cells that create anti-bodies so that you don’t get sick from that pathogen again. This is your body’s line of defense against illness, but the immune system can often be compromised due to other illnesses or other stressors creating immunodeficiency. Among many other reasons, immunodeficiency can come from wide-ranging reasons such as a disease, like HIV and some forms of cancer, or it can come from history of malnutrition. There are some biomedical drugs that can improve immunity, but they are pretty serious drugs that are only given when the person’s immune system is severely compromised. TCM is a way for a person who has lingering acute illness or chronic recurrent illness of a head cold or the flu to be able to kick it quicker or be sick less frequently.

Feeling under the weather?
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TCM Immunity Theory

TCM has long been used as a preventative medicine and has been used to improve immunity in people. The wei qi is known as the defense qi that circulates on the surface of the body near the skin. When the wei qi is strong, one is properly protected from invasions of evil qi. One can think of the wei qi as the immune system and the evil qi as the common cold/the flu. When one’s wei qi is vacuous or depleted, one becomes sick because the external evil has invaded the body causing illness. If one’s overall qi strong in general, one will overcome illness quickly and return to health, but if the qi is vacuous, one will have recurring or lingering illness. This is where TCM comes into play. TCM treatments of herbs, acupuncture, and dietary therapy can be utilized to strengthen the qi.

Acupuncture Research Studies & Immunity

Immunity BoostingA very recent study regarding acupuncture’s effect on boosting immunity took place from July through November of 2007. The study looked at the effects of acupuncture on the body’s natural killer cell response to strenuous exercise in endurance athletes. The results found that the basal activity in these cells, which are key to overall immune health, increased significantly in response to acupuncture treatments.3 Another study looked at the effect of acupuncture on the regulation of cell-mediated immunity in the patients with malignant tumors. This is a slightly different way to look at immunity-boosting than we have been talking about, but the basic principle is still the same. This study found that acupuncture can heighten the cellular immune function of patients, providing a beneficial effect in anti-cancer treatment.4 Moxibustion is a technique used often in Immunity Boosting along with acupuncture. In a study looking at the effect of moxibustion, 42 between 55-70 years of age were selected and given moxibustion and acupuncture. The results showed that immune hormone content increased significantly after the warm needling.5

Treatment & Prevention: Year-Round Immunity Awareness

Chinese medicine has successfully treated the cold and flu for thousands of years with Chinese herbs andImmunity Boosting acupuncture treatment. Our treatment either stops the cold and flu within one to two days or significantly reduces symptoms and duration.6 Chinese medicine also helps resolve sinus congestion, infections and coughs. For more detailed information on treatments read our article Treatment of the Cold & Flu.

For prevention the ideal time is to come for TCMImmunity Boostingtreatment is the height of the summer, the total opposite of winter. Summer is the time when the yang qi of nature is at its peak and the yang qi of the body should also be at its peak level. If it is not, this could mean a vacuity of qi and in turn, of the wei (protective) or immunity meaning more illness for you in the winter. The hottest point of the summer (August for New Yorkers) allows for the strongest tonification of the yang qi. TCM can help to tonify the qi of the body and the wei (protective) qi to help the body be protected in the winter.

Chinese medicine has successfully treated the cold and flu for thousands of years with Chinese herbs and acupuncture treatment. Our treatment for Immunity Boosting either stops the cold and flu within one to two days or significantly reduces symptoms and duration. Chinese medicine also helps resolve sinus congestion, infections and coughs.

Don’t get stuck being sick all of the time; improve your quality of life by improving your Immunity Boosting through TCM.

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1NIAID Net News
2National Library of Medicine
3American College of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
4National Center for Biotechnology Information
5Li Su, et al., Effects of warm needling at zusanli (ST-36) on nitrous oxide and IL-2 levels in middle-aged and old people, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine 2003; 23(2): 127-128
6Treatment of Cold & Flu, Juliette Aiyana, L.Ac.,

This article was written by Michael Pingicer with Juliette Aiyana.

