It is that time of year when people begin to battle colds and flus. The use of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can help in both prevention and treatment of these ailments but let’s first talk treatment. The common cold is termed a wind condition in TCM and is diagnosed as either wind cold or wind heat. A wind cold attack includes symptoms of chills and fever with chills being more prominent, nasal congestion and/or cough with clear mucus, stiff neck and back of the head (occipital) headache. Herbal therapies for this condition focus on inducing a mild sweat and opening the skin’s pores to vent the body of the virus.
A wind heat condition would include symptoms of sore throat, fever worse than chills, headache and irritability. Cough and congestion tends to be mild or absent but if present the mucus will be more yellow in color. Flus tend to fall into this category as well. Herbal remedies, again, focus on dispersing and dislodging the toxin or virus from the body’s surface but with a more specific focus on cooling the body due to the more feverish condition.
As goes the direction of wind on any given day, the symptoms of colds and flus can change quickly. Therefore, the TCM herbal formulary has several remedies to match the needs of each patient. Whether a person has a more prominent headache or more congestion causing wheezing there is a formula available. The earlier the intervention, the quicker the viruses go away. Acupuncture, moxibustion and cupping can also be used to treat conditions. Early intervention using both the acupuncture and herbs can eliminate the symptoms in just a day or two.
Acupuncture and herbs can also be used to prevent colds and flus. Acupuncture has been shown to improve the immune system through a variety of avenues (immunomodulation). The immune response in our body is either driven from a humoral (blood, lymph) system or a cell mediated system. Acupuncture has the ability to balance out and enhance both of these systems. Acupuncture also increases natural killer cells. These cells can recognize and kill viruses or infected cells in the body. Lastly, our immune system is directly related to our nervous system and when that is imbalanced, our immune system suffers. Because acupuncture can regulate the central nervous system it also positively enhances the immune system.
TCM also offers a variety of immune enhancing herbal formulas. From a prevention standpoint, it serves one well to get acupuncture treatments and take immune boosting herbs during the cold and flu season. However, if a cold or flu should hit, you would need to stop these herbs immediately because they are used to keep the body closed off from an invader. If the invader happens to still get in you don’t want to keep it in. Instead, you would immediately switch to a formula that matches and resolves your symptoms and then restart the immune enhancing herbs once the invasion is gone.
My suggestion to anyone who wants to stay healthy during this season is to get a on an immune boosting treatment plan while at the same time buy formulas to keep on hand at home to take if a wind cold or wind heat should attack. Early intervention is the key to both staying healthy and/or quickly eliminating at attack during the cold and flu season.
Wednesday, October 19th, 2016