The art of kicking a cold with Chinese Medicine
You wake up one morning with a scratchy throat and a slight pressure in one ear. You’re very tired, and your body feels stiff and sore all over. “Oh no,” you think, “I can’t afford to be sick right now!”
If you’re anything like me, this is a regular occurrence throughout the winter. And especially around the holidays, I've noticed that as soon as we stop work to prepare for a holiday, the cold creeps in. This not-quite-sick-yet state is actually something I personally find Chinese medicine seems to help reverse. In Chinese medical theory, symptoms of common cold are associated with patterns of disharmony that impact the Lung and Large Intestine channels and can ultimately impact the Lungs. This is consistent with the progression of the common cold in Western medicine, where it can create a window for opportunistic infections of the lungs such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
The goal in treating symptoms of common cold with Chinese medicine is to help the body push the pathogen out of the body quickly. Coughing, sneezing, sweating, and urinating are some of the main ways that acupuncturists aim to release pathogens from the body with acupuncture, cupping, gua sha, moxibustion, and nutritional advice.
So what does an acupuncturist do and recommend to push out a pathogen and relieve symptoms of common cold?
1) Open the “wind gate” and then keep it covered
“Wind is the spearhead of a thousand diseases.” This ancient saying in Chinese medicine refers to climactic factors that are considered to be causes of disease. Much in the same way that your guardian may have insisted you go out in a coat, hat, and scarf in the winter when you were a kid, Chinese medical practitioners recommend that you cover the nape of your neck and the back of your head, as there are points in these regions which are considered “points of entry” for wind, and which can conversely be used to release wind from the body.
When you’re coming down with something, you can massage along the base of your skull where your neck muscles meet the bone to stimulate these points. The red line is your midline, along your spine. The green lines are at the edge of the muscle that attaches to your skull and extends down your shoulders and back. The blue lines are mid-way between the center line and those muscle edges. Rather than pressing on the red line, focus your massage on the blue and green lines, right at the base of your skull (for most people, this is about 1.5 inches above their posterior hairline, where my fingers are in this picture).
Whether or not wind really is the cause of common cold, I’ve found that stimulating these points is associated with a less severe and quicker course of illness. Be sure to wear a scarf and hat to keep this region protected!
2) Treat symptoms using related acupuncture points
Sore Throat Pinch the corners of your thumb nail cuticles to help with sore throat.
Runny Nose and Congestion