TCM to Treat Colds & Flu
The treatment principles for each of these manifestations of a Wind attack is to expel the Wind pathogen and eliminate the other pathogens that accompany it, and strengthen the patient’s Qi if the patient is weak. The primary focus of therapy, if the patient is not sweating, such as in a Wind-Cold attack, is to cause sweating and “release” the pathogen from the body. Treatment for Exterior Wind attacks may be performed via acupuncture, herbal medicine, Qi Gong, or a combination of these modalities.
If caught in the early stages (especially within the first few hours of the onset of symptoms) acupuncture, herbal medicine, and Qi Gong can be very effective at eliminating pathogenic influences. If the disorder has progressed beyond the onset of symptoms, or if symptoms have become severe, herbal medicine is generally the TCM therapy of choice, with acupuncture and Qi Gong exercises used as symptomatic relief and adjuvant therapies.
To keep the body’s Qi strong and prevent Wind attacks, any of the three modalities may be used, as all of them have immunostimulating functions. In fact, several clinical studies have demonstrated that herbal medicine and acupuncture in particular reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections and shorten the course of illness.
Acupuncture treatment varies according to the presentation of symptoms and the predominance of Heat, Cold, or other pathogens and to the strength of the Qi. For example, in a Wind- Cold attack, acupuncture needles are placed in acupuncture points that eliminate Wind and dispel Cold and in points that treat symptomatic conditions such as runny nose and stiff neck. Representative points are Lung 7 (Lie Que), Urinary Bladder 12 (Feng Men), and BiTong. Each differential diagnosis requires different acupuncture points. For example, the primary point for a Wind-Heat attack is Large Intestine 4 (He Gu). For patients with weakened Qi, acupuncture may be used to strengthen the Qi at the same time.
Other traditional modalities may be used. A cold condition requires warming, and moxa may be burned on the acupuncture needle or held over the acupuncture point to stimulate it without burning the skin. Suction cups also may be applied to acupuncture points along the spine.
Herbal Medicine and Colds & Flu
Herbal medicine treatment varies according to the symptoms, the predominance of Heat, Cold, and other pathogens, and the strength of a patient’s Qi. Just as individual acupuncture points and the combination of points into prescriptions vary according to the differentiated pattern of Wind-Heat and Wind-Cold, the use of herbal substances is differentiated as well.
Individual herbs that resolve exterior Wind-Heat or Wind-Cold are combined with specific herbs that treat symptomatic conditions and, if necessary, increase the body’s resistance so that the pathogen can be eliminated more rapidly. For example, detoxifying herbs such as Jin Yin Hua (Lonicera) and Lian Qiao (Forsythia) are used to treat Wind-Heat, and Gui Zhi (cinnamon twig) and Sheng Jiang (fresh ginger) are used to treat Wind-Cold. These herbs may be found in classic formulas combined with other herbs that are then individualized to specific presentations.
Gui Zhi and Jin Yin Hua (Lonicera)–only 2 of several medicinal plants used in Chinese Medicine to treat colds and flu.
Likewise, to strengthen Qi and boost the immune system, herbs such as Dang Shen (Codonopsis), Huang Qi (Astragalus), and Ban Lan Gen (Isatis) may be used in formulas.
One common herbal formula, Yin Qiao San, although originally designed for Wind-Heat attacks, has become a popular and readily available formula to take at the first sign of any exterior Wind attack. Another formula, Ma Huang Tang, was traditionally used for a Wind-Cold attack, but because of concerns over the safety of Ma Huang (Ephedra), it is recommended that such formulas only be used under the guidance of an experienced herbalist. Changes in diet may be recommended as well, depending on the condition.