Thanks to the Vaccinated Travel Lanes (VTLs), we can finally dust off the layer of dust on our passports and go on a vacation after being stuck in Singapore for more than a year. Under the VTLs, fully-vaccinated individuals can now travel to selected countries without having to undergo quarantine at the destination country and upon arrival back to Singapore. Individuals are instead required to take additional COVID-19 tests before departure, upon arrival at the destination country and when they return to Singapore.
Undeniably, everyone is excited and scrambling to book their next flight. However, it is important to be well prepared for your trip, not just in the administrative sense but also in the physical sense. Having a healthy body and a strong immune system is essential for safe travels. Read on to find out how you can achieve that and prepare yourself for your VTL trip the TCM way.
How to build up your immunity and prevent yourself from falling sick before and during the trip?
Building up a strong immune system is crucial to prevent yourself from falling sick during the trip, thus, it is important to work on some pre-trip measures and pack immunity essentials to ensure that you are well-equipped for any health emergency. Try these TCM tips to prepare for your upcoming vacation:
1. Boosting your immunity pre-trip
In TCM theory, our body houses a vital energy known as Qi, which is said to flow along channels called meridians to help our body maintain health. It is believed that the balanced movement of Qi powers, strengthens and heals the body. Thus creating a protective shield that protects you from external pathogens and other illnesses. TCM treatments such as herbal medication and acupuncture are used to maintain the balance of Qi in our body, thereby allowing the immune system to function optimally.
Herbal medication is typically prescribed as a unique formula that is suited to each patient’s constitution, which serves to balance the Qi in the body. Based on the patient’s symptoms, and diagnosis from their tongue and pulse, the physician would prescribe a formula based on the patient’s body conditions.
In addition to balancing the Qi, there are some TCM herbs that can help to boost our Qi. A great example would be Astragalus Huang Qi (黄芪), which is most commonly used for tonifying Qi. It also has many other health benefits, such as its immune-boosting, anti-ageing and anti-inflammatory effects. 
Pro-tip: Drink Huang Qi Tea To Boost Immunity
Brew 1-3g of Huang Qi in up to 1.5L of water to make a simple immunity-boosting tea that you can drink on a daily basis.
Acupuncture can also be used to balance Qi by stimulating various acupoints to either help nourish or move Qi in the body. One commonly used acupoint would be Zu San Li (足三里) (ST-36), otherwise known as the “longevity point”. Zu San Li has functions such as balancing the body’s energy, relieving pain and treating various ailments.
Our lymphatic system is crucial in maintaining a healthy immune system and is involved in our body’s detoxification process. When the lymphatic system is congested, detox process decreases, causing more waste to accumulate in the body which slows lymphatic circulation further. Over time, toxins in the lymphatic system accumulate and the body’s ability to fight diseases deteriorates, making us more prone to sickness.
Electro-Lymphatic Therapy is a highly effective method to decongest the lymphatic system. By improving lymphatic circulation, toxins, wastes and harmful pathogens can be effectively brought to our lymph nodes where the immune cells reside, allowing these harmful pathogens and wastes to be detected and cleared by the immune system.
Negative ions work by improving cellular metabolism. By improving the cellular metabolism of immune cells, it can strengthen these immune cells which enhances their ability to destroy pathogens. Negative ions can also speed up lymphocytes’ production of antibodies which aids the immune system in the elimination of pathogens . Through the above mechanisms, negative ions can greatly boost the immune system, making us less prone to falling sick, as well as ensuring that our immune system is well-equipped to fight these pathogens.
2. Maintaining optimal immunity during your trip
In TCM, we believe that two organs are closely related to our immune system – Lungs and Spleen. Our Lungs are the first point of contact for most external pathogens that may enter through the pores of our skin or the openings of the face, while the Spleen is involved in the circulation of nutrients to the entire body, which ensures that our immune system is well-nourished to function properly. By ensuring that these two organs are healthy, it ensures that our body is well-prepared to fight off any infection.
Below are a few acupoints that you can do acupressure massage on to help boost your immunity:
|He Gu 合谷 （LI-4）||
Location: Place the thumb crease of one hand on the edge between the index and thumb of the other hand, then bend the thumb.
How to massage:
Note: Avoid massaging the acupoint on your period, or if you are pregnant, as this acupoint promotes blood circulation.
How it works: He Gu acupoint helps to improve Qi and Blood circulation throughout the body and improve immunity.
|Zu San Li 足三里 (ST36）||
Location: Roughly 3 inches (or 4 fingers) below the kneecap, about 1 inch towards the outer edge.
How to massage:
● Using 2 fingers, gently massage the Zu San Li acupoint in a circular motion. Use gentle but firm pressure.
● Massage on one side for 2-3 minutes, then repeat on the other leg.
How it works: Also known as the “longevity point”, massaging Zu San Li has a rejuvenating and healing effect.
|Zhong Wan 中脘 （CV12）||
Location: Roughly 4 inches above the belly button.
How to massage:
● Using 1 or 2 fingers, gently massage the Zhong Wan acupoint in a circular motion. Make sure not to press too hard.
● Massage for 2-3 minutes.
