Li-Lan’s Covid-19 vaccine self-care

I was grateful for having received my first dose of the Covid-19 moderna vaccine on Tuesday February 9, 2021 in Durham, NC; though I was anxious with being around so many people in close quarters, Alex on the other hand had a great time at the vaccine clinic and even got on the evening news playing Latin songs on his recorder while he waited outside for me to receive my surprise 1st dose.  For the second dose I was much more apprehensive, but let me start from the beginning.

February was a time where there was a shortage of vaccines for certain clinics and populations and I was on a vaccine wait list at a local hospital with no known date of being able to receive it.  We heard of a pop up Latinx clinic February 7 from Armonia Health’s connections to grassroot organizations and NGOs to which my husband qualified and I went with him in case he needed translation (which I didn’t think he would), but it felt right to accompany him, I mean, it was kinda like a date, we hadn’t been anywhere in public together since March 2020 so might as well go to a Covid-19 vaccine clinic together!  lol!

We arrived to a full Cooperativa Latina credit union parking lot and there was a socially distanced line of to-be-vaccinated people going around the building.  This was more people than I had been around in public and it kinda made me nervous.  It was amusing hearing an elderly woman ask the volunteers if the shot hurt and being told it wasn’t a big deal.  There was an elegant Black woman in her 90s dressed up like going to church, accompanied by a middle aged woman; it was real sweet to see them all dressed up to get their vaccine. I saw a long time Mexican client friend who was working for the NGO that was checking us in and it was such a joy to open our arms in excitement as if to give a distance hug, I hadn’t seen her in about six years.  This was the most social I had been in public, even though I have been seeing 15-20 clients per week at Armonia Health since last August and I go on walks but just with one other person.

I hung around outside waiting for my husband while he went in for his vaccine after having his temperature checked, his hands sanitized, and answered negative to 1) any viral signs and symptoms 2) exposure to covid 3) having received another vaccine.  I was told by my friend that there might be left over vaccines that would need to be thrown away if the people registered didn’t show up and for me to get on the wait list.  Thanks to her insistence, I got my vaccine and have lived to tell about it =)

That same week there was another pop up vaccine clinic for health care providers and our same contact asked if Armonia’s practitioners wanted to get vaccinated, two of them did that Thursday.  We all felt lucky we got our vaccines despite not being in the age bracket to receive and not being affiliated with any qualifying organization since we are all self-employed.

My reaction to this first shot was a rash on my clavicle that got more itchy most nights (I later learned that all vaccines can create a histamine reaction) and a little “out of it”, tired the day after, a right temporal headache that was better with lying down, but by the third day I felt fairly non-influenced. It was similar for my husband and the other practitioners.  Our injection muscle hurt more than we expected though, for three nights I couldn’t lie on my right side. I had heard from clients who had already received their second vaccine dose that the effects were stronger.  So I prepared a month ahead by taking two days away from seeing clients after my vaccine and started making note of what helped me.  With a choice, I would’ve taken the day after my first dose away from seeing clients, but none of us practitioners knew we were getting our vaccine that same week.  I noticed that a chrysanthemum/lemon balm tea felt refreshing to drink the day after my first dose, and doing the Qi Gong I call Rooted to Earth, Swinging with Heaven or Children at the Bus Stop felt really good to move my Qi and lymph on Day 3 and I made a facebook live video of that.  You will find that Youtube link as well as what I did before and after the second dose below.

Like I mentioned, I was apprehensive about the second dose, the anxiety was obvious enough getting closer to the date that I knew that what was arising was more than just about the vaccine itself as this has happened to me before; medical procedures that most people consider no big deal to me can be a trigger, like needing my wisdom tooth pulled in my mid-30s when I thought they weren’t going to come out anymore. It reminds me of Buddhist teacher Pema Chodron’s saying “Practice mindfulness and awareness when things are well, so that when situations are not well, you’ll be able to more easily access the tools you practiced”.  So I dove into what was arising.

Over the two weeks before the second dose I noticed that though my mind felt getting the vaccine was the right thing do to for reasons such as helping decrease the spread of this virus that have killed many, including my father in law, my heart was not excited about it.  I had deliberately not received a flu vaccine in 20 years and if my circumstances were different, I would be less inclined to get this vaccine. I was apprehensive that my histamine response would be worse, and my previous history of skin itching and hives that I worked through for several years still elicits that wired-anxious-my-system-is-moving-too-fast feeling that gets me into shallow breathing when I remember the feeling.  I was resisting this second dose, thinking early on I could postpone the shot to 42 days instead of the 30 days in between to give my system more time.  I realized that though I have accepted and allowed my body to possibly live with this virus in our environment and being ok with the risk of possibly being exposed to it in miniscule amounts and maybe very slowly build resistance that way, I wasn’t ready to let myself be injected by a man-made creation related to this virus.  As I walked with a neighbor and we were talking about our resistance to receiving this vaccine, I vocalized that I felt I was letting myself be injected with a poison.  And after all I’ve done the past 20 years of cleaning my body and mind (well, that’s an ego trip!). There! That was it! I said it and came to terms with why I strongly felt anxious about this second dose!

