Home / Taking A Needle to the Flu and Colds – In Place of a Shot

I wish that in the midst of the current onslaught of advertisements for this year’s flu and colds shot, there would be more said of alternative and complementary medicines.

The Flu is not new – Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) takes the care and treatment of flus and colds very seriously, for far more years than the approved Centers for Disease Control (CDC) flu vaccines have been around.   With all of the commercial hoopla surrounding the flu shot, with all of the debate and with all of the shouting from both sides, it’s easy to forget that the flu – and colds – have been successfully treated with complementary medicine for many years. It’s also easy to just follow the line to the counter without researching the success of the flu shot.

To be perfectly honest, it is a bit overwhelming to me that someone can get a flu shot almost anywhere – and it’s not just in doctors’ office. Flu shots are available at pharmacies, there are hourly public service announcements in local food stores offering you a $10.00 gift card or 10% off your total bill if you sign for and agree to let a Pharmacy Technician vaccinate you.

And if you do not want to get the flu shot – for whatever reason – you’re dismissed as some type of “New Age, hippie freak.”

I get text messages and emails telling me what I need to do for my health from people and organizations who know nothing of me, or of my health. The last flu shot I had was in 2010. In 2011, in what now seems to be a fortuitously planned hip replacement – and the resultant physical therapy – and so many other responsibilities – kept me from getting it.

In 2011, while recuperating at home, I was getting physical therapy and I did not get the flu.

Perhaps it was just another example of my blossoming relationship with the Universe, but up until that time, I got the flu shot every year, for over 20 years. And every year, I got the flu – and if I wasn’t missing work suffering chills and fevers in my bed – being told by my then general practitioner that “It could be much worse” – I was at work, battling a never-ending series of colds and sore throats that I simply put down to working in public education and seeing so many people in one day.

Sadly, I was still somewhat deaf to the Universe and was easily bullied by CDC talk about how deadly the flu could be for people over 55, I gave into fear and started back on them until last year. And, again, I was sick every year.

What made me stop?

Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture.

TCM teaches you to listen to your body. The reality is that no one likes to be sick. To me, even though I am retired and no longer missing work, being sick is a waste of time. However, TCM will teach you that getting sick is the body’s way of getting your attention – and that some behaviors have to change. It’s unfortunate that that there is so little mentioned or taught about how to keep one’s immune system strong.

There isn’t much discussion about balancing rest with activity, managing stress, keeping a positive attitude, refusing to fall victim to fears, the mind/body connection, practicing good hygiene, eating correct food and what nutritional supplements – let alone Chinese herbs – would benefit you.

There is, however, all of this in TCM and Acupuncture.

If you go online and Google “flu shots pros and cons” you will see many entries; the most appalling to me were the success statistics by year. Toward the end of every year, the CDC reports on the efficacy of the vaccine. To the best of my research, the last four years show the vaccine had a success rate only as high as 62%, but as low as 38%.

In his October 2016 article “What You May Know about the Flu Shot”, Brian Hooker, PH. D., further explains: “The percentages reported by the CDC are based on the ability to match the most prevalent strains of flu infections each year with flu “antigens” used in the yearly shot.

This does not take into account whether the flu shot actually confers any type of immunity to the patient. In fact, the Cochran Review in 2014 stated that flu vaccination ‘shows no appreciable effect on working days lost or hospitalization.’ Moreover, out of an average of 71 individuals receiving the flu shot, only one case of the flu was prevented.”

For those of you who, like me, are considered seniors and who may have received – as I did two weeks ago – a telephone call from your pharmacy informing you that your patient profile shows you to be eligible for a special “Senior Flu” shot – I would strongly recommend to you Dr. Hooker’s full paper.

And I would strongly encourage you to seek an authentic Chinese Medicine practitioner.

Compare the concept of a single, yearly CDC –approved vaccine for everyone with what Pauline Sok Vin Hwang wrote in her article, “Treating Colds, Flus, and Coughs with TCM: A Ridiculously Well-kept Secret” (2013): “One of the earliest TCM texts has over 397 sections and over 110 herbal prescriptions to treat flu and, fevers and colds.

Today we have acupuncture, herbal and even tuina (therapeutic massage) prescriptions for the many different types and stages of colds/flus/coughs and always take into account the individuals pre-existing state of health. These approaches go beyond simple symptomatic treatment, address the ‘whole picture’, and bring your body back into overall balance without side effects such as impaired digestion (a frequent result of antibiotic use.)”

There is not one flu, not one type of cold. Fevers are not bad. Do the research, find an authentic TCM practitioner and be treated as an individual. Holistic treatment can treat acute symptoms and be preventative at the same time.

Both Acupuncture and TCM have made a profound change in how I view my health. I no longer berate myself if I get sick. I understand that everyone has some underlying weakness in their immune system. It’s part of being human. These inherent – aka human – weaknesses can allow flu viruses the opportunity to enter the body and cause illness.

The Pacific College of Oriental Medicine Blog (2016) states that “while individual weaknesses differ from person to person, acupuncture has successfully boosted the immune system of many individuals, boosting some immune enhancing chemicals for up to three days after the acupuncture treatment.”

I am not a medical doctor, nor a scientist, nor a doctor of TCM. I can’t tell you whether you should get a flu shot or not. I can only make the decision for me, along with guidance from my TCM doctor. He has shown me that I am in charge of my health – that by making the “mind shift” as seeing food as medicine, understanding nutritional supplements, and teaching me to listen to what my body says is far better than taking a single shot, and hoping for the best.

Yes, it’s more work, but to coin a phrase, “I’m worth it”.




  • Google/WebMD
  • Brian S. Hooker, PH.D., “What You May Not Know About the Flu Shot”, October, 2016
  • Pauline Sok Yin Hwang, “Treating Colds, Flus and Coughs with TCM: A Ridiculously Well Kept Secret” in Care for Caregivers and Changemakers”, February 2013
  • Sophie Tang, L. Ac. “Treating Colds and Flus with Classical Chinese Medicine”. January, 2015
  • Pacifica College of Oriental Medicine Blog, January 2015