Janelle: You're listening to ''Staying in the Game,'' a Plum Dragon Herbs podcast where we have conversations about mindset and techniques for staying at the top of your game. I'm your host, Janelle Leatherwood. In this podcast series, we are speaking to Craig Williams, a licensed acupuncturist and practitioner of East Asian Medicine and private practice in Austin, Texas. Well, welcome to the show today, Craig. We're so glad to have you here again with us.
Craig: It's great, it's great to be back. Thank you so much for having me on.
Janelle: Yeah, absolutely. And for those of you who aren't familiar yet with Craig Williams, he's a licensed acupuncturist, a clinical herbalist, professional member of the American Herbalist Guild, a certified East/West herbalist and certified Ayurvedic practitioner with the National Ayurveda Medical Association. Plus, he does a ton of nutrition and coaching training and we are just really excited to talk to him. He recently had an article out in, I believe it was ''Acupuncture Today?''
Craig: Right. I have a column in ''Acupuncture Today.''
Janelle: Yeah. So regular column. And your latest article was so great. I hear you didn't know that corona virus was on the horizon.
Craig: I know.
Janelle: Just tell us about that article and we'll get started.
Craig: Yeah. That's the nature of the publishing industry. You're always writing something that you know is gonna come out two or three months down the road. And I knew we'd be at the end of the winter season. And so I wanted to write something about using food therapy to boost immune system during the winter season. So then it came out right at the height of this corona crisis. So it was actually quite good timing. And even though in Texas, we're not really in winter per se anymore, a lot of places still are. So it's a good topic to discuss about like food is medicine and how we can use food to boost our immune system.
Janelle: Yeah, absolutely. I know. And isn't it great that we've got spring happening right now? I'm glad as we're, you know, just starting into the effects of the virus where we live and so I'm glad that my kids who are now home from school full time, can go outside and get some sunshine and play. Yeah.
Craig: Yeah, absolutely. Totally.
Janelle: Yeah. What a game changer it's been. It's crazy.
Craig: It's a crazy time for sure. Hopefully, you know, with everybody does all the things that they're asking us to do that within a couple of weeks you'll see a flattening of the curves and then maybe after a month and even more. So I'm sure that's typically what they're expecting, so.
Janelle: Yeah. Now, let's dive in a little bit to some of the food recommendations that you said are good for immune building and boosting during the winter season. Like first on your list was walnuts which I thought was really great.
Craig: Yeah, yeah. I wanted to put some things in that article because I'm always limited in space. You know when you're writing a column it's, you don't have as much time and space as you would have say if you were writing a book or if I was giving a four-hour lecture on winter health nutrition. But we have a lot more time now to discuss that. But walnuts are one of my favorite foods. It's considered a medicine in Chinese medicine, which was a type of a kidney tonic and a lung tonic. And so this food is easy to obtain and anybody can eat it and you can be really creative with how you use it, but it has a great ability to provide a wonderful source of essential fatty acids. It's a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals and it has a kind of a lubricating quality and a warming quality.
So after we've been inside the heat which tends to dry us out during the long winter months, it tends to particularly dry out our lungs. Then walnuts are wonderful for kind of softening and moistening the lungs, moistening the intestines and it warms up the body too. Well, you could even refer to walnuts as a type of anti-aging tonic. And so I often have people mix walnuts with goji berries. That's one of my favorite little snack mixes, which I'll tell people to do because goji berries have so many of the similar benefits in Chinese medicine is that, so you can really kind of combine foods, like you're making an herbal formula, you can put different foods together in the same way.
Janelle: Right. Right. Now, I have a couple of questions about walnuts in particular. Do you recommend soaking them like overnight before you eat them or...?
Craig: Yeah. Yeah, that's a good question. I mean that's a big thing now. People talk about that. But for most people that's not necessary unless maybe somebody had significant digestion problems, for the most part. But soaking, you know, a lot of companies now are already making sprouted nuts. And so if you do have the option to get that, that's always great. I personally find that sprouted nuts tend to even taste a little bit better. But typically for me, I'll just use the standard raw walnuts. Of course, you can get roasted and salted, but you do lose a little bit of the benefits. Not all of them, but you do lose a little bit. So to get the maximum, I usually would use the raw walnuts and I usually put them in oatmeal or I'll put them in rice dishes. Those are my two favorite ways to, or if I make a quinoa dish, then I'll put them...sprinkle them over the finish of the quinoa.
Janelle: Yeah. Okay. Now you coach people on eating and eating well. And what about dieting? Like can you eat too many nuts? I mean, they're high in calories, so.
Craig: Yeah, yeah. No, that's a great question. And I often say one of the biggest problems I see with people who are dieting is they tend to eat too much trail mix. And that's just something I see all the time. People would be saying, "You know, and no, I can guarantee you my food is on track and I don't know why I'm not losing those extra five pounds." And if we look at their food diary, the two biggest things that I see come up are eating too much of a trail mix and eating too much nut butters. So yeah, the nut butters are more of a concern typically because they're so concentrated of a caloric value. And you can see a game changer for people who are trying to lose weight when they go from say, having a tablespoon of nut butter a day to like a teaspoon.
