Acupuncture for Cold & Flu
It is the height of cold and flu season, a time where most of us feel somewhat helpless since there is nothing that western medicine can really do in regards to cold or flu. These usually are more prevalent during the cold months of the year, but can hit at any point. We all know of the famous summer cold that we all have had at one point or another!
Quintessential symptoms are coughing, headache, stuffy/runny nose, sore throat, and body aches. Cold symptoms will usually last a few days while the flu will leave you feeling ill anywhere from a few days to one or several weeks. Being that the cold and flu are virus’s, they cannot be rectified with antibiotics as they do not treat virus’s, and we’re usually told by the doc to “wait it out” with rest and fluids. While this is the norm for us in the U.S., Chinese medicine practitioners have been treating the common cold and flu for thousands of years using acupuncture and herbal formulas with the knowledge that germs are not the cause of the illness, but it’s actually what happens when systems in the body become weak and out of balance.
On average in the United States, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), adults have 2-3 colds per year and children have even more. Yikes! For something that can’t be cured with antibiotics, that is a lot of time one would have to spend off of work and/or time spent “waiting it out” and healing. When it comes to Chinese medicine, just like with western medicine, early intervention is key. The sooner treatment is received for your symptoms, the more effective acupuncture is. Usually, 1 or 2 acupuncture treatments and a week’s worth of herbal medicine are all that is required for colds, and if recognized early enough can treat a cold within a day or two.
Acupuncture boosts the immune system by:
- Regulating the function of the immune system itself to give you defense against the common cold and flu
- Invigorates the organs of the body with body fluids and fresh blood
- Help manage symptoms and support faster healing including making the length of the illness shorter
- Fortifies the defensive barrier against foreign invaders like the viruses that cause seasonal illnesses
As we stated above, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the cold and flu is not caused by germs contrary to western medicine beliefs. TCM states that these illnesses happen when systems in your body are weak and out of balance. When your body is in an unguarded state, it creates an accepting environment for bacteria, germs, and viruses to thrive, leading to a cold or the flu. Getting regular acupuncture treatments even before a cold or the flu is present will support the body’s own self-healing, self-regulating, and self-balancing systems.
When you go for your acupuncture appointment with a cold or a flu, your acupuncturist will first determine what type of cold you have. It is only then that they can perform the proper acupuncture points and potentially prescribe an herbal formula. Things like heightened respiration, pulse, blood pressure, and temperature may be lessened through acupuncture treatment in some extreme cases of colds and flu.
Acupuncture Points for Colds and Flu
There are many possible acupuncture points that your acupuncturist may use to remedy your cold and flu. Since acupuncture is so individualized, these points will all depend on the diagnosis your acupuncturist comes to at your consultation. However, there are several points that for sure work on treating the cold and flu every time, and they are ones that most acupuncturists will use in your treatment plan somewhere.
Cold and flu acupuncture points are:
- ST36 –
Leg Three Li – Zusanli; this point is for low immunity, chronic illness,
nausea, vomiting, and building/maintaining overall health.
- SP6 –
Three Yin Intersection – Sanyinjiao; helps with dizziness, headaches, digestive
issues, cools the blood, and tonifies yin. *If
you are pregnant less than 38 weeks, this point should not be used
- TH5 –
Outer Pass – Waiguan; this point is known as the “miracle” point or the “common
cold” point. It builds the immune system, builds vital resistance, helps fever,
headaches, stiffness/pain, chills, and balances yin and yang in the body.
- LI4 –
Union Valley – He Gu; this point is good for headaches, sinus issues, pain,
improves immunity, regulates sweat glands, and hay fever. *If you are pregnant less than 38 weeks,
this point should not be used.
- PC6 – Inner Pass – Nei Guan; builds immune system and vital resistance, helps nausea, vomiting, and chest pain.
Eastern Medicine vs. Western Medicine
In western medicine, there are antibiotics that are given if your cold or flu has escalated to a point of bacterial infection. It is always important to know when it is appropriate to see your primary doctor for antibiotics as it has the potential to reach a point of pneumonia which may potentially lead to hospitalization. Using TCM protocols from the get-go should prevent your symptoms from reaching this point, but always listen to your body and symptoms.
Remedies for less serious cases of the cold and flu in western medicine typically are:
- Antiviral medications like Relenza or Tamiflu
- Over-the-counter medications to take care of cough, headache, fever, and pain
- Run a humidifier
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Get plenty of rest
- Use throat lozenges for sore throat
- Saline nose spray for stuffed nose
We have all heard one or all of these remedies from our doctor. The thing that is fascinating is that the Chinese have had successful cures for the common cold and flu for thousands of years just by implementing things like acupuncture and herbal formulas into one’s daily routine. They also break down the common cold in a different way in that it is not just one broad condition. Since TCM is so individualized, there are a few types of cold, and depending which one you have, your acupuncturist and/or herbologist will give you a remedy for your specific condition.
The cold is classified in three ways in TCM:
- Wind Cold
– this is the most common type during the cold months; symptoms include
possibly minor fever, sore and itchy throat, aversion to cold, pain in the
limbs, and sneezing.