Natural Asthma Control with Acupuncture, Herbs & Diet

Using Acupuncture for asthma and allergies is safe and effective.

In the 10th grade, I played baseball with a kid who had a swing that begged you to take notice. He was a natural, and everyone from the kids to the adults knew it. Though his swing was as sweet as honey, he had an Achilles heel. He had asthma. When a ball is hit into the gap in the outfield, that usually means a double in baseball, but he could not make the effort to run to second because he might end up with an attack. His doubles were usually singles. He would have attacks at the beginning of the season when a chill was still in the air that ended up keeping him out of the entire game. Talent does nothing for a team when it is riding the pine. He did not play baseball beyond the 11th grade. His natural talent was hindered by asthma and more importantly, the quality of his life was diminished. He loved playing, but it was too much for his body to handle. He was not the only kid I knew whom suffered from asthma. Growing up, I was surrounded by kids who had a variety of ailments, and I could see how it affected their lives in so many ways. They got called down to the school nurse every day for medication; they had certain things that they couldn’t eat, etc. I took note of these things as a kid, and maybe it had influence on my choice of profession as an acupuncturist and herbalist.

What is Asthma?
Asthma is a chronic disease that affects the tubes that carry air in and out of the lungs. During an acute asthma attack, the inside walls of these tubular airways become inflamed, the muscles spasm, and excess mucus accumulates. The attacks can be triggered by a variety of things such as:

  • Environmental allergens (pollen, mold, animal dander, etc.).
  • Irritants (changes in air temperature, cigarette smoke, air pollution, perfume, chemtrails, etc.)
  • The common cold.
  • Exercise.
  • Mental stress.
  • Medications.
  • Foods or food additives – sulfites are a big culprit and are found in dried fruits and wine, among a whole host of other foods.

Click here to read about sulfite sensitivity and a list of foods that could contain sulfites.

When the airways react and are having an attack, they become narrower, and less air flows through to your lung tissue. This causes symptoms like wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and trouble breathing.1

Do you have questions about how Chinese medicine

can help your or your child’s asthma?

Call Juliette Aiyana, L.Ac, Herbalist for a Free 10 minute Phone Consultation.  


The Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) Treatment of Asthma
The severity and frequency of asthma varies from patient to patient.

For example, here are two possible manifestations:

  • Patient #1:
    • is asymptomatic between attacks.
    • asthma attacks are mild and only come once each year and are manageable with rest.
  • Patient #2:
    • has a cough, phlegm, and wheezing between asthma attacks.
    • asthma attacks occur once a week and can be so severe that the patient is hospitalized once a month.

Treatment for asthma is broken down into two categories: managing the acute attacks by easing the intensity of the attack and maximizing the time between the attacks. The long-term goal of treatment is to provide the patient with a better quality of life or increased feeling of well being. If a patient is having attacks every week, and with treatment they are able to have them every other week, treatment should theoretically bring them a better quality of life because they are suffering half of the attacks over 1 year than they would have without treatment. This reduction is a very important aspect to treating recurrent, chronic diseases such as asthma.

TCM Theory about Breathing and Asthma

According to TCM theory, the lung and the kidney both take part in breathing. The lung opens at the nose, is responsible for breathing, and the production of true qi. The lung is the way that the da qi (“great qi” aka air) enters the body. The da qi is important to the person because this is mixed with the qi of food to create usable qi that a person can use day to day. The kidney plays an important role in breathing, too. The kidney is the root of a person’s qi. If the kidney qi is insufficient, other organs may dysfunction. The lung’s ability to absorb da qi is partly dependent on the kidney. If kidney essential qi is insufficient, it is incapable of ensuring the absorption of da qi through the lung. This results in respiratory insufficiency which can result in the signs and symptoms of asthma.2

Acupuncture for asthma and allergies
Breathe easy with Chinese medicine

Through the use of acupuncture, herbs, and dietary analysis, asthma can be managed through TCM. Asthma presents as a repletion or excess pattern during the acute attack. The periods in between attacks are characterized as a vacuity or depletion pattern. Let’s explore the acute attack and the period between the attacks to see how TCM categorizes each.3