It's pretty dramatic. People don't know how calorically dense nut butters are. But nuts in general, they don't have to be massively consumed. Like honestly like a handful of walnuts a day is all you really need. That would be... Unless someone was... You know, I do coach a lot of ultra distance runners and, you know, and maybe athletes who are doing Ironman distance or something. If someone had an extremely high exercise level, then they're gonna need a lot more calories. In that case, then you have a little bit more wiggle room. But for your average person, you know, but for your average person, a handful of walnuts you're set. That's perfect.
Janelle: Yeah. Okay. What would be next on your list of...?
Craig: I think in that order, I forgot to mention sunflower seeds too mainly because they're such a good source of zinc. And zinc is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies that we see all the time. But it's very important during the cold and flu season because it does present viral infections.
Janelle: Do pumpkin seeds compare or are they less?
Craig: They do. They're wonderful. And that you read my mind, I was going to say, I often tell people to do pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, walnut mix. And they can kind of have that as a little snack and then they can have the goji berries to that too. But no, pumpkin seeds are wonderful for that. And that's why in a lot of the traditionalist, the Western herbalist traditions you would see they often use to recommend pumpkin seeds for prostate health. And one of the main reasons was because they were so high in zinc. Zinc is really important for prostate health. Yeah. So it's just great to have a higher consumption of zinc rich foods during in the cold and flu season and sunflower seeds are just easy. And once again, you can just sprinkle that over...
I typically sprinkle that over any kind of rice dishes or quinoa dishes. Or of course, you can put it in oatmeal as well, too, or you can just have it as a snack. And that's why, you know, you can see this makes sense to a lot of people because they're used to thinking of things like zinc lozenges during the cold and flu season, or taking a zinc capsule, that's totally feasible and very important during the cold and flu season. I take zinc in a capsule form during the cold and flu season for sure. Yeah, so it's just, I like to really focus on micronutrient deficiencies and what people are not getting. And it's, if we can get it from foods as simple as sunflower seeds, then it's great.
And there's also a lot of research on cardiovascular health with walnuts and sunflower seeds. You know, cultures that tend to eat a little bit more of the healthy nuts have lower rates of heart disease. And so that's a great thing to kind of bring in into those kinds of nutritional ideas as well.
Janelle: Okay. Well yeah and like it's hard to find some of those zinc products right now and so it's good to get them naturally. Yeah.
Craig: That's exactly...you know, that's why I put that in the article because so much...so many times during the cold and flu seasons, the stores are out of zinc lozenges or zinc pills, but they're usually never out of sunflower seeds, so I'm always...or pumpkin seeds and so you can get those and really get a good dose from that as well, too.
Janelle: Okay. And then fresh garlic, you've mentioned that.
Craig: Fresh garlic is probably my, yeah, that's probably my favorite. Fresh garlic is probably my favorite all time or for everything. And, you know, people throw around that word superfood today so much. Everything's a superfood. And most of the time that's a marketing hype. But with garlic, it's the real deal. Garlic has extensive research on both antibacterial and antiviral capabilities as well as extensive research on its ability to prevent heart disease and even some amazing research on cancer prevention. And so the key with that, it's a good question, the key with...to get all of those benefits, particularly since we're talking about immune system, to get some kind of antiviral or some kind of antibacterial benefits, it needs to be eaten raw. And what that means is you typically...it needs to be chopped up in any way you wanna chop it.
Whether you just slice it or you slice it super thin or just little peels, you take the bulb and slice it up and let it sit for about two to three minutes for some of the enzymes to activate. And then once you've done that, you can just sprinkle that on any food. It's pretty important to take that with food. Most people can't just chop up a clove of garlic and just eat that without it bothering their stomach or burning their mouth. So my favorite way is to put it on pasta dishes. But you can also get olive oil and some nice bread and put it on that. It's obviously if you've already made a really healthy soup...because I'm a huge fan of making soups during the winter season.
And so you can use a really nice soup and then after you've already made your bowl of the soup, then you just sprinkle the raw garlic into that bowl. You can cook with garlic. And of course, the flavor is wonderful if someone likes the flavor. And there are some health benefits of cooked garlic that tends to be more cardiovascular. The more you cook the garlic, you lose the benefits of the antiviral and the antibacterial. So that's the main reason why I say, you know, if someone wants it during the cold and flu season really try to do it raw on top of food.
Janelle: Well, the great thing with us trying to avoid people is we won't have to breathe our garlic breath on them right now.
Craig: Yeah, that's true. Yeah. And I myself, I mean I consume a lot of garlic. I mean I on average, especially during when it's cold I usually do two to three cloves a day on food. And after a while, it's no big deal. You don't, you know...unless occasionally if I'm out for a run I like smell. But it's not, you know, not like most people, not like most people think. It's not the same. Yeah. So, but that's a big one. It's a big one that tends to get... The data's all there. The research is all there. And people just kind of quietly forget it because they're always looking for this other cool new thing that's being marketed. But garlic is really, really powerful in its ability to do that.
