Treating the Common Cold with Chinese Medicine
According to Western medicine, both the common cold and the flu are caused by a category of virus called rhinoviruses. Western medicine has no treatment for this type of infection. Taking antibiotics, for example, will do nothing for a disease caused by a virus. However, practitioners of Chinese medicine have been treating the common cold effectively with both herbs and acupuncture for 2,000 years. More than 100 generations of Chinese doctors have proven that you don’t have to just stay in bed and let a cold run its course.
Types of colds in Chinese medicine
In Chinese medicine, there are two main types of colds, wind cold and wind heat external contractions. The symptoms of each are different. In a wind cold pattern of common cold, the main symptoms are fever, aversion to chill, lack of perspiration, and bodily aches and pains along with nasal congestion, a headache, and possible cough. In a wind heat pattern of common cold, the main symptoms are fever, less aversion to chill, no particular lack of perspiration, sore throat, nasal congestion, and cough with no body aches and pains. Depending on which of these two main types of cold a person manifests, practitioners of Chinese medicine will recommend different Chinese herbs and treat different acupuncture points. The most common pattern of common cold in both children and adults is the wind heat variety. Depending on the climate and geography, these two patterns may be complicated by dampness or dryness.
Acupuncture for the common cold
In terms of the common cold, acupuncture stimulates the body’s own innate healing energy or immune system in order to more effectively combat the viral infection. Fifty percent of persons infected with any given cold virus manifest any signs or symptom of infection because their immune system is strong enough to suppress the virus’s activity. It is only the other 50% whose immune systems weaker that develop symptoms. So strengthening the immune system is extremely important in fighting off a cold. In addition, certain points can relieve stuffy nose, cough, headache, bodily aches and pain, sore throat, fever, and reduce the production of phlegm. For instance, needling a point at the base of the thumbnail can markedly reduce sore throat literally in a matter of minutes. Some practitioners will combine acupuncture with other techniques such as cupping, guasha (a type of scraping technique), and tuina (Chinese medical massage) in order to get even better, quicker relief of symptoms.
Chinese herbal medicine for the common cold
Chinese medicine has a number of herbal medicinals, which are effective for the treatment of rhinoviruses, and formulas with these ingredients can stop a cold dead in its tracks or drastically reduce its symptoms and duration. In addition, Chinese herbal formulas for the common cold typically also contain anti-inflammatory, decongestant, antihistaminic, and immune-boosting herbs. Such Chinese herbal remedies come in various forms. Some of the names of these commonly prescribed ready-made Chinese medicines include Yin Qiao San, Gan Mao Ling, and Cold Quell. All three of these products are for wind heat external contraction common colds whose main symptoms are fever and sore throat. Typically, one should begin taking these ready-made herbal remedies at the first signs of a cold and continue taking them for a day or two after the symptoms have disappeared. Because it is so important to begin taking these kinds of antiviral Chinese herbal medicines as soon as the symptoms are noticed, it is a good idea to keep bottles of these kinds of remedies in your medicine chest at home, in the glove compartment of your car, and in your desk at work. If you always start a cold with a sore throat followed by the development of a fever, then you may want to keep one of the three herbal remedies on hand. The longer you allow a cold to develop prior to treatment, the more likely it is that it will continue to develop. So stopping it as quickly as possible is the key.