Photo by drbimages/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by drbimages/iStock / Getty Images

I am sure by now most of you here in the US have been reading, if not hearing on the radio, or even dealt with it like myself!! — the epidemic nature of the flu and other viral respiratory infection season we’re having here in the US.  Here in California, it’s hitting us hard big time.  News of hours-long wait in the ER, of medicine not being able to meet the demands, of hospitals building emergency tents to accommodate the overflow of patients seeking care. I have even read of news asking people to stay home and not come to the ER or urgent care if one is suffering from the flu, except if they are having trouble breathing or rest has not alleviated the symptoms after several days, or has worsened even after several days. This is because with conventional medical care, all they can advice is indeed rest, hydration and more rest for flu patients, unless one can catch the flu in the first 2 days to administer Tamiflu, an antiviral. But that is it, as far as I understand, for care that conventional medicine can provide unless hospitalization is required.

In contrast, in Chinese medicine, we have a centuries-tested whole plethora of herbal medicine specifically for upper respiratory conditions (but for other conditions, too!). The Chinese built an impressive knowledge of herbs and their usage to treat their citizens literally over centuries because there was no other medicine until the advent of conventional medicine until about 150 years ago. Flus, epidemics, pneumonia, bronchitis, and the gamut of upper respiratory conditions though, have existed for as long as humans have existed, and the Chinese treated these conditions very effectively using herbs and acupuncture – and continue to do so to this day.  

Another benefit of Chinese herbs are that because they are made by combining several different herbs together to achieve a synergistic effect for a specific condition, you get none of the problems associated with antibiotic usage, such as decimation of gut microbiome or creation of antibacterial-resistant strains since many antibiotics are prescribed as a broad-spectrum drug to kill all bacteria.  And that’s the other problem.  Antibiotics don’t work for viral infections, but  flu infections are caused by viruses.  The right Chinese herbs prescribed by a trained Chinese herbalist/acupuncturist will protect the gut microbiome, kill viruses or bacteria and help you recover faster.  There is definitely a time and a place for antibiotics, especially if the condition has become severe and/or life-threatening, but if you are an average healthy person, you can have a gentler yet effective approach to combat the flu and other infections, so why not try Chinese herbs first?  

We have herbs to boost immune first and foremost so you don’t get sick.  But we also have antiviral and antibacterial herbs and formulas to prescribe for the onset of a cold or flu to stop it before it becomes worse (a classic formula for this is Gan Mao Ling or Yin Qiao San, which every home should have in their medicine cabinet!), during a cold/flu to alleviate the symptoms and shorten the course, and post cold/flu for faster recovery. We have herbs for difficulty breathing, for fevers, for chills, for sinus congestions, for headaches, for sweating, for lack of sweating, for body aches, for stomach flus, for fatigue, for dizziness/low appetite/constipation/diarrhea associated with these infections, for rashes and skin disorders that can erupt with infections, for flares of asthma, for wheezing, for incessant runny noses, for sinus pain, for seizures (particularly a concern for infants and children) associated with fevers, for joint pain, for tight neck/shoulders, for coughs wet/dry/barking/painful, for chest pain, for vomiting that comes from too much coughing, for urinary dribbling that can happen if coughing has become excessive, for laryngitis, throat pain, dry throat, for strep, for edema/swelling. And the list goes on.

When you come in to see an acupuncturist, we take all your symptoms into consideration and will then precisely prescribe herbs to address all the symptoms you have so that you can start to feel relief quickly. We don’t have a one-size fits all medicine, like Tamiflu, but a highly sophisticated knowledge and encyclopedia of herbs to quickly, effectively and uniquely address your unique flu/upper respiratory infection and your unique constitution.

As you start to take antimicrobial Chinese herbs, your symptoms start to shift as well b/c of the effect they have on the infection, and we have herbs for that too. You will be prescribed anywhere from one to four or so different prescriptions as the infection runs its course to address the natural shift that happens as the infections starts to be killed by the herbs and your body fights it and starts to heal from it.  This way,  you (or your child) aren’t left with that dry cough, or that runny nose, or that fatigue that often happens at the recovery stage (Xiao Chai Hu Tang can be a good one to take at this stage).  When this lingers, in our medicine, we know there is latency left in the body, making you susceptible to yet another infection, or re-emergence of the same infection b/c it was not eradicated completely.  What this means is that we acupuncturists deeply understand disease progression and therefore can hold your hand as you overcome the infection through herbs, acupuncture and diet. 

We also make sure you recover fully with tonic herb prescriptions so that your immunity is now even stronger having exercised it greatly through the infection.  As part of our training, we will also provide dietary suggestions to support your health through the infection and recovery stage as we are highly trained in Food As Medicine, and certain exercises to do at home in the recovery stage to further strengthen your lungs and immune system. Now that’s patient-centered whole health care!

Given this year’s flu vaccine purportedly only has a 10-30% effective rate, it’s imperative you fill the immunity gap with self care and being savvy by utilizing acupuncture and herbs to protect yourself and your family.  Find an acupuncturist or Chinese herbalist near you and ask for an herbal consult.  I offer these and am well stocked with all the necessary herbs to deal with this year’s tough cold/flu season!

Some specific tips for this year’s virulent flu and other flu-like viral infections:  A severe sore throat is one of the predominant symptoms.  For this, consider taking Chuan Xin Kan Lian Kan tablets from a reputable American-manufactured Chinese herbal supplier.  You can also gargle with a lemon juice-salt-water mixture every 2-3 hours at the onset of the sore throat.  Make the mixture as sour and salty as possible mixed with a little water, and gargle at least 3-5 times each time.  Make sure to rinse just your teeth afterwards (don’t let the water touch your throat) so that the enamel doesn’t dissolve from the lemon juice.  Don’t drink any liquids after gargling for at least 30 minutes to allow the effects of the gargle penetrate deep into the infection.  Oregano Oil is also a good natural remedy to take as it’s known as a natural antibiotic and will enhance the effects of the Chinese herbs.  You can continue to take Oregano Oil or Gan Mao Ling in smaller doses through the cold/flu season as a preventative as this year’s infections are having a latency effect where you think you’ve beat it, but it returns again if you’re tired or under a lot of stress.  Please stay on top of it and allow yourself plenty of rest and sleep to keep your body as strong as possible.  Don’t forget to take your Vitamin C, D and Zinc as well to boost your immune system.

Here are other natural and home remedies you can use to help you and your loved ones through this cold/flu season.

Disclaimer: The information here and on the Iyashi Wellness website in general is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice. It is intended as a sharing of knowledge and information. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based upon your research and in partnership with qualified health care professionals. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.