It is Cold and Flu season. Sniffles and coughs abound. The changes in weather stress and weaken our immune systems. According to Chinese Medicine dampness and cold winds carry “evil qi” or pathogens that attack us and make us sick.
They come in the form of Wind Cold and Wind Heat. Wind Cold starts with chills, a mild sore throat, fatigue and a runny nose with clear phlegm. It can progress into Wind Heat which includes fever and sweating, severe sore throat, body aches and sinus and lung congestion with yellow or green phlegm. Sometimes pathogens start as Wind Heat like the flu. Each presentation is treated individually with different herbs and acupuncture points.
If you catch the symptoms early enough an acupuncture expelling treatment can help fight off the pathogen along with herbs and vitamins. An herb formula called Cold Away that is carried by many acupuncturists is very effective as is Cold Snap found at Rainbow Bridge or Lassen’s. Goldenseal and Echinacea are also excellent at mobilizing the immune system. The same for Vitamin C and Zinc. Echinacea works by activating the virus and bacteria eating white cells so taking it preventatively is a waste.
Echinacea was my first powerful experience with herbs. I was nineteen and living in Vancouver, Canada in a damp, chilly basement in the winter. I had strep throat three times and the third round of antibiotics was not working. I went to an old fashioned (before convenient tablets and capsules) herb shop called the Golden Bough. The shelves from floor to ceiling were full of jars with mysterious looking roots and barks, leaves and flowers. I was given Echinacea root to cook up into a tea. It smelled and tasted awful but by the third cup I was feeling better and quickly recovered completely. This was the beginning of a lifetime journey with herbs and natural healing.
Once a pathogen has taken hold you can continue to take these products to help the immune system. Along with acupuncture they will help you recover more quickly and prevent complications and secondary infections. I frequently see people who have been sick for a month or two. This is quite preventable. Along with the support protocol herbs should be added that treat the individual symptoms and the acupuncture treatment should be adjusted accordingly.
In order to prevent illness it is good to get maintenance acupuncture and take an immune tonic once a month during cold season. An immune tonic should include Chinese mushrooms such as Cordyceps and Gandoderma as well as Astragalus root. A tonic should not be used once you are sick as the herbs will make the pathogen stronger. Studies and my twenty two years of experience have shown that people who get regular acupuncture get sick less frequently and recover more quickly.
Kathleen MacGregor is an acupuncturist with an office in Meiners Oaks.