Still, I was going to move along with it and take the risk of whatever comes.  In meditation closer to the second dose, I also realized that the only way I was going to move through this anxiety was step into whatever was going to arise afterwards, I knew I wasn’t going to die, but it is curious that one waits 15 minutes post injection to make sure one doesn’t have an anaphylactic shock, that’s pretty risky, don’t you think?  But then again, we live with risks every day that our system has to get used to.

The private acupuncturist forums discussing the effects post covid vaccine conclude that the Covid-19 vaccine presents the same as a Chinese medicine diagnosis of a viral infection (wind heat/wind cold), with additional ones that fall under the category of Liver wind and Yin deficient heat.
From reading this forum’s responses:

Common signs and symptoms after second covid vaccine, usually Day2-3: fatigue, fever & chills, headache, malaise, body ache

Less common signs and symptoms:  skin itchiness/mild rash, appetite changes coupled with diarrhea, brain fog, malaise that lasts longer than 3 days, frequent urination, dizziness/vertigo
Everyone’s response is different, it seems age may decrease effects felt post vaccine but it’s variable, just like Covid-19 signs and symptoms are very varied too.   It seems like the general consensus with the acupuncturists is not to treat a mild fever as it produces more antibodies to the vaccine when one has a mild fever but can treat all other effects with natural remedies.  The medical profession suggests taking tylenol, ibuprofen, or benadryl/antihistamine for post vaccine malaise and lots of rest and fluids.
So this is what I prepared for myself before the second dose and for our practitioners who were interested in herbs:
1) A formula that is a combo of Gan Mao Ling, Yin Qiao and modern antiviral herbs.  Gan Mao Ling, Yin Qiao San, or Zhong Gan Ling are also options.  Take a dose right after vaccine and 2-3 doses before fever kicks in (12-18 hours after injection).  Let fever run if it’s not too high, a fever results in more antibodies to Covid-19.  It seems people who have fever it’s only for 1 day, mine was for about 2 hours and it was less than 99F, Alex didn’t feel a fever.
2) Chrysanthemum/lemon balm tea – can drink 3-4 cups per day, clear heat benefits the head and lymph.  Add grated ginger and steep when feel the chills post vaccine.
3) Essential oils for diffuser, sinus steam, for lymph massage, alleviate headache and for local injection site to diminish soreness and for emotional balance:  options are frankincense, helichrysum, respiratory/lungs oils, antimicrobe oils.  Pain patch for the injection site, massage before and after.
4) acupressure points to massage when not feeling well
Large Intestine 4- immune system, headache
Taiyang – Lateral to eyes, temple, for headache
Lung 1 – facilitates breathing
Kidney 27 – lateral to thymus, tap to stimulate white blood cell release
Kidney 9 – moves external pathogens
San Jiao/Triple Burner 5 and 6 for fever and chills
Spleen 9 and Stomach 36 for lethargy and digestive symptoms, moxa would be great if have diarrhea
Neck massage
5) Qi Gong when feel well enough to move:  Rooted in Earth, Swinging with Heaven/ Children at the Bus stop:
6) Dry skin brushing
7) Have fruit, soups, broths, miso, rice congee with vegetables available.   Onion and ginger broth and soups are good for chills (cover up after drinking to sweat anything out through the pores), smoothies are better for heat signs
8) vitamin C and vitamin D
The week before the second dose I made sure to eat plenty of vegetables, soups, tried to get enough sleep and modulated how hyped up I might get with what I had to get done.
And this is what I ended up doing for self care from my second dose:
  • 8:30 pm night of shot 7:30 pm- took Chinese antiviral formula
  • 9 pm rubbed helicyrsum and frankincense EO on injection site (any muscle rub will also work), rubbed them on Lung 1, Kidney 27, and thymus.  Massaged left trapezius as it was noticeable tense (Gallblader 21), so pressed hard.  Started to sweat a bit and trapezius released, that felt good. Tapped thymus to stimulate white blood cells.
  • Went to bed with loving blessing for my body.  Did not sleep well.  We seemed to wake up every two hours.  Had sudden chills twice that woke me up.  Each time I brought loving kindness to my heart and thymus, grateful I’ll be resting the next day.  Bodily response was not too intense but the chills were interesting.
  • Woke up about 7 am, did light acupressure on Lung 1 and Kidney 27 in bed
  • Had miso soup with vegetables and poached egg for breakfast.  Made Chrysanthemum and lemon balm tea with honey, drank 1 cup.
  • Rubbed EO on injection site and behind ears.  Didn’t feel bad, but didn’t want to do anything physical either.
  • 9 am felt good enough to do promotion work on computer for Tones for your Bones
  • 10:15 am, felt onset of fatigue and more achy.  Sent one email and checked texts, Have to rest.   Took Chinese antiviral formula, self muscle-testing confirmed that taking this formula does not decrease antibodies at this time (make note of later in the afternoon)
  • 10:30 am massaged juniper and ginger EO on soles of feet Kidney 1 because I felt chilled.  Massaged Kidney 9 on my right calf very sore (this point expels external pathogens, maybe sore because my shot was on my right glute?).  Dabbed pinon pine (one of my favorite Liver/Lung EO) on Lung 9 and held in lovingkindness for my breathing.  Massage Large Intestine 4, is sore.  Light lymph massage on thighs, which were sore, lymph massage on groin caused immediate temporal headache (women have more lymph glands here).  Rubbed temples to ease headache.
  • Rested for 20 minutes
  • 11 am drank another cup of Ju Hua Chrysanthemum/Lemon balm tea with a bit of steeped ginger (feeling more chilled).  Snack of 1/2 apple, dates, raw pumpkin seeds
  • Joined Tibetan Buddhist meditation on zoom: 20th Tara of infectious diseases and social justice felt particularly appropriate and good.  Followed by meditation on Prajnapamarita on the Ocean of Awareness, Vastness of Potentiality, Mother/Yin.  Sent the merits of this practice to the Armonia practitioners receiving the vaccine later that week, Alex and the other Armonia practitioners.  Had to stop there, couldn’t send to more people.
  • 12:30 Had lunch: lentil soup, black bean enchiladas, a bit of guacamole.
  • Read for 45 minutes, had another cup of Ju Hua/Lemon balm tea
  • 2 pm felt more achy and tired, lay down, mild fever for about an hour, napped a bit, Did acupressure on Large INtestine 4, Lung 10, San Jiao/triple burner 6 (excellent for the fever/chills)  amazing how acupressure works as I felt better immediately with the acupressure massage!
  • Muscle tested Chinese antiviral formula upon getting up, still have mild fever, said NO, do not take, let fever run, hmm, interesting.
  • Alex slept for two long hours that afternoon, a longer nap than usual for him.
  • 4:00 pm went for a slow 20 minute walk outside, came back with temporal headache, didn’t feel like doing Qi Gong
  • Lay down for 30 minutes, massaged temples again.
  • 6:20 pm Hungry again.  Had minestrone soup with white rice that made me sweat out the rest of the fever, yay!
  • slept soooo much better second night
  • woke up feeling fairly refreshed
  • muscle texted Chinese antiviral formula: not necessary to take this morning
  • Had fruit smoothie, ate a heartier breakfast: potatoe asparagus omelet with feta cheese
  • We both had enough energy that Alex started drumming to African music first thing and I decided to record an improptu fb live to talk of us drumming together and about post vaccine and the upcoming immune class in Spanish, we also had enough energy to bicker at the end of the video haha!
  • Felt a little heavy body and missed the retreat like pace from yesterday, but what can I expect from dancing to African music first thing in the morning!
  • My menses came first thing this morning (surprise to me, though I was expecting it this week) so it’s still time to keep my pace toned down.
  • Did computer work at home
  • Came in to Armonia Health to see clients the next day, felt just mildly tired, but manageable.

