Colds, Flu, Respiratory Problems … You Don’t Have to Suffer!

TCM has been effectively treating colds, flu and respiratory problems for centuries. Learning a bit about colds, flu and other respiratory problems, and having a few herbal formulas on hand with the knowledge to use them, and knowing where to go for help if things get out of hand, can make the difference between a healthy or a miserable cold and flu season.

Colds and flu are viruses. It’s the body’s way of doing spring cleaning when overwhelmed with toxins. When the body is full of toxins and one more thing comes along, a virus or an allergen, such as pollen, animal dander, or dust, it triggers a reaction setting off a cold, flu or allergies. If the drainage systems, the liver, kidneys, spleen, and lymph either aren’t working as well as they should or have too much to deal with, the body says, “OK, that’s it. Everybody out!”  Nasal discharge, fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, rashes are all ways of pushing toxins out quickly, bypassing the usual detox pathways.

Taking over-the-counter medications or antibiotics to suppress symptoms does nothing to address the virus or other toxins that need to be expelled and can cause prolonged, recurring or chronic symptoms.

Antibiotics don’t kill viruses. Articles in JAMA (Journal of Medical Medical Association) and New England Journal of Medicine, the two leading publications for Western medical practitioners, have been telling doctors for over 20 years not to give patients antibiotics for colds and flu unless tests indicate the viral infection has developed into a secondary bacterial infection. Antibiotics, while necessary in some cases, impair the immune and digestive systems and can lead to an endless cycle of colds, flu and additional health issues. Antibiotics treat bacteria not viruses.  

A secondary bacterial infection can occur along with the virus. If you want to grow a bacterial culture, you take something slimy and put it in a warm dark place. In no time you have a thriving bacterial culture. We have the perfect incubators in our lungs and sinuses. When mucous gets stuck in the sinuses or chest and turns color (yellow, brown, black), or there is a burning sensation in the lungs or sinuses, it is an indication that there is now a bacterial infection in addition to the virus. When colds last more than a few weeks there could also be a fungal infection that perpetuates symptoms.

So how do you treat colds and flu and prevent them from developing into something worse? There are herbal formulas to kill viruses, bacteria, fungus, and specific types of phlegm (clear, colored, thick, thin, profuse, stuck) and in very specific places (lungs, sinuses, bronchial tubes, throat). Acupuncture can strengthen the immune system and dispel phlegm in specific locations.

What makes people vulnerable to colds, flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, allergies, asthma, pulmonary obstructive syndrome and other respiratory issues? It is often a combination that can include the following: consumption of phlegm-producing foods, and the inability to break down and assimilate foods, especially oils and fats. Sludge, stones, or weakness of the gallbladder also impair the way the body breaks down fats and phlegm, and phlegm can also result in masses such as fibroids, cysts, or tumors.

Candida is another culprit. Candida is the overgrowth of the negative bacteria in the small intestines that creates an environment for yeast. We all have some Candida in our small intestines, but signs of excess include sweet or empty carb cravings, foggy thinking, short-term memory problems, depression, yeast and bladder infections, joint aches and pains. An overgrowth of Candida can cause extreme cravings for sweets, breads, pasta and junk food, and a disinterest in vegetables and healthy foods. It has nothing to do with willpower! Candida is a growing entity demanding what it needs to thrive. Many cases of chronic immune weakness, chronic health issues and disease have a Candida component that needs to be addressed. There are herbal formulas and certain foods that can cut the sweet and junk cravings and bring Candida under control. With one less major toxin to deal with the immune system gets a huge boost; colds and flu diminish.

What can you do yourself to prepare for cold and flu season? The following is a list of Chinese herbal formulas to keep on hand. The Plum Flower brand of these formulas are available at many stores that sell health food, such as Ashland Food Co-op, Market of Choice, and Shop’n Kart. Plum Flower brand has the GMP rating, the Australian equivalent of what the FDA professes to be. This is one of the highest international ratings for herbal formulas insuring that there are no heavy metals or toxins in the formulas and the manufacturing plants are kept sanitary and up to modern, international standards. Many of these formulas are also available from other reputable companies including liquid forms for children or people who have difficulty swallowing pills. For other brands, check with a Licensed Acupuncturist.

Keeping these formulas on hand and learning to use them can bring immediate relief.

Gan Mao Ling kills viruses.

Take at the first symptom of cold or flu. Unexplained fatigue is often the first sign. Take until symptoms are gone and a dose 3 times per day 1-2 more days just to be sure.

Adult dose 6 pills every 3-4 hours, though don’t wake up to take them. Sleep is a powerful healer.

Bi Yan Pian, for clear or white nasal discharge. It dries you up without drying you out. This prevents phlegm accumulation in the sinuses or lungs which leads to more serious illness. Take with the Gan Mao Ling.

Adult Dose: 3-4 pills every 3-4 hours until runny nose or post-nasal drip has stopped.

Chuan Xin Lian is an herbal antibiotic.

It is for colored mucous, burning sensation in the chest or sinuses, also urinary tract infections.

Take with Gan Mao Ling until mucous or burning sensation is gone and then 1-2 more days to be sure the bacterial infection is gone.

Adult Dose: 6 pills every 3-4 hours

Jade Screen builds the immune system to prevent colds or flu. Can take one dose per day throughout year to build immune system. Increase to 2 times per day during cold and flu season. When exposed daily to family members, classmates or coworkers who are sick, increase dose to 3-4 times per day.

Dairy creates mucous and phlegm and can set the stage for colds and flu, prolong or exacerbate illness.

Sugars, even those low on the glycemic index, are difficult to digest and impair the immune system. Stevia is OK, though it is now often mixed with chemicals and artificial sweeteners that cause health problems.  

Bone broth (bones, including a few marrow bones cooked with apple cider or brown rice vinegar) builds the immune system. Pacific brand makes a bone broth available in a box. It can be found in the broth section of stores.

Cultured vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickles that are made from a brine instead of vinegar and sugar build the positive bacteria in the small intestines, the most powerful component of our immune system. Probiotics plant 5-6 strains of bacteria in the intestines that last 5-6 hours. But we have billions of types of bacteria in the gut. Cultured vegetables are the fertilizer that feeds all of the strains of positive bacteria. Pickled Planet makes a large selection of cultured vegetables. Bubbies makes sauerkraut but some of their pickles have sugar in them.

When a virus invades the sinuses or chest, get in for acupuncture and specific herbal formulas. Most people feel some immediate relief after a treatment.


Nancy Burton
Reclaiming Our Health
534 Washington St.
Ashland, OR.

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Nancy Burton, L.Ac. is a Licensed Acupuncturist. She incorporates Acupuncture, Herbs, Tui Na (Chinese Medicinal Massage), Homeopathics, Nutritional Supplements, Muscle Testing, and Nutritional Counseling and Therapy in her practice. Her goal is to give patients the tools they need to achieve and maintain good health.

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