How it works: Zhong Wan works by tonifying the middle jiao, strengthening the Stomach, fortifying the Spleen, as well as regulating Qi, which in turn helps to boost the immune system.
Drink plenty of water
Drinking water has endless benefits to our immune health. Firstly, water is a large component of our bloodstream, and the circulation of the blood ensures that our cells can receive nutrients and oxygen. If there is insufficient intake of water, then our body cannot transport nutrients in each organ system properly, which may negatively affect the proper functioning of our immune system.
In addition, staying well-hydrated is important in the detoxification of the body. It works by improving our lymphatic drainage, ensuring that the toxins and waste materials are properly removed from the body. So, drinking more water can help prevent the build-up of toxins in the body and thus, reduce the negative impact on our immune system.
Get plenty of rest
Getting sufficient and good quality sleep is important for our immune health as well. During sleep, our body produces cytokines, which play an essential role in the regulation of our immune system. When our body is under stress or invaded by a pathogen, cytokines are needed in large amounts, which is why a lack of sleep hinders our body’s immune system and ability to fight infections.
While poor sleep can negatively impact our immune system, having proper sleep can also help support our immunity. Sleep contributes to both our innate and adaptive immune responses. Good quality sleep ensures that our body is able to activate a robust immune response when invaded by any pathogen. Research also suggested that sleep also helps improve our “immunological memory”, which is our body’s ability to quickly recognise and respond to a pathogen that it has encountered and responded to before. .
Use essential oils
Some essential oils contain compounds that possess pharmacological properties that work by either fortifying the immune system or eliminating bacteria and viruses,  which means that they contain antibacterial, antiviral or antiseptic properties.
VIZÜ Herbal Oil Remedies (Forest Bath) comes in a 10g bottle and contains essential oils that possess such properties – eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil and tea tree oil. Eucalyptus oil has antiseptic and antibacterial properties which can invigorate the body and strengthen the immune system. Its aroma also helps relieve symptoms such as blocked nose and cough. Peppermint oil has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and also has anti-viral properties against viruses such as Herpes Simplex Virus. Tea tree oil has potent antibacterial and antifungal properties as well as a notable immune-boosting function. 
If you need a quick fix for symptoms such as cough and runny nose, drip 2 – 3 drops of the oil on the inner side of your mask before wearing. Make sure the oils dry on the mask before wearing to prevent irritation. Alternatively, simply drip 5 – 10 drops in a diffuser to disinfect any space as well as promote a healthy respiratory system.
Bring along convenient TCM remedies
As we are used to the damp tropical climate of Singapore, it may take some time for our bodies to cope and acclimatise to other foreign countries. In addition, we might be compelled to over-indulge in the delicacies of the country that we visit, making our bodies more susceptible to falling sick, developing signs such as dry and sore throat. Bring along convenient TCM remedies as preventive measures to help boost your immunity and protect yourself from harmful pathogens.
Our throat-soothing tea contains herbs such as Luo Han Guo 罗汉果, which is commonly used to moisten the lungs and relieve symptoms such as cough, sore throat and the common cold. A single pack contains 5 ready-to-use tea bags which is suitable for the whole family.
ORG Immunity Tea contains various herbs that boost our natural immune system, reduce inflammation and have anti-ageing properties. One notable herb is Astragalus Huang Qi (黄芪), which as mentioned earlier, exhibits immune-boosting, anti-ageing and anti-inflammatory effects.
It is recommended to brew 1 tea bag a day in 300ml of hot water, and the tea bag can be reused with up to 1.5L of water.
Our immunity tea is more warming in nature as there are more herbs with nourishing properties. It is generally suitable for anyone who is looking to build up their immunity. However, as everyone’s body constitution differs, this tea might be slightly heaty for individuals with more Fire or inflammation in their bodies. In addition, if symptoms such as sore throat, constipation, feeling warm or headaches appear, it is recommended to reduce the frequency of intake or reduce the dosage by sharing a tea bag with your family.
If you would prefer to cook soups for your whole family to share, then Qi Booster Herbal Soup Pack would be best suited for you. Again, this soup pack contains Astragalus Huang Qi (黄芪) to boost the Qi as well as strengthen the immune system. In general, this soup pack helps to nourish Qi, which not only improves energy levels and reduces fatigue, but also enhances the protective shield that protects us against pathogens.
For health maintenance, it is recommended to take the soup pack once a week. Brew each soup pack in 4-5L of water, and you may choose to add pork bones, chicken feet or shiitake mushrooms to enhance the taste, as well as season lightly according to your preference.
What if You Fall Sick During the Trip?
In the unfortunate event that you fall sick during the trip, it is important to try and seek medical help wherever possible. Remember to drink plenty of water and get plenty of rest to better help the body recover.
Although travelling might be more complicated compared to pre-pandemic times, the VTLs do help to make things a little easier. Hopefully, these tips will help better prepare you and your body for safe travelling so that the trip will be much more enjoyable and less worrisome.
This article is written by Physician Kelly Leow.
Physician Leow is a TCM physician at Oriental Remedies Group, a patient-centred healthcare provider offering effective treatments grounded in TCM and enhanced with medical technology.
Note: all words in Italics mentioned henceforth refer to the TCM organ system and not the anatomical organs/terms referenced in western medicine.
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