Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How Can Acupuncture Help My Cold?

Can acupuncture help with _______? We get these questions all the time at Whole Health Acupuncture. The easy answer is yes, acupuncture can help with that. I understand that most people need more of an explanation than this. With this in mind the next few blogs will highlight how acupuncture can help with specific ailments.

Eastern and Western approaches to the body and treatment of imbalances occasionally match up and occasionally look very different from each other.

You've probably had a cold before and may have experienced a stuffy nose, sore throat, runny nose, cough, aversion to cold, fever and headache. Perhaps you were sick for a week and then started to feel better again or maybe your cold lingered for a few weeks. The common cold can come on during any of the four seasons. In western medicine your doctor might tell you your immune system is down or you were around other people with a cold and that's how you "caught" it.

In Chinese Medical theory external wind is thought to be the main cause of the common cold often times bringing with it cold, heat, summerheat or dampness. The Chinese believe that your tai yang channel (or in English the back of your neck) was exposed when you were outside or slept with a window open and the wind attacked your body. The neck could have been left open to attack because of improper clothing, lifestyle imbalances, constitutional deficiencies or a combination of all of these. Wind will commonly bring with it cold, heat and dampness.

Have you ever slept with air conditioning on, a fan blowing on your face or a window open when it was windy outside? Do you remember how you felt the next morning? Perhaps you had a scratchy throat, a crick in your neck, or headache. If your body was strong it might have been able to dispel the wind on its own. If there was already an imbalance in the body making it weak that could be all it took for the scratchy throat and stiff neck to turn into a full blown cold.

Your acupuncturist will be looking for specific patterns to correct. Treating wind-cold will be approached differently then wind-heat as will treating a cold when your qi (energy) is depleted. The complexity of the body rarely fits into a textbook outline.

Wind-cold may present with a strong dislike of coldness, a mild fever, no sweating, headache, aching body, stuffy and/or runny nose, scratchy throat, cough with thin white phlegm and not feeling thirsty.

In this case we are using acupuncture points and herbs that will dispel wind, remove the cold and strengthen the exterior (so that no more wind can get in).

Cinnamon twig is a good herb for wind-cold as it has warming properties and is usually found in herbal formulas used to treat wind-cold.

Self Care Tip: wrap yourself up in blankets and sweat out your cold

Wind-heat may present with a slight or no aversion to cold, fever is more prominent with sweating, headache, cough with thick yellow phlegm, dry or sore swollen throat, stuffy nose with yellow mucus and feeling thirsty.

In this case we are using acupuncture points and herbs to dispel wind, clear heat and strengthen the exterior.

Mint is a good herb for wind-heat as it has cooling properties and is usually found in herbal formulas used to treat wind-heat.

Self Care Tip: drink mint tea

Colds with underlying Qi Energy Deficiency may present with strong aversion to cold, fever, headache, nasal congestion, cough with white phlegm, tiredness, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

In this case we use acupuncture points and herbs to not only dispel wind, remove cold and strengthen the exterior but also to boost qi energy.

Moxabustion (burning an herb called mugwort) over acupuncture points can help to warm the body as well as cultivate more energy.

Cupping or guasha may also be used to dispel wind in any of these cases with special care taken if there is qi deficiency. For more info on cupping read the What is Cupping? blog.

Preventing Colds and Flus

Massage acu points yin tang (space between the eye brows) and LI 4 (highest point in the space between thumb and index finger) with your middle or index finger. Do this 2-3 times a day for 3-5 minutes until skin is slightly red and an aching or distended sensation is felt.

Ask your acupuncturist about herbal formulas that can prevent colds and flus before they start.


Sarah, I have to thank you (fairly late, i know) for helping me a few weeks ago with my sinus infection. I was amazed at how wonderful I felt during your acupuncture session. I was back to normal and feeling great within a week, so thank you SO much for your skills and compassion!!

-Nicole M.

And a personal testimony to boot. I started to feel a scratchy throat coming on and was losing my voice with just the very beginnings of achiness in my body and heaviness in my chest on Saturday evening. It probably didn't help that I went out into the Chicago wind tunnel that night either. Sunday I did what I could at home: garggled with salt water, spoonfuls of honey, thieves mouthwash and rest. Monday I still wasn't feeling so hot. Kara bled my lu11 on both thumbs and within an hour the heat in the back of my throat dissipated. I rested the remainder of the day and went to bed at 8:00p. This morning my voice is not 100% yet but there is no pain in my throat and the rest of my body feels just fine.

Practical Therapeutics of Traditional Chinese Medicine by Yan Wu was referenced for this blog.

Sarah Zender LAc LMT

Whole Health Acupuncture 50 Turner Ave Elk Grove Village IL 874.357.3929


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