And also the same thing with onions. Garlic and onions together, both have substantial immune boosting benefits and they can be incredibly helpful for respiratory infections, you know, low grade colds and flu and also infections that are...if someone has a tendency to have things that settle in the lungs, whether they have, you know, respiratory, like a COPD or bronchitis or asthma, then things like garlic and onions are really wonderful, true home remedies to have around that literally work. They can really make a big difference.
Janelle: Okay. And do you have to eat onions raw as well to get the full benefit?
Craig: For the cold and flu stuff, typically. Yeah, typically. So you can also, when you... In Ayurvedic medicine, you would eat the raw onions for more of the cold and flu benefits, but when you cook them, they have a little bit more of a longevity boosting effect.
Janelle: Okay. So I'm thinking like maybe an onion, cucumber, garlic salad or something like that, you know, maybe...
Craig: That'd be absolutely perfect. Yeah, that'd be beautiful. Yeah, that would be actually a primo way to do that with some nice quality olive oil a little bit on there. And even if you did that, you can even add nuts to that and you don't even notice the flavor. It's not gonna change the flavor profile at all.
Janelle: Right, right. Okay. And then let's see. Yeah, in your article you also mentioned ginger.
Craig: Ginger is a huge one too. Ginger's one of those kinds of things, it's a [inaudible 00:13:44] kind of can cure or treat anything and it's so easy and so inexpensive. That's why I always say like garlic and ginger, to have around the house can treat so many different things. And for example, with ginger, you can just get fresh ginger and make ginger tea, which is wonderful for the first stages of a cold or a flu or any kind of gastrointestinal problem. You can also chop it up and add it to foods or soups to both have a little bit of flavor but also improve your digestion. And that's a big part of the benefits of ginger is we know so much of our immune system is connected to our digestive system, you know, and that's a big part.
So any kind of herb which is going to improve your digestion, we can kind of think mentally that's going to help boost our immunity as well. And that's what we see, that connection between, for example, say probiotics and immune system. You know, people talk... And that is true, like taking a good quality probiotic during the cold and flu season can be very, very helpful. And that's because it's directly helping your gut and the digestive capacity. And that's also why like for example, onions and garlic, they're prebiotics. They have a lot of things called fructooligosaccharides and they're these types of sugar that are our bodies don't absorb, but the beneficial bacteria in our guts love them.
And so when we eat more like onions and garlic, our body makes more effective of our own bacteria. So not only does it have an ability just to directly, you know, help your immune system through the active components in the actual, let's say garlic and onions, but it helps your body start to make its own bacteria, which even boosts your immune system even deeper. So it's a big win-win situation. But garlic tea...rather, ginger tea, you can do that. You can chop it up and put it in salads as well. You can put it in soups. Of course, if someone, you know, really didn't like the taste of ginger, which is totally normal, they could absolutely get ginger capsules and that would be wonderful to take for upset stomachs or if they're eating a heavier diet.
Most people during the winter time tend to eat heavier foods. You know, we tend to eat fattier foods, more nutrient dense food and particularly protein heavy foods. And so that's another reason to add ginger just really helps you digest all those heavier foods, fattier foods, which tend to maybe kind of leave us feel bloated or even gassy, then ginger is just incredible for that.
Janelle: Okay. Yeah, definitely we need to pay attention to our gut health. And I know I make kefir almost daily.
Craig: Nice. That's wonderful. Yeah. Yeah.
Janelle: So let's see. We recently put out an article about how there's so much studies and research that have identified several Chinese herbs that might help maintain a healthy immunity during this outbreak. So I was wondering if we could maybe cover some of the more common ones. And I know, you know, at Plum Dragon Herbs, we offer all of these herbs…. So let's go ahead and talk about some of these Chinese herbs.
Craig: Well, real quickly, I will say I was very excited to see that Plum Dragon was coming out with osha root tincture. Osha is one of my all time favorite herbs. It's a really beautiful herb. The Native Americans used to call it bear medicine. And it's extremely powerful and unique. And that's one of those herbs which I have always in my clinic and I always have people have that around the house during the cold and flu season. It's a very spicy, very potent herb. It's just phenomenal for both early stage respiratory problems, but also kind of complicated chronic lung stuff, for things that won't clear up. So that's exciting. Osha's wonderful.
Janelle: That's really good. Oh, go ahead.
Craig: No, no, you go, go.
Janelle: Oh, I was just gonna ask you, how do...do all ages seem to tolerate that herb really well in your experience? Like young kids seem to have struggle with a lot of respiratory issues as well.
Craig: Yeah, that's a good point. I mean, that's the tricky thing about osha is that osha does...it has a very strong flavor. So the compliance is a tricky thing with that. But no, it's actually wonderful for pediatric cases. Usually, I'll try to mix it in with other herbs to kind of buffer the taste a bit. But that's the really funny thing about osha is that no matter what you mix it with, it cuts through, you know, so. But it is incredibly effective for that and you can definitely put it into a capsule if you needed to, but the liquid does tend to work a little bit quicker. But it's totally safe to use for children and you just dose it based on their body weight. And it's a very easy thing with the... But I don't use osha as a tonic really.
