Treating the Common Cold and Flu with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

Hi, I'm Dr. Marie Starling.

At The Healing Center, we help people like you reach their full potential.

I specialize in adjunctive care for internal disorders, autoimmune conditions, IBS, thyroid symptoms, diabetes, and other complex health issues.


By Erik Johnson, L.Ac. MSTCM

It’s that time of the year again where many of us are coming down with a common cold or the flu. One moment we are feeling great and the next day we have chi1clls, fever, headache, stiff neck, muscle aches, mucus congestion in the nasal passages and/or chest, sore throat, etc. Short of taking western pharmaceutical medicine to mask some of the symptoms temporarily, most people do nothing more than adding extra fluids and rest until it “runs its course.” In contrast, Chinese medicine takes a much more active role to eliminate the external pathogen in your body, address your underlying deficiency that lead to catching the sickness, and drastically shorten the time it takes for recovery.

Briefly, we will cover these commonly asked questions:

  • What makes Chinese medicine different from western medicine when it comes to treating viral and bacterial infections?
  • How can Acupuncture and Chinese medicine help prevent me from getting colds and the flu?
  • I’m already sick. How can acupuncture and Chinese medicine help me right now?

A Different Approach with Chinese Medicine

For thousands of years Chinese medicine has provided safe and effective methods for treating a wide range of diseases in the human body. It can be argued that Chinese medicine’s greatest strength, however, is in its herbal products used to specifically address common viruses and bacterial infections. Most western physician offices these days are overcrowded, expensive, and can provide inadequate treatment options that usually end with antibiotic prescriptions – even in cases of  viral infections where these solutions are ineffective. This overuse of antibiotics has created a new breed of “superbugs” that has given rise to bacterial resistance like we haven’t seen before. Chinese medicine on the other hand is safer than drugs, doesn’t have harsh side effects, and can treat the infection while also strengthening the underlying constitution of the patient. In severe cases where antibiotics are needed and/or used, Chinese medicine can also be a great compliment to western medicine in helping to bring a balanced approach to health.

In Chinese medicine, the etiology of the infection is understood within the context of the individual patient’s constitution. Simply put – this medicine strives to understand the complexity of each individual patient, instead treating only their disease. This individualized approach in Chinese medicine offers a wide variety of complex herbal formulas that naturally provide (among many other things) immuno-stimulant, antiviral, antibacterial, and/or antibiotic effects for your specific need.

“Superior Medicine Prevents Disease, and Inferior Medicine Treats Disease”         ~ Sun Si-Miao

The quote above addresses one of the fundamental concepts in Chinese medicine that recognizes how most viral and bacterial infections adversely affect individuals with auto-immune disorders and/or weakened immune systems. Prevention is key in Chinese medicine and it is very complimentary to the same functional medicine approach taken at The Healing Center – it strives to find the underlying cause of any disease and works to create a treatment plan that caters to the individual’s own constitution. Many treatment options with acupuncture and Chinese medicine are adaptogenic. This means that it helps your body to create a natural balance or homeostasis, which aids in boosting your immune system to help combat any future pathogens that may try to invade your body.3a

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine refer to your immune system as your “Wei Qi.” This protective barrier exists to prevent the body from being easily affected by external pathogens (colds, flus, and other infectious or microbial diseases). The strength of your Wei Qi is dictated by the overall health of your respiratory and digestive system (or your Lung and Spleen meridians, respectively), which is why we put such emphasis on repairing the gastrointestinal system at The Healing Center. Special consideration is always made for patients with auto-immune disorders like Celiac disease, immune compromised individuals, and patients with food sensitivities due to a leaky gut.

The following are only a few examples of the different Chinese medicine modalities used in our clinic to help strengthen your Wei Qi and restore your body to health:

  • Acupuncture – through the use of acupuncture needles, a practitioner helps to balance the body through a healing reaction that is stimulated by production of immunological mediators and neurotransmitters.
  • Moxibustion – a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves burning of mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) to facilitate healing of the gastrointestinal lining, balance the intestinal flora, and stimulate the body’s immune system.
  • Gua Sha – a technique of “scratching or scraping” the skin with a smooth-edged instrument in order to elicit transitory therapeutic petechiae (a redness of the skin). This causes a breakdown of hemoglobin that up-regulates HO-1, CO, biliverdin, and bilirubin, which exhibit anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory effects.
  • Cupping – made popular in the recent Rio Olympic games, cupping uses a partial vacuum that is created by fire in a glass jar, which is then applied to th30ae skin. It helps loosen muscles and fascia, encourage blood flow, and is very effective in helping to clear congestion from a common cold or help with asthma.
  • Chinese Herbs – there are literally hundreds of formula combinations in Chinese medicine that deal with just viral and bacterial infections. We carry a wide range of formulas that help your body dealing with a cold or flu at any stage of its development.

At The Healing Center, we use a combination of both Eastern Medicine and Functional Medicine to approach personalized patient health care from all available modalities – creating profound balance, harmony, and well-being in our patients. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine add another amazing approach to helping us overcome certain ailments like a common cold or the flu. Book an appointment today with our acupuncturist Erik Johnson to help prevent potential viruses or the flu, or to see how this medicine can drastically reduce any symptoms that you are currently experiencing.

Not feeling any symptoms at the moment but want to see the amazing healing effects of other Chinese herbal products? We have just the thing for you! We have created a Chinese Medicine Essentials First Aid Kit, filled with five of our favorite products that will be available for purchase in the coming week.:

  • Ching Wan Hung Burn Cream – this ointment is great on all types of burns (chemical, radiation, sunburns, fire, electrical, steam, or direct contact with hot elements) and can also be used to treat hemorrhoids, poison ivy, dermatitis, and bedsores. It helps to relieve pain, decrease inflammation and infection, and aids in the regeneration of damaged tissues.
  • Yunnan Baiyao Powder – this famous powder is best known for its ability to stop bleeding and promote healing from wounds or internal injuries. From a small cut to internal injuries from car accidents, this powder can be placed on the external wound or taken internally.
  • Lion Trauma Liniment – this is our favorite external spray for both chronic and acute musculoskeletal pain in the body. Derived from two of Chinese medicine’s most famous topical ointments (Die Da Jiao and Zheng Gu Shui), this locally made formula is the most popular item with our patients.
  • Yin Care Herbal Wash – this is the most widely used topical wash for general bacterial, fungal, and viral skin complaints. It can be used as a wash, rub, , compress, or through intravaginal use.
  • Huo Xiang Zheng Qi Wan – long considered the “Pepto Bismol of Chinese Medicine”, this formula treats a condition called “Sudden Turmoil Disorder” or acute sudden vomiting and diarrhea. Other applications include influenza, intestinal flu, food poisoning, traveler’s diarrhea, and motion sickness.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We recommend that you consult with a Traditional Chinese Medical practitioner before using any products or if you have any questions regarding your health.


Cheng, Xinnong, and Liangyue Deng. Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion. Beijing: Foreign Language, 1999. Print.

Maciocia, Giovanni. The Foundations of Chinese Medicine: A Comprehensive Text for Acupuncturists and Herbalists. Edinburgh: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone, 2005. Print.

Xia ZW, Zhong WW, Meyrowitz JS, Zhang ZL. The role of heme oxygenase-1 in T cell-mediated immunity: the all encompassing enzyme. Curr Pharm Des. 2008. Print.

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