The core of the word inflammation is of course flamma, Latin for flame – flesh set on fire as it were. If etymonline.com is to be believed, the PIE root is *bhleg- ‘to shine, flash’ or *bhel- ‘to shine, flash, burn’. For the Greeks it seems that the most common type of inflammation was the phlegmatic kind, the word phlegma (phlegm) sharing the same etymology as flamma. Interestingly, the same root also yields the words bleach, black (=burnt), blank (in the sense of ‘shining’), fulminate, flagrant, bleich (‘pale’ in German), blanche/bianco/blanco (‘white’) in the Romance languages and probably even bel, the Slavic root for white contained in the city name Belgrad.
Whereas the word inflammation doesn’t tell us much about presumed origins, infections by contrast must have been assumed to have come from outside. After all, the word ‘infection’ comes from ‘in-ficere‘, to ‘put in’. We can guess that this was because infections were often observed in connection with external wounds.
But is the distinction actually a clear one? In school I was told that there are two basic types of acute disease – one caused by ‘bacteria’ or ‘germs’ and the other caused by ‘viruses’. Against the first sort (supposedly ‘infections’), antibiotics are supposed to be the tool of choice. Against the second (‘inflammations’?), there seemed to be no clear answers.
In retrospect, I have had to conclude that my secondary school biology framework has turned out to be pretty spotty. In particular, the omnipresence of life forms significantly smaller than cells – the so-called somatids/microzymas/bions – casts doubt on the entire germ scenario. With respect to the microscopic world, at this point all I feel confident declaring is that I am sure I don’t know what’s going on. Granted I am hardly an expert, but just to cite one example, up til now I have yet to see a thorough-sounding explanation of the production and role of phlegm in mammals. Given the impressive worldwide annual production numbers for phlegm, that seems like a pretty major black box.
Nonetheless, my real-life experience has tended to lend some support to the idea that there could well be two distinct categories of acute disease – whatever those are. For lack of any better words I’ll call them infections and inflammations. Against certain types of inflammation and associated fevers – most ‘colds’ (in the sense of ‘influenza’, ‘Grippe’ or ‘感冒’) for example – antibiotics seem ineffective. For others – the “infections” – they can bring down a fever within half an hour.
So what can we do about those pesky inflammations, and in particular about influenza and influenza-like cases?
TCM Treatment Approaches
Unlike Western cold medicine, which tends to focus on suppressing symptoms, for the most part Chinese medicine seems to focus more on eliminating the condition itself. One of the earliest ‘cures’ I learned when I first came to China was the vile 藿香正气水 (‘huoxiang zhengqi shui’). One would think just a whiff of it would be enough to keep many a germ away, and that has often turned out to be the case.
藿香正气水 (2 kuai for 12 little flasks the last time I was in Chengdu) is most effective if taken just as you feel a cold coming on. During later stages – when the inflammation is already in the driver’s seat – it is much less effective. For that case I learned to use a few other potions. Typically they don’t restore one to perfect health immediately, but they clearly help speed matters up. One is 板蓝根/板藍根 (‘banlangen’), a pleasant-tasting root that comes in powder form. Pretty good in hot water and a bit of milk. Another is 感冒冲剂 / 感冒沖劑 (‘ganmao chongji’ – not so tasty), and finally 清热解毒 / 清熱解毒 (‘qingre jiedu’) – sort of sweet and bitter. The final one seems often effective against those low fevers without much mucus where one really can’t be sure if it’s ganmao or not.
For the accompanying excesses of phlegm, Chinese drugstores also have a very effective solution – 感冒通片 (ganmao tongpian, or GMT) – aka 氯芬黄敏片 (‘lüfen huangmin pian’). Prior to the mid 1990s this was advertised as some sort of gall bladder extract, but since then it has been labeled as a combination of the two chemicals sodium diclofenac & chlorphenamine maleate. Whether this was a mere change of marketing strategy or something else is not clear, but in any case this particular combination certainly seems to impact mucus. Unless one is a vulture (for which according to Wikipedia diclofenac is typically fatal), GMT is very effective at reducing mucus in both throat, nose and lungs. Three caveats however: one, given the dead vulture phenomenon one should probably not continuously consume GMT without giving one’s kidneys an occasional break; two, GMT does NOT help much on the first day, the ‘drippy nose’ stage; and three, obviously GMT is a symptom-mitigator, not a cure – and thus to be used sparingly in any case.
Grapefruit-Seed Extract (GSE) – inflammations & infections
Though these potions and pills are a vast improvement over doing nothing, in many cases they don’t eliminate fevers or restore health immediately. Nor are they effective against infections. While there may well be no 100% cure-all, in my later years I discovered a few additional tricks worth considering. One of the most broad-spectrum ‘cures’ I know of is grapefruit seed extract made by Nutribiotic. It comes in both pill and oil form and is very potent. It is marketed as a ‘natural antibiotic’ (which would imply effectiveness against infections), but curiously it also seems effective against inflammations. Once again, I have no idea what is really going on.
MSM – inflammations
MSM (methylsulfonylmethane), particularly in combination with vitamin C, can be a very effective immune system booster, both before and after inflammations take control. MSM is also however a very potent detoxification tool, so for new initiates its consumption can lead to other detox symptoms.
Sodium chlorite is a strong water-purification agent which works both externally and internally. Its internal use in “activated” form was first promoted by Jim Humble using the term MMS. Since it can be hard on the stomach, users must slowly ramp up their doses. People in a hurry can also consider applying it transdermally in combination with DMSO. This allows much higher doses than directly via the stomach. MMS seems to be very effective against tough infections such as dengue fever or malaria.
Beck Pulser – inflammations
Without a question, the most effective immediate effect cure I have found for inflammation-related fever is 30-45 minutes of blood electrification using the 30V Beck pulser. Not only does it tend to eliminate fever within 60-90 minutes, it does not do this by suppressing the fever. Something about the blood electrification seems to actively ‘combat’ the inflammation – whatever that means. Thus it is fair to say that it attacks both the annoying symptoms AND the underlying condition itself. And because it is clearly NOT effective against infections, it can also be used as a crude diagnostic tool. A potent tool indeed.