Although some traditions used to use osha you could...they would often take osha root and chew on it as a respiratory tonic. I don't typically do...I don't typically do it like that. I typically just use it when we have what we would call in Chinese medicine, either wind cold or wind heat issues, which basically means early stage of colds or flu or if there's some type of chronic lung condition that's just not clearing, I'll typically use it with other herbs in a formula. But at first signed to have around the house, it's just an amazing stuff to have for clearing that out. Obviously getting any kids to take any herbs can be tricky. You know, that's always tough.
And so that's why, you know, that can be a whole different ball game with that. But as far as just overall efficacy and what it's used for, it's really effective. But you don't need to take it every day. That's something just to kind of have...just to have it on hand if you know you have a tendency for lung issues. And, you know, something which I talk to my patients and everyone about a lot is that we really need to take care of our lungs because most of the problems that come with cold and flu issues are not the initial issues. It's not just the initial thing that they...that people have serious complications from.
What happens is that when it just stays around and starts to settle into the lungs and then you get things like pneumonia, cardiopulmonary issues, and those are very hard to treat. Western medicine doesn't have a lot of stuff to do for lungs except give someone maybe a really generic expectorant or a really generic mucolytic or literally put them on oxygen, but Western herbalism, Chinese herbalism, Ayurvedic herbalism has a ton of stuff to do for respiratory stuff.
But to keep the lungs healthy and to really think upstream medicine and say, okay, we need to be sure that nothing settles in the lungs, that's why it's nice to have osha around. You know, people tend to forget about that. And then before they know it, you know their cough has turned into a deep cough to a chronic cough and then they're using really simple remedies then and those don't work anymore then. You know, that's the problem. So osha is really great because it works very deeply and very...on both the surface and the deep conditions. So it's really wonderful.
Janelle: Yeah. Okay. And you're right, there really isn't anything in the mainstream medical market as far as treating respiratory. It's just kind of like stick it out maybe, steroids sometimes.
Craig: No, prednisone and steroids, yup, steroid inhalers, things like that, which can be effective, but they don't really...they're not boosting lung health. They're just...it's crisis medicine, which is wonderful to have. That's great to have. But then at once you're out of the crisis and it turns into chronic, that's when we see the problems. There's not much that we can do. And that's one of the beautiful times when herbs can come in. And then also, too, just people being aware and... Like for example, that's one of the reasons why I love walnuts, they're a lung tonic. They help strengthen the lungs. They lubricate the lungs. And garlic and onions, they're totally respiratory tonics. They help the lungs. And so all these kinds of foods, they're kind of already proactively doing that to help us keep our long health. And so that's a good thing with that.
But some of the herbs in that article, another herb, which is extremely important is astragulus, which in Chinese medicine is called huang qi, and that's a wonderful tonic. It's so underappreciated. It's in a very famous formula called yu ping feng san, which means Jade Windscreen and it was used as a protector for preventing colds and flu. And astragulus was one of the main herbs in that and it's easier to take. It's super gentle. It's very inexpensive. It can be taken in a capsule form, a liquid extract form, or you can actually get the root and the roots look like...they're really beautiful. They look like almost like old school tongue depressors. And you can add those to soups. That's one of my favorite things to do in the wintertime is for people to get astragulus root and then they can just add that for when they're making soup. And as a soup stock, you just leave it in there and it kind of cooks into the whole soup and there's no flavor.
It doesn't mess with the flavor at all. And you can do the same thing while you're cooking rice. You can get a piece of astragalus root and break it in half. It's like this little piece of wood and then put it in water as the rice cooks and it just cooks into the rice. But it's also... In Chinese medicine, we would refer to it as a spleen tonic, which is a digestive aspect, but it also really boosts immunity as well. And that's typically...astragalus root is typically taken as a preventative. And you'll often see that, they'll say things like, don't take this when you're already sick and don't take this during acute conditions. And that is typically true, although Chinese medicine would often use huang qi or astragalus root in chronic conditions if someone was really depleted. Senior citizens, someone who is very sick, oftentimes they would totally use it. If someone was sick, they would combine it with astragulus, with say osha root or [inaudible 00:24:14] or other herbs, but anyone could get astragalus and take it preventatively. It's a super gentle tonic, super effective. It's extremely effective for athletes because it builds up the energy and the immunity at a really deep level and it's not a stimulant. And so one of my...I used to get on my soapbox all the time and try to get athletes off of ginseng and on to astragulus because people often would take too much ginseng.
