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Use This Traditional Chinese Medicine for Your Colds and Flu
Traditional Chinese Medicine has some of the oldest remedies for colds and flus. Although conventional medicine has become more popular, it has very few safe and effective treatments for the combating cold and influenza viruses. Therefore, more and more people are taking to traditional medicine every year to avoid and treat their cold and flus. This article discusses 3 different forms of treatments for cold and flu used by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine. How effective are acupuncture and acupressure for your cold and flu? Are Chinese herbs any help? Read on to find out.
Fundamentally, the basic understanding of cold and flu is similar between Western medicine and Chinese traditional medicine.
Both systems of medicine believe that cold and flu are caused by the entry of pathogens into the body permitted by weaknesses in the constitution (immune system) of the body.
However, while Western medicine assumes that pathogens are solely responsible for the presentations of cold and flu, practitioners of Chinese traditional medicine have to consider the individual constitution of the sufferer.
Therefore, traditional Chinese medicine expects two people with cold or the flu to present with different sets of symptoms determined by the interactions between the underlying or individual constitution and the causative pathogens.
This means that different remedies may be prescribed for cold or flu in traditional Chinese medicine depending on the evaluation of the patient by a trained traditional Chinese medicine practitioner.
Chinese medicine also differs from Western medicine in its understanding of how the immune system works.
In Chinese medicine, diseases are believed to result from imbalances of qi.
Qi flows from deep inside the body to the surface and extremities. Qi can flow from “hollow organs” or yang such as the intestines and stomach as well as from “solid” organs or yin such as liver and lungs.
The flow of qi follows specific paths known as meridians. There are 12 regular meridians and 8 special meridians as well as numerous branches from these. Disruption in the flow of qi is regarded as the basic cause of diseases.
Along the meridians, there are identified acupuncture points which serve as entry points into the channels through which the qi flows.
By stimulating these acupuncture points either with special acupuncture needles or pressure, it is possible to correct imbalances and restore the flow of qi.
Contrary to popular belief, acupuncture is not only meant for relieving chronic pain. It is also proven to help with nausea and may even improve general health.
Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine have a lot of other uses for acupuncture including the treatment of cold and flu. How can acupuncture help in the prevention and/or treatment of colds and flus? By boosting the immune system.
Studies show that acupuncture promotes the production of white blood cells that are key to the ability of the immune system to fight infections, autoimmune diseases and allergic reactions.
One type of immune cells confirmed to be enhanced by acupuncture is natural killer (NK) cells.
Some health experts also believe that the neurochemicals and other naturally produced substances released by acupuncture can help provide relief for people suffering from cold and flu. For example, the endorphins (a family of natural painkillers) and anti-inflammatory factors released by acupuncture can improve the symptoms of these respiratory diseases.
In the use of acupuncture for treating cold and flu, the points selected are those that can help stimulate the “defensive qi” or “Wei qi”. The Wei qi is the equivalent of the immune system in traditional Chinese medicine.
Most of the advice given in Chinese traditional medicine for strengthening the Wei qi are also the ones given in conventional medicine for avoiding cold and flu during the flu season.
These advice include
Besides the insertion of acupuncture needles, these points can also be stimulated by moxibustion.
Moxibustion involves the burning of cone-shaped mugwort herbal preparation on or near the skin on or close to acupuncture points.
Besides acupuncture, acupressure is a related technique from traditional Chinese medicine that can be effectively used to treat cold and flu.
Acupressure involves the application of pressure on acupuncture points. This is usually done with hands and preferably with the tips of the fingers but it can also be done with elbow or devices.
Some of the points mentioned above that can also be used in the acupressure treatment of cold and flu include SP 6, ST 36 and LI4.
Additional points commonly used in acupressure are discussed in the table below.
You can relieve your cold and flu symptoms by applying varying degrees of pressure on these points.
You do not need to use all pressure points. The ones you need use are the convenient ones and those most likely to help your symptoms.
To start, lie still or sit back comfortably. Then circle through as many of the points as you can do while pressing with the tips of your thumb and middle fingers.
Usually more than one herb is prescribed for cold and flu sufferers in traditional Chinese medicine. The combination of these herbs produces superior results when compared to single herbs.
A Chinese traditional medicine practitioner usually prescribes a blend of herbs to address the specific symptoms of each sufferer rather than target specific viruses. This is because symptoms are believed to be the result of the interplay between the nature of the disease and the nature of individuals.
How effective are traditional Chinese herbs in the treatment of cold and flu? Available studies indicate that they are indeed effective.
In a study involving 410 Chinese adults with swine flu (the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic), researchers gave the participants a placebo (acetaminophen, the active ingredient of Tylenol), Tamiflu (osteltamivir, the antiviral drug and most common prescription flu medication), a mixture of Chinese herbs known as maxingshigan-yinqiaosan or a combination of Tamiflu and the blend of Chinese herbs.
The results of the study showed that those who received only the Chinese herbs got better in 16 hours compared to the 26 hours it took for the placebo group.
The Tamiflu group got better in 20 hours while those who took a combination of Tamiflu and Chinese herbs got better in 15 hours.
The researchers, therefore, recommended Chinese herbs for treating the flu except for those suffering from severe illness.
There are different classic formulas of Chinese herbs commonly recommended for treating cold and flu. Examples of these formulas are Ma Huang Tang, Gui Zhi Tang and Xiao Chai Hu Tang. These formulas share some common ingredients. These are briefly discussed in the table below.
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