Updated: Feb 16
Chinese Herbalism 101
The first set of herbs I learned in Chinese medicine school were the herbs that Release the Exterior. These are herbs that promote a light sweat, open the pores, and push out pathogens that are trying to get in from the outside.
We have an immune system that protects us like an army. In Chinese medicine, this is called our Wei Qi. If pathogenic invaders get past our initial defenses, a fight begins and we feel chills, fever, and tight muscles as a result.
Our prognosis depends on 1) the strength of the pathogen 2) the strength of our defenses 3) the strength of our deeper resources and 4) our internal environment and how hospitable it is to the pathogens.
We can’t control the strength of the pathogen, but we can use diet, exercise, meditation, acupuncture, herbs and supplements to make our defenses stronger and create an environment that, basically, grows flowers not weeds.
In order to give our army a hand in pushing out the invaders, we use herbs that open the pores and promote a light sweat in order to push them out. If we catch the pathogens at a superficial level, we can often avoid getting a full blown cold. Good news: some of the herbs are foods that you can find in any grocery store!
Early signs of a cold
If you notice the initial signs of a cold and act quickly, you have a good chance of not getting sick. The recipe I’m going to share with you is for a “wind-cold,” which is a common cold characterized by:
tight neck and shoulders
feeling cold and can’t seem to warm up
It is NOT for “wind-heat,” which typically shows up as a sore throat and fever (we have other herbs for that).
Simple Soup with Ginger and Green Onions
Cong Bai, or green onions, are a traditional remedy for the common cold. They are warming and promote a light sweat, which is necessary to get the cold out of your body. Ginger has similar abilities, and both foods are known to be anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory.
For a good healing sweat, try this recipe: 2 cups water 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped (dried powdered ginger has different properties and can’t be used as a substitute) 2 tablespoons white head of green onion, chopped
Bring the water to a boil. Add the ginger and scallion and simmer on low for 15 minutes. Drink it while it’s still plenty hot, and wrap up in something warm to facilitate a light sweat.
Miso Soup with Green Onions
Fermented soybean, like miso, is also used to treat early stage colds. Miso soup with green onions is therefore the perfect food to prevent a cold.
If you don’t want to cook, you can get miso soup from Japanese or sushi restaurant, requesting extra green onion. The white part of the onion is particularly healing.
More tips to stay healthy
Stay warm and bundled up
Keep your feet warm! Wear socks and slippers at home
Do a hot foot soak or hot bath before bed if you are feeling cold
Use a heating pad to warm up the foot of your bed before you get in
Avoid sugar, which feeds viruses and bacteria
Prioritize sleep. Go to bed early with a cup of tea, a heating pad, and a good book. Get cozy!
Eat your veggies, and avoid fried and processed foods
Get acupuncture and gua sha at the first sign of feeling run down
Get regular acupuncture and an herbal formula to strengthen your defenses and promote a healthy internal environment