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Acupuncture Blog

Foods or Herbs for the Common Cold

08/20/15

Almost everybody will experience a mild cold at some point in their life with the following complaints: sneezing, headaches, itchy nose, itchy throat, sore throat, poor appetite, fatigue, body ache, voice change, nausea, slight fever, sweating, etc. Some people just buy Advil or Tylenol to easen up their complaints. For some others, they just deal with it. However, without any help, the cold may last for a longer time. Some people may have learned something from their grandparents to deal with this kind of thing by having chicken soup, ginger ale, etc. There may be some other folk formulas we don’t know of. There is something that will work if you follow the rules, like in the following.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture, we categorize all conditions and diseases into different types. The reason for this is similar to how different cars need different oils or gasolines because the cars were made to be fueled with those substances. Like the cars, some herbs or foods are better as fuel for some people more than others. For the common cold, we have five basic types with different combinations or proportions of the foods/herbs.

  1. “Cold” cold – people will experience headaches, body aches, no sweating, feeling cold easily with chills, tiredness, poor appetite, voice change
  2. “Warm” cold – people will experience feeling warm easily, less or no chills, sore throat, fever, sweating, tired, poor appetite, voice change
  3. “Deficient” cold – these type of people are the ones who always have some cold-like symptoms, never really have enough energy to be very productive, and they frequently have something wrong with their health.
  4. Based on “deficiency” cold types, this category is for those who specifically feel cold year-round and can wear more clothing even in the summer than most people around them without overheating.
  5. Opposite from “deficiency” cold types, this category is for those who feel hot year-round and can wear less clothing in the winter than most people around them without feeling cold.

In TCM and acupuncture, many foods are also medicines (the line between food and medicine is blurry). It depends on what we need at the time.

For “cold” cold, the following food combinations will help either cure, easen up complaints, or make the recovery shorter. They are cilantro, scallion, fresh ginger root with brown sugar. Then the question is how much of each and how should it be prepared? First of all, you prepare these foods by slicing the cilantro (1-2 mm), scallions (1-2 mm), and fresh ginger root (1-2 mm). You’ll need a handful of sliced scallion handful, one-half of a handful of sliced cilantro, and a quarter handful of sliced ginger. Prepare to boil a pot with 2 cups of water inside. In it, you should put in 2 heaping tablespoons of brown sugar (if you have diabetes, skip this step). As soon as the water is boiling, put the ingredients into it, and turn off the heat. Cover the pot until the temperature is okay for you to drink. Drinking this twice a day or more will take care of the “cold” cold type. If it’s an emergency and you don’t have some of the ingredients, you can use more of the other ones to compensate.

For “warm” cold, you’re going to need a similar concoction but in different amounts and plus something else. Use white sugar instead of brown sugar, and add mint. Gather half a handful of sliced scallion, half a handful of sliced cilantro, and a quarter handful of sliced ginger, two handfuls of mint, two heaping tablespoons of white sugar. Prepare them the same way as above.

For “deficient” cold, use everything from “cold” cold, and either 1 gram of American ginseng or half of a gram of ginseng. For type 4, everything from “deficiency,” and add cinnamon and a spice. For the last one, everything from “warm” cold, and add watermelon juice (if it’s the summertime), banana (fall or spring) and papaya or pear juice (wintertime).

A few more words for “deficient” people: it would be a good idea to take some American ginseng. For “cold” type people, have more hot/spicy food, lamb and cinnamon. For “warm” type people, don’t eat hot/spicy food. In TCM and acupuncture, we do sometimes require patients to change their diet in certain ways according to their pattern differentiation. These were just examples, but if you have these combinations, you will definitely get a benefit from it.


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