Post-Cold and Flu Support: A Complementary Approach.

(Organ names in Chinese medicine differ from Western medicine’s understanding).​

As the cold and flu season comes to an end, many of us may still experience lingering symptoms. Western medicine offers pharmaceuticals for symptom management, but it is worthwhile to explore complementary approaches to support our recovery. Chinese medicine has been practiced for thousands of years and offers a unique understanding of the body’s energy, or Qi, and its relationship to the environment. In this article, we will discuss the Western biomedical understanding of post-cold and flu symptoms and explore the Chinese medical theory and approach to managing these symptoms.

Western Biomedical Understanding

When we get sick, our immune system fights the infection. After the infection is gone, our body may still have residual symptoms, such as coughing, congestion, fatigue, and body aches. These symptoms can last from a few days to several weeks or even months, depending on the severity of the infection and the individual’s immune response. Western medicine offers pharmaceuticals such as pain relievers, decongestants, and cough suppressants to manage these symptoms. It is important to seek the advice of a Western doctor before taking any medication.

Chinese Medical Theory and Approach

In Chinese medicine, post-cold and flu symptoms are understood as an imbalance in the body’s energy, or Qi. The body’s organs play a crucial role in maintaining the balance of Qi, and when this balance is disrupted, symptoms arise. Chinese medicine considers the body as a whole, and the organs are interdependent and work together to maintain balance. The organs are classified into Zang and Fu organs, which are solid and hollow organs, respectively. The Zang organs store Qi and Blood, while the Fu organs regulate digestion and elimination.

Five Elements

The Five Elements theory is a fundamental concept in Chinese medicine. It describes the relationships between the body’s organs, emotions, and the environment. Each element, Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water, is associated with specific organs and emotions. For example, the Wood element is associated with the Liver and Gallbladder organs and the emotion of anger. The Five Elements theory offers a framework for understanding the body’s imbalances and their relationship to the environment.

Channel Therapy

Channel therapy is another essential concept in Chinese medicine. The body has a network of channels or meridians that run through it, carrying Qi and Blood. Each channel is associated with specific organs and has acupuncture points along its path. Acupuncture is a technique that involves inserting needles into these points to regulate the flow of Qi and Blood. Channel therapy is effective in managing post-cold and flu symptoms such as coughing, congestion, and body aches.

Qi and Blood

Qi and Blood are the two essential substances in Chinese medicine. Qi is the body’s energy, while Blood nourishes the organs and tissues. When Qi and Blood are deficient or stagnant, symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, and dizziness may arise. Acupuncture, herbal medicine, and dietary therapy are effective in regulating Qi and Blood.

Shan Han Lun and Wen Bing

Shan Han Lun and Wen Bing are two classical Chinese medical textsdating back 3,000-5,000 years that describe the diagnosis and treatment of cold and flu-like illnesses. These texts offer a unique understanding of the body’s imbalances and provide effective treatment strategies based on the individual’s symptoms, with specific herbal remedies and even specific herbal adjustments for every stage and step along the way as symptoms change over time.

Latent Pathogen Approach

The Latent Pathogen approach is a modern Chinese medical concept that describes the lingering effects of viral infections. This approach considers the body’s immune response to the virus and the impact of the environment on the body’s energy. The Latent Pathogen approach offers effective treatment strategies that focus on first releasing the pathogen that may be lingering within the system and then boosting the immune system and regulating the body’s energy.

In TCM, the treatment approach for post-cold and flu symptoms focuses on restoring balance to the body and addressing the root cause of the symptoms. The underlying principles of TCM include the balance of Qi (life force energy), Yin and Yang, and the harmony of the Zang Fu organs.

According to TCM, the respiratory system is associated with the Lung (TCM-Lung) organ, which is responsible for the regulation of Qi and respiration. The Spleen (TCM-Spleen) organ is also important in the treatment of post-cold and flu symptoms, as it is responsible for transforming food into Qi and blood. The Spleen (in TCM) is responsible for digestion and when not in balance may create the underlying dampness- phlegm that may overwhealm the Lung. Additionally, the Kidney (TCM-Kidney) organ is involved in the production of Qi and plays a role in immune function.

One of the key concepts in TCM is the idea of the “Wind-Cold” or “Wind-Heat” pathogen, which is believed to cause many common cold and flu symptoms. Wind-Cold pathogen tends to cause symptoms such as chills, aversion to cold, a runny nose with clear or white mucus, and a cough with clear or white phlegm. Wind-Heat pathogen, on the other hand, tends to cause symptoms such as fever, sweating, sore throat, a dry cough with yellow or green phlegm, and a runny nose with yellow or green mucus. Treatment approaches in TCM may differ depending on the type of pathogen involved.

TCM treatment options for post-cold and flu symptoms may include acupuncture, herbal medicine, cupping, and dietary therapy. Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles into specific points on the body to restore balance and promote healing. Herbal medicine may be used to strengthen the body’s immune system and address specific symptoms. Cupping involves the use of suction cups to promote blood flow and reduce muscle tension. Dietary therapy may involve the consumption of warm and nourishing foods to support the body’s energy and immune function.

​It is important to note that TCM should not be seen as a substitute for Western medical treatment, but rather as a complementary approach to managing symptoms and promoting overall health and well-being. Individuals with post-cold and flu symptoms should seek the advice of a qualified Western medical professional, particularly if symptoms are severe or persist for an extended period of time.

​Individuals with post-cold and flu symptoms may benefit from a complementary approach to management, incorporating both Western and TCM treatment options. It is important to seek the advice of qualified professionals in both Western and TCM medical fields to ensure safe and effective treatment. By working together, Western and TCM medical practitioners can provide comprehensive and holistic care for individuals experiencing post-cold and flu symptoms.


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