Respiratory Tract Infections (RTI’S)

In Jan. 2016, an article appeared in the Journal of Annals of Internal Medicine.  The CDC and ACP (American College of Physicians) issued a joint statement/guidelines, regarding how to treat respiratory infections.  Experts urged physicians to control their prescription pads, and not to write antibiotics too quickly.  The reason is that drug-resistant bacteria are becoming more prevalent, costing 30 billion dollars to treat them per year and 2,600 lives.  Most RTI’s are caused by viruses for which antibiotics are not effective.  Yes, there maybe secondary infections by bacteria which means the host’s immune function is weakened by viral infection first, but most of these infections are self limited.

A couple of years ago a female physician asked me to help with her persistent sinus infection.  She had just finished three courses of oral antibiotics to no avail.  I began her on a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs.  Three days later, feeling 70% better she returned for second treatment.  She felt 100% better after the third treatment which was one week after the initial visit.  How could this be possible?  The answer is the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) takes an individualized approach.

Experienced TCM practitioners divide patients with RTI into two groups, one feeling cold and another feeling hot.  Cold intolerance patients are treated with warming herbs and the heat/feverish sensation patients are treated with cooling herbs.  Herbal antibiotics are then added to the concoction as well as some elements for symptomatic relief, such as cough, neck pain, running nose, etc.  With a team of herbs, most people improve quickly.

Pulse diagnosis is very important guiding the prescriptions of herbs.  The female physician mentioned above had so called “liver fire”, i.e. the left Guan pulse was strong, convex and jumpy.  Liver fire means she was irritable, with elevated BP and pulse rate, possibly with temporal headache and poor sleep.  (The liver here is not the same as in western medicine.)  By draining the liver fire, her sinus symptoms subsided quickly.  Likewise, patients may have “lung fire” or “stomach fire” depending on their presentation and they are treated differently.

TCM is treating the entire body or the big environment, not just focusing on the sinuses, throat or the airway.  By normalizing the big environment, the host is capable of fending off infection quickly.


Dr. Peter Sheng
Cincinnati Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Therapy, Integrative Medicine & Holistic Health Care