It is that time of year again when people start spluttering and sneezing. If you tend to pick up every cough and cold that goes around, then acupuncture is a great way to boost your immune system to prevent coughs, colds and flu taking hold.
Acupuncture helps keep the bugs away, as well as keep them from worsening once you’ve gotten them as it effectively combats the infection and inflammation produced by bugs.
How does this all work?
To further understand how acupuncture helps combat colds and flu, let’s take a brief look at how traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) views the common cold. The external pathogens responsible for cold and flu symptoms in your body are seen as invasions of wind.
You may remember you mother or grandmother tell you to put on more clothing before leaving the house, or not to go out with wet hair, so we wouldn’t ‘catch wind’.
For Chinese medicine practitioners it makes perfect sense and this is why…
Wind is considered to be one of six external pathogens that can invade the body and produce symptoms. Our body is protected by what is known as the wei qi (defensive qi) also known as our immune system. This is our body’s first line of defence. When we are strong and healthy, our wei qi stands guard, keeps the pores of our skin closed and prevents wind from entering.
However when we are over-worked, highly stressed, lack appropriate rest, eat poorly or are simply inappropriately dressed for certain weather conditions, our defensive Chi becomes compromised, our pores open and wind enters the body. This explains why when we experience the beginnings of a cold we feel chills, sensitivity to the wind and body aches as this wind enters superficial meridians and blocks the flow of energy in them.
Acupuncture works as an anti-viral and antibacterial agent and also has a diaphoretic action which repels wind out of the body.
Wind can carry another pathogen with it and can thus present as wind heat or wind cold, which would be treated with two very different sets of acupuncture techniques.
This form is the milder of the two and appears when the cold is just in the beginning stages and there are not many heat symptoms. The ‘bug’ at this time is slightly dancing and teasing you on the surface of your skin trying to feel its way and see whether you are vulnerable for an attack or not. Some of the symptoms may include:
- Sensitivity to cold or wind
- Running nose with white-watery mucus
- No fever or slight fever
- Body aches
- Stiff neck
- No sweating
- No thirst
This is a good time to load up on vitamin C, drink plenty of room temperature water, rest and stay away from icy cold beverages. Drinking miso soup with tofu and scallions is also excellent during this time. Taking a hot bath and immediately covering yourself up to ‘sweat off’ the pathogen is also helpful. But please make sure to change your clothes if they get damp and continue to cover up. This is also the best time to visit your acupuncturist to strengthen your immune system to ward off or to fight the beginnings of the cold.
Many of you wouldn’t even see a wind cold condition, as symptoms present immediately as wind heat. The virus in this case invades the body quickly and its defensive response is to increase the body temperature in order to literally kill off the bugs. Some symptoms include:
- Sensitivity to wind
- Sore throat
- Swollen tonsils
- Slight body ache
- Cough and running nose with yellow or green mucus
- Slight sweating