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  • Anna Palucci Young, L.Ac., AEMP

Eastern Medicine and The Common Cold


When I began school back in 2001, I started getting acupuncture and using Chinese herbal formulas and it helped me to curb my tendency to develop at least one to two colds per year. In addition, I was no longer getting my yearly bout of viral pharyngitis. This is when I realized how amazing Eastern medicine was for the common cold.

The Chinese Materia Medica is vast and varied, so to keep this short, there are hundreds of herbal formulas which can be used for the common cold but I will only mention a few in this post. Lets say you start to get a little sniffle or your throat feels a bit scratchy prompting you to visit your friendly, neighborhood, Eastern medicine practitioner. During your appointment, she recommends an herbal formula for you to help deal with your early-stage symptoms. She may also suggest that you keep this particular formula in your medicine cabinet and take it as soon as you feel the first signs of a cold in the future.

So, if there are hundreds of herbal formulas for the common cold, how does your Eastern medicine practitioner know which one to give you?

Herbal formulas are recommended based on a very sophisticated diagnostic system that takes a while to learn. Your practitioner will feel your pulse, look at your tongue and ask you about your acute symptoms as well as your health history in general.

Sometimes, a simple, homemade, ginger and scallion tea (See my Feb 15th post) is all that is necessary for someone who is experiencing early stage symptoms or was just exposed to someone who was sick. This may be enough to do the trick.

If you have a sore throat and are running a fever, there is a very famous formula called Yin Qiao San (Honeysuckle and Forsynthia Powder) which might be recommended.

If you have a cold with a stiff neck and an occipital headache, Ge Gen Tang (Kudzu Decoction) might be recommended.

If you have a cold with awful nasal congestion and a sinus headache, a formula called Cang Er Zi San (Xanthium Powder) might be the formula for you.

Sometimes you will take these formulas listed above with only the classic herbs contained in them and other times these formulas will be modified by your practitioner to make them more useful for your particular symptoms.

In addition, there are different herbal formulas your practitioner can recommend you take a few months prior to cold season to help assist your immune system.

These are just a few examples of what Eastern medicine can do for the common cold.

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