5 Tips to Help Fight Colds & Flu This Winter

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

I know that we are all pretty worried about COVID-19 right now and that it has been dominating the news, our psyche's and our thoughts for almost a year. Viruses seem to be a part of the human experience and have been around for a very, very long time. Without going into an in-depth discussion about viruses and COVID-19 in particular, let's focus on the fact that we will still have to think about how to manage colds and flu's this season. Below are some of the best ways that I know to help us stay strong and healthy so those nasty viruses can never take hold, and if they do manage to sneak in and make us sick, there are some ways to flush them out as quickly as possible and get back to a healthy state.

A Virus. A microorganism that is smaller than a bacterium which is unable to grow or reproduce outside of a living cell. Viruses invade living cells and replicate themselves by using their host cells' chemical machinery to keep themselves alive.

What's the Difference Between A Cold & The Flu?

A good place to start the discussion is to talk about the difference between a cold (common cold) and the flu (influenza). What is the difference?? It's often hard to tell, but both colds and the flu are caused by viruses. Someone with a cold generally has milder symptoms, that come on more gradually, and someone with the flu generally has symptoms that are more severe, are more systemic and come on quickly. Influenza can be more dangerous as in people with compromised or weakened immune systems they can lead to complications like pneumonia. Below is a chart that lists the difference in symptoms between influenza and the common cold.

This fancy chart was made by Chinese Medicine Living. Yay!

As a mother of two small children, I am acutely aware of the realities associated with influenza and the common cold. There are many factors to consider like climate, the changing of the seasons, staying hydrated, dressing warmly enough, eating well, getting enough sleep and proper hygiene to name a few. In our hectic world, it is near impossible to stay on top of everything and ward off illness all the time, but there are certainly things you can do to keep your immune system built up and keep yourself as healthy as possible in these challenging times. Below are the things that I use, and have found to be the most effective for prevention, or at the first signs of a cold or flu, helping to push it along quickly, shortening its duration and severity.

1. Diffuse Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree, also known as melaleuca, is an essential oil that comes mainly from the Australian native plant Melaleuca alternifolia. Tea tree oil has been widely used throughout Australia for its medicinal properties for at least the last century and is well-known for its powerful antiseptic and antibacterial properties as well as its ability to kill many strains of bacteria, viruses, and fungi.

Tea tree oil is very versatile - it can be used to make homemade cleaning products, diffused to kill toxic mould that’s growing in your home, and applied topically to heal acne, cuts, and scrapes and treat skin infections. Tea tree’s natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory actions make it one of the most beneficial essential oils for health and healing making it a powerful addition to your medicine cabinet. If you would like to learn more about Tea Tree Oil, its health benefits and recipes, you can read this article - Tea Tree Oil - Benefits, Uses & Recipes.

Tea Tree Oil Steam

This is one that I have used for as long as I can remember, long before I ever became an acupuncturist. At the first signs of a cold or flu, get a large bowl (metal or glass), put 6 drops of high quality, organic tea tree (melaleuca) essential oil into the bowl. Boil some water (filtered if possible as you will be breathing in the vapour). Get a towel. Put the bowl with the tea tree oil on a table, and sit in front of it. Put the towel over your head. Pour the boiling water into the bowl. Put your face over the bowl - be careful as the steam will be very hot and the tea tree oil will be strong - cover your head with the towel and breathe deeply for about 20 minutes. If you do this early enough, the cold/flu will not progress.

Tea Tree Oil Diffuser

When anyone in our house is sick - especially my children - I diffuse tea tree oil. You can also add other essential oils depending on what is happening - I often use lavender as it is soothing and helps my children sleep. You have to be careful in children under 2 years old as essential oils are extremely concentrated, but diffusing 4-6 drops of high-quality tea tree and 4-6 drops of lavender essential oil will often stop a cold or flu in its tracks, especially if you react early enough. If you have a full-blown cold or flu, diffusing tea tree will also help with congestion, cleaning out your sinuses as well as purifying the air in your room and lessening the length and severity of the illness.