Craig: Yeah, they were ignoring astragulus. And so I still think that's true. I think most people who are taking ginseng should be taking astragulus, athletes and [inaudible 00:24:54]. And it's just wonderful to use. And kids can take it. That's one of the best tonics for kids. They won't even... If they can swallow capsules, you could easily give them one to two capsules of astragulus root a day to prevent them from getting sick. Or if you had a liquid extract, you could do 10 drops. You could even make jello cubes out of it. You can put 10 drops in jello and mix it up. So the kids, they have a jello snack, they have astragulus jello snacks. There's a lot of cool things you can do with that one.
Janelle: We even have a recipe on our site where we sell the Chinese herb astragalus called huang qi, as you mentioned...
Craig: Huang qi, yeah.
Janelle: ...for astragalus butter, which is like a substitute for peanut butter. So you can even make something like that. Kids will never know.
Craig: I love it. Yeah, yeah, that's wonderful. So I can't emphasize how much I love astragulus. That's one of the most important herbs for consumers to become a little bit more familiar with, for people to become familiar with. It is so effective for kids and adults alike and has such a wide range of benefits.
Janelle: And what... Oh, go ahead.
Craig: I was gonna say, most of my patients that I see, even if they're not sick, everyone's complaining about being fatigued and tired and so astragulus, you know, astragulus is great. It helps both.
Janelle: So it really has a lot of benefits, you know.
Craig: A lot of benefits. Yeah. Big time.
Janelle: Now, similar in name but totally different...huang qin, is that correct? Which is the next one that I kind of wanna talk about, the Chinese skullcap root.
Craig: Skullcap yeah, that's a berberine rich herb which was typically used to clear out damp heat conditions. It's really effective when someone already has typically an acute infection. And that would be typically when we would see what they were referred to as either wind heat or damp heat conditions and typically the patient is kind of exhibiting some type of inflammatory symptoms throughout the body. Typically, their tongue would be very red. Their pulse would be fast. Their throat would hurt. They would have a fever. Their skin might even be red. Those are all kind of indications with that.
And so it's typically used in those kinds of conditions. And it's really effective. It's extremely effective. And they would have huang lian, huang qin, the different kind of varieties of berberine rich things. And with Western herbalism, I was very familiar with that, it was somewhat related to goldenseal. But huang qin does have some unique ability that's above and beyond those. So typically those are more used for an acute and they're almost always in a formula.
Janelle: Right. I know we have a new one that just came out as well, our huang qin extract.
Yeah. Yeah. And it's very...it's very bitter. You know, it's one of those kinds of...it's a berberine, so the palatability of that one is tricky. But you could easily, like combining, if someone had an acute condition that was predominantly of heat signs, one could easily use that and even balance out the warming aspect of osha. You could use huang qin together and they kind of...they stabilize each other. Because that's a unique thing about making herbal formulas is they're balancing each other. You know, some herb might be warm, some herb be cool and so we try to balance them together so there's no irritation in the body with those two.
But huang qin is a really great herb for...you know, especially in cases now where we're seeing people who have that antibiotic resistance. And so that's when we really wanna think about which of these herbs like the lian qiao, [foreign language 00:28:44], hung qin, all those...the heat clearing herbs can be very important to have on hand because sometimes the antibiotics, they don't work as well anymore for some people.
Janelle: Well and so maybe I rushed you a little bit talking about some of the preventative herbs because we can go back to that.
Craig: That's fine.
Janelle: So just for overall prevention, were there any others that you wanted to mention?
Craig: I think the two biggest areas to think of when we talk about prevention, it would be of course the astragulus and then the other category would be medicinal mushrooms. Medicinal mushrooms are so important. And they mentioned one of my favorite ones in that wonderful article that Dong Chong Xia Cao, which is cordyceps. And cordyceps it's technically a fungus. It's a caterpillar fungus, but it's just a phenomenal herb to really strengthen the lungs, boost the immunity at a very deep level. And that combination of taking cordyceps and astragulus together is just an incredible tonic to prevent colds and flu, to boost the immune system, cardiovascular health. And it's a big thing for chronic fatigue syndrome and energy.
Janelle: Yeah, I was gonna say, I know that athletes take that as well for energy.
Craig: Yeah. I take a lot of cordyceps. I typically use it in a powdered form. And there's a lot of companies which make it in powder form. They'll typically, they'll grow them often on oats. They form in a month. So they just taste kind of oaty, nutty. It's super easy to take. But it's also wonderful for kids who have a tendency toward respiratory problems. If a child has a tendency toward getting stuff in the lungs or a tendency toward asthma, you could use that. But it really works very, very deeply. And so that's what I'm always trying to encourage people to save the echinacea when you're sick, save the elderberry for when you're sick, but take things like astragulus and medicinal mushrooms daily. And that really builds up the immune system at a super deep level, not just some kind of surface thing.
And so then when your body's stronger, the other herbs work better. And another thing to keep in mind too is that when we're talking about Chinese medicine or we're talking about tonic herbs and we're talking about food is medicine, the benefit of doing that is so that when you're, you know, food eating...food is in medicine and eating food, which is in harmony with the seasons and then taking preventative or tonic herbs which prevent things, it literally makes your body stronger so that regardless of what happens, if you do get sick, anything that you take, whether it's Western medicine or Chinese medicine typically works better. You know, someone who's very strong and their microbiome is healthy and their digestion is good and they have a lot of energy, antibiotics work amazing with those people, right? That's the thing.
