there a cure for the common cold? Not yet, either here or in China.
But Chinese medicine offers an effective way of treating the common
cold, one that dramatically reduces its duration and severity.
If a cold is treated in its initial stage--when one is just starting
to feel out-of-sorts--an acupuncture treatment and dose of herbs can
stop the cold from progressing, and the person should feel fine in
about a day, provided he or she has a normally functioning immune system.
If, however, treatment isn't received right away, then the cold will
have to pass through its normal stages. In this case, acupuncture and
herbal medicine will support the immune system in such a way that the
progression will occur with much less discomfort.
term "common cold" is actually a misnomer. There are, in fact, different
kinds of colds with different symptoms. In order to understand how
Chinese medicine explains the common cold, we must realize it is a
system of energy medicine.
the ancient Chinese, everything in the universe is a manifestation
of energy, called qi. According to Chinese medicine, the symptoms of
the common cold appear when there is a struggle between the "correct"
qi of the body and "pathogenic" qi. The effect of pathogenic qi on
the body was described metaphorically in terms derived from nature.
medical books describe six types of pathogenic qi--wind, heat, cold,
dampness, dryness and summer heat. The first three are most important
for understanding the common cold. The clinical manifestations of the
pathogenic factors mimic the actions of their counterparts in nature.
Wind arises quickly and changes rapidly. It moves swiftly, blows intermittently,
and sways the tops of trees. In the body, it creates symptoms that
come on suddenly, change rapidly, move from place to place, and affect
the top of the body first. Wind carries things in nature, such as leaves
or dust, and in Chinese medicine, it is often the vehicle through which
cold and heat invade the body.
cold combines with wind, a person will have chills and fever, but the
chills will predominate. There may be sneezing, cough, and runny nose
with white, watery mucus. When heat combines with wind, there will
also be chills and fever, but the fever will predominate. The throat
will most likely be red and sore, and mucus will be thicker due to
the drying action of heat.
Often, a cold will start as a wind-cold invasion and then will transform
into wind-heat within a couple of days, though it may also begin as
wind-heat. If allowed to progress, both of these conditions may transform
into another presentation, called phlegm-heat in the lungs, which is
characterized by coughing and the copious production of thick yellow
sputum. At other times, wind may combine with dampness and affect the
stomach, causing a stomach flu with vomiting and diarrhea.
medicine is very precise in its treatments and requires different herbal
formulas and acupuncture point combinations for each condition or stage
of infection. Modern science has taught us that viruses are responsible
for the common cold, though the strength of the immune system certainly
must be considered as well.
The discovery of viruses as causative agents in disease was a rather
recent event in the history of science. Ancient systems of medicine,
such as Ayurveda, Unani, Tibetan and Chinese medicine, had developed
different concepts for explaining disease. In spite of the fact that
these medical systems evolved before man developed a technology that
allowed him to extend his senses into microscopic realms, their treatments
of disease are often remarkably effective, a fact sometimes corroborated
by modern science.
has shown, for example, that acupuncture enhances the functioning of
the immune system, increasing cellular and humoral immunity. Certain
Chinese herbs from the clean toxin category have demonstrated an inhibitory
effect on viral replication in vitro and appear to have a similar effect
in the body, though the exact mechanism of their action is not well
understood. Their effect extends to many viral diseases other than
the common colds, such as Hepatitis A, herpes simplex, HIV, Epstein-Barr
infection, and chicken pox. Other herbs, called "adaptogens," strengthen
the immune system so that it is more difficult for a viral infection
to become established.
In the language of Chinese medicine, if the qi of the body is strong,
it is much more difficult for pathogenic factors to get a foothold.
Hence, Chinese medicine can be used preventively, which is particularly
good news for those of us who catch colds frequently.
Steve Phillips has
studied acupuncture, herbal medicine and therapeutic massage at Southwest
Acupuncture College in Santa Fe, New Mexico, at the Pacific College
of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, California, and at Zhejiang College
of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Hangjou, China. He is a licensed
practitioner in California and has over 15 years of clinical experience.
traditional and modern techniques of acupuncture therapy. For thousands
of years, acupuncture has been used to balance and refine what the
Chinese call chi, or vital energy of the body, and to harmonize it
with the biorhythms of the universe. The ancient Chinese realized that
the world is an organic whole and that health results when man is in
harmony with the forces of nature. Steve brings this ancient wisdom
into modern practice, adapting it to the needs of the modern world.
His philosophy is to treat the whole person, not just symptoms of disease.
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