Boosting one’s immune system, one of the main recommendations against COVID-19, remain a chief concern on everyone’s minds. While many take vitamins and supplements for this, there are those that are turning to more alternative means.
Take Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan, a former Department of Health Secretary who promotes natural preventive measures in the fight against coronavirus, advocates for one method particularly—acupuncture. The doctor is one of the country’s pioneering acupuncturists, which he started in 1979.
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Galvez Tan’s interest in acupuncture began in the mid-70s, when he took seriously his mission to be a barrio doctor nationwide. The tough job included crafting community health programs, and training health workers to combat tuberculosis and other diseases aided by Church-based groups, local and international non-government organizations. He made a vow to look after the health care of poor people and not leave the Philippines for greener pastures. He spent two months in medical missions in Palawan in 1968 while he was still 20-year-old student at the University of the Philippines (where he finished medicine in 1974). “I was born with this desire to help others. There is an inner voice that constantly gives me encouragement that this is the way to live life to the fullest,” he says.
"When my wife Rebecca and I prepared to transfer from Manila to Mindanao for outreach missions, she began studying acupuncture under Dr. Benjamin Aquino and Dr. Liu, a graduate of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). She introduced me to acupuncture,” Galvez Tan shares. "I eventually studied acupuncture under Dr. Aquino after our intermittent missions to the Cordillera in Negros.”
At the time, acupuncture was useful for the marginalized because only five percent of 85 million members of Philhealth could avail of hospitalization and western medicine, Galvez Tan says. Acupuncture was legislated as acceptable medical practice in hospitals after 22 years when President Fidel Ramos signed the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act (or TAMA, also known as Republic Act 8423) in 1997. It also established the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care (PITAHC), a government agency in charge of training, regulating, and accrediting acupuncturists, including other atypical health practitioners.
The law was sponsored by the late Senator Juan Flavier whose passion was to develop herbal medicine in the country. Galvez Tan headed the alternative medicine program of the health department in 1992, and succeeded Flavier in 1995, when the latter ran for the senate.
Flavier sent government doctors to study acupuncture in China from 1992 to 1995. “I officially went to Beijing to sign an agreement between China and the Philippines to continue the training in acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for another five years (until 2000),” Galvez Tan says. Later on, private and government hospitals did not encourage the use of acupuncture because the training program stopped after 2000. The best trained Filipino acupuncturists are growing older, the doctor laments.
To attain a mega immune system that can aggressively defeat COVID 19, Galvez Tan suggests self-massage sessions with intentional pressing on two major points:
Large Intestine 11 (LI 11, Quichi in Chinese, and Pool at the Bend in English), found at the lateral (or dorsal) space near the elbow, between the forearm and the lower hand; and Spleen 6 (SP 6, San Yin Jiao in Chinese, and Three Yin Intersection in English), measured four fingers up to the highest point of the ankle.
There are two important act-pressure points that can strengthen the lungs and make it fight or withstand pneumonia, a complication triggered by COVID 19. They include Lung 5 (LU 5, Chiza in Chinese, and Cubit Marsh in English), located at the upper-central part of the lower arm; and Large Intestine 4 (LI 4, Hegu in Chinese, and Joining Valley in English), found between the thumb and the index finger (pointer).
Pericardium 6 (P 6, Nei Guan in Chinese, and Pool at the Bend in English), located four-fingers up the ankle, is an “anti-panic” pressure point: it has a calming effect, which is needed for healing, says Galvez Tan.