Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Health & Balance

Font Size

Tai Chi Each Day Keeps Shingles Away

Gentle-Movement Meditation Boosts Shingles Immunity, General Health
WebMD Health News

Sept. 22, 2003 -- Tai chi boosts shingles immunity in elderly people, new research shows. It adds to their general health, too -- especially when those in poor health practice the gentle meditation.

If you've gone to the park and seen people performing a series of graceful, slow-motion movements, you've seen tai chi. It's an ancient practice in which people slowly perform martial-arts motions. The practice fosters a calm and tranquil mind.

It also affects the body, reports Michael R. Irwin, MD, director of the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at UCLA, in the September issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

"Shingles is a debilitating illness," Irwin tells WebMD. "There are no medical treatments to prevent shingles. No medical treatment has yet been shown to boost shingles immunity. This novel behavioral intervention -- tai chi -- may have those beneficial effects. And it looked to us that the people who practice tai chi had improved ability to carry out day-to-day activities like climbing steps, walking, and carrying packages."

Shingles Immunity and More

Anyone who's ever had chickenpox is at risk for shingles. The chickenpox virus -- varicella zoster virus -- never really goes away. It's a herpes virus, after all. It lies dormant in the nerves. When a person's immunity dips, the virus wakes and causes the painful sores called shingles.

Elderly people are at particular risk. That's why Irwin decided to measure shingles immunity in 36 men and women age 60 and older. Half of the people were assigned to a 15-week program of tai chi chih -- a simple, low-impact form of tai chi. The other half were put on a waiting list and asked to postpone starting any new meditation program for 15 weeks.

"In the tai chi group, we saw a 50% increase in the immune cells that remember the shingles virus," Irwin says. "People really had a doubling or so of their immunity." The increase is enough to actually help prevent shingles, he says.

The tai chi-practicing seniors also had better health function than the seniors waiting for tai chi training. Those whose health was most impaired when they started the practice saw the greatest improvements.

Today on WebMD

woman in yoga class
6 health benefits of yoga.
beautiful girl lying down of grass
10 relaxation techniques to try.
mature woman with glass of water
Do you really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?
coffee beans in shape of mug
Get the facts.
Take your medication
Hand appearing to hold the sun
Hungover man
Welcome mat and wellington boots
Woman worn out on couch
Happy and sad faces
Fingertip with string tied in a bow
laughing family