We all know that scratchy metallic taste in the back of the throat that snaps you out of the daily routine and makes you wonder, “am I getting sick?” Sometimes it is a few sneezes in quick succession, the ones that have a feeling of fever behind them, that make you think about cancelling the evening’s activities and getting some extra rest. We all have some of signal that breaks through our day-to-day habituated routine, and makes us realize we might have just caught this season’s “bug.”
They say there is no cure for the common cold. That particular strain of rhinovirus moves too fast. It mutates faster than a St. Louis barometer change. Vaccines and flu shots are an educated guess at an ever-moving target, so there is always a certain vulnerability to this season’s cold (oddly enough most cold’s have a fever—so why do we call it cold anyway?) And while Chinese medicine does not have any magical cures for a full-blown cold or flu, it does have the ability to help you sidestep or vastly shorten the amount of time you are entertaining that particular pathogen. But if, and only if, you catch it at the initial outset.
Just like plucking a weed– a tiny bit of effort is needed when it first shows its un-rooted sprout. Once it has roots and runners it becomes a tangled complication.
If you can get yourself an acupuncture treatment within a few hours of noticing the feeling of “I might be getting sick,” then we likely can pluck that sprout before it blooms into days of fever and chills.
If you cannot get in, there are still a few things you can do that are vastly helpful.
The first is brew up a syrupy strong decoction of cinnamon and ginger tea. Drink it down, crawl under a light blanket, close your eyes for 20-40 minutes and allow your body a bit of time to rest and issue forth a light sweat. After sweating, DO NOT allow yourself to be exposed to wind or cold. Your normal energy and feeling of well-being should return within a few hours. Please note: if you take a couple hours to rest, get the therapeutic sweat, and then rest a bit more, you can save yourself days of downtime. Drinking this tea and carrying on with your regular day, even if you get the sweat, will not help in resolving the cold.
The second method is to apply enough pressure the point #4 of the Large Intestine channel– aka the “Tiger’s Mouth,” to cause a slight whole body sweat. This point is famously effective for everything from headache, to nausea, to frustration that makes you want to pound on the walls, to constipation—and yes, the common the cold. The caveat being you have to massage this point, massage it in the place where it is most tender, until it makes you break a sweat. While it is not particularly pleasant, if at very beginning stage of a cold you can stimulate this point to the point of causing a sweat, then the cold that was chasing you will in most instances will pass you by.
Should you by pass this initial “coming down with a cold” phase and end up with the full-blown illness. Then the usual advice of “fluids and rest” holds true. Most colds resolve on their own in 5-7 days. Should you have lingering symptoms afterwards, then Chinese herbs are quite helpful. But, during the middle phase a cold or flu, the thing to do is rest, and allow your system to work it out.
Of course, the best thing is to stop it in the early stages!