Colds and the Flu — How to Avoid Catching Them

by John & Barbara Connor, M.Ac., L.Ac.

John and I hope that the following tips help prevent you from catching a cold or the flu; or if you already have one to minimize the discomfort and speed up the recovery process.

Prevention! We are all familiar with the expression: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!” So we feel the most important thing to do is to strengthen the immune system as much as possible so you can avoid catching the cold or the flu in the first place.

Avoid getting unduly stressed out, as stress can lower your immunity. 

Build up your immune system with proven herbs and supplements listed below.

Craniosacral acupuncture treatments help keep your immune system strong, especially during times of stress or change in seasons.

If you must be around persons who are suffering from cold and flu symptoms, wash your hands immediately after being with them.

Make sure you have a warm sweater, jacket, scarf and cap handy in case of sudden onset of cold temperatures whenever you go out.

CHINESE MEDICAL VIEW OF COLDS AND FLU

In Chinese medicine colds and flu are classified as invasions of exterior Wind which may manifest as Wind-Cold, Wind-Heat, Wind-Damp-Heat or Wind-Dry-Heat.  By far the most common types we see in our practice are Wind-Cold and Wind-Heat.The combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs is very effective in treating these types of exterior Wind invasions. 

Symptoms of exterior Wind Cold include aversion to cold, shivering, occipital headache and/or stiff neck, runny nose with white discharge, sneezing, possibly a cough and itchy throat, no sweating and slight or no fever. 

Symptoms of exterior Wind Heat include aversion to cold, shivering, fever, sore throat, swollen tonsils, headache and body aches, slight sweating, sneezing, cough and runny nose with yellow discharge.

According to the Five Elements the season of fall is Metal (Lungs) so it is also a good idea to strengthen your Lung energy at this time; which we can do through acupuncture, craniosacral and visceral work, herbs, diet and therapeutic exercises.

USEFUL FOODS

Eat much less food and use a more simple liquid-based diet.  Drink soups if chills predominate and drink vegetable or fruit juice if fever predominates.  Drink plenty of fluids, especially fresh juices, herbal teas, soups and quality water to prevent dehydration and help flush out the body.  Take hot chicken or turkey soup.  Add lemon and honey to the teas.  Avoid eating sugar and sugar-sweetened fruit juices.  Avoid dairy products as they can produce mucus.

Useful foods include cabbage with hearts, green peppers with their insides, parsley, carrots, broccoli, turnips, kuzu, parsnips*, horseradish*, scallions*, garlic*, lemon juice, grapefruit and most fruits.  Celery juice combined with a little lemon juice is a remedy for common cold when fever is more prominent than chills.

If chills predominate, use the herbs and foods marked with an asterisk *.  When fevers predominate, the other herbs and foods mentioned above are more effective.  If chills and fevers are of equal strength, any of the foods and herbs recommended above are helpful.  Once the exterior symptoms pass, then gradually introduce normal foods in order to build strength.

USEFUL HERBS AND NUTRIENTS

Andrographis can be used to treat symptoms of the common cold. In a double-blind placebo-controlled study158 persons with colds received 1200 mg daily of an andrographis extract (standardized to contain 5% andrographolide) or placebo for 4 days.  By day 2 of treatment, and even more, by day 4, persons given andrographis extract experienced significant improvements in symptoms compared to the placebo group.  The greatest response was seen in earache, sleeplessness, nasal drainage and sore throat. (Caceres et al, 1999)

Andrographis can be used for prevention of the common cold.  A 3-month, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 107 persons found that prophylactic treatment with andrographis at the low dose of 200 mg/day significantly reduced the risk of infection. (Caceres et al, 1997)

Coriolus versicolor – boosts immune cell production (Alt Med Rev. 2000).

Echinacea — We found many functional immune assays were affected by Echinacea preparations, suggesting that Echinacea not only stimulates innate immunity, but also enhances adaptive immunity. (Zhai et al 2007) 

Echinacea — The results demonstrate that Echinacea, Astragalus and Glycyrrhiza herbal tinctures stimulated immune cells as quantified by CD69 expression on CD4 and CD8 T cells. This activation took place within 24 h of ingestion, and continued for at least 7 days. In addition, these three herbs had an additive effect on CD69 expression when used in combination. (Brush et al 2006)

Echinacea significantly reduced the length of the upper respiratory tract infection. (Dorn et al, 1997)

Echinacea was found effective at reducing the duration and severity of recent-onset respiratory infection. (Lindemuth et al, 2000)

