This post is inspired by my patients who need guidance to treat their colds and flu effectively with a holistic approach. It makes me sad when I hear folks have been sick for days or weeks, without help. There are natural things you can do and take safely, that can help tremendously.
In my home, we have a joke that no adult is allowed to get sick. The second that one us feels like we are catching a bug, we start taking potent remedies. We also use nasal rinses and rest as much as possible. In most cases, we “nip” the bug so that it never has a chance to take hold. In other cases, we simply shorten the duration, so that we aren’t down as long.
The combination of Chinese and Functional Medicine offers natural treatment that works: time-tested herbal remedies PLUS immune-boosting vitamins and minerals. In fact, this combined approach tends to work far better for colds and flu than conventional medicine’s drugs that mask symptoms, and antibiotics that don’t work for viral infections. Plus, drugs have unwanted side effects, and prolong the duration of your viral infection.
A caveat is that the sooner you start natural treatment, the more effective it will be. So you need to have the right products on hand. Wandering through a pharmacy or health food store already sick, trying to self-prescribe or asking store clerks to tell you what to do, is risky and not fun. Hopefully the guide I present here will help you stock up on the right things, that are high-quality and safe for adults. Of course, consult your practitioner(s) too!
Chinese medicine, the world’s oldest approach
Chinese formulas are my go-to in all cases of colds and flu. This herbal tradition has an incredibly long, complex, and rich history in the treatment of colds and flu. The medicinals have antimicrobial properties (anti-viral, bacterial and/or fungal). They also have immune-regulating properties. Each herbal formula is an intricate design, one that pays attention to the temperature and properties of the individual herbs, and how they work in concert as a formula.
In both Functional and Chinese Medicine, we practitioners do not treat every person the same. We assess the nuances of your cold or flu, as well as your illness history, your constitution, your other conditions, and the strength of your immune system.
With an individual consult (long-distance or in-person) we can tailor your protocol specifically to you. The strength of your immune system compared to the strength of the infection guides your treatment. We also determine the temperature of the infection, where it lies in your body according to area and depth, and if there is dryness, phlegm, or moisture.
At an in-person visit, the addition of acupuncture will help speed up your recovery process. Please don’t cancel acupuncture if you have a cold or flu (unless you cannot leave your home), instead, schedule acupuncture!
Contemporary Western Functional Medicine adds our knowledge of vitamins and minerals that are well-researched to strengthen your immune system’s ability to fight colds and flu.
Not everyone can have a personal consult, or an acupuncture treatment, for each cold and flu onset. Therefore, I provide a general protocol here, one that is safe for adults with any type of cold or flu. This general protocol is an excellent foundation that works amazingly well for most people.
This protocol works best with immediate application. You should have the basics in your medicine cabinet and refrigerator so that you can begin as soon as you feel you are coming down with a bug. I also include recommendations for individual patterns and symptoms. If your situation is complex (see “seek medical attention” titles under common cold and flu/influenza sections below), please see a medical provider!
My general kick-ass cold and flu protocol
Please email us for our dispensary password, if you don’t have it. The general protocol is available as 2 different packages, or as single ingredients. You can also get these ingredients elsewhere; however, I cannot vouch for other brands.
Days 1 – 3
Often symptoms resolve in 1 to 3 days. Continue the suggestions below from Day 4 until you feel perfectly well, or up to 10 days. Beyond 10 days please seek professional advice!
Days 4 – 10, or all better
Additions to the general protocol
• RUNNY NOSE, CONGESTED NOSE, POST-NASAL DRIP ADD Bi Yan Pian, same dosage as Gan Mao Ling above, at the same time.
• EVERYONE CAN BENEFIT FROM THE USE OF Xlear nasal pump, to keep nasal and sinus passages clear and uninfected, 1-2 pumps in each nostril, 2-3 times per day.
• IF AN ANTIBIOTIC IS NEEDED, SUCH AS WHEN INFECTION ENTERS LUNGS AND BECOMES BACTERIAL, ADD Dragon Pearls, INSTEAD OF Gan Mao Ling, 3 capsules, 3 times daily.
• SORE THROAT OR SREPT THROAT ADD Biocidin Throat Spray.
• SWOLLEN LYMPH GLANDS, SORE THROAT, POSSIBLE NEED FOR ANTIBIOTICS, ADD Antiphlogistic Antibiotic, same dosage as Gan Mao Ling above, at the same time.
• IF LUNGS ARE AFFECTED OR WITH HISTORY OF LUNGS BEING AFFECTED, ADD Clear Air, same dosage as Gan Mao Ling above, at the same time.
Later, I will circle around to provide protocols for kids, protocols for the prevention of colds and flus, and for allergies and chronic sinus congestion / infection. Allergies and sinus issues complicate colds and flus. In fact, you may not be sure if you have a cold or if your allergies are acting up.
Please continue to read more about signs and symptoms of the common cold and flu (influenza), and high risk populations who should seek help from a qualified practitioner.
Common cold details
The common cold is a viral infection of your nose and throat (upper respiratory tract, URI). According to Mayo clinic, most people recover from a common cold in a week or 10 days.
According to my clinical experience, it’s easily possible for healthy adults to get zero to one cold annually, and recovery can be one – three days!”
Symptoms usually appear one to three days after exposure to a cold-causing virus, and can include:
Runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, cough, congestion, slight body aches, mild headache, sneezing, low-grade fever, and generally feeling unwell (malaise).
The discharge from your nose may become thicker and yellow or green in color as a common cold runs its course. Contrary to popular belief, this is NOT an indication of a bacterial infection.
Seek medical attention if you have:
Fever greater than 101.3º F (38.5º C), fever lasting five days or more, fever that returns after a fever-free period, shortness of breath, wheezing, severe sore throat, headache or sinus pain.
Flu (influenza) details
Most people who have the flu have a mild illness and don’t need to see a doctor. Common symptoms include:
Fever above 100º F (38º C), cough or sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches, chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea (more common in children). Not everyone with the flu has a fever.
According to my clinical experience, healthy people often recover in one – seven days.”
Seek medical attention if you:
Are 65 years old or older, are pregnant or have given birth in the past two weeks, have chronic medical conditions (including asthma, emphysema, heart disease, diabetes, neuromuscular disease, and kidney, liver or blood disease), have a weakened immune system due to medications or HIV, are an American Indian or Alaska Native, have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or greater, or live in a long-term care facility.