Looking after yourself through colds and flus!

Written by Pip Atherstone-Reid, Acupuncturist and co-owner of Kundalini House

Often we find that during winter or when the seasons change we become more susceptible to colds and flus.  We are offered the flu vaccine, cold and flu tablets and decongestants but are they really the answer for most of us?  Do they nourish us and help our fundamental health?  Does taking a pill and “soldiering on” really fit in with our overall picture of true health?

Occasionally we must persevere but listening to our bodies, supporting and increasing our immune system, so that viruses don’t take hold, can be a more beneficial approach.

So what can we do to avoid the dreaded cold and what natural remedies are there to treat them if we do get them?

Firstly, the strength of our immune system or defensive qi depends on how we have looked after ourselves during the seasons before!  If we have worked hard or played hard well beyond our means during summer, chances are we will go into winter with our health and immune system slightly down.  Exercise, internal practices (such as yoga and qigong), healthy eating, filtered water and adequate sleep is going to rejuvenate and invigorate our bodies and keep us strong throughout winter.

As we enter into winter and the energy of nature slows down, it is important to try to do the same, but that does not mean stopping all together!  Continuing a practice like yoga and light exercise, drinking hot water instead of cold and continuing to eat healthy, fresh foods that are in season will all help to maintain a healthy body. It is important to note that foods which are in season have a lot of the nutrients and energy needed for that season.

Fruit that is in season through winter in Melbourne are:winter fruits pic

Apples, Kiwifruit, Oranges (Navel), Mandarins, Lemons, Lime & Pears.

Vegetables that are in season through winter in Melbourne are:

Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Cabbage, Broad Beans, Artichokes (Jerusalem), Snow Peas, Cauliflower, Celery, Parsnips, Turnips and Spinach.

It is also important to keep warm.  Two important areas are our kidney area and the backscarf of the neck.  The two points at the back of the neck are called “wind pool” in Chinese, it is where the wind and cold can enter the body causing you to be more susceptible to colds and flus.  So ensure to wear your favourite scarf and keep your lower back covered.

These simple things will help to strengthen our immune system and vitality but if we do start to get a cold or flu, treating it early can be of great benefit.  In Chinese medicine we can differentiate colds into two types, those with hot signs and symptoms and those with cold.

Hot Type 

Acute fever & chills, more fever; Frontal headache; Sweating; Sore throat, dry scratchy throat; Cough with thick or sticky yellow mucus; Nasal Obstriction– Yellow

Cold Type

Acute fever and chills, more chills; Occipital headache (at the back of the head); No sweating; Muscle aches and stiffness; Cough with watery white mucus; Nasal obstruction – Clear

The Hot Type of cold needs to be treated with cooling remedies to bring down the fever and clear the infections; peppermint, chamomile, chrysanthemum tea may all be effective for this type.  The popular formula Yin Qiao Wan can also be used.

The Cold Type of cold needs to be warmed.  Vegetable soups with plenty of garlic and ginger, fresh ginger tea, cayenne red pepper (one of the highest botanic sources of vitamin C) and spring onion soup can be effective for this type of cold. The formula Gan Mao ling may be used at this time.  As long as the cold or flu is not too severe and the fever can be controlled effectively, these herbs and foods can be used without taking stronger medicines.  And one more old favourite which kept London healthy after World War II is the fresh rose hip, a great source of Vitamin C that can be found in most Melbourne gardens.

This is a great start from an Chinese Medicine point of view to help yourself or your loved ones in staying robust through winter.  There are many great natural remedies I have turned to to help me to ward off a cold or help me recover quickly.  I hope this information will add to your kit.

Please consult your health practitioner if pain/symptoms persist.

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