Home / Chinese Medicine Effective for Cold and Flu

Are you coming down with a cold or the flu? These two terms, cold and flu, are often used interchangeably for people suffering from either of the two. However, these two are distinct illnesses which take different courses as they progress. In their study about the two respiratory conditions, Heikkinen T et.al (2003) describe the common cold as a viral infection that affects the upper parts of the respiratory tract. The viral infection is self-limiting, and affects the nose, pharynx, sinuses and larynx.

The common cold is spread in two ways such as direct and indirect hand contact with emissions from infected persons. It is also spread by air such that healthy persons can become sick through exposure to aerosol of the virus or secretions. The flu is more virulent than the common cold and will be felt soon after infection. Acute symptoms of the illness may go on for seven to ten days while fatigue and weakness may persist for weeks.

Though they may be different in the way the affect the body, the two have one thing in common; both of them are treated in a way that eases the symptoms. Being more active than the other, influenza symptoms are likely to persist even after treatment with medicine that targets the virus. Even so, such medicines do reduce the period of time when you are ill. Treatment helps a lot in making the illnesses subside, but prevention proves to be the best way to go.

What’s the difference?

The common cold is mild and often remains so through the period of infection. People with the flu experience more severe symptoms and are visibly sicker than people with the common cold. Older people with a weaker immune system experience more severe symptoms when attacked by the flu.

Prevalence in the American population

Cold and flu have a large impact on the society in general. An average of 5% to 20% of the U.S population catches the flu each year. Cases of infection rise by 12% during the flu season. Among those affected 7%-17%, are adults who seek medical care. 33% of children affected by the two see a doctor (Fendrick AM et.al – 2003).


The two conditions have many overlapping symptoms, which is often confusing to patients during the first few days of illness. People with flu or a cold may experience achy joints, fever, headache and a runny or stuffy nose. Other symptoms include.

  • Severe dry cough
  • Joint and muscle pain all through the body (arthralgia and myalgia)
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever

Children and babies often experience other symptoms like bowel trouble, nausea or vomiting.


The common cold can be caused by many types of viruses, but the most well-known cause are rhinoviruses. The virus enters the body through the eyes, nose or mouth. The cold virus is spread through the air when you sneeze, cough or talk. It can also be caught through sharing objects contaminated by the virus or touching the nose, eyes or mouth after hand-to-hand contact exposes you to the virus.

Viruses are much smaller than bacteria and can quickly spread once in the body. The body’s response to this rapidly occurring infection is slower. The immune system takes some time to produce antibodies to combat the infection.

Flu viruses have been identified by the hundreds and belong to different groups. The most dangerous among these are the influenza A and influenza B viruses. People who have been affected by one type of virus become immune to it once the illness is gone.

Western treatments for common colds and flu

Cold and flu are often self-diagnosed by patients who then treat the illness using home remedies and concoctions made from herbs. There is no pharmacological drug that can cure all types of cold viruses and shorten the duration of illness. However, several medications can be used to alleviate the symptoms.

Painkilling drugs such as acetaminophen (paracetamol) and ibuprofen can be used to alleviate the symptoms of colds and flu. Patients also use nasal sprays to clear blockage when symptoms persist. Products with zinc and vitamin C also work effectively in treating the symptoms of colds and flu. Use of antibiotics is usually only recommended when other complications arise due to their side effects.

Chinese Traditional Medicine for common colds and flu

There are a lot of alternative treatments used for the treatment of common colds and flu. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are two with a lot of benefits. People mostly go for alternative treatments since pharmacological treatments only work to shorten the period of illness.

Brinkhaus B et al. (2008) have researched the effects of acupuncture with positive results. Their trial was done to demonstrate that acupuncture could be effective for treating symptoms of upper respiratory conditions such as body aches and tiredness. The results showed that those that used acupuncture at the onset of the illness healed significantly quicker than those that did not.

A randomized control trial done by Kawakita Ket al. (2004) was conducted as a multi-centered project; the first of its kind based on acupuncture research. Information collected from the trial was collected and analyzed, revealing positive results for the use of acupuncture in alleviating common colds and flu. Acupuncture was administered on various parts of the body, and once again, those that had acupuncture administered showed marked improvement over the control group that did not have acupuncture.

Another study investigated the effects of Echinacea, an herb grown primarily in North America, for the treatment of colds. Echinacea was seen to have a significant effect on the symptoms of common colds and flu. The study, carried out by Marlies Karsch-Völk et al. (2014) showed Echinacea had a positive effect on respiratory problems associated with cold and flu. Other herbs such as Chinese ginseng, and other Chinese herbal formulas, have also been tested showing similar results.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has real benefits as a preventive for cold and flu, as it boosts the immune system, and as an alternative to pharmacological medicines that have multiple side effects. The body of information on the use of Acupuncture in conjunction with Chinese herbs for treating common colds and flu is growing as researchers realize just how positive the findings have been, and how much more research is needed to prove to the general public just how safe and effective it can be for preventing and treating cold and flu.

The practitioners at Boca Raton Acupuncture have had much success preventing and treating cold and flu and are determined to educate their patients and the public on the efficacy and safety of this form of alternative medicine.

Call today to schedule a free consultation to learn more.