Western medicine's like, bam, it fixes it. You're done. The problem is, is most people today are so run down, they have chronic digestive issues. They're chronically micronutrient depleted. They have horrible diets. And then they arrive at Western medicine. You know, and that's very frustrating even for allopathic doctors. They're like, you know, I'm trying the best I can, but you're not... It's not helping. You know. And so that's one of the reasons why I often tell people it's like, hey, you know, even if you have to get something at a hospital, you have to take something that you didn't wanna take as far as allopathic medicine, it's gonna work better because your body's healthier. You're stronger, you're just going to, you're gonna bounce back quicker, you're going to come back stronger. And that's the reason why the tonic herbs, even particularly huang qi or astragalus and the cordyceps, those were used extensively in chemotherapy recovery.
They were used extensively to bring the body back after it had been extensively damaged through radiation and chemotherapy. So it just makes us stronger and it brings us back. And that's something that... It's kind of like, you think...you have to think about that old Chinese phrase where they would say like the superior doctor treats before there's any disease, or they would say, you know, build the ditch before the flooding comes. That's a big aspect in Chinese medicine is to say like, hey, let's prevent this before it even happens.
And I think that's something which I'm always trying to instill in patients and people, just to start thinking a little bit more like that. It's not living in paranoia. It's just investing in your health. It's just thinking like, hey, I just would like to not be sick or be sick less, you know. And so those are the...that's one of the reasons of using these kinds of foods or using tonic herbs is that you're just gonna be more resistant to everything and you feel better.
Janelle: Right, right. Yes. And you know, I mean I was just thinking, you know, when we were talking about how there's not a lot of things to treat lung conditions in Western medicine. You know, part of the problem with like steroids and things like that is they actually weaken your immune system, same thing again with antibiotics. You know, like now you're destroying all your good gut bacteria. And so anything that we can do, like you said preventatively so that we don't then have like a side effect condition after taking, you know, the Western medicine is going to be really helpful for our bodies and staying, you know, healthy overall from these viruses.
Craig: It's so, so important. It's so, so important. And then you just have a better quality of life. You bounce back...you bounce back quicker from the small issues or big issues. You're just stronger overall. And I'd say this extensively, you know, because I do treat athletes both in my practice with acupuncture and Chinese medicine, as a nutritionist or as a just literally as a health coach or a running coach, and the athletes that are the most...have the most vitality, and when I say vitality, I mean the athletes who have very healthy diets, their digestive system's functioning very strong, they're getting good night's sleep, those are the people that if they ever do have an injury, that's the people that get the one steroid shot and they're fixed and they're fine. And Western medicine works great for that.
But you nailed it, the person who has to keep getting steroid shots, well then that's gonna be a problem. Then their immune system is gonna be damaged, or the person that has an infection and they take one round of antibiotics and they're gone and it's fixed because they have more vitality. You know, and that's how they're supposed to be as opposed to the person who takes it and then they have to keep taking it. Then they have to keep taking... There's no vitality there. So that's the other benefit is this, like everything works better when we're healthier.
Janelle: Right. And you can adapt better to changes in the climate and in the environment, like these new emerging diseases. So let's talk about that for a minute. Like these are called warm diseases or wen bing diseases. What's the history of like how these diseases come up and why prescribing heat-clearing herbs as an acupuncturist is helpful?
Craig: Yeah. Chinese medicine has a really beautiful history of looking at climate and its relationship to immunity and its relationship to diseases. Two of the most famous classical texts from Chinese medicine, one being the "Shanghan Lun," which was a huge encyclopedia of diagnostics and treatment of the cold induced diseases, and that was mainly written in an area where it was predominantly cold. And so they mapped out a whole idea of how cold diseases progress. And then you had the wen bing theory, which was predominantly kind of designed and formulated by people living in very hot or warmer climates. And so they saw that there was a different way the body reacted to that. And so they developed a unique way of diagnosing that, particularly the wen bing looks at four levels. There's different...there's four different levels of the heat damage to the body. And so they would diagnostically look at that and then administer herbs and treatments based on which level it was in.
And typically, the level start at the surface and then go to a deeper and more severe. But we look at now you can take things like the wen bing theory and you can even see correlations to things like it's used in Lyme disease treatment or it's used in chronic fatigue syndrome or...it applies to anything where people are influenced by a climate or their body reacts differently. And that's something that you see clearly. I mean some people feel better living in different climates, period. They used to be a very common thing in medicine, but now people just kind of seem to have forgotten that. And wen bing theory for me, that was actually one of the main areas of my research in my training in Chinese medicine and for a variety of reasons, one, because it was very fascinating to me, but also because I grew up in extremely hot climates.