Repletion – the asthma attack
The acute asthma attack is something that the body reacts to that is in excess, meaning it is not supposed to be there in the body; it is too much (in excess). The trigger that causes the attack is something that is not supposed to be in the body, and the asthma sufferer’s body responds with an asthma attack. These triggers are called external evils in TCM. The more frequently the external evils attack the body, the weaker the body becomes. The body is like an army that is attacked over and over again by the asthma trigger, sometimes without fully replenishing its resources. This can cause a vacuity or a weakness in the patient’s body leaving it even more vulnerable to future attacks sometimes making them more frequent and intense.

Vacuity – the state of the patient’s body and health
The period between the attacks show the state of patient’s true body strength and ability to fend off the trigger. This tends to be a state of

Acupuncture for asthma and allergies
Acupuncture, Chinese herbs and diet change can boost immunity & reduce inflammation

weakness or vacuity in asthma patients. This is the time for the patient to replenish the resources that were depleted due to the asthma attack. There are occasional instances where phlegm can become lodged in the lungs. This is called a mixed pattern of vacuity (state of the patient’s body) and repletion (an abundance of phlegm making a home in the lungs). The overall treatment goal at this stage is to strengthen the body (fill the vacuity) so that the attacks are less frequent and less intense because the body is stronger. Phlegm can be dislodged from the lungs while simultaneously strengthening them. This will make the patient’s life easier and much more enjoyable because he/she does not have to take so much time off from work or time out of recreational activities.

Is your asthma getting in the way your life?
Call us today to schedule an appointment!

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs for Asthma
Giving acupuncture and cupping during an asthma attack can help to calm the patient down and to aid in opening up the chest muscles to provide easier breathing. Acupuncture can help to shorten the length and severity of the asthma attack.

Acupuncture for asthma and allergies
Cupping is painless, and opens the airways.

It is more common to treat people when they are in the remittent state. The goal of the treatment during this stage is to supplement the body with acupuncture, Chinese herbs and dietary changes in order to strengthen the body’s qi. If there is some phlegm lodged in the lungs and some cough and wheezing during this time, relieving those symptoms are also part of the treatment. The diet is analyzed to see if what the patient is eating is exacerbating the asthma attacks. In general, it is best to stick to a diet that consists of whole foods that are not prepackaged or fast food. Whole, organic, real foods have less/no additives and have better qi. The more healthy the qi of the food you put into your body, the stronger your body’s defenses and the better able your lungs will be to resist your asthma trigger. Try to keep dairy intake to a minimum as TCM dietary theory states that dairy products can exacerbate phlegm production. A qualified, well-trained TCM practitioner will be able to diagnose your vacuity pattern correctly and get you on the path to a better quality of life!

NYC Air Quality & Differences in Seasonal Air
One of the hot topics in NYC since 9/11 has been air quality. There was a severely diminished quality of air in the city for that acute time, but there is now more attention paid to this topic. The Air Quality Index (AQI) is an index for reporting daily air quality. It tells you how clean or polluted your outdoor air is and what associated health effects might be a concern for you. The AQI focuses on health effects you may experience within a few hours or days after breathing polluted air. EPA calculates the AQI for five major air pollutants regulated by the Clean Air Act: ground-level ozone, particle pollution (also known as particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide. For each of these pollutants, EPA has established national air quality standards to protect public health.4 The worse the air quality, the worse your asthma could become due to the fact that more particle matter in the air can cause more irritation and inflammation.

Here is a link to a fact sheet talking about asthma and air pollution put out by the EPA. They have some good tips about how to protect your lungs during differing levels of pollutants in the air. Here is a link to a daily update on the air quality in NYC.

Another thing to consider is if you are affected by the air of the different seasons. Does cold, dry winter trigger your asthma? Maybe the humid heat of the NYC summer? How about spring air that is full of pollen? Take the seasons into account to see when you should be taking more of a break from the outdoors as opposed to being more active. Speak with your practitioner about what your triggers are so that your attacks can be minimized.

