Fall is the time of year when a lot of people catch a cold. This relates to traditional Chinese medicine theory that sees each of the body’s organ system as corresponding to a specific season; and autumn, fortuitously, just happens to correspond to the Lung system. This does not necessarily mean one only catches a cold in autumn it’s just that the cooling of the weather makes it more likely for a person to catch colds especially if the lung system is out of balance or weak. Fall, therefore, is a good time to reinforce the lung system.
Why do we need to strengthen our lung system?
In Chinese medicine, the lung system governs breathing, the skin, and the nose. It also governs the flow of Wei Qi in the body. Wei qi is the energy that protects us and in Western medicine, is closely tied to the immune system. A strong wei qi can help our body resist and overcome disease; when wei qi is weak microorganisms can infiltrate the body causing the common cold.
How can one strengthen Wei Qi?
Qi circulation can improve and lung qi can be reinforced with exercise, such as brisk walking outdoors. Sufficient sleep and proper rest also guarantee that energy levels are restored and maintained. Some of the foods that can help boost Lung Qi include fresh ginger, yam, sweet potato, oats, carrots, garlic, tofu, honey, grapes, glutinous rice, and strawberry.
Herbal medicine and acupuncture are two of the more effective traditional Chinese medicine therapies that can strengthen lung Qi. If you’re considering acupuncture treatment, you need to seek a qualified and licensed practitioner. Prior to the cold season there are common remedies that can be taken regularly. They can be in the form of tablets, tinctures, or tea taken. Herbal remedies frequently used for the common cold or for strengthening the wei qi contain herbs such as scallion, ginger, root of angelica, atractylodes, siler, ginsing, and astragalus, ginseng, siler, angelica root, ginger and scallion.
How do herbs both prevent and treat the common cold?
TCM treats conditions and illnesses by attacking both the symptoms and the underlying cause of the symptoms. Herbs selected for treatment have the ability to relieve symptoms such as cough, sore throat, body ache, headache, congestion, and sneezing. Upon the relief of the symptoms herbs to strengthen the qi of the body are then used. A common immune tonic that’s mild enough for daily use is Reishi mushroom tea.
Some other ways to strengthen wei qi and prevent cold is brisk walk every day for at least 20 minutes. You can use a neti pot with cedar, eucalyptus and other essential oils to keep the nasal pathways clear. Also beneficial is yoga and stretching exercises to open the chest.
Ni Nan Gilbert, is a licensed acupuncturist in Bellmore, NY, and the founder and clinical director of Ni Nan Healing Art Center.