Unfortunately it is that time of the year when many of us succumb to the Flu.

Chinese Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture is a very effective at treating the Common Cold and Flu. Here we will discuss some common herbs that you can use to combat the Flu in the very early stages.


The Flu is an extremely contagious respiratory illness caused by Influenza A or B viruses. Flu appears most frequently in winter and early spring. The flu virus attacks the body by spreading through the upper and/or lower respiratory tract. The symptoms of a flu can include fever, chills, nasal congestion, cough, stiff and achy muscles.

Why is Prevention and Early Intervention Important?

The Flu can cause very serious health issues in anybody who has a weakened immune system, the elderly or the very young. Even the healthy can feel pretty terrible when they get the flu and that is why it is important for us to recognize the symptoms and try and address the symptoms as soon as possible.

Having had the history of asthma in our family, I take every cold and fever very seriously and like to nip the bug in the initial stages. I am going to share some natural remedies for helping fight the Flu, whether you’ve had the shot or not, and explain how such illnesses are treated in Chinese Medicine.

Every person is unique!

When people contract the Flu, their symptoms can vary depending on their constitution. A person suffering from the Flu can have some or all of the symptoms described above but there are subtle differences from person to person.

Some people may find their noses are completely congested whereas others find that their nose won’t stop leaking. Some find their nasal discharge to be yellow/green and others find it to be clear or watery. For some, the throat feels raw and others find that the lungs are affected and the chest is tight. The flu can make some people feel achy and make their muscles feel sore, while others may have the chills. Some have a high fever, but others may not.

So how do we treat the symptoms of the Flu with Acupuncture
and Chinese Herbal Medicine?

In Chinese Medicine, the Practitioner will look at all the symptoms the patient is suffering from, and then confirm the diagnosis by checking their tongue and pulse.

The colour and the coat of the tongue is a great way to confirm whether warming or cooling herbs that release the exterior should be used. For example, if the tongue looks red or has a yellow coat, we would use cooling herbs. However, if the tongue looked more pink or pale, and has a white coat, we would use warming herbs. When recommending foods, we always consider the nature of the herbs and how these herbs affect different parts of our body.

Acupuncture points are selected based on symptoms and a treatment plan is accordingly formulated.

Also, there are acupuncture points and herbal medicines that we use for lingering, unresolved symptoms from a flu or cold. Chronic cough, chronic sinusitis, chest congestion can all be effectively treated if there is a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

What herbs and spices can be helpful?

Here is a list of some simple foods and spices that you can use to ward off the cold and flu in the initial stages depending on your symptoms. Sometimes just having 1 or 2 cups of tea can help you get better soon. The trick is to listen to your body and ensure you can read your symptoms correctly.

  1. Ginger Tea - is very effective at initial onset of common cold or flu with symptoms of clear, watery discharge from the nose. The person may also be feeling slightly cold. In such cases, you can have some Ginger tea as it will help warm the body and help open the nasal passages.

    If your nasal discharge is more yellow, or your nose/lips look more red, do not have the ginger tea by itself - you would need to add some cooling herbs like Mint or Chrysanthemum flower.
  2. Mint Tea - is cooling, and can help relieve symptoms of a sore throat when the throat feels swollen, raw and looks red.
  3. Chrysanthemum flower tea - is cooling, and clears heat and helps the eyes. It can help relieve symptoms of itchy, red eyes at the early onset of the flu.
  4. Cinnamon - is warming, and is effective for warming the muscles at the nape of your neck and shoulders. Use this spice if your neck and shoulders feel stiff and cold.
    Menopausal women who suffer from hot flashes may find that having too much cinnamon can make their hot flashes worse.
  5. Mulberry leaf tea - is cooling, helps stop cough especially when there is yellow mucus.

Please note that these are suggestions and for a proper diagnosis and treatment you should consult a Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner. The RTCMP can prepare a herbal formula for your exact symptoms to help you heal. When the formula is right, you start feeling better within a day or two and there are no untoward complications.

What Else Can You Do To Fight The Flu?

  1. As a rule, if you are exhibiting flu like symptoms, STOP consuming sugar, dairy and any cream based foods. This is because the consumption of sugar and dairy will cause more mucus production and make the nasal and chest congestion worse.
  2. Get plenty of rest as it is harder to fight disease and infection if you are fatigued.
  3. Consume lots of water, clear, warm drinks such as clear soup, broth, tea as they help open your sinus passages and break down mucus production.
  4. Although Citrus fruits like oranges are high in Vitamin C, it is not recommended to have them when you have signs of cold and mucus. These fruits will cause more mucus and will make your symptoms worse.
  5. In the winter season, ensure your neck, head and top of shoulders are well protected. I highly recommend wearing scarves and hats to protect these regions from the cold wind and damp air. In acupuncture theory, there are acupuncture/acupressure points at the occiput (back of head), nape of neck, and upper back and shoulders that are susceptible to wind and cold and if exposed can lead to the onset of sniffles and stiff neck.
  6. For the same reasons mentioned above, ensure that after a workout when your sweat pores are open, do not step out in the cold without covering your head and neck.
  7. Do not go out with wet hair especially in the cold weather - even when home, ensure you put a towel under your wet hair so your neck does not stiffen up because of the cold and damp.
  8. Do the “shoulder stand” yoga pose at the beginning stage of cold or sore throat. This is because this posture will apply pressure on your upper thoracic spine and upper back - and this is where the acupressure points for warding off common cold and flu are located.
  9. Massage your sinuses all along either side of the nose, forehead and cheeks to help them drain.
  10. If you feel worried that you are getting too sick and that you need help to fight the flu, see a Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner (RTCMP) or Acupuncturist (RAc). Acupuncture can be used as proactive health care, and it can also be used for addressing symptoms of cold, cough, asthma.
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