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  • Writer's picturePhoebus Tian

How to Fight the Cold and Flu with Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture

Getting a cold or the flu is never fun, but you can make it easier with these six tips from Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture.

This blog post will discuss fighting the cold and flu using those two alternative medicines. We'll talk about symptoms of a cold and flu, what Chinese medicine can do for us during that time, why acupuncture helps fight off a virus or bacterial infection, which acupuncture points to stimulate during treatment-and finally, some traditional herbs that have been used for centuries as natural remedies against illness!

1. What are the symptoms of a cold and flu

The symptoms of a cold and flu are very similar. They both cause a runny nose, congestion, and a cough. The main difference is that the flu also causes fever and body aches. Both illnesses can last for several days to weeks. It is important to drink plenty of fluids and get rest when you are sick. You should also see your doctor if your symptoms do not improve after a few days.

There are over 200 different types of viruses that can cause the common cold. The most common type is the rhinovirus. Flu viruses are more complex than cold viruses, and there are three types: A, B, and C. Each type has different subtypes, which makes it challenging to develop a perfect vaccine.

2. How can Chinese medicine help with the illness

One of the most common uses for Chinese medicine is to help with a case of a cold. There are many different ways that Chinese medicine can help, depending on the specific symptoms present. Some of the most common methods include acupuncture, herbs, cupping and gua sha.

Acupuncture is a treatment where needles are inserted into specific points on the body. This helps stimulate the flow of energy in the body, which can help relieve symptoms such as a runny nose or congestion. Herbs are another popular method of treatment for colds. These can be taken in pill form or brewed as a tea. The herbs will help to clear out toxins from the body and boost the immune system.

Cupping is the practice of using glass or plastic cups to create suction on the skin. This method can be used for pain relief, relaxation, and healing techniques. The pressure created by cupping pulls blood vessels near the surface of your skin away from damaged muscle tissue, which helps relieve pain, relax muscles and improve range of motion. Cupping has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, but it's also becoming popular with athletes who use it to prevent injuries before they happen or recover faster after an injury occurs. One study shows cupping common cold of wind-cold type at an early stage may help with the symptom.1

Gua sha is an ancient healing practice used for centuries in China and other parts of Asia. The literal translation of gua sha is "to scrape away fever." Gua sha is a form of massage that uses a tool to create friction on the skin. This friction causes micro-trauma to the skin, stimulating the body's natural healing process. Researchers found that twice Guasha treatment can help with coughing caused by the common cold.2

3. Why is acupuncture beneficial for fighting the cold and flu

Acupuncture is beneficial in fighting the cold and flu because it stimulates the immune system. Although acupuncture has not been proven to be an effective treatment for influenza or other viruses that cause respiratory infections like colds, studies suggest that acupuncture may reduce symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) such as sore throat and cough runny nose. This could also help patients recover faster from acute bronchitis when combined with conventional medical treatments. Evidence suggests this might happen by stimulating the secretion of anti-inflammatory cytokines by certain areas on the skin at specific acupuncture points, which can activate white blood cells protecting against illness. 3

4. Acupuncture points to stimulate during treatment

A few acupuncture points are thought to be helpful for cold and flu symptoms. These include:

-LU 6: Located on the inner aspect of the arm, about five finger widths below the crease of the elbow. This point is used to help clear congestion and mucus from the lungs.

-LI 4: Located on the top of the hand, between the thumb and index finger. This point is used to help boost immunity and circulate energy.

-SJ 3: Located on the hands, between the 4th and 5th metacarpal bones. This point helps warm up the body and fight infection.

-Wood (Master Tung's point): Two points on the palmar side of the index finger, along the ulnar side of the first phalange. The wood point can treat wind as a common cold or itchiness.

-GB 20: It's in a depression between the upper portion of the sternocleidomastoid muscle and the trapezius. This point is known as the "Wind Pool" as its ability to clear any "wind".

5. Traditional herbs that fight off colds and flu

TRP channels are types of ion channels found in the cell membranes of many animals. These proteins play a role in various cellular processes, including sensation, muscle contraction, and cell death. TRP channels were first discovered in 1998 due to research on pain relief.

