The Common Cold and Chinese Medicine
Has a cure for the common cold been discovered? No. But few people know that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be highly effective in treating the common cold. In many cases a cold can be cured in about a day with an acupuncture treatment and some herbs.
Ask anyone and they will tell you they have experienced a common cold. The symptoms are well known: general malaise and fatigue, fever or chills, headache and upper respiratory congestion. Usually in the beginning there is profuse nasal discharge and sneezing followed by thicker mucous. The throat may be red, sore and dry.
Why is it so difficult to treat the common cold with antibiotics or antiviral medications? The fact is that what we call the common cold is actually many different responses or symptom profiles to many different strains of viruses. Therefore it is very difficult to know exactly what strain of virus is affecting a person without lab tests. The same is true of the influenza virus, commonly called the flu.
When you get a flu shot you are injected with a particular strain of inactivated influenza virus. Doctors suggest getting an updated flu shot each year because the viruses mutate and change rapidly. The question we ask in Chinese medicine is: If two people are exposed to the same virus, why does one get sick while the other stays well? We ask this because in Chinese medicine, for thousands of years, physicians studied how to keep people from getting sick. By understanding how to keep the immune system in excellent shape, and how to activate it when ill, people stay well and recover from illness more quickly.
Many people mistakenly ask their doctors for antibiotics when they have a cold, but since most colds are viral in nature; antibiotics have no affect on them. Most people know that a cold is a self-limiting illness, which means that if the immune system is functioning normally, a cold will last only a few days, or maybe a week. Few people, however, know that at the very early stages of a cold an acupuncture treatment and some herbal medicine can stop a cold in about a day. Why does Chinese medicine work so well for the common cold? The answer lies in the power of the body’s own immune system.
As I said before, a cold is self-limiting; it will go away in most cases without a visit to a health care professional. However, most people want immediate relief, they don’t want to miss work, or they don’t want their kids to miss school. In most cases of a cold, people reach for over the counter drugs to help control the symptoms. We reach for the antihistamines to dry up our congestion, we take aspirin for our aches and pains, and maybe we take something else to help us sleep. But Chinese medicine seeks out the root of the problem which is in the body’s inability to defend itself against the pathogen. Though the immune system is a very complex combination of many interacting systems, evidence shows that acupuncture can boost certain key components that create and build lasting immunity. This can happen very quickly while the body is trying to fight of the invading virus and health can be restored.
Many herbs in the Chinese materia medica have been found to have antiviral and immune boosting properties. Astragalus, called huang qi in Chinese, has been shown to reduce incidence and shorten the length of the common cold. Echinacea is a proven and very valuable remedy commonly used in China, Europe and increasingly in the United States for boosting immunity. For proper dosage seek a competent health care professional who can guide you through the maze of natural remedies available today. Generally, in Chinese medicine we use herbal formulas, specific combinations of herbs to treat the whole person. In other words, one person might present with a sore throat and a high fever, while another with mostly chills and a runny nose. Each person would receive an entirely different formula. This is one of the reasons that it is difficult to try and treat colds and flus by picking up herbs at a supermarket. A competent practitioner will assist you in finding the right formula for you. The following are some suggestions for dealing with the common cold:
- Get an Acupuncture treatment and the right herbal formula immediately.
- Get plenty of rest, bed rest and sleep are the best.
- Vitamin C: has been shown to shorten the course of the common cold.
- Zinc: has antiviral properties and can shorten the length of a cold.
- Drink plenty of liquids but avoid sugar and even concentrated fruit juices (sugars, even fructose, the sugar in fruit, inhibit white blood cell activity.)
- Avoid sugar as it decreases immune function.
Stay warm this winter and get plenty of exercise while maintaining a healthy diet and you will be well on your way to preventing the frequency of the common cold.
To receive a Free Consultation and to learn how Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help the common cold, simply call (828) 254-4405
© James Whittle M.S., L.Ac. All rights reserved.