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Treating the Common Cold: An Introduction to Chinese Medicine

  What is a cold or the flu from western perspective?

The flu is a viral infection caused by the influenza virus, a respiratory virus. The common cold is also a viral infection, caused by the (adenovirus or coronavirus) and there are many strains with a lot of variability. That is why it's said there's no cure for the common cold. As for the flu there are controversial vaccinations that may prevent it.

The manifestations of a cold tend to produce runny nose, congestion, sore throat. Influenza is more pronounced in that it infects the lungs, the joints and causes pneumonia, respiratory failure or possibly death. It has a tendency to infect the intestinal tract more in kids, with diarrhea and vomiting. Because the gut is still relatively immature it may absorb more of the virus and can wreak more havoc on the intestines. The flu can cause major epidemics and or pandemics with the potential for mortality and as for common cold is just more annoying for us.

What is a cold and flu from a Chinese Medicine perspective?

Chinese Medicine looks at the common cold and flu in a more holistic manner.  It differentiates patterns from the ways the pathogen enters the body according to signs and symptoms. The two main different ways a cold and flu can enter the body is via wind-cold, and wind-heat. Typically the pathogen enters the body because we have a lower superficial resistance. The different factors that allow the superficial resistance to weaken can include stress, overwork, lack of rest, negative thought processes, improper dress and exterior factors including difference in weather and temperature. Treatment then is based on the pattern diagnosis.  The pattern diagnosis is achieved by examining the individual manifestations or symptoms and piecing them together as a whole. The Chinese medical doctor then makes the diagnosis according to the presenting pattern and treats it specifically. 

Wind Cold Type:

Often occurs due to change in weather or exposure to wind, and or cold.  With a weak immune system these pathogens enter through the skin. Symptoms could include chills, fever, no sweating, headache, body ache, stiff neck, and clear copious nasal discharge. A superficial pulse and white tongue coat.  This is often the initial stage of a cold. When the pathogens are at this initial, superficial stage, we seek to sweat them out. A hot bath or a dry sauna could be beneficial to begin the sweating process. Treatment then focuses on releasing the exterior by sweating using warming herbs and acupuncture points that strengthen the immune system.

Home Remedies:

-        Lightly boil for five minutes the following: garlic, ginger, green onion, basil, mustard seeds, or cinnamon- drink tea and go to bed to prepare to sweat it out

-        Drink cilantro and ginger tea

-        Make tea from parsnip and ginger

-        Drink scallion and basil tea

Wind Heat Type:

This type of common cold is characterized by fever, some chills, sweating, sore throat, cough, headache, yellow nasal discharge or sputum and a fast superficial pulse and a red tongue with a yellow coat. Treatment here focuses on expelling the pathogen by releasing the exterior and clearing heat with cooling herbs and acupuncture points.

Home Remedies:

-        Cabbage broth

-        Mint and cilantro tea

-        Or mint, chrysanthemum and dandelion tea

-        Or mint dandelion and licorice tea

In Chinese Medicine, PREVENTION is the key to not getting the cold and flu!
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