Chinese Herbs to Treat Cold/Flu

​Are you wondering with all the stress of Covid-19, and the upcoming elections, how to prevent flu and colds naturally?

The Nei Jing/Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, which presents the cutting edge medical wisdom of its time, is full of brilliant advice for both prevention and cure of flu and colds, much of which can be used in mild cases of Covid-19 that do not require hospitalization.

Chapter 2 describe how to adjust our lifestyles to match the natural rhythm of the  seasons. When we do this we can prevent flu and colds. We can also use diet and lifestyle nursing, and Chinese Herbal Medicine to get well much more quickly.

Winter is the season for “storage” in Chinese Medicine.  It is the storage of winter that allows for the “bursting forth” of Spring. As in nature so in humankind. Storage of what?  Storage of Qi, Blood, Yin, and Yang.  How? To store means to hold on to what you have while accumulating more.

We accumulate energy through proper breathing, food, and sleep. One aspect of propriety (heaven on earth) is matching our food and sleep to the temperature, humidity, and available sunlight of the season. In the modern world we call this medical chrono-biology.

Practical Ways to Prevent Flu and Colds Naturally with Chinese Medicine

Sleep and Rest More

In winter go to bed early and wake up  late.  Nights are longer in winter, the sun sets early and rises late. So we go to sleep early and rise late, not asking our internal sun to do the job of the external sun.

If you feel like you are fighting off a cold,  go to bed especially early.  Ditto when you are sick.  Take a day off work and rest really well, and you will save on lost days later.

Protect Your Body from the Elements

Catching a chill weakens your resistance to the rhino-viruses that cause colds. Wind makes us chilled; that is why we run fans in hot weather.

So match your dress to the weather.

We protect ourselves from the rain with rain gear. We also have to protect from the cold and wind with warm clothing.  Especially keep your head, neck, upper back, and belly warm and safe from wind. Wear a hat and a jacket with a warm collar or a scarf.

If you sweat with exercise, dry off as quickly as possible.If you do get a chill after being outdoors,  drink hot ginger or cinnamon tea when you come in.  Boil water, add 3 slices ginger root and simmer a minute. If not available get some masala chai at the cafe.

The following culinary herbs are great mixed with ginger as tea: cinnamon, clove, black pepper, fennel, ajwain, black cumin. Add a little milk if you like.

Stay Hydrated/Push Hot Fluids

If you feel like you are coming down with something, besides getting lots of extra rest, really push hot fluids which hydrate mucus membranes in the sinuses, nose, throat, bronchia, and lungs.

For a dry cough nothing beats Pear Juice because of its slippery, moistening quality. Dilute it with water to reduce sugar intake.

At the first sign of a cold drink this Ayurveda Detox Tea.

Drink hot soup. Hot soup helps loosens mucus from the lungs, and is the most digestible way to take flesh foods. When you are sick you need easy to digest food, like rice soup, or tea and toast. Chicken soup has a lifting energy in Chinese medicine, which is one reason its good when you feel run down.

Go to a Chinese Medicine Herbalist and Get the  Right Herbs

In Classical Chinese Herbal Medicine there are all kinds of herb formulas to treat colds, bronchitis, flu, even strep throat, that work really well and that help your body get better faster. But they need to be matched to your individual pattern, to be effective. These are herb formulas, like Yin Qiao San, and Gui Zhi Tang that are taken at the first sign of a cold where you are already sick. The herbs we use to boost the immune system are taken at the beginning of Autumn and Winter while still healthy. Prevention is better than cure. For people who get sick all the time, we may combine the herbs, below, with easy to digest antiviral herbs like Ban Lan Gen Isatis Root.

Many of the over the counter herbal formulas for cold are actually much too bitter and cold energied for most cold conditions that actually need to be warmed. Its all about matching the formula to your unique pattern of disharmony

The best herbs to build your immune system and prevent colds and flu are the medicinal herbs like Reishi and Cordyceps. We sometimes combine them with Astragalus and Siberian Ginseng. This varies according to the person so please get properly diagnosed. These are not used to treat Colds or Flu, they are used to prevent flu and colds naturally by boosting the Wei, or Defensive Qi.

Get Acupuncture and Moxabustion

I used to be one of those people who got colds 3-4 times a year. I assumed it was normal. Starting with Acupuncture school in 1988 I began getting regular acupuncture at the change of the seasons.

I began using Moxabustion on certain acupuncture points like Zu San Li and San Yin Jiao to strengthen my Qi. Moxabustion is a method of warming acupuncture points, which has a different effect that the insertion of needles.