Observations from Day 4 onward:

  • Had two nights of night sweats Day 4 and 5, this indicated the tail end of a viral infection and is the Chinese medicine diagnosis of temporary yin deficiency, which translates to fluid deficiency/dehydration
  • Experienced mild pollen allergies subsequent week, which for me only happens when I’m tired and my immune system is taxed.  I usually don’t have hay fever.
  • Continued to experience mild hydrations imbalances:  increased thirst, dry skin, tight muscles, calf cramping at night
  • Noticed shifts in hormones: emotional PMS in the wrong time of the month; knowing my patterns, this happens to me when my system is taxed, my Blood is deficienct (Chinese medicine terms), and I feel “stretched thin”.  I have been following menstrual cycle patterns for women post vaccine, and there does seem to show some non-usual changes to the cycle over the few weeks post second dose of vaccine.

So that’s been my experience of the vaccine, like I mentioned, everyone is different.  I followed with three other practitioners by text with their vaccine experience later that week and all were different.  I didn’t feel terrible so I took the dose of the antiviral formula appropriate for my level of discomfort but in retrospect, they could’ve taken more of the Chinese antiviral herbs than I because they seemed to feel the effect more than was communicated accurately by text, they took my dose only, thus I like have a phone conversation and look at the morning tongue when doing an official herbal consultation. They also took tylenol or ibuprofen on Day 2 to ease the discomforts.  I don’t have experience with either of those OTC medications for myself.

Glad this is over!  The above strategy is also similar to treating a viral infection with Chinese herbs and natural remedies, though there are more Chinese herbal formulas than I have written about since the formulas are meant to be paired as accurately to the person’s presentations as possible.  Consult Li-Lan for a private herbal phone consult or to purchase the herbs, they are available from Golden Needle Online or directly from Armonia Health.

This is the article that was co-written by practitioners at Armonia Health several years ago if you are interested in knowing more options:  What our practitioners do for themselves to protect from & treat common viral respiratory conditions

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