4 Ways to Protect Yourself from the Cold & Flu this Winter: Tips from A Chinese Medicine Practitioner


WINTER IS COMING! What are you doing to protect yourself….from colds and and flus this season?

Chinese Medicine is a wealth of wisdom when it comes to protecting us against colds and flus and supporting our immunity. 

While our theoretical understanding of what causes illness has evolved, the ancient wisdom of Chinese medicine provides valuable guidance that is as relevant now as it was thousands of years ago.  Here are 4 simple and highly effective strategies to get you through the winter season cold and flu-free: 

1. Bundle Up 

“Wind” is a concept used in Chinese medical theory to understand the invasion and evolution of pathogens in our body.  Thousands of years ago concepts of viruses and bacteria weren’t available, but wind invading our surface and lungs, provided and continues to provide wisdom, which informs current practices for avoiding the flu.  The back of the neck is particularly vulnerable to wind.  Several acupuncture points on the back of the neck and upper back have names that reflect their importance in protecting against the invasion of wind.  

As the temperature drops and wind picks up, be sure you are properly bundled, and don’t leave home without a scarf! It may be the simplest strategy for avoiding colds and flus you do all season.  


2. Eat More Garlic and Onion 

Onion and garlic are Chinese herbs, categorized as Wind Dispersing Herbs, which in other words means they are immune boosters, since wind can be interpreted as a pathogenic invader.   Thus Wind Dispersing herbs are substances that defend the body against pathogens, i.e. viruses.  While Chinese herbalists have known the medicinal power of these immune boosting foods for thousands of years, more recently scientific research findings corroborate and support these ancient practices. In a British study, researchers gave 146 study subjects either a placebo or garlic extract for 12 weeks, after which they concluded, those who received garlic were two thirds less likely to catch a cold.  

Add garliccloves to your soups and stews, sauté minced garlic with your vegetables and stir fries, or make an onion and garlic tea (if you feel a cold coming on).  


3. Drink More Turmeric, Ginger, and Cinnamon Tea 

Ginger and Cinnamon are also Chinese herbs with wind dispersing functions, defending the body against pathogens and promoting immunity. While turmeric is used more often as an analgesic (pain reduction) in Chinese medicine (perhaps because of it’s anti-inflammatory qualities), the scientific literature has identified its myriad other properties, which make it a potent defense against colds and flus, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties.  I just love when modern science validates what Chinese medicine has known seemingly intuitively all along!

A simple and satisfying way to strengthen your defense is regularly drinking homemade turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon tea.  Be sure to add black pepper to increase the body’s absorption of curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric- the true hero). 

Simply grate ginger and turmeric root into a pot of water.  Bring it to a boil then let is simmer for 10 minutes.  While simmering add in a cinnamon stick and a dash of black pepper.  Strain and drink. 


4. Try Chinese Herbs

There are several Chinese herbal formulas that I often reach for this time of year.  Yu Ping Feng San is a formula used to strengthen Wei Qi.  Wei Qi is a Chinese concept synonymous with immunity.  Think of it as a forcefield around your body that protects you against foreigninvaders.  You know those people who always seem to be sick?  In laymen’s terms we might say that have weak immunity.  In Chinese medicine we would say they are Wei Qi Deficient- their forcefield is weak and vulnerable to the invasion of viruses and other pathogens.  A formula like Yu Ping Feng San can be taken regularly to strengthen Wei Qi, effectively enhancing immunity.  

If you’re doing all of these things and somehow you still feel the first signs of a cold coming on- fever/chills, headache, sore throat- consider Yin Qiao San your rescue remedy. This formula is full of herbs that disperse wind and release the exterior, meaning they drive out the “wind” and pathogens attempting to invade via the surface of your body and lungs.  Patients often enthusiastically report how quickly their health turned around with only a fews days use of this formula.