Strategies for Respiratory Health During Cold and Flu Season
Redmon, M.S., L.Ac. Dipl. Ac.,C.H
shots may afford many a sense of security this time of year.
Those with a mind toward holistic and preventive health, however, can
easily see that many more genuine and effective measures can be taken to protect
ourselves, families and loved ones.
herbal remedies are superior to vaccinations and remedial antibiotic or
steroidal medications. Not only are
they less likely to be vulnerable to widespread resistance that these drugs have
managed to foster in the last half century or so, herbs afford much greater
symptomatic relief once an illness takes hold.
Please note that not just Oriental medical pharmacopeias can boast this:
most acute upper respiratory illness can be effectively managed with plant
agents and dietary therapy found within close proximity to the homes of most
Americans. In addition to our local herbal traditions, application of and
reliance on medicinal plants by millions of Chinese people can reassure us in a
culture dominated by a fear of lost productivity and secondary infections.
As always, education is vital in the process of empowerment. There are individuals such as the elderly, immuno-compromised and chronically or acutely ill that can benefit from the diagnostics and heroic measures of Western drug therapy. We all suffer, though, from a public health standpoint when these standards of care are applied to people across the board, whether to children or healthy adults. Abuse of drugs applied to children is by far the more serious of these threats, one which I feel is already playing out as a public health disaster.
respiratory diseases like asthma and emphysema are at an all time high, not to
mention the rise of antibiotic resistant bacteria strains.
No public dialogue exists regarding immune system enhancement and
preventive measures to keep lung health strong.
Action exists only after the fact.
promoters of wellness and prevention of disease, we know that patterns of
defensive (wei qi) or lung
qi deficiency can be detected far before clinically relevant findings can be
made by mainstream medicine. It is time is to educate ourselves and others about
protecting the wei qi: we need this
shoring-up now more than ever, as it can protect us from countless dread
diseases, not just a “little cold”.
us discuss bolstering of lung vital energy and prevention of disease
before remedial treatment. The
heritage of Oriental medicine teaches the cruciality of tonification and
prevention as the superior path in medicine. Several steps precede herbal
treatment in this capacity.
diet and lifestyle are primary. Ample
sleep and exercise are prime examples of golden, yet free therapies.
I think that at least seven uninterrupted hours of sleep in a peaceful and
harmonious (including feng shui,
family harmony, cleanliness et al.) space is imperative.
This also includes being in sync with the earth’s yin-yang
rhythms: as diurnal animals, “shift work” can be very injurious to the qi. Exercise is a broad term, and should be tailored to an
individual’s constitution. Getting
the qi and blood to circulate in a
healthy way is key. The goal should
be to grow qi and blood rather than to
exhaust it in weekend-warrior or iron-man fashion.
is a fabulous time for food. The
glorious harvest happens to yield many foods that nourish the lung
and defensive qi. Most important among these are winter squashes, root vegetables,
rich-colored cruciferous vegetables, apples and pears.
Alliums, including onions, leeks and garlic round this picture out.
These foods actually strengthen the lung
and spleen qi, enhance immunity,
reduce major disease risk, and decongest the system to prevent or alleviate
phlegm conditions. Phlegm blocks
the circulation of qi in the
respiratory tract and can harbor pathogens that can increase the chance of
infection and stall the healing process.
the cooking methods we crave this time of year potentiates the effectiveness of
these foods. Soups, stews, baking
and roasting increase the purifying and nutrifying impact of these foods
respectively. Common herbal libations like peppermint, nettle, linden, elder and
plantain provide important minerals and lung-nourishing functions.
and grains prepared with the addition of astragalus, seaweeds or dried shiitake
are deeply nourishing. Don’t fret
about exact amounts and dosing—just get started and throw some in to taste.
is fundamental whether or not we are sick, and replacing a couple glasses of
water or juice with simple herbal infusions is a great idea.
Bear in mind that it is not necessary to drown oneself with water:
Oriental tradition dictates the more rational approach of sipping warm liquids
throughout the day rather than gulping down concentrated drinks with meals.
Drowning ourselves with a set number of ounces a day regardless of constitution,
especially with our commonly damp
conditions, is a dogmatic Western mistake.
our best intentions, lung disharmonies
do arise: the lungs are conceptualized as the leaves of a tree, and the
“delicate organ”. They are the yin
organ most intimate with the outside world and thus most vulnerable to the six
evils: heat, cold, wind, dampness, dryness and fire. Most every
respiratory malady can be attributed to one or more of these factors.
other pathologies besides the six evils
are clinically common: the two I see most often are lung qi damaged by sadness, particularly grief.
