Treatment of Colds and Flu with Chinese Herbal Medicine

While conventional Western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine each have their own advantages, the treatment or prevention of colds and flu is one area where Chinese medicine is more sophisticated. This is especially true in years where the flu shot has low efficacy and the severity of the strain is severe. Of course, if someone is exhibiting especially severe symptoms, they should go to the emergency room. There are two broad strategies in Chinese medicine, with multiple sub-strategies. The first strategy is prevention by broadly strengthening immune function. This can be accomplished with herbal formulas that build the protective aspect of the body, with herbs like astragalus and ginseng. Some Western herbs like elderberry and eleuthero can also serve this purpose. The second strategy is treatment by dealing directly with the specific presentation of the illness. There are literally hundreds of traditional herb formulas that are tailored to treat a widely varying set of symptoms. If the illness is caught very early at the first sign of the illness, herbs can often act very quickly. If the illness has reached full severity, herbs can help reduce the severity of symptoms and shorten the course of the illness. A skilled herbalist will have hundreds of formula possibilities, rather than two or three standard remedies that they use in all cases. A skilled Western herbalist will also have a varied apothecary to address the various types of cold or flu. If you know an herbalist with skill, experience, and a large formulary, see them as soon as you notice any symptoms. The earlier you treat the flu, the more successful you will be. And, if you are surrounded by people with the flu, start using the protective strategy to strengthen your immune system.