2. Acupressure

**There are certain points in the body that are strongly moving and are contraindicated if you are pregnant as they can induce labour. Both Spleen 6 and Large Intestine 4 are in this category so not for pregnant mamas.** 

Acupressure is basically acupuncture without the needles. Awesome, yes? There are hundreds of acupuncture points on the body, and there are a few that are particularly good for giving the immune system a boost as well as treating symptoms if we do come down with a cold or flu. I have chosen 3 powerful ones that I think will be the most beneficial, and have included images so you can find them. When using acupressure, you apply pressure to each point with your finger or thumb for 30 seconds to a few minutes and then rotate to the next point. Most acupuncture points are bilateral, meaning they are on each side of the body except for the ones that are on the midline that runs up the front and down the back of the body. All the points below are bilateral - located on each side of the body.

Large Intestine 4

Large intestine 4 is an extremely powerful and versatile point. It is located on the fleshy part between the thumb and first finger of the hand. The best way to locate it is to put your thumb and first finger together so they are touching and the point is at the top of the mound that is created. If you press on it, it is often quite sore. Large intestine 4 is the pain point for the entire body. Whenever there is pain, you use large intestine 4. It is the command point of the head and face, so any problems in this area, this point is appropriate. Its other functions are that it builds qi, strengthens the immune system, stops pain and induces labour - so please DON'T do this point if you are a pregnant mama! (see note above).

Below are some symptoms that large intestine 4 can help to alleviate.

  • headaches, dizziness, congestion, body aches, nosebleeds, toothaches, swelling or pain in the eyes
  • aversion to cold, fever
  • painful periods, lack of periods, difficult/painful labour and childbirth
  • gastric pain, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea
  • pain anywhere in the body and especially in the head/face
  • excellent point for the flu (releasing wind-heat in Chinese Medicine)

LARGE INTESTINE 4

Acupressure for Large Intestine 4

Apply pressure to large intestine 4 with your finger or thumb for 2 minutes. The point is usually quite sore, so apply as much pressure as to activate the point (you can feel it) but not so much as to cause pain. After 2 minutes switch to the other hand. Then move on to the next point in the group - spleen 6, then stomach 36.

Spleen 6

Spleen 6 is also extremely powerful and versatile, which is why it is on this list. It is located on the inside of the lower leg, about 3 inches above the ankle bone or medial malleolus. The way we measure the three inches above the ankle bone is to put the 4 fingers of your hand together and place them on the ankle bone and the width of those 4 fingers is approximately where spleen 6 is located. It is just behind the tibia or shin bone. A good rule of thumb is to feel for the tibia and then just roll off and the point is located just behind it. This point is also often tender, especially on women, and even more so when they are menstruating. Because this point crosses the liver and kidney meridians, it can treat many conditions related to all three organs. Spleen 6 is a powerful point to treat gynaecological issues, digestive problems and problems with the emotions. **This is a strongly moving point and is contraindicated in pregnancy so do not do this point if you are pregnant.**

Below are some symptoms that spleen 6 can help to alleviate.

  • irregular, painful or lack of menstruation
  • masses in the abdomen, prolapse of the uterus, infertility and nocturnal emissions
  • impotence, premature ejaculation, hernia, testicular atrophy
  • digestive problems of the spleen and stomach
  • diseases of the skin
  • insomnia, headache, dizziness

  SPLEEN 6

Acupressure for Spleen 6

Apply pressure to spleen 6 with your finger or thumb for 2 minutes. The point is often sore, so apply as much pressure as to activate the point (you can feel it) but not so much as to cause pain. After 2 minutes switch to the other leg. Then move on to the next point in the group - stomach 36.

