Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chinese Herbs for Early Stage Cold and Flu Symptoms

According to Chinese Medicine, it is essential to address a cold or flu from the very first early onset symptom. Why?  In normal cold and flu season, a Chinese herbal formula can stop the cold or flu in its tracks, not allowing it to progress beyond a tickle in the throat.  Sometimes, of course, herbs may not stop the disease entirely.  However, the course of the disease will most likely be shortened and symptoms decreased by applying timely initial treatment.

The Concept of Immunity in Chinese Medicine

The Chinese Medical concept of immunity is based on the concept of Upright Qi – a concept that refers to the amount and flow of energy through the body. The Upright Qi generates the Defensive Qi of the body, which circulates in the layer between the skin and muscles, and according to some sources, around the body in the body’s energy field. When Upright Qi is strong, the body’s Defensive Qi is strong, making the body resistant to disease.

The Problem of “Wind”

Disease is caused by Pathogenic Qi invading the body from the environment. Pathogenic Qi is usually described in terms of environmental weather conditions, such as Wind, Cold, and Heat. When our Upright Qi is weak, leading to an “emptiness” of Defensive Qi, the Pathogenic Qi invades to fill the empty space, and the body begins to develop disease.
The Pathogenic Qi of Wind is especially problematic.  Wind is the force that penetrates the body’s Defensive Qi, leading to upper respiratory tract infections such as the common cold, flu, sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, and pneumonia.

What Kind of Cold Do You Have?

When selecting a Chinese herbal formula for your early onset cold and flu symptoms, it is important to differentiate your symptoms between Heat and Cold. Referring the concept of Wind mentioned above, Chinese Medicine divides early onset cold and flu symptoms into Wind-Heat and Wind-Cold.
To distinguish Wind-Heat from Wind-Cold flu symptoms, refer to the following chart:
Sore Throat, Tonsils
Slightly Itchy Throat
Slight Aches
Severe Aches
High Fever
Low Fever
Slightly Dark Urine
Pale Urine
Slight Shivering
Very Cold, Shivering
Yellow Mucous
White Mucous

Herbal Formulas for Wind-Heat

Honeysuckle and Forsythia Powder (Yin Qiao San) is the premier formula for Wind-Heat early onset symptoms. Yin Qiao San is one of the most famous Chinese herbal formulas, first appearing in the Chinese medical literature in the 13th century AD. It is best to start taking Yin Qiao San at the first sign of a sore throat, and to continue taking it until the Wind-Heat has been eliminated, or progressed to a more severe stage. I have relied on this formula countless times to stop colds and flus in their tracks effectively.
If Wind-Heat progresses into the sinuses, causing sinus congestion and runny nose with yellow or green discharge, then add Nose Inflammation Tablets (Bi Yan Pian) to the Yin Qiao San. If it makes its way into the chest, causing chest congestion and cough, then add Mulberry Leaf and Chrysanthemum Decoction (Sang Ju Yin).

Herbal Formulas for Wind-Cold

There are some cases where a person becomes very cold during the early onset of a cold or flu. In this case of Wind-Cold, it is  important to avoid the Wind-Heat herbal formulas, and to administer an  herbal formula for Wind-Cold,.  I recommend the formula Schizonepeta and Ledebouriella Powder to Overcome Pathogenic  Influences (Jing Fang Bai Du San), a flexible formula that addresses Wind-Cold without being too warming.  This powerful and effective formula uses the power of some of the premier herbs for the upper respiratory tract – Schizonepeta Herb (Jing Jie), Siler Root (Fang Feng), Platycodon Root (Jie Geng), and Perilla Leaf (Zi Su Ye), to warm the body, open the chest, and consolidate the body’s Defensive Qi, thus kicking out the invading pathogen.
If Wind-Cold progresses to the sinuses, causing sinus congestion and excessively runny nose with white discharge, use Kudzu Root Decoction (Ge Gen Tang). If it progresses to the chest, causing chest congestion, cough and white phlegm, use Minor Blue-Green Dragon Decoction (Xiao Qing Long Tang).

Herbs for Stomach Flu

Chinese Medicine also offers a very powerful herbal formula for stomach flu and nausea symptoms, classified as Wind-Damp. Wind-Damp symptoms will include: fever, feeling of heaviness of the head and body, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, swollen glands, headache, symptoms will be worse in the afternoon, oppression of chest and epigastrium, and a sticky taste in the mouth. For these symptoms, use Agastache Powder to Rectify the Qi (Huo Xiang Zheng Qi Tang). I have found that this herbal formula can relieve nausea almost instantaneously.

Save Yourself a Sick Day

Why am I interested in introducing these herbs to you?  Because they are so effective.  I have used them countless times when I first felt a tickle in the throat, or that general feeling of fatigue that signals “I’m about to get sick”.  Combined with rest and a simple diet, these Chinese herbal formulas can truly work wonders.

Building Your Medicine Cabinet

Start with a bottle of Yin Qiao San – this is truly an all-purpose formula that should be in every medicine cabinet.  Then, select the formulas above that match the symptoms that you tend to get.  For further help in selecting the herbal formulas that are right for you, or if you have a serious health condition of any kind, contact a qualified Chinese herbalist for assistance.

A Medicine Cabinet Appointment

If you are interested in fully equipping your medicine cabinet for this coming Fall and Winter, make a “Medicine Cabinet appointment” with me.  This appointment, which can be done in person or over the phone, will help you learn:
  • Which herbs are most appropriate for you and your family
  • Which brands are the highest quality
  • How to use each type of herbal remedy
If you’d like to make an appointment, or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to give me a call or email.

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