Chinese Medicine for the Common Cold and the Flu

By: Dr. Allison Heffron, DC, LAc.

You might think that the flu season is over because its peak month is almost over, but don’t count yourself lucky just yet… Although some of you may try to avoid getting sick with the help of a flu shot and using an entire bottle of Purell a day, there’s a great way to treat these ailments.

What is interesting is that the common cold and the flu are not the same from person to person. So why is it that we both treat it the same way? In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners look at each individual as a unique case. No two people are alike. If a patient comes in with a western diagnosis of the common cold it is certainly taken into consideration, but it is very important to see what the root of that cold is. Is it from an actual cold or is it more from the heat?

Here is a brief chart comparing cold versus heat symptoms that everyone groups into as the “common cold.”

Mucus Clear Yellow/green
Productive Cough Clear Yellow/Green/Blood
Fever No fever, may have a slight fever with more chills Yes
Chills Yes No chills, or more feverish than chills
Body aches Yes Not so much

There are even more ways to diagnose the root of the issue, but this is just an introduction for those of you who don’t want to be an expert in the field and just want to have fun diagnosing your friends’ mucus.

Another thing you may want to look out for is any change in bowel movements. If there is a change in bowel movements that is a significant sign that it is not just a simple cold, but rather something a bit deeper that may be classified as the flu.

So where does acupuncture enter the picture? Aside from being able to diagnose the issue, there are a few things that can be used to help alleviate symptoms and help you get back to feeling like a rock star sooner. Just as a brief summary of the wonders of acupuncture: it is, fundamentally, a way to enhance your body’s ability to heal itself by increasing blood flow (essential in healing) and communication between nerves (also essential in healing). Acupuncture will allow the body to communicate with itself so it can expel the pathogens that are causing it to feel not so great.

The needles are kind of like Mel Gibson in Braveheart. They’re giving an awesome pep talk and gathering the troops (aka blood and nerve cells) to boost your body up to fight off whatever is trying to weaken it.

There is also cupping (shout out to Michael Phelps for bringing attention to this ancient therapy). Cupping Therapy is unique in that it helps pull apart tissue allowing blood and nerve pathways to open up and allow an increase of flow to the affected area as well as opening up the pores to expel pathogens, and it can affect tissue 4 inches below the surface! That’s significant in the human body. Chinese medicine has a plethora of therapeutic tools including dietary change. An acupuncturist may recommend adding a few things, like ginger or garlic, or even subtracting a few things, like ginger or garlic. Yes, I said ginger or garlic both times and not because I didn’t proof-read, but because if you present with a cold cold then you can have it, but a heat cold you should avoid it. Each food has a different temperature, but that’s another lesson altogether.

Bottom line: get acupuncture when you feel a cold or something gross infiltrating your system! Maybe then you won’t have to sit home with a tissue box watching Braveheart. Reach out to us to schedule an appointment or fill out the form below:

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