Stomach 36

Stomach 36 is perhaps the most powerful point in the entire body for strengthening blood and qi and fortifying the body to boost overall health. The point is located on the lower leg, about 3 inches below the kneecap. To locate it, place your 4 fingers starting just at the lower border of your kneecap. This is the level of stomach 36, then it is located about one fingerbreadth on the outside, or towards the outside of the tibia or shin bone. The image below illustrates its position.

Stimulating stomach 36 is said to give you energy equal to eating an entire chicken or to walk another three miles (its name zusanli translates to leg three miles). It is command point of the abdomen therefore many problems in the abdominal area are treated with this point. Whenever you can feel a cold or flu coming on, start doing acupressure on this point as it will boost your immunity and help build your external defences which are called our wei qi in Chinese Medicine.

Below are some symptoms that stomach 36 can help to alleviate.

  • vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal distention, abdominal pain, acute mastitis
  • heart palpitations, shortness of breath, low energy, dizziness, insomnia
  • cough and asthma
  • calms the spirit
  • stops pain

STOMACH 36

Acupressure for Stomach 36

Apply pressure to stomach 36 with your finger or thumb for 2 minutes. The point is also often sore, so apply as much pressure as to activate the point (you can feel it) but not so much as to cause pain. After 2 minutes switch to the other leg. You can do this set of 3 points, on each side two or three times a day when you are sick, or once a day or week for building immunity and general health.

3. Wear A Scarf


Photo by Kiyun Lee on Unsplash

Now, this one may seem a bit overly simplistic, but according to Chinese Medicine, wind is the master of 100 diseases and it tends to enter the body the most easily at the neck. So, the simple act of wearing a scarf in windy, wet or cold weather protects you against an invasion of wind-cold. It is basically the same as bundling up and staying warm when the weather is cold, wet or windy because these are ways that we can easily weaken our immune systems which make us more susceptible to colds and flus. And we don't want those. I think I may always have been destined to be a practitioner of Chinese Medicine because I have always loved scarfs, and I always seem to have one with me just in case I get chilly. I find it makes a big difference and is like always having protection from external invaders. I have also instilled this love of scarfs in my children, and we try to make it fun, finding scarves that they love (dinosaurs!!) so they WANT to wear them.

4. Eat Warming Soups & Bone Broths

Photo by Hanxiao on Unsplash

If you know anything about the spleen in Chinese Medicine, you know how important it is and how many responsibilities it has. If you don't, then you can read these articles to learn a bit more about it -

Loving Your Spleen with Chinese Medicine

How to Strengthen Your Spleen in Chinese Medicine

Worry and the Spleen

Dampness and the Spleen in Chinese Medicine

What is Spleen Qi Deficiency?

Digestive Health & Nutrition in Chinese Medicine

In a nutshell, the spleen is the main organ of digestion, and it uses digestive "fire" to power all the work it has to do to break down the food we eat and turn into the energy we need for our bodies and minds to function. But, it doesn't stop there. The spleen is also responsible for "digesting" all the stimulus that comes in from our sense organs, and, in a culture of multitasking, heavy mental work, long hours and little sleep, the spleen is a hard-working little organ. To put it simply, when we are compromised and our immune systems take a hit, we need to be gentle with our bodies. Because all that digesting that the spleen is doing requires energy, eating soups that are already well cooked and take very little energy to digest, they take some of the burdens off of the spleen. And that way your spleen, and all the other hard-working organs in your body can focus on fighting invaders and getting well. But when you are healthy and want to fortify yourself against an external (or internal) attack, then eating soups and bone broths, in particular, is an excellent way to build the immune system, warm your system and strengthen your body so that colds and flus don't have a chance.

In Chinese Medicine, the bones are associated with the kidneys, our bodies' most fundamental energy and the source of our yin and yang. Therefore, eating bone broth is strengthening to both the bones and the kidneys, whose element is water, emotion is fear and whose season is winter which is the best time to tonify the kidneys for health and longevity.

