Treating The Common Cold & Influenza
by Ann Zimmerman, L.Ac.
The common cold or flu is one condition every person has experienced. It may bring up memories of being so achy you didn’t get out of bed or a runny nose that had you tearing through boxes of tissues.
The common cold and influenza are viral infections of the upper respiratory tract. These viruses do not discriminate by age or sex, they simply invade bodies that have a weakened immune system.
Many of us overtime develop the awareness to notice the first signs of an oncoming cold or flu such as a dry throat, low energy, or body aches. At this point in the progression of a cold most of us can feel the impending doom of sickness. If our awareness and time allow us to pay attention to these signs, most of us will try to be “good” reaching for some common remedies: rest, soup, Vitamin C, Zinc, Airborne, garlic, echinacea, ect. But what if these remedies do not work? Then what do you do? That’s where Chinese medicine comes in….
In Chinese Medicine both the common cold and influenza re referred to as an invasion of wind. Wind is one the various pathogenic factors that invades the body, along with cold, dampness, heat, dryness, and fire. These factors tend to cause patterns of imbalance in the body. Wind penetrates the body via the skin and interferes with the bodies ability to circulate defensive energy (Wei Qi). The wind lodges itself between the skin and the muscles causing a person to feel chilly or vulnerable to their surrounding. And thus the first signs of a cold show themselves.
Wind literally refers to climatic influences, especially sudden changes of weather to which the body cannot adapt. It also refers to a complex of symptoms/signs manifesting as Wind-Cold or Wind-Heat.
Traditional Chinese Medicine divides wind into the categories of Wind-Cold and Wind-Heat. The conditions present very differently and the approach to treatment varies greatly depending on each case.
- Aversion to cold
- Body aches
- No thirst
- No sweating
- Occipital headache
- Runny nose
- Feels warm
- Slight Aches
- Whole headache
- Stuffy nose
Wind-heat and Wind-cold may also be complicated by conditions of dampness and dryness.
Once the diagnosis of whether the case is Wind-Heat or Wind-Cold has been made, the practitioner is able to effectively determine the appropriaet acu-points and herbal formula. An herbal combination (which typically include 10-15 herbs) is carefully formulated down to the gram, based on the intricacies of the symptoms. For example, if someone presents with a teribble sore throat and nausea their formula would be different from someone else who has a terrible sore throat and a headache. This very calculated process allows the formulas to work very quickly and effectively.
At the beginning stage of a cold and flu acupuncture and herbal medicine are both equally important for mobilizing the body’s defense system to protect itself. The combination of the proper points and herbs are what give this medicine such great success in changin the outcome and length of this illness.
Typically, if a person catches a cold early on and gets acupuncture herbs they can usually count on the cold lasting no more than 3 days. But, what if you do not catch it right away? What if it is lingering in your lungs and has been there for weeks, and you are worried it may becomes bronchitis or pneuomonia?
This is another place Chinese medicine shines. A pathogen that has not been released from the body’s surface defense system will dive deeper into the body causing more heat and effecting the organs. The body will continue to ifhg against it, this causes fever and a feeling of heat.
This condition often presents with: high fever, cought with thick yellow sputum, breathlessness, thirst, sweating, restlessnes, and dry stools. At this level it is crucial that the pathogenic factor be cleared so it doesn’t penetrate more deeply or cause serious, chronic, or persistent symptoms. Herbal medicine becomes more effective here than the use of acupuncture. The acupuncture will be helpful, but not strong enough without the use of herbs to resolve the condition.
In our clinical experience we have seen the most impressive results using Chinese herbs and acupuncture to lessen and shorten the duration of cold and flu. This is one area of Chinese medicine that offers an effective alternative to the common Western medical prescription of antibiotics. The success lies in the customized herbal formulas and the accurate treatment of the progression of the pathogen. The most important thing to remember is that the sooner the cold or flu is treated the sooner you will feel healthy.