Traditional Chinese Medicine tips for cold

October 27, 2014

“One of the best ways to prevent cold is to wear a scarf around the neck in the cold weather.”

By Lee Sung-hun

There is a noticeable fluctuation in temperature these days between morning and noon. We know that when our body does not adjust accordingly to the severe temperature changes, our natural immunity drops and we become prone to catching a cold.

The writer practices Korean oriental medicine at the UN Oriental Medical Clinic in Hannam-dong, Seoul.

The writer practices Korean oriental medicine at the UN Oriental Medical Clinic in Hannam-dong, Seoul.

Cold is perhaps an illness that affects us the most frequently throughout our lives. As such, Oriental medicine has developed various treatments for the cold.

The common cold refers to the viral infection in the mucous membrane in the upper respiratory system. In Oriental medicine, it is defined as an illness that arises when our body’s physiological function deteriorates in reaction to changes in various environmental factors such as wind, temperature and humidity, resulting in lessened ability to adjust to them.

Another expression for cold in Oriental medicine is sanghan, which means to be damaged by coldness as we catch a cold when exposed to the cold qi.

Although cold weather and viral infection do not seem to directly correlate, what happens to our body is that the cold air drops the temperature within the nasal cavity that in turn drops the immunity in the upper respiratory system.

Also, low temperature causes our body temperature to drop, resulting in lessened activity by our immune system, making us prone to catching a cold. Although the defining characteristic of a cold is the viral infection, the underlying cause is to do with the individual’s immune system and the environment.

In accordance, treatments for cold start with identifying the climate and surroundings of the patient at the time of occurrence, and the strength of the patient’s physiological functions to tailor them for each individual.

General treatments for cold require good rest and keeping warm while maintaining adequate humidity. Many Koreans employ sudorific measures to fight off cold. It is a good way to force pathogens out of the body, but as over-sweating can weaken the body, it should be employed with care and in moderation.

According to the symptoms, Oriental medicine distinguishes cold in further details. There is the Wind-Cold type that is associated with clear nasal discharge, sneezing, headaches and feeling drained.

For such cases, milk, vetch root, ginseng, paeonia japonica and other herbs are prescribed to strengthen the body’s qi and help perspiration. Another types it the Wind-Heat type that accompanies nasal discharge, severe fatigue, feverishness, and pain in the ear and throat.

Ginger and citron teas are helpful for the Wind-Cold type cold while Chinese quince tea and balloon flower juice can help the Wind-Heat type cold.

Those who are more prone to catching a cold, such as the elderly, ones with weak general constitution and those in recovery after a serious illness catch cold because their body’s immunity has dropped rather than because of external pathogens.

For them, it is important to determine whether their yin-yang, or qi and blood, or bodily fluids are deficient, and supplement them accordingly to restore the body to fight off the cold.

One of the best ways to prevent from catching a cold is to wear a scarf around the neck in the cold weather.

The acupuncture points around our neck are passages for the cold-qi to enter into our body, and covering them with a scarf is good way to prevent that from happening. Also, when uncovered, the neck represents one of the largest exposed skin areas in our body from which we lose our bodily heat.

Protecting the exposed neck with a scarf alone can assist in maintaining our body temperature, and as the cold pathogens tend to be weak against heat, keeping the body warm is essential in preventing cold.

There is a saying in Oriental medicine that means “with sufficient healthy qi in our body, no bad pathogen can enter it.” Healthy qi can be regarded as our body’s natural immunity. To maintain it, we require good nutrition while avoiding too much mental and physical stress along with regular exercises. Also, during cold and flu season, it is best to avoid crowded places and wash the hands frequently prevent viral passages.