Chinese Medicine for Cold and Flu


Another winter has come, and this time it is an extraordinarily cold one in Hong Kong! After all these months of warm weather, and with the warmest November many have memory of, January has brought its freezing embrace in many parts of Asia. Like always, with the cold weather comes a not so welcome guest: the flu. Some of us seem to have an annual unwanted appointment with it. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) teaches us 3 simple lessons to better face the winter and its least nice consequences:

It’s not just about bacteria and viruses.

Majority believes that the flu is caused by bacteria or viruses. However, have you ever wondered why some people at your office or at school somehow remain unaffected? What is the real cause for fever, runny nose, tiredness, and constant cough? Traditional Chinese medicine tells us to take a step back and search for a root cause instead of just looking at the symptoms.

Chinese Medicine Defense

We must keep internal balance.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, if our “Qi” – the vital force of our bodies – is not enough, or not well distributed, our body will have weaker defences, allowing external factors to affect us more easily. Therefore, we must first look at our body as a whole and look for imbalances within it. Balance can be achieved through TCM treatments: herbal medicine, for example, can adjust the overall body fluid homeostasis to clear blockages in the meridians and rebalance the functioning of the organs (i.e., kidney, lungs, liver, spleen and digestive system). Read more about the importance of these organs in TCM here. By complementing it with acupuncture, the body will rebalance itself internally and prevent bacteria or viruses to ever have effect. Even though we are all battling against same illnesses and diseases, each person has its own body constitution, and thus, each treatment may differ per person.

Preventing, not just curing.

In conclusion, traditional Chinese medicine focuses mainly on prevention by addressing the root cause – body imbalance – and strengthening the immune system. If our body does not provide a suitable condition for bacteria or virus to develop itself, we will not suffer from their negative effects. Thus, according to traditional Chinese medicine, it is not about avoiding and getting rid of bacteria or viruses, but about strengthening our body internally to prevent any bacteria or virus to have an effect on us.

What herbs can you use?

Chinese medicine emphasizes the importance of the differences between each individual, and thus, applies per person a customized treatment course that also reduces the possibility of unwanted side-effects. Depending on your symptoms and body type, the doctor will prescribe you a carefully administered prescription and suggest to do acupuncture and various programs to allow the body to rebalance again. Cupping and acupuncture assist the body by opening up blockages to release the bacteria or virus out of your body and strengthen your immune system.

Expel hot wind evils

Common symptoms are:

  • chills and fever (heat effusion) with the fever being predominant thirst
  • sore throat
  • slight sweating
  • cough, urine darker than normal possible
  • skin eruptions
  • headache
  • runny nose with a yellow discharge tongue that is slightly red with a thin white to thin yellow coat
  • pulse that is floating and rapid.

Jinyinhua Hot Wind Herb
Hot Wind Herb

Your prescription should include Yin Qiao San (銀翹散) to cool down.

Expel cold wind evils

Common symptoms are:

  • chills and fever (heat effusion) with chills predominant
  • sensitivity to wind
  • lack of thirst
  • cough
  • lack of sweating stiff neck and possibly headache
  • body aches
  • runny nose with clear or white discharge
  • a tongue that is normal colored with a thin white coat
  • pulse that is floating and tight

We often use either Xiao Qing Long Tang (小青龍湯) or Ge Gen Tang (葛根湯) to warm up.

Cold Wind Herbs

Strengthen Qi and Spleen

It is important to keep your Qi strong as it your vital source of your body. In order to boost your Qi and to improve its distribution, we include herbs that focus on improving your Qi. If your spleen is weak, you are easily prone to dampness which causes the flu. However, please consult with a registered traditional Chinese medicine doctor what prescription is best for your condition based on your symptoms and body type

Stay warm and healthy,
Balance Health Team.

Contributed by Dr. Grace Yu.


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