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!


 


The 5 Best Foods for Colds & Flu in Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Eat. Your. Medicine.

The changing of the seasons, especially the transition from warm to cold weather makes everyone more susceptible to colds and flu. The good news is that nutritional therapy is one of the pillars of Chinese medicine and contains a huge arsenal of foods for combating colds and flu. There are also a great many foods and herbs that build the immune system which will help you get over your cold or flu, as well as make sure that you get through the rest of cold and flu season with the best health possible. Below are the most effective foods for dealing with colds and flu in Chinese medicine. Remember, Chinese medicine has been around for thousands of years, so these have been used for a long time and they really work. ;)

1. Congee

Chinese Medicine for Colds & Flu : Chinese Medicine Living

This image from seriouseats.com

Congee or "Jook" is a like the Chinese version of chicken soup. It is a traditional breakfast in China, as well as an all purpose remedy when we are sick. Congee is made with rice and water (about a 1:10 ratio of rice to water). Other ingredients are added depending on what type of cold or flu you have, whether it is a heat type with symptoms like severe fever, mild chills, sore throat, sweating, and thirst, or the cold type with symptoms of severe chills, profuse, clear discharge from the nose, mild fever, no sweat, headache and general aching. White rice is very easy to digest which makes the spleen happy and is less work for the body when should be directing all its energy to fighting the pathogen. Congee is also delicious, nutritious and you can eat it any time of the year, but it is generally eaten in the colder months for its warming and nourishing properties. Here are some delicious congee recipes you can try.

2. Ginger

Ginger is one of the most widely used herbs in Chinese medicine. It has so many medicinal uses, that you should always keep some in your kitchen! Ginger is a very warming herb and has a pungent flavour. It acts on the lungs, spleen and stomach. Ginger warms the middle burner which stops vomiting and warms the lungs to stop cough. Its actions are to direct heat from inside the body to the outside, helping to resolve fever by inducing sweating. Adding a couple of slices of raw ginger to some boiling water and drinking it as a tea is a good way resolve a fever by increasing sweating. Another excellent way to use ginger when you have a cold or flu is to grate some fresh ginger and put it in a old sock, tie a knot in the top and throw it into a warm bathtub. This is a very good way to stimulate sweating and break a fever. It will also leave you smelling delicious.

Here is a nice infographic that lists some of ginger's healing properties.

Chinese Medicine for Colds & Flu : Chinese Medicine Living

this lovely infographic from mindbodygreen.com

3. Bone Broth

Chinese Medicine for Colds & Flu : Chinese Medicine Living

this image from barebonesbroth.com

Many traditional cultures use bone broths because of their numerous healing properties, and in Chinese medicine they are powerful Qi and blood tonics. One of the reasons that bone broths are so good for our health is that they are cooked using the bone marrow of the animal, and the marrow in Chinese medicine is produced by the kidneys and contain kidney Jing. Jing is something that we get from our parents at birth, and it is very precious and vital to good health. Things like working too hard (or partying too hard), not sleeping enough, being under a lot of stress for extended periods of time and childbirth are things that we can deplete Jing. Women lose Jing having too many babies too close together without time to recover, and men lose Jing from ejaculation, but bone broth is a way we can rebuild our Jing essence. Depleted Jing causes premature and accelerated aging. This is why living a balanced lifestyle is so important! Preserving precious Jing is the goal when it comes to health and longevity. Consuming bone broth therefore is extremely tonifying to Jing as it is literally made of Jing. Bone broth is also excellent to stimulate the immune system, so its a good choice when you are suffering from any ailment, especially colds and flu.

4. Honey

5 best foods for colds and flu in Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

this image from thespiritscience.net

Honey is sweet in flavour and its energy is neutral. Honey acts on the spleen, stomach, lung and large intestine. Honey tonifies the Qi of the middle burner as well as the lungs, relieves spasms and alleviates pain. It is very moistening to the inside of the body, so it is very good to use when you have extreme heat which is very drying. Honey lubricates the bowels to promote bowel movements, detoxifies, lowers blood pressure and slows down the acute symptoms from colds and flu. It is indicated particularly for chronic cough and constipation. Honey has the added benefits of:

  • boosts the immune system
  • relieves coughs & sore throat
  • heals wounds & burns
  • helps to heal ulcers
  • relieves constipation
  • improves sleep
  • boosts athletic performance

5. Garlic

Surviving Cold & Flue Season with Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living

this image from livingtraditionally.com

Garlic is one of the most widely used herbs in the world for its numerous healing properties. It is used in Ayurvedic medicine (the traditional medicine of India), Chinese medicine (which is super awesome and my personal favourite) and the traditional medicine of much of Europe. In Chinese medicine it first appeared in Chinese texts more than 2000 years BCE as an effective treatment for poisoning. It is also known for its ability to treat infection and cleansing the body of pathogens. Garlic is considered a warming herb in Chinese medicine, and is used to aid the spleen and stomach in digestion and aids to expel harmful microorganisms. It is known to cleanse the blood of cholesterol and is a powerful immune booster. Here are some more of garlic's amazing healing properties:

  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-microbial
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-viral
  • Anti-parasitic
  • Commonly used to treat infections of the upper respiratory tract
  • Taken preventatively for infectious conditions, both digestive and respiratory
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Reduces blood cholesterol
  • Used to treat worms (ringworm and threadworm)
  • Promotes circulation
  • Promotes sweating
  • Eliminates yeasts, including Candida albicans
  • Inhibits viruses and other micro-organisms associated with degenerative diseases like cancer
  • Eliminates toxins from the body, including poisonous metals like cadmium and lead
  • A drop of garlic oil in the ear canal once a day relieves ear infections
  • A poultice made of garlic draws out swelling from boils
  • Eliminates worms
  • Used for dysentery, snake bites, warts, hepatitis, asthma, tuberculosis, hay fever, asthma and diarrhea
  • When traveling eating a clove of raw garlic before suspected food or water will protect against dysentery
  • Eating a clove of raw garlic a day will protect against colds and flu
  • Garlic tea relieves poison ivy, poison oak and nettle stings
  • Promotes the growth of healthy intestinal bacteria

One thing to note about garlic is that the medicinal parts exist in the oils which is where all the strong smells are, so using garlic pills with no smell doesn't really work. You are missing all the good healing parts. One of the best ways that I know to use garlic is to take a clove and crush it into a spoon and take it raw. It is intense, but it is the best way to make sure you are getting all the healing benefits. You can do this daily as a preventative, or at the first signs that you are coming down with something. You might want to make sure that you have some juice to chase it with, and even though it is intense, it works to ward off illness almost every time.

For some information on garlic and its incredible healing properties, you can read - Why Garlic is Your New BFF. :)

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

Buddha Bracelet : Chinese Medicine Living

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

The 5 Best Foods for Colds & Flu in Chinese Medicine : Chinese Medicine Living