Tips & tricks for Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season

Start with the basics:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, foods high in antioxidants.
  • Get plenty of exercise.  If you are just starting to come down with something, you can often “sweat it out of your system,” with a run or workout or a session in the sauna.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we say that the pathogen enters the body through the outer layers, skin, and muscles.  Before the pathogen has lodged deeper into the body, it can be cleared through the surface, and movement and sweating is a great way to do so.  Another great way is gua sha or cupping (more on that below).
  • Get plenty of rest, especially when you are starting to feel run-down.
  • Keep stress to a minimum.  Stress suppresses the immune system.  Of course, we cannot always avoid stress, but we can help to counterbalance stress with good self-care, which may include acupuncture treatments, deep breathing, meditating, reading a good book while sipping a hot cup of tea, spending time in nature, or playing with your kids or pets.
  • I highly recommend getting regular acupuncture treatments.  We all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! So come in for regular visits before you get sick!
  • Come in for a treatment at the first sign of something brewing so we can nip it in the bud before it turns into anything more.

How we approach the common cold in Chinese Medicine:

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we distinguish between two types of common cold.  In both cases, we say that Wind is the pathogen that enters the body and can bring with it other pathogens, usually either Heat or Cold, which makes for a combination of Wind-Heat or Wind-Cold.

The symptoms differ, depending on the pattern, and we treat the patient accordingly.  We use different herbs and different acupuncture points depending on the particular presentation, so it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.

With a Wind-Heat invasion, we usually see signs and symptoms that include a headache, sore throat, fever, thirst, and thick yellow mucus, a rapid pulse, and a reddish tongue.

With a Wind-Cold invasion, signs and symptoms may include copious runny and clear mucus, body aches, fatigue, chills, sneezing, and a pale tongue.

Once the pathogen has entered the deeper layers of the body, patterns and symptoms change again and we treat accordingly.  At this point, the pathogen needs to be cleared by purging through the interior and the exterior-release approaches would no longer be appropriate.

We recommend seeing your practitioner to help you differentiate patterns and determine which course of action is best for you.

Cupping & gua sha:

  • Cupping and gua sha (aka scraping) are techniques that can be helpful to release the pathogen when a cold is still in its initial stages.

Bleeding technique:

  • For severe sore throats or high fevers, may we use a technique called bleeding, where we might prick the ears or fingertips and release a few drops of blood as a way to release excess Heat from the body.

Some go-to supplements when you are sick or starting to feel a cold coming on:

  • Increase intake of Vitamin C and D
  • Increase probiotics (a healthy immune system starts with a healthy gut)
  • Elderberry (available as syrup, tincture, lozenges)
  • Echinacea (not recommended for people with auto-immune disorders)
  • Homeopathic remedies, such as Oscillococcinum, Cold Calm, and Sinusalia (by Boiron)
  • Zinc (take with food, as it can cause nausea on an empty stomach; other cautions: can lower blood sugar, caution with bleeding disorders or taking drugs that may increase risk of bleeding)
  • Colloidal silver (spray in back of throat, or mix drops with water to gargle)
  • Hydrogen peroxide (gargle with a mixture of warm water and hydrogen peroxide, 1:1 ratio)
  • Gargle with warm water and sea salt
  • Grapefruit seed extract (add a few drops to water and swallow or gargle)
  • Essential oils (blends such as OnGuard, by doTerra, have antimicrobial properties; peppermint is cooling for a sore throat or a headache)
  • For congestion: use the Netipot daily; do steam w/ eucalyptus oil, run a diffuser with essential oils
  • Saline spray to clear up stuffiness
  • Sage tea with honey to soothe sore throats
  • Hot water with lemon, honey, and a dash of cayenne


The Kidney Essence – Governing Vitality and Longevity


In Chinese Medicine, the kidneys are often referred to as the Root of Life. This is because they store what is referred to as our Essence. Essence is inherited from our parents and established at conception. Essence determines our basic constitution.

The kidneys determine our level of health throughout the stages of life. Below I will outline the most important functions of the kidneys and issues that occur when these function are disrupted.

The first function of the kidneys is to govern pregnancy, birth, growth, puberty, fertility, menopause, aging, and death. They determine our strength, vitality, sperm production in men and ova and menstrual blood in women. Aging is simply due to a physiological decline of Essence during life.
If the Kidney Essence is weak, we can see:

  • Developmental delays
  • Infertility
  • Poor sperm or egg quality
  • Premature aging
  • Early menopause

The Kidneys are also responsible for the production of marrow, which in Chinese Medicine consists of bones, bone marrow, brain, and spinal cord. Thus, if the Kidney Essence is strong, it will nourish the brain and memory, concentration, thinking, intelligence, skill, and sight. If the brain and bones are not properly nourished, there may be:

  • Poor memory and concentration, dizziness
  • Dull thinking and poor sight
  • Brittle bones, osteoporosis, osteopenia, scoliosis
  • Loose teeth

The kidneys open into the ears. If the kidneys are weak, there may be impaired hearing, deafness and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

The hair relies on the nourishment of the Kidney Essence to grow. If Kidney Essence is abundant, hair will grow well, be healthy and glossy. If Kidney Essence is weak or declining, there may be thin, brittle, dull looking hair, early greying, or hair loss.

The kidneys control the two lower orifices (the urethra and spermatic duct in men and the anus). If kidney energy is weak, the two lower orifices will be inappropriately open and exhibit:

  • Frequent urination or incontinence
  • Bedwetting in children
  • Frequent bowel movements or diarrhea

The kidneys are the residence of will power. Thus, if the kidneys are strong, the will power will be strong, the mind will be focused on goals and pursue them. If the kidneys are weak:

  • The mind will be easily discouraged and swayed from its goals
  • Lack of ability to work hard

Finally, the kidneys are the driving force for all the internal organs. If the kidneys decline, the functional activity of all organs will be impaired, leading to:

  • Tiredness, mental depression, negativity
  • Lack of vitality
  • Poor digestion

Additional signs of kidney deficiency include:

  • Achy low back
  • Weak Knees
  • Dark circles under eyes or darkness on the cheeks
  • Low, deep, groaning or hoarse voice
  • Excessive fear
  • Edema

In clinic, I often see kidney deficiency falling into two categories: some people have a genetic predisposition to weak Kidney Essence and others have strong Kidney Essence but have burned themselves out! The latter is very common in Silicon Valley. Those with strong kidney energy are determined, strong willed, and hardworking. They strive for success and will not rest until their goals are achieved. They engage in many of the following activities that burn kidney energy at an accelerated rate:

  • Working excessively
  • Working at night
  • Working while tired
  • Using caffeine when tired
  •  “Go-go-go” lifestyle
  • Chronic stress, worry, or fear
  • Excessive exercise
  • Excessive use of drugs, alcohol, or partying
  • Dieting, poor nutrition
  • Not getting enough sleep or rest

The good news is that Kidney Essence can be replenished through proper nutrition, rest, acupuncture, and herbal medicine. Restorative yoga and qi gong can also help. 

If you believe your Kidney Essence needs a boost, let us know. The following acupuncture points can be stimulated with acupressure, moxa, or acupuncture at your next visit:

  • Du 4 – Yang aspect of Essence
  • Ren 4 – Yin aspect of Essence
  • BL 23 and Du 20 – Tonify KD to stimulation memory
  • BL 23KD 3, and BL 11 – Tonify the bones
  • BL 52 – Strengthen will power


Fun Quote:

“When the kidneys are weak, one dreams of swimming after a shipwreck; if the dream takes place in winter, one dreams of plunging in water and being scared.”

-Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor (earliest surviving work on Chinese Medicine) 

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