Each year, more than 100,000 people are hospitalized due to complications from the flu virus. Unfortunately, most of us get the “flu,” or “influenza,” virus at least once in our lifetime. The associated symptoms and signs are all-too-common: fever, sore throat, congestion, fatigue, muscle and body aches, runny nose, dry cough, sneezing and watery eyes.
Colds are much less severe than the flu, but like the flu, viruses and germs cause colds. Colds cause less severe symptoms such as nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, and light headaches. Though it may make you feel lousy, getting a cold is not always a bad thing. Instead, it’s a sign that the body’s resources are strong and vital, working to return you to a state of good health. However, if your immune system is already compromised, a cold could further weaken your body, leaving you open to a more serious illness.
The flu, you, and Chinese medicine
Clinical studies have suggested that using acupuncture as a preventative approach to colds and flu can reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infection and shorten the length of the illness. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine work by rebalancing the body’s systems, regulating the body’s healing energies and enhancing the immune system.
Even though germs, bacteria, and viruses are everywhere—in the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we drink—according to Chinese medical theory, they do not cause disease. Illness occurs when certain organ systems are weak and out of balance. When our bodies are in a weakened and unbalanced state, a hospitable environment is created for germs, bacteria and viruses to thrive, leading to a cold or the flu.
One of the main theories supporting acupuncture and its treatment of colds and the flu is the concept of Wei Qi.
What in the world is Wei Qi?
The concept of Wei Qi is similar to the Western concept of the immune system. Wei Qi functions as a barrier protecting and defending the body against foreign substances, which can cause illness and disease. When Wei Qi is strong and abundant, we remain healthy. When the supply of Wei Qi becomes inadequate, health is compromised and we become vulnerable to outside invaders.
- Consume 8-10 glasses of filtered water daily
- Exercise regularly to support the immune system
- Eat a healthy, organic diet, including foods with beta carotene (carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, garlic and tomatoes)
- Limit sugar intake. Sugar taxes the immune system, especially when feeling under the weather
- Take Vitamin C and herbs to support the immune system, especially in the “cold and flu” season
- Get plenty of rest
- Enjoy fun and relaxing activities
- Stimulate specific acupuncture points that support Wei Qi
- Schedule regular acupuncture treatments to support the body’s self-regulating, self-balancing and healing systems
Throughout our lives, a variety of factors affect our health and well-being. Although most of the time we recover quickly and regain our health, when these factors are numerous, our internal mechanisms become compromised and weakened, our Wei Qi becomes depleted, and we get sick. By the time illness occurs, the body’s self-regulating, self-balancing and healing systems have already been affected.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine support and strengthen the systems of the body that are involved in the production of Wei Qi, and can help rebalance and support the immune system and stimulate Wei Qi energy. By building up the supply of Wei Qi, and facilitating the smooth and free flow of it throughout the body, the body’s organs and meridian systems become strong, enhancing their ability to effectively fight off illness and disease.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are drug free, safe, natural and effective ways to support the body’s self-regulating, self-balancing and healing systems. If illness does occur, acupuncture can help you get back on your feet again, helping to stave off prolonged illness without the use of medication and over-the-counter drugs.
Treatment of fever due to exopathic wind-cold by rapid acupuncture. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 1992 Dec;12 (4):267-71.
Preventive and curative effects of acupuncture on the common cold: a multicentre randomized controlled trial in Japan. Complementary Therapeutic Medicine. 2004 Dec;12 (4):181-8.
Research Update: TCM and Cold Prevention
A study published by the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine concludes acupuncture treatments can indeed help treat the common cold.
The study followed 187 participants based on the onset of when the cold occurred. The participants were divided into two groups. The first group reported an onset time of cold symptoms within 36 hours and the second group reported an onset of symptoms greater than 36 hours. Both groups showed significant decreases in symptoms, as well as cold duration. This study demonstrates how receiving acupuncture treatments can shorten the length of time a person deals with the common cold and its symptoms.
Everybody has suffered from the common cold at some point along this journey called life. The common cold is an acute viral infection that affects the throat and nasal passages. Symptoms of a cold may include headaches, fatigue, a sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, a runny nose and coughing. With the normal progression of a cold, the throat symptoms, such as coughing, tend to be worse around the fifth day, while the nasal symptoms are nearing the end of their duration. Overall, the symptoms of the common cold tend to last about seven to 10 days. The typical treatment for a cold is to make sure you are getting plenty of sleep, taking in enough fluids and using steam to break up the mucus in the nasal passages. Because the common cold is caused by a viral infection, the virus must be allowed to run its course, while the symptoms are merely managed.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) takes a different approach though. It utilizes modalities like acupuncture, cupping and herbal formulas that can dramatically decrease the severity of symptoms and time that somebody suffers from a cold.
The practice of acupuncture is supposed to be used as preventive medicine. Not to say acupuncture can’t be used to treat already existing ailments, because it can, and it works very well in this capacity, but isn’t it better to avoid getting sick than to wait until the ailment is already affecting you? This is where acupuncture can help. Regular acupuncture treatments can increase your immunity, which will help fight off any disease, including the common cold. Acupuncture also helps decrease stress which can be a key factor in any disease. Studies indicate when the body is relaxed and not stressed, the immune system functions more efficiently.
Cupping, another technique utilized in TCM, helps boost the immune system. Cupping creates negative pressure that suctions the skin into the cup. This action causes the cells in the body to develop a greater number of receptors on the surface that can better respond to an enzyme known as heme oxygenase 1. This enzyme acts as an antioxidant that protects your body against harmful elements like the common cold virus.
TCM also uses herbs to prevent and treat many ailments, including the common cold. For instance, herbs like licorice root, also known as Gan Cao in TCM, can be used to treat a cough. It also has the ability to boost the immune system and help get rid of mucus in the respiratory tract. Cinnamon, or Gui Zhi, is another commonly used herb that helps ward off the common cold.
With all this evidence, it makes perfect sense to start using Traditional Chinese Medicine as a method of preventing the common cold.