Cold and Flu season is coming. Are you one of the people who have wondered why you always seem to get sick and someone else you know never does? We are all breathing in germs all the time so why is it that you can’t seem to fight them off. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that this is determined by how weak or strong your defense system.  

In some respects the understanding of TCM to colds and flu is similar to that of Western medicine. For example, both systems agree that colds and flus occur from an external pathogen entering the body. However within a TCM paradigm, the causes may be understood within the context of the individual’s constitution, aka their immune system. Fundamentally, there must be some weakness (e.g. immune deficiency) for a pathogen to invade. Anything that weakens one’s resistance (overwork, not sleeping, eating poorly, etc.) can weaken one’s immune system and allow a pathogen to attack and enter, causing dis-ease.

While most people get the flu shot, it typically only protects you 30% of the time that means odds are you are going to get sick unless you prevent it. The first line of defense is to build your immune system and if that doesn’t work then comes treatment.

TCM Treatment methods follow two paths; prevention and treatment.

To Stay Well:

Knowing how to keep your immune system strong, even during the heart of cold and flu season, will be the best tool for staying well. 


Your diet plays a key role in your immune function. Because the immune system starts in the gut, eating lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and proteins will keep your body and immune system strong. Probiotics are also an important part of the diet, which you can get through fermented foods, such as kombucha, or by taking a supplement to balance healthy gut flora, which play a critical role in keeping our immune systems strong. Sugar and junk food actually weaken your immune system since they provide no nutrients, so avoid them as much as possible.


Along with improving your diet, sleep is as much of a basic need as food or water. The immune system relies on sleep to stay strong. Studies have shown that even just 1 night of missed sleep can reduce elements of your immune system function by 25%. 


Finally, incorporating Vitamin D and probiotics into your daily routine is a great way to maintain a strong immune system that will be ready to fight any germs that enter the body. To ward off viruses you can also take Lysine to prevent or on the onset of sickness and extra Vitamin C.

Reduce Stress 

Stress suppresses the body's immune system making it more difficult for the body to ward off bacteria and viruses.Researchers point out that stress is not the cause of all,  rather people under stress are more likely to catch colds when exposed to an illness.

Make sure that you are incorporating gently exercise, such as yoga and walking or meditation to help you relax especially when under severe stress.

To Get Well:

If you do get sick, the best thing to do is to act quickly. In TCM we believe there are 2 categories for the cold/flu so the first thing to do is figure out which one you fall under so you know how to treat it.

TCM categories cold and flu symptoms into two groups:

Wind Heat is characterized by a sore throat, a stuffy nose with yellow mucus, accompanied by a fever, sweating, and thirst. To recover from a wind heat, try peppermint or chrysanthemum tea and avoid adding heat to the body by reducing coffee, spices, red meat, sugar, and dairy.

Wind Cold is characterized by a scratchy throat and stuffy nose with clear runny mucus, body aches, sneezing, lack of sweat, possible headache, and a fever with predominating chills. To recover from a wind cold, incorporate ginger or cinnamon into your food or tea, avoid overly chilled foods, raw vegetables (steamed or baked is best), ice cubes, ice cream, and dairy.

For both try eating lots of soups and stews and stay away from sugar and dairy which can increase mucus.


Most important is adequate rest. This will allow the body to direct full energetic resources to the immune system. One mistake some people make is to work out too quickly after they recover and then set themselves back again. Remember to give your body a couple of extra days after feeling well before doing any strenuous exercise. 


Use humidifiers to avoid drying out nasal passages and your throat. Humidifiers help to loosen phlegm and ease sore throat symptoms.

Essential oils, like thieves, lemon, and eucalyptus are great for strengthening the immune system, diffuse them throughout the house or add a few drops to a bath or shower.

Take Zinc, extra Vitamin C and Elderberry cough syrup.


Acupuncture, gua sha and cupping greatly assist the body in healing, and we always recommend to our patients to make an appointment at the onset of a cold/flu in order to kick it out of your system quickly.

The more proactive you are about your health, the easier it will be to avoid or heal from an illness.