What to Know about Common Cold

What to Know about Common Cold

Written by Dr. M. Ling, 21 January 2013

The common cold can be tough to ward off, but with a little knowledge and the application of correct herbal remedies, you can move easily through it without it becoming a full-blown cold or flu.  Here’s what you need to know.

Modern western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) understand the causes of common cold differently, but both approaches offer valuable knowledge.

While western medicine emphasizes the identification of viruses and bacteria as causes of external disease, TCM emphasizes environmental conditions and a person’s lack of adaptability to climatic and stress changes as causes of disease.

common-coldcartoonMore specifically, TCM recognizes six external pathogens that affect a person’s health: wind, cold, heat, dampness, dryness and summer heat.  Just as we can “catch a cold”, so can we “catch” a wind, heat, dampness, dryness or summer heat.  These outside pathogens can invade the body depending on the season and environment one lives in, leading to externally caused illness like the common cold.

With common cold, it is primarily a combination of either wind-heat or wind-cold pathogens.  Both are patterns of disharmony that present different symptoms.  Simply speaking, the difference is primarily that exterior wind-heat condition always presents with a scratchy, itchy or sore throat while exterior wind-cold does not.  Rather, wind-cold presents with generalized body aches, nasal congestion with clear runny nose, but no itchy or sore throat.

If you are starting to catch a cold, you can know which of these two conditions you have by their symptoms and determine whether you have a heat-type or cold-type common cold.  Then you can heal yourself using the most appropriate, corresponding remedies, as outlined below.

Wind-Heat (sore throat, feeling feverish, thirsty, slight cough, yellow nasal discharge)

Eat yellow Asian pears (not Anjou or Bartlett pears, but specifically yellow Asian pears).  For even better results, remove the core and seeds, cut up and cook with one cup of water for 15 minutes with lid on until pear is soft.  Add a teaspoon of honey to flavour.  Can also cook with a few dried figs.  Eat pear (and figs) including the liquid juice as necessary until scratchy, itchy throat is gone.  Also drink peppermint and chrysanthemum herbal teas.

Avoid eating meat, seafood, sugary sweets, dairy (cheese and milk), and spicy, oily, greasy foods including fast foods, at least until recovery occurs.  Turn down the home thermostat to 18 – 22 degrees Celsius (in winter).  Drink lots of warm water, brothy soups, and take lots of rest in the meantime.

Wind-Cold (achy body, stiff neck, nasal congestion or clear runny nose, chills more than fever, no particular thirst)

Take one cup of ginger tea with 5-7 pieces of brown rock sugar (or half a teaspoon agave or honey if diabetic).  Or cook a few slices of ginger for ten minutes with half a stick of cinnamon and 2-3 dates (per one cup water) with half a teaspoon of honey added at the end.  Take hot baths, drink lots of soup (non-spicy, non-creamy) and dress in warm layers to cause mild sweating.

It is very important to note that these two types of colds are not fixed, and they can easily transform into the other, depending on your body constitution.  A heat-type constitution individual for example, who initially catches wind-cold, will likely soon experience wind-heat sore throat symptoms.  It is more common for wind-cold to quickly transform into wind-heat, so be forewarned to not overdose on the ginger tea for a wind-cold as that could lead to aggressive onset of wind-heat symptoms.

Cold-remedyThese home remedies work if you take extra care of yourself early on when symptoms first start.  However, if symptoms persist or worsen, TCM offers effective time-proven balanced formulas that consist of natural antiviral, antibiotic, immune-strengthening herbs to help you quickly recover.  In this case, herbal medicine, along with cupping therapy, are more effective treatment methods than acupuncture.

Understand common cold from a TCM perspective, learn how to treat yourself and your family members, and keep a small stock of herbal formulas in your medicine cabinet for emergency use when common cold strikes.

Dr. Mee Lain Ling