5. Good Hygiene

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Wash Your Hands Often & Don't Touch Your Face

If the recent proliferation of COVID-19 has taught us anything, it has brought our awareness back to the basic importance of good personal hygiene. There probably isn't anything better you can do to keep yourself healthy and stop the spread of germs, bacteria and viruses than simply washing your hands often and trying to be conscious not to touch your face. With two small children around it is frightening to see how unaware they are of things that are logical to adults like not putting dirty things into our mouths, not always washing their hands after going to the washroom, picking random things up outside, just to name a few. So teaching them to wash their hands, not to touch their faces but most importantly WHY we need to do these things is a huge step in the prevention of preventable illnesses like colds and flu. Things like showering often especially when you or someone in your house is sick, wiping surfaces, changing clothing and doing laundry often are also ways to reduce our exposure to germs and help us stay healthy all year round.

 



Want To Download This Sheet?

Want to download the information in this article in a well designed, tidy way so you can always have it at your disposal? Here it is for you. Just click the image below. Are you a professional? Want this sheet to share with your patients? Click below for the PRO version.

 

Download Our Sheets - Living With The Seasons in Chinese Medicine

   


Are You A Practitioner?

Please visit the Chinese Medicine Professionals Shop to get PRO sheets for your clinic that you can share with patients. Yay!


 


Essential Oils for Health & Wellness

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

A Brief History of Essential Oils

Essential oils have been used by traditional cultures for thousands of years, and were some of the most highly valued possessions of traditional peoples, along with jewels and precious metals. Essential oils are considered to be the distillation of both the intelligence and spirit of the plants they come from. They have been used throughout history for their medicinal, emotional, aromatic and spirit enhancing effects. In recent years there has been a revival in the use of essential oils, many people use them in their homes, healthcare practitioners use them to offer patients an alternative to conventional treatments like medications, and companies are using essential oils in their products as natural alternatives to chemical ingredients.

My own experience with essential oils goes back as far as I can remember. Long before I became an acupuncturist, I used them in my home for things like cleaning, for making skin and hair care products as well as aromatherapy, and in my medicine cabinet to help heal a wide variety of problems. When I began treating patients as an acupuncturist, essential oils were a vital part of my toolbox. I have always loved the versatility that essential oils afford the person and certainly the practitioner. They have been an invaluable part of my practice, and I am always humbled at how powerful they can be to correct a huge number of imbalances and heal on a multitude of different levels.

Essential Oils At Home

I think that many people may not be aware of the enormous versatility of essential oils that you can use in your home to make everyday products. In an age where we are bombarded by toxins (you can read more about this here - 5 Toxins to Avoid for Better Health - essential oils offer the ability to make these products knowing they are pure, health-promoting and toxin free. You can make household cleaners, skin and hair products (some of the worst offenders in terms of toxicity), soaps and lotions as well as using a diffuser to gently release certain oils into the air to detoxify, cleanse the air and for health reasons - like certain oils that act as decongestants when you or your family are suffering with a cold. There are oils for relaxation and stress, you can add them to the bathtub to help calm - I use this often for my very high energy 2-year-old baby boy, and it works smashingly. Oils can also be put into laundry soap, on rags in the dryer instead of dryer sheets, and a drop or two placed onto a pillow or bed sheets to help freshen things up or aid with things like insomnia, stress or depression.

This lovely photo by Amy Treasure on Unsplash

Essential Oils In Health Care

I use essential oils every day in my clinic with my patients. They are simply another tool that I have in my healing toolbox. There are many ways in which to use essential oils for healing. In Chinese Medicine theory heat and cold are properties that contribute to health and disease. Essential oils also have heating and cooling properties, as well as having affinities for certain organs and meridians, so with this knowledge, I am able to use them on patients depending on both their constitution as well as what is ailing them. There are many ways that I use them - sometimes I apply them to specific acupuncture points, sometimes I mix them into massage oil to massage into certain points of areas of the body and sometimes I put oils into the diffuser for a more subtle effect. I often prescribe their use for patients at home, suggesting adding them to a bath, or massaging them into specific points when certain symptoms appear. For patients to participate in their own healing is the goal and essential oils are a wonderful way to help the process.

