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Chinese Medicine Cold, Cough & Flu Basics

Chinese medicine takes two approaches when it comes to fighting illness. The first is to reduce inflammation and infection. The second is to bolster the immune system and boost the body’s core energy to keep up the fight.

The “Defensive” Qi

In Chinese medicine, qi is the life-giving activating force in our bodies that keeps our organs functioning. There are many kinds of qi, but one kind in particular is important when it comes to the immune system: defensive qi, or wei qi. This qi circulates near the surface of the skin to help ward-off illness. A fight between germs and the defensive qi is often experienced as the fever and chills. Many Chinese medicine techniques strengthen the defensive qi to prevent issues like colds.

Cold, Heat, Dry, Damp

Our environment also plays a big part when it comes to staying healthy. External conditions like cold, heat, dryness, and dampness can throw off our body’s balance and cause illness.

Major Organ Systems in Chinese Medicine and Cold, Cough & Flu Care:

Lung: The Lungs are the organs most closely related to the external world. As such, they’re often the first ones to fight illness. This is easily recognized as cough, nasal and chest congestion, sinus pressure, and mucus.

Spleen: The Spleen system is responsible for protecting our immunity and strengthening our qi. With a weakened Spleen system, we may fail to fight off illness or lack the energy needed to keep up a strong defense.

Common Treatments for Cough, Common Cold and Seasonal Flu in Chinese Medicine

Chinese medicine offers are few different ways to treat symptoms like cough, runny nose, sneezing, chest congestion, phlegm, fever, chills, and fatigue. Acupuncture can help to strengthen the immune system and reduce discomfort. Techniques like cupping are often helpful for opening the chest, easing coughs, or reducing a fever.

Chinese Herbal Formulas for Colds and Flu

There are several different infection-fighting and immune-boosting herbal formulas in Chinese medicine. These vary by type of infection, time of year, and the symptoms present. Many Chinese herbs have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. No matter the formula, however, special care is always taken to balance the formulas with strengthening and supportive herbs.

Yu Ping Fang Wan (Jade Screen): This formula is for people with weak immune systems who are susceptible to getting sick. It helps the body to have enough strength to resist colds and viruses, and it helps one become stronger (over time, it improves symptoms of fatigue). This formula needs to be taken for 3-5 months to really take hold and its effects are powerful. Additionally, it is for use before you get sick to build up your immunity- it doesn’t help once you get sick.  Also available as a tincture.

Yin Qiao: This formula “releases the exterior” and should be taken 24 – 48 from the first sign of catching a cold or flu (fever, sore throat, headache, body aches etc…) to be effective. Available as tincture.

Sang Ju Yin Wan: This formula is similar to Yin Qiao (above) and is appropriately taken at the first signs of cold or flu (i.e. wind-heat invasion) when dry cough is the predominant symptom to be addressed. Available as tincture by special order.

Gan Mao Ling: As soon as you feel the first signs of a cold or flu coming on take Gan Mao Ling immediately— a scratchy throat, feeling cold, sensitivity to wind, runny nose with clear phlegm, etc. and it will help to reduce symptoms and shorten the length of your cold!… among the mot commonly used formulas in all of China. Available as tincture.

Clinicians note: this formula is about half release exterior and half clear heat-toxin (i.e. anti-viral).

Pu Ji Xiao Du Wan: A strong anti-viral formula that targets the throat. it is indicated for use with acute cold or flu that presents with severe sore throat with swollen glands and fever, headache, aching neck and shoulders, chills, and thirst. It is a useful choice for addressing strept throat as well as pediatric conditions such as tonsillitis, chicken pox, measles, mumps, and ear infections.

Chuan Xin Lian Tablets: This formula is an effective antiviral/antibacterial formula recommended for use with fever and sore throat.

Ban Lan Gen: This formula clears heat and toxins from the body (i.e. it is an anti-viral formula). It is commonly used to address the common cold & flu as well as other more complex and serious presentations involving viral infections. Single herb (not the same as the 3-herb formula linked to above) available as tincture.

Chinese Herbal Formulas for Cough

Mai Wei Di Huang Wan: address chronic dry cough, possibly with dry throat, and dry nasal passages in the elderly and those weakened by other chronic illnesses/conditions.

Bu Fei Wan: This formula strengthens Lung qi when there is shortness of breath and wheezing combined with chronic cough with phlegm that is difficult to expectorate

Ding Chuan Wan: Ding Chuan Wan is indicated for asthmatic conditions (wheezing, labored breathing, etc…) marked by a cough that produces (yellow or green) phlegm.

Qing Qi Hua Tan Wan: Addresses sinus congestion and cough (acute or chronic) when there is yellow, thick, sticky phlegm present.

Ning Sou Wan: Addresses dry, rattling cough with sticky bits of phlegm that are hard to expectorate (e.g. acute or chronic bronchitis, emphysema, or asthma with the appropriate presentation).

Qing Fei Yi Huo Tablets: Addresses conditions characterized by burning sensation in the lungs and a dry, barking cough with thick, yellow phlegm that is difficult to expectorate. Short-term use only for a specific stage of illness.

Qi Guan Yan: Addresses chronic respiratory conditions characterized by a rattling cough and the accumulation of loose phlegm (e.g. chronic respiratory conditions, asthma, emphysema, smoker’s cough etc…)

Special Herbs for Coughs, Colds and Flus

The following are important herbs used in our popular cold and flu formulas.

Jin yin hua/Japanese honeysuckle: Jin yin hua is a delicate flower, but it packs a mighty punch against heat-based colds and flus. This herb is known for reducing fever, inflammation, and congestion in the Lungs.

Gui Zhi/ Cinnamon twig: Gui zhi is a commonly used herb in many cold and flu formulas. It is warm and invigorating and helps to support the defensive qi in fighting off infection.

Mao Dong Qing/ Holly root: Mao dong qing is the key herb in a famous Chinese cold medicine, Gan Mao Ling. This herb is a potent infection-fighter and is known for its ability to cool inflammation and fight viruses.

Shop our Collection of Chinese Medicine Cold, Cough & Flu Remedies

Don’t let the seasonal bugs keep you down. Chinese herbal medicine can help prevent illness or recover from these common colds faster and easier. Shop our collection of Chinese herbal formulas dedicated to banishing coughs, colds, and flus.