Colds and Flu Self Help Tips

How to avoid, treat and ‘beat’ colds and Flu. Ever wondered if there is a really effective way to treat a cold when you get one, or better still to avoid, or get rid of a cold/flu altogether? Well, I’d like to let you know about a little Chinese wisdom which may help you do exactly that!

In China colds and flu’s are seen as an infection of the body by a virus, in the same way as we view it in the ‘west’. However the Chinese are more sophisticated in their description of the different types of colds that people get, and differentiate them into various types – the most common being a hot and a cold ‘cold’.

If you think back to colds you’ve have had in the past the differentiation seems clear*:

Symptoms of a cold cold

  • Feeling cold especially up back of the neck and head
  • Sneezing with blocked runny nose (clear mucous)
  • Possibly a Slightly raised or slightly low temperature
  • Often follows catching a ‘chill’
  • Itchy throat – sometimes
  • Feel like wrapping up warm and staying covered up
  • Tongue may have a whitish coating

Symptoms of a hot cold

  • Feeling hotter with a more pronounced temperature – feel like kicking off the blankets
  • Thirsty
  • Headache
  • Sore throat – possibly hoarse
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Yellowish mucous possibly from nose and/or chest
  • Tongue may have a yellowish coating

*While any type of ‘cold’ will have symptoms such as feeling tired, possibly a cough, perhaps impaired concentration and stamina etc. the above symptoms can help differentiate between the two main types of ‘cold’.

So what can you do when you feel a cold coming on?
(N.B. See Safety notes* below before taking any of the following advice.)

Well, the first thing is to try to establish which type of cold you have – because they both need different approaches. Acting at the first early signs gives the best result. The following advice is much less relevant if you’ve had it for 36 hours or more. If it’s clearly a cold cold or you’re not sure which type, then do the following:

Get some root ginger (research has shown it to have anti-viral properties) and cut off about 5 slices (each about the size of a euro coin). Put them into about a mug and a half of boiling water in a small saucepan and add a teaspoon of brown sugar. Boil for about 5 – 10 minutes and strain off the liquid into a mug to drink. Leave the ginger in the pan (just barely covered with a little water) and add an extra slice or two the next time you are making the ‘brew’ a few hours later. You can have this drink about 3 times a day for about 2 – 3 days. Also take 1000mg vitamin C, each day for a couple of days, and get an early night. You should be fine in a day or two. Remember Colds are viral so you need to take a bit of extra rest to allow your body to fight them – so take it a bit easy!

If it’s clearly a hot cold then I might, in the past, have recommended the following herb – ‘Yin Chiao Chieh Tu Pian’ but these are now unfortunately withdrawn due to the new Herbal Regulations introduced in April 2011. Yin Chiao is for the early stages (first 1 to 3 days) of either type of cold but especially a ‘hot type cold’, and basically helps get rid of the it, before it gets the chance to take effect. Don’t be tempted to try and get these on the internet – it’s really not safe (or legal) to do so.
I’ve used herbs for many years and they have either got rid of, shortened the duration of, or hugely reduced the symptoms of the colds I’ve had – way better than anything I ever tried in the past – which usually just helped with the symptoms, a bit (and 20 years ago I was marketing manager of a drug company so I had access to lots of stuff!). Some of the herbs we use in the treatment of colds & flu have anti viral properties and will no doubt be partly synthesised, patented, and someday end up on our pharmacy shelves just as Ma Huang and Chinese star anise have – better known as Sinutab and Tamiflu!

While most colds will self resolve in a week or so, sometimes people get too many of them or have a particular reason to want to deal with them more effectively and that’s where I think Chinese Herbal Medicine (from a qualified herbalist) can be of great use. We are able to make up individual herbal prescriptions which match the exact type of cold (or sinusitis/rhinitis etc) someone has and help get people back on track as quickly as possible.

Safety Note* All the above advice is intended only for otherwise healthy adults. It must not be followed by children, the elderly, those with any medical condition, people on any prescribed medications and in particular those who are pregnant or breastfeeding or have raised blood pressure. If symptoms persist or are severe consult a doctor. I (and many others) have found the above knowledge to be a great help, however I do not claim that it is a ‘cure’ for colds or flu.