Using Essential Oils with Children & Babies

Since I have had children - and I have two, a two-year-old and a six-month-old - I have found that massage and essential oils are the most useful things I have to deal with everyday health matters. They also serve calm an excited child before a nap or sleep at night, dealing with anxiety, excessive crying in a colicky baby, and just keeping a chaotic house as relaxed and delicious smelling as humanly possible. Acupuncture is difficult on small children mostly because they have a hard time sitting still, so essential oils have been my go-to for everything that has to do with my babies, from their overall health, the state of their emotions and their wellbeing.

But, because they are so small and their systems so delicate, dosages and dilution are very important. You would always use way less of an oil on a child compared to an adult, and a good rule of thumb is to put any oil you are using medicinally into a carrier oil (I use coconut oil most of the time) and apply it to the feet as they are the farthest away from important organs. When my son gets a cold, I use various oils in this way which always helps clear his congestion, makes him more comfortable and I find that he gets over things a lot faster. With my baby girl, I tend to put a few drops of various oils into the diffuser when she isn't feeling well and I always find this helps her feel better, calmer and helps her sleep (which when you have 2 babies in your house is vital!!).

The other thing I have found is how powerful our olfactory senses are and the connection they have to our health and emotions. I find that just a drop of my favourite scent on my pillow after a long, intense day with 2 small children has a hugely calming effect on my nerves and psyche. A few drops on the sheets freshens up the room and makes for better sleeps. Some lavender on the temples helps you relax and all that tension you had in your jaws, neck, and shoulders, seems to just melt away. The therapeutic effects of essential oils are really limitless, and I know I am so grateful to have an arsenal to help me keep my children healthy without toxic chemicals while also being kind to the environment. Win/win!

Essential Oil Safety

It is important to remember that essential oils are medicine, and need to be used with caution. Like herbs, they can be very powerful and it is important to educate yourself about the oils properties, as well as any contraindications before using them therapeutically. Most commercially produced essential oils are used in the food and perfume industry (about 95%). However, when using them in your home for cleaning, skin or hair products or anything that will come in contact with your body, please be sure that you use high quality, therapeutic grade oils, that are extracted in a clean way and not using toxic chemicals. Here are some very good safety guidelines for using essential oils. When using essential oils directly on the body (and the best advice is to never use them directly on the body without diluting them or using a carrier oil) is to be careful of how much you are using or how much to dilute them. This is especially important when using them with children. You can find useful information at the link above about how to dilution ratios.

Natural Medicines

I am a firm believer that the cure for every disease that exists on this planet is available in its forests, rainforests, and jungles. Natural medicines have been healing human beings since the beginning of time. So many cultures have the wisdom to cure using these natural, plant-based medicines. This wisdom has largely been forgotten by Allopathic (Western) medicine that chooses to use petroleum-based pharmaceuticals to treat symptoms that are the result of our modern diseases.

This beautiful photo by Trần Anh Tuấn on Unsplash

From everything that I know about Chinese medicine, and indeed many of the wisdom traditions that have been around for thousands of years, the key to staying healthy is to live a healthy and balanced life. This has been increasingly difficult because many of us live in an unbalanced, toxic culture. For us now, I believe that living in the most natural way possible is the key to health. Eliminating toxins, eating clean, natural, fresh foods, drinking clean water, getting enough sleep and when we do become sick, using natural medicines to get us well again. Acupuncture, herbs, exercise, a healthy diet (using food as medicine) as well as things like essential oils are the best ways I know of to keep us all healthy, and if we fall ill, to bring us back to health again. Incorporating as many of these into our lives and our homes will ensure that we stay as healthy as we can, and empower us to heal ourselves when we are sick.

This beautiful photo by Vero Photoart on Unsplash

.  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .

Featured image photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash