Colds and Flus- bacterial and viral infections especially prevalent this time of year are diagnosed in Chinese medicine as a “Wind Invasion,” or “Cold Damage” (where Cold in this context can imply any of the “6 Pathogenic Factors”- Wind, Cold, Damp, Dry, Heat, and FIre. Wind Invasions are also differentially diagnosed as “Wind Cold,” “Wind-Heat,” and “Wind-Dryness.” The specific manifesting symptoms, as well as the tongue and radial pulse findings (traditional areas of diagnosis) determine the nature of the Wind Attack; Wind-Heat will have eg. high fever, agitation, sore throat, headache, sweating, a rapid pulse and a red tongue, whereas a Wind-Cold will have eg. chills, fatigue, body aches, no sweats, a slow pulse and a pale tongue.
In nearly all cases of Colds & Flus, nearly all types of “Wind Invasions,” the common issue at hand in early stages is the battle of the “Wei Qi”, our Defensive Energy (fueled by the “Zheng Qi”, or Righteous Qi, the primary indwelling source of Energy)- which is imaged to be at the surface, at the skin, and associated with the pores and at the head, throat and face- with the Wind Pathogen. This battle results very often in a disruption and weakening of our Defensive Energy, causing many of the skin/muscle, sweat/no sweat, and throat/ head symptoms, and is a scenario where the body needs to “Release the Exterior”, to cause a sweat response, to push the pathogen OUT and to rid the body of it and regain health.
To this end, for the vast majority of colds & flus, the appropriate self care measures involve stoking the fire, faming the flames of fever, and causing a sweat…Releasing the Exterior. Invoking a (non-exertional) sweat by means of spicy-hot diet and medicinals and frequent physical heat exposure such as hot baths or sauna, and bundling in too-warm clothing to promote a good sweat will in many cases help quickly ease symptoms and shorten the duration of the Bug.
Ginger, garlic, onion, hot peppers, horseradish, wasabi, kimchi, cinnamon, basil, cilantro, mint, Texas Pete®, Sriracha® and the like- in various combinations handily permitted by your pantry decocted in small water, or cooked with in liberal portions – to invoke a furious sweat… followed by that steamy bath (perhaps with some added Eucalyptus oil drops or ginger powder?) and sweatsuit/ afghan wrap-up, will go a long way towards helping you nip that Bug, or recover faster.
Yes to Vicks® Vap-O-Rub; No to dextromethorphan, aspirin, or Tylenol® – REMEMBER: we’re trying to stoke the flames, not put out the fire. Fever and heat are our natural, healthy responses to this Wind Invasion- so that we may battle effectively at our surface, and push the pathogen out!
Next time you feel the beginning tell-tale symptoms of a looming Bug, please remember to Sweat It Out.
Be Well, Boyd