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2 Wiseman, Nigel & Ye, Fang (1998) A Practical Dictionary of Chinese Medicine. Paradigm Publications: Brookline, MA.
3 Wu, Yan (1997). Practical Therapeutics of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Paradigm Publications: Brookline, MA.

Gou Qi Zi AKA Goji Berries – the Chinese herb now in your dried fruit section!

Chinese Wolfberries, Tibetan Gou Ji, Gou Qi

Me and Gou Qi Zi down by the schoolyard
I am a member of the Park Slope Food Coop and have been for many years. Members are required to work 2.75 hours every 4 weeks in order to keep the cost of running the place to a minimum. The result is a wonderful break on food prices that are 20 – 40 percent below market price. The department that I choose work in is the food processing department. This is where multiple bulk foods are broken down into varied purchasable sizes. The foods that fall under this category are dried fruits, nuts, olives, cheese, teas, and spices. It has always been a pleasure working in this department, as I learn a lot about the varied types of these foods from NY State Tilsit cave-aged cheese to Russian caravan tea.

One day when I was working my shift, I was told that we were stocking a new item at the Coop: goji berries, a.k.a. gou qi zi/Chinese wolfberry. Being a NCCAOM Board Certified Chinese Herbalist and a professor of TCM dietetics, this addition intrigued me and was pleasantly surprising. Goji berries are a part of the traditional Chinese herbal (TCM) pharmacopeia as are many other “food-herbs,” herbs that can not only be taken in herbal decoction but can also be eaten in everyday life. Goji berries are also a mainstay at Chinatown markets and apparently, they had made the crossover into a Western market or at least the Park Slope Food Coop.

Buyer Beware: Many merchants of the versatile Goji berry are overcharging for the herb and the juice. They should retail for no more than $40 per pound. These berry products are also marketed by the following names; Chinese Wolfberries, Lycium Fruit, Matrimony Vine Fruit, Goji, Gou Ji, Gou Qi Zi, Tibetan Gou Ji, Himalayan Goji.

The Benefits of Goji Berries
This list of benefits are based in TCM and/or Modern Scientific Research

  • Enhances vision
  • Reduces fatigue
  • Aphrodisiac, increases libido for women, and helps male erectile dysfunction
  • Boosts Immunity
  • Lowers Blood Pressure
  • Reduces symptoms of diabetes (especially in combination with other herbs prescribed by your TCM herbalist)
  • Helps stop dry coughing
  • Helps stop sweating especially for some types of menopausal sweating
Call to purchase the Goji berries for $25 per pound.
Free Shipping on Orders of $50 or more.
Or schedule an Herbal Consultation for a personalized Chinese herbal routine.
Call 646-504-2251

TCM and the Goji Berry
The TCM dietetics approach treats foods as medicine. Each food has a temperature (hot, warm, neutral, cold, and cool) and taste(s) (sweet, salty, bitter, sour, and acrid or spicy). These properties help the practitioner to match up the proper herb or food with the proper diagnosis of the patient. I look into the diet of each of my patients in order to eradicate disease more quickly. For example; if the patient has a heat condition I would give them a list of predominately cool foods to eat until the heat condition is healed. After that, they can eat a balance cool and warm food. The properties of the goji berry are sweet with a neutral temperature, and it is a very safe herb to use with rarely causing allergic reactions.

Gou Qi Zi is the Chinese name for the lycium fruit that is more commonly known as the Chinese wolfberry or “goji berry” on the Western

Gou Ji berries are also known as, Matrimony Vine Fruit, for it’s aphrodisiac effect

markets. It is also known as matrimony vine fruit for its libido enhancing effect. In TCM, the goji berry is typically used to nourish the blood and the yin and is a very safe herb, which is why it crosses over into the food-herb category. Goji berries are used by the Chinese population at large as a longevity/anti-aging food. It is typically put into rice congee (porridge) or into soups, which is extremely tasty. Traditionally the red goji berry is collected in summer and autumn, and is dried in the shade until the skin shrinks. It is then exposed to the sun until the outer skin becomes dry and hard but the inner pulp still soft.1

