Best Herbs for the Common Cold

Learn about how to avoid and treat colds using the power of natural herbs.

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In  Western Medicine, we know that the common cold is caused by a virus but in Chinese Medicine, the attention is focussed on why, at particular times, your body’s immune system is not capable of dealing with these viruses. Understanding and treating what causes these weaknesses in the state of your health rather than the virus itself is the aim of the Chinese Medical approach.

According to CM (Chinese Medicine) theory, the external pathogen which can invade your body and cause this weakness is usually termed WIND which may sound like a very vague term but Chinese Medicine discusses illness in terms of broader patterns linked to nature. Wind invasion, much like in nature, causes ‘climactic disturbance’ and movement in the body and can imbalance the system to leave you susceptible to virus infection.

We are thought to be especially susceptible to wind invasion during season changes and especially weaker around the top of our spine and feet (so be sure to wear socks and scarves when out and about in cold and windy weather). Other ways to prevent colds according to CM include a good diet without too much damp producing foods like Dairy and Sugar, adequate sleep, controlling stress and drinking plenty of warm tisanes and tea!

In CM theory, wind invasion can lead to different kinds of Colds and Flu’s.

WIND-COLD

This is usually how a cold starts and is characterised by the following symptoms:

  • Chills and shivering
  • Aversion to wind and cold in general
  • Lack of thirst
  • Lack of sweating
  • Cough
  • Stiff necks and occipital headaches
  • Runny nose with clear or white discharge

WIND-HEAT

If the infection develops then the body will often move to this type of cold or it may manifest in this way from the beginning. Wind-Heat is characterised by the following symptoms:

  • Feverish with hot and cold body reactions
  • Thirsty with a dry mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Some sweating
  • Cough
  • Headaches
  • Red skin and spots
  • Runny or blocked nose with a yellow or green discharge

It may sound gross but the colour of the phlegm or discharge is the easiest way to figure out if you are suffering from WIND-COLD or WIND-HEAT. It is beneficial to understand which kind of cold you are suffering from since this dictates which herbs will be the most effective for you.

In general (this is a simplification but worth remembering), if you are suffering from WIND-COLD then it best to take WARMING herbs and if you have a WIND-HEAT condition then it is better to take soothing and cooling herbs.

WARMING HERBS

These are best for those suffering from WIND-COLD conditions.

CINNAMON or CASSIA - Rou Gui or Gui Zhi

Powerfully warming herb which expels pathogens, fortifies Yang energy and eliminates colds. Shown to have anti-oxidant, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory properties.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4003790/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9177302

FRESH GINGER - Sheng Jiang

Warming and spicy herb which disperses cold. Shown to have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-nausea properties.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/e1de/37039c978707046bb9a1ecd3f6638d58932b.pdf

ORANGE PEEL - Chen Pi

A  warming herb which dries dampness in the body – especially good for colds with a lot of discharge and feeling of heaviness and bloating. Shown to have anti-septic, anti-inflammatory and expectorant properties.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1658077X16300960

BLACK PEPPER - Hei Hu Jiao

Spicy herb to expel colds, warm the interior. Shown to be a decongestant and rich in therapeutic Piperine.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20828313

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6832079

NEUTRAL HERBS

These can be taken no matter which type of cold is manifesting.

BALLOON FLOWER ROOT - Jie Geng

Can ease coughs by dilating bronchial vessels and thin phlegm. Shown to be an anti-inflammatory.

https://bmccomplementalternmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6882-12-173

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4103729/

LIQUORICE - Gan Cao

Dispels toxicity and calms coughs. Shown to have anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/228473512_Research_and_application_of_Radix_Glycyrrhizae

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20209894

COOLING HERBS

These are best for those suffering from WIND-HEAT conditions.

BOAT STERCULIA – Pang Da Hai

Cooling and soothing herbs which can relieve sore throats, dry coughs and headaches. Shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-ulcer, anti-pyretic and anti-microbial properties.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30322606

HONEYSUCKLE – Jin Yin Hua

Cooling floral tisan great for sore throats, chesty coughs, prickly heat and fever. Shown to possess wide pharmacological actions, such as anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidative and hepatoprotective activities. Prevents influenza virus from replicating - even tested on swine and bird flu and considered for Ebola.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21864666

https://www.sciencealert.com/honeysuckle-tea-can-treat-influenza-a-viruses-and-possibly-ebola

https://www.nature.com/articles/cr2014130

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1304839?dopt=Abstract

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3577469/

CHRYSANTHEMUM - Ju Hua

Cooling and soothing herb for headaches, red eyes, fever and sore throats. Shown to have anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0023643899905480

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1818087615000768

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17263495

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22982394

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10212384

CREEPING LILY TURF ROOT - Mai Men Dong

Slightly cooling herb excellent for dry coughs. Shown to have anti-pyretic, anti-tussive, expectorant, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

https://examine.com/supplements/ophiopogon-japonicus/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22626747

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/292185801_Ophiopogon_japonicus-A_phytochemical_ethnomedicinal_and_pharmacological_review

SOME RECIPES

For those suffering from WIND-COLD, we recommend a warming drink. Crush or grind the following ingredients and then cover with water and bring to the boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes. The amounts can be tailored to your preferences and you can reinfuse the same herbs a few times.

  • Cinnamon or Cassia
  • Black Pepper
  • Liquorice Root
  • Dried Orange Peel
  • Fresh Ginger
  • OPTIONAL: add a little dark tea like Black, Dark Oolong or Ripe PuErh. This will add some flavour and a little caffeine to give energy.

For those suffering from WIND-HEAT, we recommend a soothing drink. Crush or grind the following ingredients and then cover with water and bring to the boil and simmer for 5-10 minutes. The amounts can be tailored to your preferences and you can reinfuse the same herbs a few times. ALTERNATIVELY, you can purchase our ‘Winter Rescue’ blend which already contains all of these herbs ground up for easy brewing.

  • Honeysuckle Flowers
  • Chrysanthemum Flowers
  • Boat Sterculia Seed
  • Balloon Flower Root
  • Creeping Lily Turf Root
  • Liquorice Root

For more information about the Chinese Medical approach to different conditions please visit the AcuMedic Clinic website.

We think you’ll love:

Mai Men Dong - Tuber Ophiopogonis Japonici

Said to replenish vital essence and to promote the secretion of body fluids. May help relieve dry coughs, dry throats and dry stools.

Huang Ju Hua - Chrysanthemum morifolium

Cooling and calming tisane to drink by itself or blend with dark teas like PuErh. Sherbet sweets and floral meadow air.

Jin Yin Hua - Lonicera japonica

A very popular flower used in Chinese Medicine for its anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Taste of custard powder, buttercups and fresh reams of paper.

The perfect way to store your tea. Stackable tins which have been designed to keep your tea organised easily.

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