- Wind Heat
– this is the most common type during the warmer months; symptoms include
runny/stuffy nose, aversion to the wind, sneezing, fever, sweating, and
coughing thick and yellow phlegm.
- Damp Heat – closer to the symptoms of what we know as the flu; symptoms include headache, nausea, loss of appetite, fatigue, and chest pain.
Basically, the goal of eastern medicine is maintaining balance within your body and in relationship to the outside environment. Once achieved, you will have higher resistance to illness to keep you from contracting the cold or flu. It is common knowledge that we are all exposed to viruses all the time, and can be found just about everywhere. According to TCM, people who get sick have been under a lot of stress, have allergies, are over-tired, or out of balance
Can Herbs Really Do the Same as Conventional Meds?
In short, yes. While it does seem strange to us in the west that food and/or herbs would have the same healing effects as conventional medicine, in the east it is as common and preferred as taking Ibuprofen is to us. Chinese antibacterial and antiviral herbs are used in the same way as antibiotics from your regular doctor, and also have a diaphoretic ability which drives away the flu bug and virus out of the body. Herbs are also used to fight infection and inflammation created by the bug, and according to the symptoms you have, will be prescribed very different herbal formulas to suit your needs.
Herbal formulas solve the problems of the cold and flu by:
- Destroying both viruses and bacteria
- Alleviating symptoms
- Pushing the pathogen out of the body while strengthening the immune system
Just one plant can contain thousands of compounds that are antiviral (known as phytochemicals) that help boost white blood cells. In TCM, an herbal formula is typically made up of anywhere from 5-12 herbs that are carefully combined depending on your TCM diagnosis, making their effects that much more powerful. Herbs like elderflower, myrrh, willow bark, rose hips, and boneset have also been known to relieve the many symptoms that accompany the flu.
It is also common in the east to use whole food combinations to repel cold and flu symptoms. Above we talked about the three types of cold in the world of TCM: wind cold, wind heat, and damp heat. The foods that are associated with these cold types are even ones that you might already have available in your pantry.
Some foods associated with the cold types are:
- For wind cold (the cold most common in colder months) you would need foods like garlic, ginger, jujube, licorice, white peony, and cinnamon.
- For wind heat (the cold most common in warmer months) you would need to have foods such as spinach, peppermint, honeysuckle, fermented soy bean, licorice root.
There are also several at-home remedies you can make with easily accessible ingredients at home!
Here are some at home formulas to try for wind cold:
- Ginger combined with scallion stalk and brown sugar: 30g of sliced ginger, 10g of scallion stalk, and about 200ml of water are put into a pot. Heat softly until boiled. Once boiled add 100-160g brown sugar for better taste. Drink 2-3 times daily until cold symptoms are resolved.
- Scallion stalk and ginger: 10g scallion stalks and 10 slices of ginger into a pot immersed in water and boiled. Drink and lie down covered with a quilt until sweating.
- Garlic and ginger: 15g garlic and 15g ginger are processed and taken in the same way as the scallion stalk and ginger above.
- Hot noodle soup with white pepper powder and scallion stalk: a bowl of hot noodle soup cooked, and appropriate amounts of white pepper powder and scallion stalk added to it. Eat while hot and lie down covered with a quilt until sweating.
There is a world of other concoctions out there that can make right in your own home based on TCM practices that have been curing the common cold and flu for thousands of years. They are also cheap, convenient, and safe having no reactions compared to western treatments like over-the-counter drugs.
Can the Common Cold and Flu Be Cured?
The common cold and flu are always things that here in the west we ignore and hope that it’ll be gone in a couple days. The issue with this is that cold symptoms can often take a turn for the worse rather quickly leading to potential fever and infection. In TCM, they have been curing the common cold and flu (not so secretly) for thousands of years. Besides taking Chinese herbs, acupuncture and acupressure are very useful to treat the cold and flu. By easing the symptoms and encouraging the body to fight the illness, it really makes perfect sense to incorporate into your routine this cold and flu season. It is always best to consult your acupuncturist when choosing herbal formulas or at home remedies. Studies show that incorporating acupuncture into your daily routine will also help boost your immune system, and as we said above, the earlier the intervention the better.
Several years ago, a group of esteemed Chinese scientists were invited to the U.S. to collaborate on a number of issues vital to the health and welfare of the world and were asked an on-the-spot question at a banquet in their honor. They were asked what the most notable thing about the U.S. was in their 2 months of visiting every research facility in the nation, and they said “the number one thing that has impressed me the most about America is the common belief by the common person that there is no cure for the common cold.” That says it all doesn’t it? Eastern medicine has been treating the common cold for thousands of years, it only makes sense to try out what has worked for so long.
Stay well, and don’t forget to contact an acupuncture provider near you today to learn how TCM/Oriental Medicine can help you this season.
Find acupuncture near you today with Best Acupuncture Near Me, and find out if acupuncture treatments for the cold and flu are right for you.
*If you are dealing with the cold or flu, please consult with your doctor before discontinuing any current medications or begin taking any new herbs/herbal formulas.