Treating Long COVID with Traditional Chinese Medicine

Cherry Blossoms

It can be incredibly frustrating to come down with COVID-19 symptoms only to continue feeling awful for months after the initial infection. You start to wonder, will I ever feel like myself again? Many people experience increased inflammation, brain fog, fatigue, and a lingering cough long after having COVID. Thankfully, an integrative medicine approach can offer effective treatment options.

What is Long COVID?

Long COVID has been broadly defined by the CDC as “signs, symptoms, and conditions that continue or develop after acute COVID-19 infection.” 

As the research into Long COVID is continuing to emerge, the definition of what it entails is unfortunately vague and can encompass a wide variety of symptoms. 

A few symptoms that the CDC has been able to identify include: 

  • fatigue
  • post-exertional malaise
  • cough 
  • shortness of breath
  • brain fog
  • neurological symptoms
  • digestive changes
  • joint pain
  • changes in menstrual cycle

Is There a Treatment for Long COVID?

Currently, as of fall 2023, there is no biomedically established protocol for treating Long COVID which is sometimes referred to as post-COVID conditions. People who suffer from it can have a hard time finding effective treatment. 

Because Long COVID can affect multiple systems of the body simultaneously, we believe that an integrative approach to treatment is the most effective. Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and cupping/gua sha are effective tools that can address symptoms in a wide variety of systems at once. 

Why Does Long COVID Happen?

There are several theories as to why Long COVID exists and the cause might be different for different people such as pre-existing conditions. We broadly categorize it as a post-viral syndrome. A post-viral syndrome happens when the body continues to exhibit symptoms after fighting a virus. 

The main symptoms of the infection disappear, but it leaves behind lingering effects that can last for weeks or even months after the initial infection — just like Long COVID. Regardless of which symptoms linger, they remain under the purview of our immune systems. Meaning that improving or modulating our immune system can be the key to resolving these persistent symptoms. 

Treating Long COVID Using Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs

There’s a lot of overlap in the conditions treated by both herbs and acupuncture, so each intervention is determined on an individual basis. We often treat patients using a combination of acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and other TCM modalities to help relieve post viral symptoms. 

Acupuncture to Treat Long COVID

In general, acupuncture can help reduce inflammation or bring increased circulation to areas of the body. Oftentimes, these syndromes involve lymphatic congestion and reductions in general circulation due to the virus having crossed the blood brain barrier. 

Acupuncture is very effective at increasing circulation, both of blood and of lymph, and can be very helpful in treating symptoms like poor memory, brain fog, or fatigue. Other neurological symptoms, like loss of smell/taste and headaches, can also be effectively treated with acupuncture. 

Acupuncture needles not only help relieve pain, but they can also rebalance the nervous system, like pressing the “reset” button, and allowing the body to heal itself. 

Chinese Herbs for Long COVID

In cases where a stronger intervention is needed, then we will often prescribe Chinese herbs in conjunction with acupuncture. Chinese herbs add to the system of the body, which is sometimes necessary if the body’s natural processes are not strong enough to overcome the residual symptoms. 

Custom, prescribed herbal medicine can give your immune system extra support to help the body overcome symptoms of Long COVID.

Long COVID Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine Treatment

You deserve to feel better! If you are struggling with post-viral symptoms or Long COVID, it’s a good idea to go ahead and schedule your appointment to be evaluated by one of our acupuncturists at our clinic in Washington, DC.

About the Author

Associate Acupuncturist at  
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I find working as an acupuncturist to be truly inspiring, and am excited to come to work each day. I consider myself to be an integrative practitioner, and while I focus on Chinese medicine, I also incorporate Western medical concepts to best serve my patients.

Founder & Clinic Director at  
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Hi! I’m Elyse, the go-getter who founded Cherry Blossom Healing Arts. I’m 100% a healer who loves to help people feel better! I absolutely love practicing acupuncture in Washington, DC.

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