One of the compounds found to activate TRP channels is from ginger. Gingerols, the active compounds in ginger, has been shown to stimulate TRPA-one and TRPV-four receptors. This may account for some of the health benefits attributed to ginger, such as reducing inflammation and relieving pain. Additional research is needed to determine the full extent of ginger's effects on TRP channels. Nonetheless, this spice has potential as both a dietary supplement and an ingredient. One systematic review suggests that Chinese herbal medicines may shorten the symptomatic phase in patients with the common cold.4

There are many herbs in traditional medicine are used for cold, such as:

Ban Lan Gen Radix Isatidis Seu Baphicacanthi

Bei Mu Bulbus Fritillariae

Bo He Herba Menthae

Chen Pi Pericarpium Citri Reticulatae

Bai He Bulbus Lilii

Chuan Bei Mu Bulbus Fritillariae Cirrhosae

Chuan Xin Lian Herba Andrographitis

Cong Bai Bulbus Allii Fistulosi

Zi Wan Flos Asteris

Gan Cao Radix Glycyrrhizae

Ge Gen Radix Puerariae

Gua Lou Fructus Trichosanthis

Guang Huo Xiang Herba Pogostemonis

Hang Ju Flos Chrysanthemi

He Geng Petiolus Nelumbinis

Hua Ju Hong Exocarpium Citri Grandis

Jie Sui Herba Schizonepetae


There are dozens more herbs we use for cold. The concept behind it is not targeting the virus but restoring the body's balance and letting it fight the virus. All the herbs are based on different people's constitutions, so we can choose the right formula for individuals. Don't take herbs yourself without professional help.

6. Additional home remedies to use against a cold or flu

There are many traditional Chinese medicine herbs that are great for fighting off colds and flu. Some of the most popular ones include ginger, garlic, andrographis, and echinacea. These herbs have been used for centuries to help treat respiratory infections. Ginger is a natural anti-inflammatory and can help reduce congestion and inflammation in the nasal passages and throat. Garlic is a powerful antiviral agent that can help kill bacteria and viruses. And echinacea is thought to boost the immune system and help fight off infection. One study found that andrographis may affect upper respiratory tract infections and can significantly decrease the production of cytokines and pro-inflammatory factors in viral infections.5 Another published evidence supports echinacea's benefit in decreasing the incidence and duration of the common cold.6

There are a few ways that Chinese medicine can help with flu prevention. One is by boosting the immune system. Another is by helping to clear out the lungs and respiratory tract. Finally, Chinese medicine can also help to address any underlying deficiencies or imbalances that may make someone more susceptible to getting sick. If you're looking for a holistic way to protect yourself from the flu, Chinese medicine may be an excellent option for you!

Please contact our office today for more information on how Chinese medicine can help prevent flu! We would be happy to answer any of your questions. Thank you for reading!

  1. Ye XF, Zhang HF, Pang ZW. [Therapeutic effects of common cold of wind-cold type at early stage treated by different cupping duration]. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2011 Apr;31(4):357-9. Chinese. PMID: 21528605.

  2. ZHANG XQ, XING YQ, SHE YF, ZHANG JC, FAN XS, PAN LJ [Guasha for coughing after common cold]. Journal of Hebei TCM and Pharmacology. 2017 Oct.

  3. Wang L, Yang JW, Lin LT, Huang J, Wang XR, Su XT, Cao Y, Fisher M, Liu CZ. Acupuncture Attenuates Inflammation in Microglia of Vascular Dementia Rats by Inhibiting miR-93-Mediated TLR4/MyD88/NF-κB Signaling Pathway. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2020 Aug 11;2020:8253904. doi: 10.1155/2020/8253904. PMID: 32850002; PMCID: PMC7441436.

  4. Wu T, Zhang J, Qiu Y, Xie L, Liu GJ. Chinese medicinal herbs for the common cold. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Jan 24;(1):CD004782. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD004782.pub2. PMID: 17253524.

  5. Banerjee S, Kar A, Mukherjee PK, Haldar PK, Sharma N, Katiyar CK. Immunoprotective potential of Ayurvedic herb Kalmegh (Andrographis paniculata) against respiratory viral infections - LC-MS/MS and network pharmacology analysis. Phytochem Anal. 2021 Jul;32(4):629-639. doi: 10.1002/pca.3011. Epub 2020 Nov 9. PMID: 33167083.

  6. Shah SA, Sander S, White CM, Rinaldi M, Coleman CI. Evaluation of echinacea for the prevention and treatment of the common cold: a meta-analysis. Lancet Infect Dis. 2007 Jul;7(7):473-80. doi: 10.1016/S1473-3099(07)70160-3. Erratum in: Lancet Infect Dis. 2007 Sep;7(9):580. PMID: 17597571; PMCID: PMC7106401.

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