Can Acupuncture Cure the Common Cold?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, colds and flus begin when an external pathogen invades the body. In western medical terms, an external pathogen is considered to be bacteria, a virus, or some other type of allergen that enters our body and makes us sick.
Pathogens that cause cold and flu are generally separated into four categories: wind heat, wind cold, wind damp, or wind dry. Let’s break those down a little further!
Wind: In TCM, wind is characterised as an illness or pathogen in the body that moves and shifts around and is likely to spread. It is also related to things like tremors, numbness and tingling, paralysis, and nerve pain. A more modern medical translation, and for the purpose of this article, wind describes an illness that is infectious, exactly like a cold or flu.
Wind usually invades the top of the body, especially at the back of the head/neck. This is why an early sign that you might be getting sick is a sore/itchy throat. This is also why it’s important to wear a hat and scarf in cold and windy weather!
It is common for wind to be combined with another pathogen and, when it comes to colds and flus, it is rare for wind to be the only pathogen responsible for the illness.
Wind Cold: Because of the shift to cold weather in late autumn and winter, it is very common for wind and cold to combine as one pathogen, especially if the cold comes suddenly and the body hasn’t acclimated to it yet. Wind cold is characterised by sneezing, cough, runny nose with profuse clear or white mucus, neck and upper back stiffness, and an aversion to being cold. In more intense cases it can also include fever, an absence of sweating, and lack of thirst.
Wind Heat: This usually starts with the same symptoms as wind cold, but with some key changes. You will still experience an aversion to cold, sneezing, and cough but there will be a bigger fever, thirst, and instead of clear or white mucus, it will be thicker and yellow or green.
Wind Damp: Dampness is more commonly contracted in wetter climates, such as coastal regions. While there will still be an aversion to cold, fever, and a stiff neck, the other symptoms are different than either wind cold or wind heat. They include: swollen neck glands, nausea, sweating, body aches, a heavy feeling in the body, and swollen joints.
Wind Dry: Dryness is common to attack in central places, such as the prairies. It has the same core symptoms as the other pathogens, but also includes dry skin, nose, mouth, and throat accompanied by a dry cough and sore throat.
How can TCM help?
Have you ever noticed that all commercials for drug store cold and flu medicines have an emphasis on making you feel like you aren’t sick at all so that you can keep being productive, active, and working? Instead, shouldn’t it be a sign that it's time to slow down, take a break, and let your body do some healing?
What many don’t realise is that taking a drug store cold and flu medication doesn’t necessarily help your immune system fight off whatever pathogen is in the body - it usually just dulls the symptoms and, in some cases, even gets in your immune systems way and suppresses the natural immune response. This may actually prolong the illness, rather than clearing it.
However, by receiving acupuncture or Chinese herbs for cold and flu, we are bolstering your bodies immune response, speeding up the natural healing process, while helping to expel the pathogen and prevent it from getting deeper into the body. In other words, rather than suppressing your immune response, we are supporting it and, in many ways, enhancing it!
The Jade Windscreen
If you’re interested in a quick at-home way to boost your immune system before a cold or flu attacks, you can consider picking up the Chinese herbal remedy Yu Ping Feng San or, The Jade Windscreen. This traditional herbal formula has been used for over 500 years for the treatment and prevention of colds, flus, and allergies. It would traditionally be taken by those with weakened immune systems in preparation for seasonal changes, travel, etc. In some cases it could even be considered as a substitute for the flu shot!
If you live nearby, you can stop by our clinic to grab some! We sell it as a granulated powder to be mixed with hot water and turned into tea, or as a tincture to be taken a few drops at a time orally. This remedy is not suitable for everyone, so make sure you check with us or another qualified health practitioner before taking it.
TCM as a Preventative Medicine
If we reflect back on the question in the title of this article...Can acupuncture cure the common cold? The answer is no, but we can help your body cure it naturally, and we can help build your immune system before you get sick!
When your system is healthy, contracting the common cold can actually be good for you! In fact, having the cold or flu once in awhile (i.e 1 - 2 times a year) is actually helpful to your immune system; it’s almost like exercise or receiving a tune-up.
That said, you don’t have to wait until you’re sick to see a practitioner. Chinese medicine works great preventatively. Even just going once every 1 - 2 months can really help maintain balance across all systems in the body, from digestive health to emotional wellbeing, to immune system strength.