The Common Cold & Flu is Chapter 1 in many Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) texts and has been successfully treated using acupuncture, cupping and herbs for thousands of years. In Chinese Medicine we speak of two distinct types known as Wind-Cold and Wind-Heat. Wind is what carries the external pathogen into the body via the nose, mouth and pores. Wind-Cold most often leads to sinus congestion, headache, upper back/neck stiffness, aversion to cold and low energy — typical symptoms of a catch-cold. Wind-Heat often presents with a pronounced sore throat, fever, sweating, nausea/vomiting, and diarrhea — typical symptoms of what we call the flu.
*All colds are viral and it’s not until the virus disrupts the immune system that a bacterial infection takes root. Therefore taking anti-biotics in the first few days is ineffective and may lead to a prolonged or more severe illness.
Each type as described above requires its own unique treatment to be effective and only proper diagnosis and treatment will prevent pathogenic factors from going deeper. Of course prevention is the best cure, so if you’re well, here’s how to minimize your risk of getting sick at all…
1. Reduce stress – Stress activates the sympathetic nervous system which is primarily about ‘fight or flight’ drawing nutrition out of the organs and into the limbs to either stand up and fight or make a break for it. Without adequate resources the immune system is weak and body vulnerable to attack. Non-competitive exercise, being outdoors, meditation, and adequate sleep are just a few ways to reduce your stress.
2. Eat right – Once again this is about providing the necessary resources for your immune system while avoiding foods and drinks that feed the bad guys. Eating right means whole foods and all natural ingredients, not prepared and sweetened foods and drinks with artificial ingredients.
3. Supplements and/or Herbs – When you can’t or won’t get proper nourishment from a healthy lifestyle supplementation can be the key. Also herbal formulas offer customized solutions for your unique chemistry and can be modified to add a little extra immune boosting, pathogen fighting power. To this last point, I have some excellent formulas available at the clinic.
4. Cover yourself – Wind carries external pathogens from one person to the next and we are more susceptible in colder weather. Be sure to keep yourself covered up especially around the upper back and neck.
5. Watch yourself – Wash your hands frequently and keep them (and those of your children) out of your mouth and nose! Also watch that your food and drink is not contaminated before making it to your mouth.
Some things are difficult to avoid (like your sick child spreading contagion all over the place) so it’s a good idea to be prepared to fight off a bug and avoid the late-night trip to the drug store for fever and cough medicines that work poorly and can be dangerous, or to the doctor for antibiotics that are often unnecessary and come with many potential side-effects. Some common TCM herbal prescriptions that I stock at home are as follows:
– Gan Mao Ling – for common cold without a strong distinction between Wind-Heat or Wind-Cold
– Yin Qiao San – for early stage catch cold with sore throat and possible fever (Wind-Heat).
– Jing Fang Bai Du Wan – for early-mid stage catch cold with sinus congestion, headache, cough (Wind-Cold). *May replace with Ren Shen Bai Du Wan for children, elderly or otherwise depleted individuals.
– Bi Yan Pian – for mid-late stage sinus congestion with yellow-green mucous… also good for preventing and treating ear infections.
– Bai Hu Tang – for severe Wind-Heat with high fever, sweating and thirst. *May replace with Zhong Gan Ling for chest congestion and cough.
Quotation worth sharing –
“The accomplished ones of ancient times advised people to guard themselves against disease-causing factors. On the mental level, one should remain calm and avoid excessive desires and fantasies, recognizing and maintaining the natural purity and clarity of the mind. When internal energies are able to circulate smoothly and freely, and the energy of the mind is not scattered, illness and disease can be avoided.”
– Huang Di Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classic”)