As the temperatures go down and the wind picks up, so do the cold and flu. It’s estimated that one in three Americans suffer a seasonal cold at least once a year; school kids and the elderly get them more and can have much more serious health repercussions.
The Eastern Medicine Perspective
Eastern medicine classifies the common cold as a wind pathogen that invades from the exterior. Wind cold is differentiated from wind heat, based on the finer difference between a cold and a flu, a difference most of us are quite familiar with from a symptom standpoint.
The flu, as a result of the mutating influenza virus, is a more severe form of the common cold and has similar symptoms with the addition of fever, body aches, and vomiting.
At the early stages of a cold (or wind cold) Chinese medicine suggests that perspiration can help remove the pathogen from the skin – which is probably why steamy chicken soup and hot tea are such widely accepted forms of therapy.
The flu (wind heat), in contrast, is characterized by high fever, sweating, sore throat, cough, headaches, and a yellow nasal discharge. Clearing the pathogens and relieving the symptoms with herbal prescriptions are most recommended in Chinese medicine.
The best way to deal with a cold is not to get one.
When patients visit to my office sniffling and coughing, I administer treatments and recommend soothing home remedies, such as the ones that follow. I also educate them on simple ways to avoid catching a cold or the flu in the first place, starting with:
1. Wash Up
You’ve heard it a million times, probably because it works! Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
2. Power Up With Herbs
Here’s one you probably haven’t heard of, but which is a famous remedy in Chinese medicine. Prevent or dispel invasive wind with astragalus root, siler root (fang feng), schisandra berries, and atractylodes (bai zhu).
Western medicine calls these herbs adaptogens, which increases the body’s defense and helps the immune system work better in stress. They can be found separately in health food stores or in a formula called Jade Screen in Chinese pharmacies.
As always, herbs should be used according to individual needs; consult with a licensed practitioner for a customized formulation.
Bonus tip: You may want to keep your medicine cabinet stocked with our best-selling formulation of immune-boosting herbs, called Cold/Flu.
3. Home Remedy: Garlic-Ginger Tea
For wind cold, make a tea by boiling one chopped garlic clove, three slices of ginger, one chopped scallion, some basil, and a pinch of cinnamon in three cups of water for five minutes. Strain. Drink the tea hot and get into bed. Cover up and prepare to sweat. Sweating opens the pores, releasing trapped pathogens from the skin. Drink at least three cups of this tea every day until symptoms subside.
4. Home Remedy: Lemon-Pepper-Honey Tea
Lemon and honey are well known soothers for cold, but the pepper kicks up the effect. For wind cold, make a tea by boiling one whole lemon, one teaspoon cayenne pepper, and one tablespoon of honey in 3 1/2 cups of water for 10 minutes. Strain and drink three cups a day.
5. Home Remedy: Citrus-Greens Juice.
For wind heat (flu), juice a head of cabbage, one cup dandelion greens, two cucumbers, and two oranges. Drink three glasses daily.
6. Home Remedy: Mint-Chrysanthemum Tea
Make a tea with half a cup of fresh mint leaves and half a cup of dried chrysanthemum flowers by boiling in four cups of water for 20 minutes. Strain, and drink three cups throughout the day.
May you live long, live strong, and live happy!
Dr. Mao Shing Ni, best known as Dr. Mao is a bestselling author, doctor of Oriental Medicine, and board certified anti-aging expert. He has recently appeared on “The Ricki Lake Show,” “Dr. Oz,” and contributes to Yahoo Health and The Huffington Post. Dr. Mao practices acupuncture, nutrition, and Chinese medicine with his associates at the Tao of Wellness in Santa Monica, Newport Beach, and Pasadena. Dr. Mao and his brother, Dr. Daoshing Ni, founded the Tao of Wellness more than 25 years ago in addition to founding Yo San University in Marina del Rey. To make an appointment for evaluation and treatment call 310.917.2200 or you can email Dr. Mao at [email protected] To subscribe to his tip-filled newsletter, visit www.taoofwellness.com.