I grew up in Louisiana and it was extremely hot and damp. And then I live in Texas now, which is extremely hot. And so it was really fascinating to me because I was like, well, my predominant patient load is gonna be living in this kind of climate. So I find that really fascinating. And then we can see incredible uses of it with autoimmune diseases, but also just typically pandemic diseases, which they were typically designed for. And so it can be very helpful for that. And just it provides a unique diagnostic criteria for people to receive kind of customized medicine. That's a big thing of Chinese medicine is that there's definitely some things they can agree with across the board and say these five herbs clear heat, these three herbs are, you know, tonics.
But within that, everybody's unique expression of the disease, although we might have some of the same symptoms, for example, everyone might have a runny nose and a sore throat and they might have a fever, but then their body type's different, their tongue looks different. One person has a stomachache, the other person doesn't. One person has diarrhea, the other people doesn't. One person has a mild fever, one person has a severe fever. And so Western medicine doesn't really distinguish between that. They just give everybody the same thing. But Chinese medicine says, well we can give them 50% of the same thing but the other half needs to be custom made based on their unique...I like to call it a constellation of symptoms.
And so that wen bing theory was really big on that and just saying, okay, we really need to look at the unique constitutions of these people where they're living. And then yes, we have 15 to 20 herbs, which we know we can help in these formulas but we might need to modify them as needed. And so I think it's really fascinating to see these theories from Chinese medicine. You know, you can kind of cross pollinate them into allopathic and Western medicine and we can really get a lot of interesting ideas.
Janelle: And why do you think though they call the coronavirus a warm disease? Like you would think intuitively it's a cold disease. But...
[Important Note to readers/listeners: More recent findings show that COVID-19 may evolve from a warm disease into a cold-damp phase in which Shanghan Lun principles should then be applied instead of continuing Wen Bing principles. A discussion on this this two-pronged approach is discussed in our blog post Chinese Herbs to Maintain Healthy Immune System During Cold-Damp Phase of Corona Virus (COVID-19).]
Craig: Yeah. Well mainly the symptoms, the symptomology of the high fevers. Yeah. And then, and then the other symptoms where it's showing, there tends to be a drying out effect on the lungs. You would see the dryer cough and the sore throat. And that tends to cause more respiratory problems because the lung tissues are getting dried out. And so it's more about how the pattern of the disease kind of develops in the body. But we do know that typically viruses do tend to spread faster in cold climates just in general. So the warmer the climate gets, sometimes viral patterns will flatten out depending on sanitation and depending on, you know, cleanliness and things like that. But mainly because the expression of the symptoms. Once the patient gets something into a constellation of symptoms that they saw after that were really fitting the profile of warm diseases more so than what they would say just straight cold-induced diseases.
Janelle: Yeah. Okay. And we talked a little bit offline about how, you know, each approach to somebody who has the corona virus or similar symptoms would be unique as an Eastern medicine practitioner. But what are some of like the typical herbs or protocols that you might recommend to somebody who's maybe in the mid to late stages of coronavirus infection?
Craig: Yeah, I mean, if someone was in late stages of chronic infection, they would definitely need to be using integrated medicine, which is what they would typically do in China. They would have Chinese medicine and Western medicine combined. And so that would be the ideal way. And then the late stages would be too advanced to discuss in a podcast. You'd have to have someone who would be seeing a professional practitioner and then also working closely with their hospital or their physician to monitor that. And then if the ones...if once they recover, then you could...there's so many of the tonic herbs you could help to bring them back quicker. Early stages, basically the earlier stage of the disease, the more generic the therapy can be. The more advanced the disease becomes, the more unique it has to be. You can think of it that way.
You know, I could tell someone, you know, hey you three people, I need you guys to lose 10 pounds and here's some basic ideas. And then if they all follow those basic ideas, those are gonna give them some good results. But maybe two of them say I'm doing that, but there's still something wrong. And then we have to see, ah, okay, we figured out you had a thyroid problem or oh, we figured out you were eating too much of it. You know, it's so unique at that point, but particularly with infectious diseases the early stages are more generic, the late stages become more of a concern.
Janelle: Okay. How are you seeing this virus affect your business right now? What's happening in your neck of the woods and in your life?
Craig: Yeah, yeah. Texas, we're pretty lucky right now. There hasn't been a huge issue here, but they're also very proactive in preventing it. For me, my patients on this...I'd like to be a big part of education so patients will often call me and just ask me for advice on what to do. And I really try to educate most of my patients on things to have at home to not...to prevent and not have to worry about it. And so I often will give them information, like those articles. They get a little bit more extensive handouts from me about which kinds of foods to eat, what recipes to do, how to put the herbs into the food. And then of course I have a huge, you know, a Chinese pharmacy of herbs and if anybody needs anything then we can use it from there.
