The Traditional Chinese Medicine Approach to Colds/Flu

by Dody Chang, L.Ac.

According to Chinese Medicine, colds and flu are caused by the invasion of external pathogenic factors attacking the superficial areas of the body via the skin, mouth or nose. The primary therapeutic objective is to intervene before symptoms become entrenched or enter deeper into the body. When used during the early onset of a cold or flu, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can alleviate symptoms, shorten the course of illness, prevent transmission of illness to deeper layers of the body, and prevent further health complications and weakened health.

Some classical Chinese herbal formulas that are used to help prevent and lessen the severity of cold and flu symptoms include:

Jade Windscreen Powder (Yu Ping Feng San) fortifies a weakened immune system that causes susceptibility to colds and flu. When taken in advance and during the cold season, it can help people who catch recurrent colds or flu, especially children and elderly. In China, elementary classrooms often have a hot pot of Jade Windscreen tea available during the cold winter season. The original formula consists of three herbs: Huang Qi (Astragalus root), Bai Zhu (Atractylodes) and Fan Feng (Ledebouriella Root.) The combination of herbs can help improve resistance to colds and flu, strengthen the lungs and help balance the body during periods of stress.

Gan Mao Ling (Common Cold Remedy) is a modern formula for quickly dispelling pathogenic influences from the surface layers of the body before they sink deeply into the internal layers where they can become more serious and difficult to treat. This is a common herbal remedy prescribed to help relieve symptoms of common cold and flu such as sore throat, runny nose, nasal congestion, cough and headache. Gan Mao Ling consists of Chinese herbs that have shown anti-viral properties, including Ban Lan Gen (Isatis Root) and Jin Yin Hua (Lonicerae Japonicae Flos). It is most effective during the initial onset of cold and flu symptoms. However, it can be taken throughout a viral infection to help quicken recovery.

Honeysuckle and Forsythia Powder (Yin Qiao Jie Du San) This formula is comprised of two principle herbs Jin Yin Hua (Honeysuckle Flower) and Lian Qiao (Forsythia Fruit) and is effective when used during early onset of symptoms including fever, sore and swollen throat, thirst, and headache. This formula should be taken during the duration of the illness and then discontinued when symptoms go away.