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Your journey to better health

Winter Colds and Flu - Part 2 - Treatment

A few weeks ago we gave you information about how to prevent catching a cold or the flu...but how do you treat yourself if you do come down sick?

Luckily, there are lots of things you can do to make yourself feel better, right in the comfort of your own home!

In the Kitchen
1) Make yourself ginger tea. Boil 10 slices of fresh ginger in hot water for 10 minutes. You can add honey to taste, and drink as hot as you can stand it.  This helps your body fight off a cold for a number of reasons. Ginger is actually a common herb used in Chinese medicine. One common use of ginger is to “dispel wind and cold” from the body’s surface, which is exactly what needs to happen from a Chinese medical perspective when you come down with a cold. Also, ginger has many natural warm properties, so it helps to warm up the body, enabling it to better fight off the cold. Ginger acts on the digestive system, so it can be especially useful if you have a flu that is giving you both a stuffy nose and an upset stomach. Recent research into ginger has shown that the wonderfood has anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, as well.

The hot temperature of the tea helps your body to warm itself up so that it is better prepared to fight off the cold.  Also, if you have a fever, drinking hot beverages can help your body to sweat, which will help the fever break. Sweating is very important in Chinese medicine when you come down sick. From a Chinese medical perspective, until your body sweats, the pathogen that is causing the sickness is stuck inside the body. Therefore, causing a healthy sweat by drinking warm fluids can be a very good step towards recovery!

2) Eat scallions. Add them into a vegetable stirfry or some yummy chicken soup. Scallions are also an important Chinese herb, and they are used in formulas to help the body push out cold pathogens before they are too deep in the body. Eating scallions as soon as possible when you feel a cold coming on can be a big help!

3) Make what I call “Tamilarasi Tea”. This one is not a Chinese medical tradition, although the effectiveness can be explained by Chinese medical theories. Rather, this is a traditional South Indian home remedy for a cold or flu. My very close friend, Tamilarasi, taught it to me many years ago when I was living in South India.

The recipe for Tamilarasi Tea:
5 pieces of dried ginger, sliced
½ cup coriander seeds
½ Tablespoon molasses

Boil water. Add in dried ginger and coriander seeds. Boil for 10 minutes. Sift out coriander seeds and ginger pieces as you pour the tea into a cup or mug. Add ½ T. molasses directly into the steaming mug of tea, and stir until dissolved. Drink as hot as possible, and then bundle up under your covers.

Looking at this time-tested (and delicious!) tea through the lens of Chinese medicine, it is easy to understand why it is so effective. As mentioned above, ginger has many healing properties that make it perfectly suited for a winter cold or flu. Dried ginger is thought to be even hotter than fresh ginger, so using the dried form makes this tea more potent (and perhaps better for a slightly later stage cold/flu.)  Coriander (cilantro) is a warm food in Chinese medicinal nutrition, as well.  And the molasses makes the tea taste like heaven!

4) Drink plenty of fluids. From a Western medical perspective, drinking fluids when you are sick helps your body to flush out the toxins, and also prevents dehydration and fluid loss from over sweating, diarrhea, or vomiting. Plus, it keeps elimination regular so further problems don’t develop. Drinking warm fluids is best.

From a Chinese medical perspective, drinking warm fluids prevents the cold or flu from creating dryness in the nose and throat. Furthermore, in Chinese medicine, when a pathogen moves deeper into the body, it causes heat. Heat quickly dries important bodily fluids, leading to further complications and a slower healing process.

In the Bedroom
1) SLEEP as much as you can. Many times, if you take one day off of work and spend it catching up on sleep, you will find yourself healthy in no time, and will probably save yourself from having to take more days off later! Go to bed early when you feel a cold coming on. Sleep can boost your immune system and give your body the strength it needs to fight off the cold or flu before you are seriously sick.

2) If you do have a severe cold or flu with a fever, bundle up under the blankets as much as you can stand it. This will help the fever to break (and help you sweat), enabling you to get over the sickness that much faster.

3) Sleep with an extra pillow. Propping your head up helps the nasal passages to drain while you sleep, so you don’t wake up more congested than when you went to bed.

In the Bathroom
Take a hot (but short) steamy shower. The steam helps to moisturize the mucus membranes of your nose and throat, and it also relaxes your body. If you are feeling dizzy, get out of the hot water.

In the Living Room
There is something to be said for the Relaxation Response. Take care of yourself when you are home sick. Lounge in front of the TV with your favorite seen-it-a-hundred-times movie. Read a book. Flip through magazines you otherwise wouldn’t have time for. If you can let your mind and body relax, all your body’s energy can be devoted to healing from the sickness, rather than being scattered in a million directions trying to take care of all the things you usually do.

Anywhere
Have a friend or family member massage the nape of your neck, where the bottom of your skull meets your neck. This works well if you lie flat on your back on the floor, with your head in your friend/family member’s lap. Have them put their hands under your head and use their finger tips to gently massage along the back of your neck. There are lots of acupuncture points in this region that help the body dispel outside pathogens. Plus, it helps to relieve the stiffness that most of us experience with a cold!


Hopefully, you won’t need any of these treatments this year. But in case you do get sick with a seasonal cold or flu, know that there are plenty of ways to take care of your body right in the comfort of your own home. Using some of these simple measures can limit the intensity and duration of a sickness. If you get very sick, have a very high fever, or do not feel better in a few days, seek medical attention from your doctor.

Lastly, if you feel a cold start to come on, in addition to these home remedies, acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine can be a great way to treat a cold before it progresses to a full sickness. When you first start feeling the beginning stages of a cold, get in to see your acupuncturist. If you catch it early enough, Chinese medicine may help you avoid many days of feeling under the weather!


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