Echinacea — Individuals with recent onset of a respiratory infection showed significant benefit from Echinacea. (Brinkeborn et al, 1999)

Echinacea resulted in a statistically significant decrease in progression to a “real cold” in the treated group as compared to the placebo group, as well as symptomatic benefit in individuals that did develop colds. (Hoheisel et al, 1997)

Garlic –  In a study done on garlic those who received garlic were almost two-thirds less likely to develop upper respiratory infections than those who received placebo.  Furthermore, participants who did develop an upper respiratory infection recovered about one day faster tin the garlic group as compared to the placebo group. (Morcos & Camilo, 2001)

Ginseng – A double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 227 persons using 100 mg daily of Panax ginseng showed a statistically significant decline in the frequency of colds and flus in the treated group as compared to the placebo group from week 4 to 12. Antibody titers and measure of NK cell activity were also higher in the treated group.  All participants received flu vaccine. (Scaglione et al, 1996)

Propolis – Propolis activated macrophages to stimulate interferon (IFN)-gamma production in association with the secondary activation of T-lymphocytes, resulting in a decrease in IgG and IgM production. Cytokines released from macrophages in mouse peripheral blood after Propolis administration activated helper T-cells to proliferate. In addition, activated macrophages in association with the secondary T-lymphocyte activation increased IFN-gamma production and stimulated proliferation of cytotoxic T-cells and suppressor T-cells, indicating the activation of cell-mediated immune responses. (Takagi et al 2005)

Sambucol, a product containing elderberry flower as well as small amounts of echinacea and bee propolis, was shown in a preliminary double-blind study to reduce the recovery time from a particular strain of epidemic influenza by almost one-half. (Zakay-Rones et al 1995)

Vitamin D – is crucial to activating our immune defenses. Without sufficient intake of the vitamin, the killer cells of the immune system — T cells — are not be able to react to and fight off serious infections in the body. For T cells to detect and kill foreign pathogens such as clumps of bacteria or viruses, the cells must first be ‘triggered’ into action and ‘transform’ from inactive and harmless immune cells into killer cells that are primed to seek out and destroy all traces of a foreign pathogen. It was found that the T cells rely on vitamin D in order to activate and they would remain dormant, ‘naïve’ to the possibility of threat if vitamin D is lacking in the blood. (von Essen et al 2010)

NUTRITIONAL AND HERBAL IMMUNO-NUTRIENTS:

  1. Angelica sinensis – administration of a combination of Angelica sinensis, Ganoderma tsugae, Codonopsis pilosula and rose geranium to patients receiving chemotherapy/radiotherapy may have the capacity to delay, or ease, the reduction in levels of leucocytes and neutrophils that are experienced by patients during cancer treatment. (Zhuang et al 2011) 
  2. Ashwaganda – Total extracts of and alkaloid-free polar fractions of Withania somnifera resulted in protection towards cyclophosphamide-induced myelo- and immuno-suppression as evidenced by significant increase in white cell counts and humagglutinating and hemolytic antibody titers. (Diwanay et al 2004) 
  3. Astragalus polysaccharides (APS) – might induce the differentiation of splenic dendritic cells (DCs) to CD11c(high)CD45RB(low) DCs followed by shifting of Th2 to Th1 with enhancement of T lymphocyte immune function in vitro. Also, the effect of APS on T-cell differentiation to Th1 was not associated with the inhibition of IL-10 production in CD11c(low)CD45RB(high) DCs.(Liu et al 2011)  
  4. Codonopsis – Administration of a combination of Angelica sinensis, Ganoderma tsugae, Codonopsis pilosula and rose geranium to patients receiving chemotherapy/radiotherapy may have the capacity to delay, or ease, the reduction in levels of leucocytes and neutrophils that are experienced by patients during cancer treatment. (Zhuang et al 2011)
  5. Coriolus versicolor – boosts immune cell production (Alt Med Rev. 2000). 
  6. Echinacea – We found many functional immune assays were affected by Echinacea preparations, suggesting that Echinacea not only stimulates innate immunity, but also enhances adaptive immunity. (Zhai et al 2007) The results demonstrate that Echinacea, Astragalus and Glycyrrhiza herbal tinctures stimulated immune cells as quantified by CD69 expression on CD4 and CD8 T cells. This activation took place within 24 h of ingestion, and continued for at least 7 days. In addition, these three herbs had an additive effect on CD69 expression when used in combination. (Brush et al 2006) 
  7. Echinacea, Rhodiola, Ginseng – In this review we try to find out if the most common herbal supplements (Echinacea, Rhodiola, Ginseng) are effective in the improvement of performance or in the modulation of the immune system. According to the results of our review, the prevalent effect is adaptogenic rather than ergogenic, with a better tolerance of the exercise induced stress, related to enhancement of the whole immune system and decrease of the oxidative damage. (Amico et al 2013)
  8. L-Arginine – Meta-analysis showed that the L-arginine supplement group had a significantly greater CD4⁺ T-cell proliferation response, and that the incidence of infectious complications was lower than control. (Kang et al 2014)
  9. Lactoferrin – is a natural forming iron-binding glycoprotein with antibacterial, antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic effects. Lactoferrin also has the capacity to induce apoptosis and inhibit proliferation in cancer cells as well as restore white and red blood cell levels after chemotherapy. (Gibbons et al 2011)
  10. Poke root – activates macrophages in hepto-splenic hyperplasia. (Zhang 1993) 
  11. Propolis – Propolis activated macrophages to stimulate interferon (IFN)-gamma production in association with the secondary activation of T-lymphocytes, resulting in a decrease in IgG and IgM production. Cytokines released from macrophages in mouse peripheral blood after Propolis administration activated helper T-cells to proliferate. In addition, activated macrophages in association with the secondary T-lymphocyte activation increased IFN-gamma production and stimulated proliferation of cytotoxic T-cells and suppressor T-cells, indicating the activation of cell-mediated immune responses. (Takagi et al 2005)  
  12. Vitamin D – is crucial to activating our immune defenses. Without sufficient intake of the vitamin, the killer cells of the immune system — T cells — are not be able to react to and fight off serious infections in the body. For T cells to detect and kill foreign pathogens such as clumps of bacteria or viruses, the cells must first be ‘triggered’ into action and ‘transform’ from inactive and harmless immune cells into killer cells that are primed to seek out and destroy all traces of a foreign pathogen. It was found that the T cells rely on vitamin D in order to activate and they would remain dormant, ‘naïve’ to the possibility of threat if vitamin D is lacking in the blood. (von Essen et al 2010)

OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS

If you have the flu, sleep and rest as much as possible.  If you have a common cold, remain as active as possible – moving around helps to loosen built-up mucus and fluids.  Wash your hands often and refrain from close contact with loved ones to avoid spreading the viruses.

Other Nutrients:  Vitamin C fights cold viruses and strengthens the immune system.  Zinc lozenges boost the immune system.  Vitamins A, C, and E, Selenium and Zinc are useful.  Vitamin A helps heal inflamed mucous membranes and strengthens the immune system.  Echinacea, ginger, pau d’arco, slippery elm and yarrow tea are good for the flu. Grapefruit seed extract is also useful in the case of flu.  

Sweating therapy is beneficial.  It is, however, contraindicated if one is weak or emaciated.  To sweat, drink hot diaphoretic herbal tea, take a hot bath, drink more tea, then cover in blankets and sweat.  Do not sweat to the point of exhaustion.  After sweating, change damp bedding and rest.  If necessary, sweating can be repeated twice daily until exterior signs lift.

Lemon & Lime:  Their antiseptic, anti-microbial, and mucus-resolving actions make them useful during colds, flu and hacking coughs.  The robust person in need of their properties can tolerate nine to twelve lemons daily. 

Be Patient:  Do not expect immediate relief.  In fact, the cold symptoms may temporarily worsen because natural healing methods assist the body in healing itself rather than suppressing the symptoms.

REFERENCES

Balch, James F., M.D., Balch, Phyllis A., C.N.C., Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Garden City Park: Avery Publishing Group, 1997

Bratman, Steven, MD & Andrea M. Girman, MD MPH, Mosby’s Handbook of Herbs and Supplements and their Therapeutic Uses, St Louis: Mosby, 2003

Maciocia, Giovanni, The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, Edinburgh: Churchill Livingston, 1989

Maciocia, Giovanni, The Practice of Chinese Medicine, Edinburgh: Churchill Livingston, 1994

Pitchford, Paul, Healing with Whole Foods, Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1993

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Compassionate Acupuncture and Healing Arts, providing craniosacral acupuncture, herbal and nutritional medicine in Durham, North Carolina. Phone number 919-309-7753.

This entry was posted in acupuncture, acute conditions, colds, craniosacral acupuncture, dietary recommendations, flu, herbal medicine, inflammation, inflammatory conditions, nutritional medicine, respiratory conditions, stress, Traditional Chinese Medicine and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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