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Boosting the immune system naturally with herbs: Dr. Anna Gold weighs in

Dr. Anna Gold on Boosting Immunity Naturally with Herbs

Virus prevention on your mind? Wouldn’t you know it — ours, too. We interviewed Dr. Anna Hsieh Gold, one of the Bay Area’s most sought after practitioners of TCM and the creator of Dr. Anna Gold (formerly Arcana) herbal tinctures, to learn more about TCM and how its powers can be harnessed to boost the immune system naturally.

Anna recently created the DEFEND tincture, a complete herbal formula based on a gentle yet powerful blend of herbs that has been extensively studied and demonstrated to have a real effect in cold and virus prevention. There’s a fascinating story behind it, so we asked Anna to share it here. 

And on Wednesday, May 13 at 4:30pm, Anna will share a short video presentation on immune-boosting methods from both Western and Eastern medicine perspectives, followed by a Q&A with Dara. We hope you’ll join us! RSVP here.

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Ayla: What prompted you to create DEFEND?

ANNA GOLD: When I started my line of tinctures, I wanted to keep it very small and specific to the needs I noticed with my clients. And I wanted to make formulas that had broad appeal — bringing Chinese herbs to more people without being too hard to understand or choose from — but that were also unique and offered something you couldn’t find elsewhere. Creating an immune formula wasn’t on my radar because there are so many immune-boosting supplements out there already.

But during the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot of my clients asked me what herbs they could take in addition to their existing supplements — Vitamin C, Vitamin D, etc. So I began making a lot of formulas that I’d learned through classical TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) training: immune support formulas that can help protect people who frequently get sick. This is a new virus, though, so I added to that knowledge base by taking several classes with master herbalists who presented cases out of China during the Wuhan epidemic.

In those classes, the herbalists outlined different strategies they’d taken for people who had contracted COVID-19. The treatment of illness, in general, is quite different in TCM compared to Western medicine: in TCM, when someone gets sick, it’s determined to be a case of either “wind cold” or “wind heat,” and when you go deeper, that illness can go in different directions depending on their constitution. So there were a variety of strategies taken to both protect from and treat COVID-19.

But the one constant in early or preventative treatment was a formula called Jade Windscreen: a lot of research has been done on this combination of herbs, and it’s being used widely as a preventative treatment in China right now because it was also used as a preventative treatment for SARS. In these cases, doctors would start with the Jade Windscreen formula and make modifications depending on each individual’s constitution.

TCM is, ideally, supposed to be prescribed constitutionally, but not everyone has direct access to me — so, in creating this formula, I wanted to make something that could be more broadly used yet still really effective. I used Jade Windscreen as the base and made additions that would be helpful for the most people possible.

 

Ayla: How did you go about the formula development? We’d love to hear more about the creation process — a lot of thought obviously goes into it.

ANNA GOLD: Jade Windscreen, the base, contains three ingredients – 60% astragalus, 20% atractylodes, and 20% siler root. Astragalus and atractylodes are spleen tonics. The astragalus, in particular, is both a chi tonic and a spleen tonic. So it’s slightly energizing, which can help with fatigue.

And siler is the “screen” part of it: “repel wind” is the direct translation of the Chinese word for siler. Wind refers to the superficial pathogens that can invade the body.

Wind is a really interesting concept in TCM. We think of 6 main causes of disease: wind, cold, heat, dryness, dampness, and damp heat. Each one of these causes is related to emotions and specific organs that are particularly susceptible to it. Wind heat is related to the lungs, and there tends to be a suddenness to its manifestation.

Wind heat is a viral infection, so to that base I added some antivirals. Most people with mild symptoms of viruses like COVID-19 have common threads of inflammation along the nose, throat, and upper respiratory system. So I included herbs that I often give to people with similar colds. This way, it’s something that you can take if you think you’re getting sick, but you don’t know what kind of virus it is — or even if you’re just dealing with mild allergies. It’s truly an immune tonic.

You can buy Jade Windscreen on its own in a capsule, which you could probably find at a health food store — but there aren’t any modified Jade Windscreens available here like DEFEND, especially ones designed for this current antiviral, immune-enhancing need.

  

Ayla: Can DEFEND be taken for longer periods of time? For instance…could it be taken for additional immune support until a vaccine is developed and we can stop being on immune-system-alert quite so much?

ANNA GOLD: Yes, it can be taken continuously for protection because it’s gentle. You can take 1 dose per day to support immunity, and up to 3 doses per day if you have respiratory discomfort. Even if you just get a little sick, it has ingredients for early stage colds so it can help with those as well. The formula is designed to allow the cold to only come so far, and then prompt the body to expel it. With DEFEND, I wanted to create something that could be taken over the long term, because we don’t know how long this situation is going to last.

  

Ayla: We’re faced with a variety of immune-boosting supplement choices these days — from Vitamin C to elderberry to echinacea. How does DEFEND differ from these more commonly used supplements? Can it be used with them?

ANNA GOLD: DEFEND is designed as a complete, synergistic formula that can stand on its own: an immune-boosting tonic that protects from a viral perspective and pathogenic perspective, and that also supports healthy digestion — because so much of our immune system is in the gut. So you can start with it, and take it at a minimum.

But it can definitely be used with additional supplements; I think that’s a great idea. I contemplated the addition of other Western medicines in the formula, but didn’t want to put anything controversial in it. There isn’t quite enough research on the effect of elderberry on this particular virus, for example.

And the thing is, TCM has always been about the synergy of the formula. This is probably what makes it differ from these single supplements that most of us are taking, like Vitamin C. Jade Windscreen has been heavily researched and found to regulate cytokines and increase t-lymphocytes; the key is that its individual herbs work synergistically to protect the immune system from different perspectives. You can think about it like cooking, in a way: if you want to cook a good meal, the flavorings matter. The individual dishes you’re serving together matter, too. It’s not about blindly putting together a bunch of vitamins and throwing them down the chute.

 

Ayla: Let’s say, hypothetically, you’re talking to someone who is very Type A and wants all the immune-boosting things. What would you suggest?

ANNA GOLD: If you want all the things, also take 1000mg of Vitamin C if you can get your hands on it; eat lots of mushrooms, garlic, and spring onion; take zinc, since it’s also an antiviral that helps with your digestive system and gives you a lot of bang for your buck. Take Vitamin D, too (at least 2000 IU, for most people; this is something I’d normally test for before suggesting, but many of us are Vitamin D deficient). And get enough sleep; most people that don’t sleep enough start feeling sick before too long.

 

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We adore Anna and are thrilled to carry her entire line of Dr. Anna Gold tinctures. Find DEFEND here, learn more about Chinese Medicine in general here, and find out how she works with Kristina Holey to develop tinctures that care for skin from the inside out here.

About Anna: a Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, and Fellow of the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine — with additional advanced degrees (in Traditional Oriental Medicine and Constitutional Facial Acupuncture), years of practice, and thousands of happy clients — Anna Gold is one of the most sought-after acupuncturists in the Bay Area, known not only for her skill in treating challenges ranging from infertility to asthma, but also for her partnership in treating skin conditions with Kristina Holey. Prior to her career in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Anna was an instructor at Jivamukti Yoga in New York. And before studying yoga, Anna graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from Berkeley, where she also completed all the prerequisites for medical school.

Any topic discussed in this article is not intended as medical advice. If you have a medical concern, please check with your doctor.

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