How You Can Use Goji Berries!
Always rinse your berries well before consuming them.
My suggestions are as follows:

  • In your oatmeal – Use them instead of raisins!
  • In chicken & vegetable soup with noodles goji berries are a yummy addition!
  • Urban trail mix – carry them around the city in a varied mix with other dried fruits and nuts. Great on the go snack that is healthy.
  • Drink it – the juice is a very tasty and highly concentrated dose of the goji berry. Bring 8 cups of filtered or spring water to a boil. Add 1 cup of the rinsed berries to the boiling water. Simmer over a low flame for 30 minutes. Strain the berries from the water and drink one cup per day. Eat a handful of the boiled berries each day until they are gone. This trick will save you tons of money on over-priced goji juices that are sold on the open market.
  • Tincture it. Soak ½ pound of goji berries in vodka for 3 weeks. Drink a shot daily. When the tincture runs out you can add more vodka and soak the same berries again for another 3 weeks.

The West Tests The Goji Berry
The West has caught on that this is a valuable food product to put on the shelves. It is expected to be a billion dollar industry by the next decade. There have also been some more recent studies done on the fruit that have supported the ancient Chinese notions. The tiny little red berry packs a powerful punch because tests show that it is an antioxidant, it helps to reduce hypertension/high blood pressure, and strengthens immunity.

Antioxidant Test
Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food or by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke and radiation. Free radicals can damage cells and may play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases.2 Goji berries have been tested along with other Chinese medicinals and the goji berry came out on top as the herb with the most antioxidants. The results also suggest that goji berry extract is a good source of antioxidants in the daily diet.3 ORAC is the standard test, adopted by the US Department of Agriculture, to measure the potency of antioxidants in food.4 The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI measures proper micronutrient intake) for antioxidants is 5000 ORAC units. Check out this ORAC chart (from

Fruits ORAC Score Grams needed to reach DRI
Goji Berries 25,300 20
Black Raspberries 7,700 65
Prunes 5,770 87
Bilberry 4,460 112
Pomegranates 3,307 151

As you can see, the ORAC score is off the charts for goji berries, but remember that they are just part of a full, healthy diet including other fruits and vegetables. Goji berries also contain a whole host of other macro and micronutrients that are beneficial to the body. Check out a list here.

Hypertension Test
Lycium barbarum polysaccharide (LBP), one of the many chemical components of the goji berry, was extracted and tested on rats with high blood pressure. It was found that the increase of blood pressure in hypertension rats could be prevented significantly by treatment with 10% LBP.5 If you do have serious hypertension, please don’t just eat goji berries and hope for the best. Goji berries can be eaten as part of a regimen to prevent hypertension and to keep your circulatory system healthy.

Call 646-504-2251 To Order Goji Berries. Just $25 Per Pound.
Free Shipping on orders of $50 or more!

Immunity Test
Goji berries are traditionally thought to prevent disease by keeping the immune system fully operational. They are thought to keep the colds and flus at bay, but there has been some interest in using components of the fruit in cancer therapy. In a study that looked at our friend lycium barbarum polysaccharide (LBP), the results suggest that LBP may induce immune responses and possess potential therapeutic efficacy in cancer.6 In a nutshell, the LBP may not have fought the cancer itself, but a dramatic increase in activity was demonstrated in the cancer-fighting components of the immune system. This type of research is important to the continual battle against cancer and other immune-deficiency diseases.

Click here to read my article on immunity boosting with TCM.

I hope that this has shed some light on one of the many Chinese food-herbs that have begun to show up in Western markets.

We have sold goji berries at Aiyana Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs for a long time. We find them to be extremely beneficial to many patients, and they can be used with almost anyone. Ask us about them today as we have high quality goji berries for sale. Call 646-504-2251 to order.

Juliette Aiyana, L.Ac.
Aiyana Acupuncture & Chinese Herbs
32 Union Square East, Suite 615 N
New York, New York 10003

(646) 504-2251

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