Chilly nights, wet days, snuffly noses and aching heads. It’s cold and flu season again! As the weather cools and rainy footpaths saturate the bottoms of our shoes, sick days start racking up and so do the chemist bills. No-one’s got time for a cold, and dealing with the flu is just miserable. But year on year it happens again.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has its roots in a preventive approach, and in only recent history, many practitioners were only paid when their patients were well and healthy. So this year, instead of waiting for the inevitable, and plying your body with over-the-counter and prescriptive chemical remedies to “clear the head and soothe the nose”, this year try using these TCM tricks to help prevent the onset a cold and flu.
To help prevent a cold…strengthen lung Qi
According to TCM, the lungs control the circulation of “Wei-Qi”, a defensive Qi (energy) that protects you from colds and flu. So it pays to build up your lung Qi in the months leading to winter.
•Practice abdominal breathing
•Eat lots of apples, potato, cauliflower, mild curries, chillies, garlic, onion, basil and oregano
•Eating pears helps to moisten the lungs and keep them clear (these can also be eaten to soothe a dry cough)
•Avoid cold drinks. Replace these with warm teas, and herbal teas with lemon, honey and ginger
•Avoid too many raw or cold foods, which can create dampness and phlegm
•Keep out of drafts, and make sure you’re covered up in bed, with windows closed
•Wear warm clothes and keep your neck protected with a scarf
•Keep away from sick people and make sure to wash your hands regularly
•Get acupuncture, which relaxes the body while strengthening its immunity
•Have your TCM practitioner give you some Chinese herbsto boost your immunity and prevent colds and flu.
At early signs of a cold
If you do notice the early signs of a cold or flu (such as headaches, mild chills, sweat, itchy or tickly throat, or runny nose), there are some things you can do to try to expel the sickness from your body before it takes hold.
•Contact your TCM practitioner, who can develop a personalised preventive treatment for you. There are herbal formulas designed to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms, that if used early enough might stop the cold in its tracks
•Use a saline solution to moisten the nasal passages
•Avoid alcohol, which weakens the immune system
•Drink miso soup with lots of spring onions and garlic…
•…or ginger tea—boiled water with a few slices of fresh ginger, simmered for 15 minutes
•…or have a hot ginger bath—roughly chop a large knob of garlic and wrap it in a teatowel. Tie this to the bath tab, so that the water runs through the ginger as it fills the bath. Don’t stay in too long, just enough to break a mild sweat.
•After doing one of these, wrap up warmly and go straight to bed.
If your symptoms are more severe (for example if you feel hot, thirsty, have a very sore throat, bad headache, strong chills), the above self-treatment may be inappropriate and you should seek additional medical advice.