Curing Your Spring and Summer Ailments in Nanjing

Curing Your Spring and Summer Ailments in Nanjing
By Melissa Morgenstern ,

In Wisconsin, we have a saying about the weather: "If you don't like the weather…wait five minutes". This five minute weather phenomenon also seems to be quite prevalent in the semi-tropical bustling urban hub of Nanjing. Who would have guessed that Nanjing and Wisconsin had something in common? While five minutes may be enough to cure your seasonal mood it can also be enough time to ensure a slew of colds and allergy related ailments that are sure to wreck your spring and summer plans. For those Nanjingers who are looking for alternative ways to prevent allergies, colds and other spring and summer ailments, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) may have the answer you are looking for.

Basic tenets of Traditional Chinese Medicine

According to Dr. Chen Hao of the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the most important tenet of TCM is prevention. Treatment suggested include acupuncture, massage, medicine and qigong (deep breathing exercises), to control the body's internal temperature and maintain the health of vital organs, all of which is vital to boosting the immune system and preventing illness. However, in pursuing TCM treatment and consulting TCM physicians you should be aware that 100% prevention against disease is not ensured. The occasional cold or stomach problem can always break through the best of defences, but these methods and treatments can help in decreasing the likelihood of coming down with a variety of spring/summer related health complaints.

Nanjing's spring and summer common health issues

Jessica Walsh, a student at Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, recognises that spring tends to be the season for respiratory illnesses. This prevalence of respiratory problems is due to the rapid and frequent changes in temperature that can negatively affect the body's ability to fight diseases. Allergies can be an issue as well due to the heavy air pollution, the dust that comes from the numerous construction sites around the city, as well as certain plants such as Nanjing's beloved sycamore trees. Dr. Chen Hao added that asthma and allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal membranes) come about with the severe changes in temperature. 

In the summer, the problems tend to be a bit different. The heat and humidity create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, which, combined with the less than hygienic environments of local restaurants can lead to the most common of summer ills: enteritis (inflammation of the small intestine). Symptoms of enteritis include fever, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, cramping, and dehydration. Skin problems are also an issue, with heat/sweat rash, contact dermatitis, and fungal infections quite common in spring and summer time. Many of these illnesses are a result of ingesting too many cold drinks and food items as well as exposing too much of our bodies in those fashionable, short summer fashions. So while the summer sun may tempt you to don your short shorts and spaghetti strap dresses, the idea of a slew of colds might make you think twice.

How TCM can help

Before attempting any of these treatments it is important to note that while TCM is a good option for allergies, non-fungal skin diseases and respiratory tract infections, antibiotics should be considered for more serious bacterial infections. To avoid the common cold, try to avoid quick temperature changes by dressing appropriately. Gradually changing from warmer clothing to summer fashions can help to avoid stressful temperature changes that can wreak havoc on your immune system. Another step to take is to reduce the amount of air conditioning during the summer. For those of us who can't live without air conditioning during the sweltering Nanjing summer, staying out of the direct path of cold air and wearing a jacket in colder areas is recommended. If you are already suffering from a cold, a variety of beverages exist to alleviate your cold symptoms. Boiling ginger in water for 5-10 minutes can make for some delicious ginger tea, one of the more common remedies. Replacing the water with coke can make a tasty remedy for younger children. For irritated sore throats try pear tea, made by boiling Asian pear with rock candy in water for 10 minutes. 

Nasal allergies can be alleviated through self-massage techniques. Locate the two "ying xiang" acupoints on the right and left nasolabials (the skin folds that extend from the sides of the nose to the corners of the mouth), which are at the nostril level. Massage this area for 3-5 minutes daily with enough pressure so that you can feel a tad sore but not to the point of being painful. Exercise and exposure to sunlight are also recommended, however it is also important to not exert yourself too much during the summer months. During this time, it is also very important to pay attention to liver activity. The liver can be improved by ingesting traditional edible medicines such as orange peel, Chinese wolfberry fruit and lotus seeds, which are especially helpful for cooling the body and preventing heat rash. Mung bean tea can also be a great alternative to ice cream and cold drinks for cooling the body, while green tea can help with improving stomach and spleen function. 

To increase immune activity and prevent disease throughout the year, exercise, tai chi, qigong breathing exercises and maintaining a regular diet and eating schedule are recommended. It is also important to maintain a healthy mental state of mind by having self-confidence, avoiding arguments and having an overall positive attitude.

Costs, locations, and what to look out for

At a hospital, acupuncture ranges from 30 to 60 RMB per treatment, while herbal medicine can vary from 50 to 200 RMB for a week's worth of treatment. Jessica Walsh recommends that if treatment exceeds 200 RMB, especially for an herbal treatment or product, be sure that the organisation is trustworthy. TCM hospitals are the most reliable centres for treatment.

Private clinics can be less reliable, unless they are recommended by a trusted individual. Three credible centres include the Jiangsu Province TCM Hospital (one of the largest TCM hospitals that is qualified in both Chinese and Western Medicine), Qinhuai District TCM Hospital (famous for acupuncture and gynaecological treatment), and the clinic of Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (a good place for patients who have already been diagnosed). All three locations are Chinese language only, so bring your trusty translator or dictionary if necessary. Furthermore, one more thing to be careful of is to check if the treatment centre uses single use needles. However, this is already a common practice in most hospitals.

Dr. Chen also emphasises the need for patients to realise that Chinese traditional medicine operates according to the "san yin" or three aspects: individual, time and place. Therefore, any type of treatment you get should be catered to your specific ailments and needs and not taken from a standardised list of treatment.

*Special Thanks to Jessica Walsh, Dr. Chen Hao, and Pan Hui from the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Recommended TCM Centres:

Jiangsu Province TCM hospital (江苏省中医院)View In Map
Add:  155 Hanzhong Lu, Nanjing
Tel: 025 8661 7141

Qinhuai District TCM hospital (秦淮中医院)View In Map
Add:  512 Zhonghua Lu, Nanjing
Tel: 025 5220 6941 
Getting there: Near Confucius Temple (Securing an appointment can be difficult, the line starts around 4:00-5:00)

The Clinic of the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (南京中医药大学国医堂)View In Map
Add: 282 Hanzhong Lu, Nanjing
Getting there: Located near the Hanzhongmen metro stop

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