So, but right now luckily in Texas people are obviously nervous because I think that it doesn't help that the media presentation of it, it's really just a little bit panic kind of pushing it which is very frustrating. And so I think that's the problem. Other than that, most people, I think if they just kind of follow the recommendations and limit the exposure to people, then we should see a flattening of the curve. That's the ideal. But Texas is... Texas is unique. We're like a whole other country, right? We're like a whole... We have our own... We have this kind of strange insular economy, this strange insular thing. It's very different than other places. So, which is kinda fun, but it's unique. But right now, luckily not as much in Texas. I was sad to see my home state, Louisiana is having a lot right now. So they're having a little bit more trouble than Texas at the moment.
Janelle: Yeah. I know. It is really sad to see all the areas that are affected and...but hopefully, like you said, the more that we learn about this, we can flatten out that curve and slow down the spread. And what are some other ways that you recommend staying healthy, like just regular health practices other than food and herbs?
Craig: Yeah, I think the big thing there in the wintertime is I always tell people three things. I always tell them try to eat warmer foods and try to eat a ton of vegetables. Most people are not eating enough vegetables. And vegetables are filled with every basic nutrient that's gonna help you from preventing a cold or a flu or cancer are in vegetables. So I always tell them like make it a priority to eat more vegetables. And then number two, I say you have to make sleep a priority. Sleep is such a massive part of our immune system and that's a big, big part that a lot of people kind of skip out. So always say, please think about what we refer to as sleep hygiene. And I'll be like, please make that a priority.
And then the third thing is I would say find some kind of exercise or movement that you love. Find something that you really enjoy. Whether that's tai chi, yoga, dancing, martial arts, running, Pilates, ballet, something, just find something and move and that really boosts our immune system too, as well as our mental health. You know, it's big time, I like to see people to feel physically healthy and mentally healthy or mentally happy, you know.
And then other than, I think the last thing I would say is it's very important for people to get their vitamin D levels checked and to be sure of that because a lot of people live in climates that they don't have a lot of sun exposure during the cold and flu season in the wintertime. And so that's a big thing for patients to find that out. And it's incredibly inexpensive to take vitamin D. And so that's kind of the big ones I kind of push, you know, sleep, exercise, movement they love, eating a ton of vegetables and then being sure their vitamin D levels are up. And that if they're doing that, then they're at least at the starting line of being like super, super happy and super healthy.
Janelle: Yeah. And you're out running quite a bit. How many miles are you running regularly?
Craig: You know, it kind of depends on how many books I'm writing or how many patients I see. But I usually average 40 to 50 miles a week. And that's the sweet spot for me, but sometimes less. But I do teach martial arts and do a lot of martial arts too, so that kind of is thrown in there. But I love it. These are things that I love and they bring me great happiness and they inspire me and they make me think clearer. So, and I grew up doing that. But people don't need to do that. If people even just ran one mile a day, that's amazing. That's all they need. Or if they went jogging for 30 minutes or if they don't like jogging, they can go ride a bike. And if they don't like riding a bike, they can swim if... You know, there's so many things. Basically I just say there has to be some kind of movement that brings them joy and happiness, whatever, that, you know...
Janelle: As people feel like they have to be cloistered inside, it's gonna be...more people are gonna be going outside to exercise, you know. In my neighborhood that's what I'm seeing. I went for a run this morning and yeah, everyone's out. My son joined me on his bike, so that was fun.
Janelle: And my dog. Yeah.
Craig: Oh that's wonderful. Yeah. Yeah. That's incredible. So I think that if we can get people to think about all those factors, they really do lower stress and they really do help us both build an innate immunity and deep immunity and then helps people just to be happier. I think that's a big part of our immunity is to have a life that brings us inspiration. You know, we have to have that. We have to have a life that is full of inspiration regardless of what you do. We can always have something which is kind of instilling our life with that type of juice. And that's something I always try to help people find and that's a huge part of our immune system as well. If you have hope and happiness, you'll get through anything better than any disease than anybody else.
Janelle: That is so true. Yeah, definitely. Well, I'm so glad that we got to speak with you again. Tell our listeners how they can find out more from you and reach you.
Craig: Yeah, I have a column every month in "Acupuncture Today," one is called "On Point," which is just on acupuncture and one's called Planetary Herbology and it's just on herbs and nutrition. So they can always catch that there. I have a blog which is called Ayurveda Austin. They can go to my website, which is ayurvedaaustin.com. But it's also if they were to Google Craig Williams herbs, Craig Williams acupuncture, Craig Williams Ayurveda, it'll pull it up, you can get to my website and they can have links to my blogs from there.
Janelle: Okay, great. Well, I'll be sure to link to those that you mentioned.
Craig: Yeah. Sure, absolutely.
Janelle: All right. Well thanks again and have a great rest of your day.
Craig: Take care of yourself as well.
Janelle: Yeah. I hope you stay healthy and well.
Craig: You too.
Janelle: Okay, thanks. Bye.
Janelle: And thanks to all our listeners for joining us today. For more great tips from Craig Williams, be sure to visit us at plumdragonherbs.com. We will post show notes and ways to connect with Craig. And if you liked this episode, we'd love for you to share, comment, and follow us on YouTube, iTunes, and everywhere else you like to listen. This makes a huge difference for us and we really appreciate when you do. Until next time.