Needles into acupuncture points unblocks the flow of Qi. Moxabustion, Moxa for short, brings new Qi into the channels, since heat is a form of energy. The points selected here have a strengthening effect on the immune system and on energy levels generally.

Zu San Li and other acupuncture points are used frequently for any condition of weakness, like recovering from serious illness, and to prevent illness by strengthening the immune system. Zu San Li is one of the best acupuncture points to prevent flu and colds naturally, especially when we use moxa on it.

Knock on wood, I have had the flu only once since then, and have only had one cold in the past three years, as of this writing, in March 2020, with the coronavirus epidemic looming.

I am very grateful for what I have learned and been able to do for myself and others. I also follow a lifestyle and diet as described here, with the exception that I am a night owl and very bad at going to sleep early. Maybe it nourishes my soul.

Avoid antibiotics Unless You Really Need Them

Colds, flus, and the majority of bronchial and ear infections are viral so antibiotics are useless and harmful to your gut and overall resistance to infection.  Sinus infections can be bacterial, but they can also be fungal, especially if chronic.

If you have bronchitis and your M.D. tries to give you antibiotics, ask them to culture your sputum. Most brochitis is viral, so antibiotics dont help. If she insists, ask her to culture your sputum like the use do when I was a kid. Not that long ago.

At this point in time I feel that Chinese herbal medicine does a better job treating ear, nose,  throat, and lung infections than drugs do, and without the side effects. I have had great success with bronchitis and even walking pneumonia.

Overuse of antibiotics is an international problem, and even when you take them appropriately they damage the beneficial bacteria in your gut.

We now know from science that even a single use has the potential to permanently alter the state of your gut, which is integral to your immune system.

If you do have to take them, at the very least take a high quality Pro-biotic acidophilus/bifidus supplement


Eat Fresh Food Full of Qi

Eat freshly cooked food with lots of vegetables. Now we can get grass fed dairy and meats and free range pastured chicken and eggs.

Eat it less often, but let it be fresh and with out toxic hormones and pesticides and from animals that live a normal, healthy, natural life with normal food, fresh air, and exposure to the sun. Freshly cooked food is just that; freshly cooked.

Frozen food, Trader Joe’s ready meals, etc are not fresh food. They do not have the same Qi. In fact, in Chinese medicine they are called “wrecked” food.

Don’t believe me? Boil Rice. Notice the smell. Defrost frozen rice and microwave it. Compare. Which smells better? The difference is the Qi. Restaurant food, too.

One, it tends to be very high in fat and salt. Two, you have no way of knowing how fresh the ingredients are. Three, the stress energy of the cooks who are working for a living. Four, if its flesh foods, how about the hormones?

Not saying never eat out, but some people always eat out. Sure, east out once in a while, but you cannot have good health without home cooking. Just not possible. Its the truth and that’s life. Be aware of the trade offs.


Eat Seasonally

In cold weather we eat more warming food: more cooked vegetables; less salads and raw veggies. Raw vegetables drain your body’s heat, which is why they are great in summer.

In winter we eat more root vegetables, hard squashes, sea vegetables, foods that draw energy in and down. Balance heavier foods with lighter foods, for example Christmas turkey with steamed broccoli and baked butternut squash, rather than stuffing and gravy.

Early winter can be quite dry actually, so we take more moistening food, ergo soups and sauces as opposed to a dry sandwich. If you have sushi, have miso soup with it, for example.

Eat fruits that are in season, like pears, persimmons, pomegranates, apples. Don’t eat chilling fruits that are out of season like melons.

Manage your stress

Stress weakens the immune system, full stop. Its our response to stressors  that we call stress, just as much as the stressors themselves. Some of us make everything stressful. Winter is a time for introspection as well as celebration. How can I achieve better storage this winter? Celebrate your festivals of light, but contemplate their meaning. Drink wine, yes, but meditate and do Tai Qi or Yoga, too. My favorite Mindfulness Meditation book is Calming Your Anxious Mind

Follow the above and you greatly improve your chance of resistance. And if you do get  a cold, flu or bronchitis, treat it properly and you will get better quicker.  You will have to take lots of rest and push fluids, number one thing. If you want to see the silver cloud in the lining, its that its actually good for your immune system to have this “exercise.”

If you want to contrast the above with what Ayurveda has to say, look at this

Copyright eyton j. shalom, oct, 2012, san diego ca, all rights reserved use with permission.


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