Chinese Medicine On Brain Fog

“Long COVID” is a troubling development that has emerged amidst the pandemic, with a significant portion of survivors reporting persisting brain fog: symptoms that include poor memory, difficulty concentrating, and fatigue.

While this is a common symptom also seen in Chronic Lyme and Epstein-Barr, modern medical understanding of brain fog is still in its infancy, with no approved treatments and few studies.

Many experts agree, however, that the condition is attributed to inflammation in the brain caused by “persistent immune activation after initial infection subsides,” according to the NIH’s Dr. Avindra Nath. This immune activation may be caused by lingering virus that the immune system cannot clear, as well as virus-triggered autoimmunity and inflammation. The psychological trauma of COVID can also cause neural inflammation.

Is there a Traditional Chinese Medicine explanation and approach in treating chronic viral illness?

During the Ming Dynasty, as a pandemic ravaged China, the physician Wu Youke (1582–1652) proposed a pathomechanism and treatment for “persistent immune activation,” almost two centuries before the Western world discovered "agents that cause infectious disease.”

Frustrated by the lack of medical knowledge at the time, Wu Youke theorized that “pathogenic qi” lodges in membranes in the body that protect them from immunity, causing headache and exhaustion. His findings accord with the modern discovery that pathogens can form biofilms to resist immunity and pharmaceuticals.

Wu created an herbal formula designed to attack pathogenic qi, and new research has shown that several ingredients he used can break down biofilms, clear inflammation and lingering virus, and regulate gut flora imbalance, all which mitigate neuroinflammation (more detail on this in our upcoming newsletter).

Brain fog can be a crippling symptom, but with over 2,000 years of accumulated experience in treating pandemic disease, and time-tested solutions to improve memory and support brain function, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture provide invaluable tools for treating the symptoms that modern medicine has yet to provide answers for.