Last Friday morning I awoke in the company of my arch nemesis, the viral throat infection (VTI). When the VTI comes to town, my throat closes up shop and I’m forced to weather the storm on my own since doctors have told me there’s nothing they can do; water and rest is the best western medicine can offer a person who has lost the ability to swallow anything for days, even their own saliva, due to a VTI.
But try telling that to Christa Angell. She’s a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner working out of the Avalon Laser Health Clinic who treated me for my VTI on Friday afternoon.
When I saw Christa, I was already at the point where swallowing was extremely difficult and talking was painful. The last time I visited my family doctor in this condition, I was sent home to a five day prison sentence of little to no food, drink or sleep as I lay curled in agony on my bed, unable to swallow and in intense pain.
The time before that, I went to the hospital where they hooked me up to an IV to keep me hydrated and gave me antibiotics which, as it turned out, were of no use because the infection wasn’t bacterial.
Christa, on the other hand, tailored a specific acupuncture treatment to the present and historical symptoms I was describing, the condition she observed of my throat and the readings she took from six specific regions of my pulse.
She also applied fire cupping to the areas on my throat where there was inflammation, which involved trapping a burning piece of cotton between the cup and the skin, creating a suction designed to pull toxins out to the surface. Sort of like a hickey for your health.
Above are photos I took from immediately after the cupping treatment and then the following day. The marks subside over time and are now hardly noticeable. Depending on who you ask, cupping marks can be considered quite fashionable.
I was advised to take a dietary supplement full of vitamin C and a slew of antioxidants designed to boost my glutathione levels since it cannot be absorbed directly. Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant produced naturally in your body but lessens with age, lowering your immune system, metabolism and digestive functions in the process. This supplement is designed to circumvent this decrease, increasing your body’s natural ability to fight off illness.
Finally, Christa prescribed an elixir made up of ingredients she listed for me to make at home, designed to alleviate the swelling in my throat caused by the inflammation. The elixir consisted of Cong Bai (green onion), lemon juice, garlic, cayenne pepper, ginger and warm water.
I call it my magic potion. I would make a day’s worth at a time then save the rest in the fridge for future doses.
The heat from the garlic and cayenne helped encourage the inflammation to purge – like when your eyes water and your nose runs from eating something spicy, this is a good thing when you’re sick. Case in point, when you’re sick and you get symptoms like these, that’s your body’s natural defences kicking in to rid you of your illness.
The ginger is used to reduce the inflammation and relieve some of the pain, while the lemon is good for cleansing and the green onion is there to help ward off the cold or flu.
A comprehensive treatment, and a far cry from what any western medical doctor has ever tried to do for me with this condition. While Christa is a registered acupuncturist with a diploma in traditional Chinese medicine, she will be the first to tell you that you should always go to your doctor if you are sick before seeking alternative medical care. I’d done that in spades before seeing Christa so I was ready to see what traditional Chinese medicine could bring to the table.
Lo and behold, the following day my condition had improved instead of worsened. And it continued to improve throughout the weekend and into this week. I actually managed to dodge the bullet of completely losing my ability to swallow.
I can’t say definitively whether the treatment I received is fully responsible for this, if this just happened to be a weakened version of the typical VTI I normally encounter, if my body is learning to adapt to this VTI, or some combination of the three.
For many living in the west, the jury is still out on certain traditional Chinese medicine practices, and I am by no means experienced or educated enough in this area to offer any substantiated analysis on the matter.
What I do know is that after undergoing these treatments, I felt better, which has never happened to me before when entering the thralls of a VTI. That, and the treatment is 80% covered by my health insurance. So going into it, I felt like I had nothing to lose, and coming out of it, I feel like I have gained tremendously.
[Update: in the original post I wrote “Christa is not a licensed health practitioner,” which was changed to reflect the fact that she is a registered acupuncturist.]