It is common knowledge that you should bundle up in wintertime and keep your skin and head covered, or else you might “catch cold.”
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the common cold is considered to be the result of an invasion of pathogens in combination with a weak immune system. A person is especially susceptible when the weather changes and the elements are harsh. Wind, for instance, can penetrate the body through the mouth, nose, skin or possibly even the hair and it can transform into a respiratory infection or influenza. When a person’s defenses are down and their qi or vital energy is weak, they cannot battle these pathogens and they will succumb to a cold or worse.
Once pathogenic wind has invaded, it may combine with cold or heat. In the stage of what TCM terms a “wind-cold invasion,” the patient’s symptoms
will reflect cold properties that may include chills, headache, nasal congestion, cough, superficial pulse and a thin white coating on the tongue. If
the situation has transformed into a “wind-heat invasion,” the patient will present with signs of hot or warm nature which might include high fever,
sweats, sore throat, yellow mucous, thirst, rapid pulse and so on.
Acupuncture can help by dispelling the wind and either cold or heat, depending on the stage of the illness. Specific points on the body are
needled and stimulated in a manner to elicit these effects. Herbal formulas enhance this outcome as well as tonify the immune system. In my experience, I have seen colds, infections, bronchitis and chronic coughs improve with a combination of acupuncture and herbs and in most cases the illness resolves fairly quickly, sometimes overnight. However, there are cases in which the patient’s qi is extremely weak and the cold runs its course and cannot be arrested in time. Still, I do believe that herbal remedies while they may not completely alleviate the cold, can shorten the duration if the patient has already fallen ill. I use Chinese herbal remedies regularly in the winter and they work like a charm. I emphasize that herbs must be taken at the first sign of a cold and in conjunction with efforts to rest, drink ample fluids and keep warm, etc., for maximum effectiveness.