This pattern can manifest differently for different people, but it is
helpful to consider if a lung malady occurs in association with bereavement, as
healing from this involves proper emotional or psychological support.
Another problem is an improper diet that is too cold, wet and congesting
(read ice cream float) that can also precipitate lung disharmonies over time.
qi or lung qi deficiency is the
backdrop to many of the pre-and proceeding mentioned conditions, so seasonal
support with lung tonics like astragalus (huang
qi), ginseng (ren shen or xi yang shen),
cordyceps (dong xiao chong cha), and
the formula Jade Windscreen (Yu ping feng
san) is particularly important. In fact, it can prevent many of the
subsequently discussed problems.
will cover some sample formulas that address several common lung pathologies. I
urge you to visit a licensed herbalist (Dipl. C.H.) to experience the power of a
formula customized to your exact diagnosis and constitution, especially if rapid
relief is not experienced with an off-the-shelf patent medicine.
You can also talk to a licensed herbalist about a therapeutic dosage for
patent medicines, which are frequently underdosed.
is a common cold or flu. Traditionally wind-cold preceeds this, but is less
common clinically. This situation
is a window of opportunity: with the proper herbs and behavior including rest
and guarding exposure to the wind, people can evade sickness. Herbs employed
here open up the surface of the body (releasing the exterior) in order to expel
wind and heat evils. Formulas like Yin
qiao san do this, but also contain herbs to treat sore throat, headache,
chest congestion and to prevent secondary infections.
A timeless, elegant mixture!
in the lungs
is a situation that has penetrated the exterior protective layer or wei
qi and taken hold as an interior condition. This is usually diagnosed in
Western medicine as influenza, pneumonia or acute bronchitis.
Heat and phlegm can morph
together as dual evils and create a challenging opponent for herbs. An entire
category of the pharmacopeia is devoted to alleviating hot
phlegm. The signature formula here is Qing
qi hua tan tang, which means clear the qi
level (an acute stage of Classical Wen
bing, or heat disease) and transform phlegm decoction.
These herbs enter the lungs, clear and expectorate phlegm, reduce fevers and subdue rebellious
lung qi, which is akin to stopping cough and wheezing.
condition can be caused by several things: most common is a sequelae of a wind-heat
type of infection that has damaged lung qi
and yin resulting in a nagging dry
cough and throat, often with sticky and difficult to expectorate phlegm.
It can also be equated with more chronic problems like a smoker’s
cough, tuberculosis and even, I imagine, some forms of lung cancer. The formula Qing
zao jiu fei tang contains a special group of herbs that lubricate, cool and
transform phlegm. The idea here is
to replace old, dry, sticky phlegm with soothing and beneficial moisture to
in the lungs
wet, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or some types of
congestive heart failure are the Western interpretations of this syndrome.
Of all the colorful Chinese descriptions of symptoms we learned in
school, this is a favorite: “Chicken singing in the throat”. Presumably, windy,
cold, damp phlegm can accumulate in one’s throat and create a chicken-like
wheezy, choking sound. I think that pretty much sums it up.
Herbs used here not only expel wind
and dampness, but often have warming
qualities which assist in drying and
transforming cold phlegm.
chen tang with modifications is the simple and trusty solution with its
four-ingredient elegance. Aged
tangerine peel warms and emulsifies phlegm with the rest of the ingredients, and
energy to prevent more phlegm from being created.
acquainted with the energetics of food,
essential oils, acupoints and common herbal beverage teas can be a great way to
assist these formulas. These measures can help in giving ease once you have an
idea of the nature of your lung ailment. Do
some research on the eight parameters: try to ask questions like, do you have a
hot or cold condition? Does your
situation need to be lubricated, or dried out? What agents such as food or spices can you use to counter
this evil? Of course, a qualified
practitioner can take the guesswork out of this equation and make many helpful
suggestions. Try to learn more
gradually from these encounters, and you may gain confidence to help yourself
through the challenges of this season, leaving more time to enjoy the beautiful
and constantly changing cycles of nature.
John K. & Tina T. Chinese
Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. Art of Medicine Press. City
of Industry: 2004.
Henry C. Chinese System of
Natural Cures. Sterling
Publishing Company. New York:
Giovanni. The Practice of Chinese Medicine. Churchill Livingstone.
Paul. Healing With Whole Foods:
Oriental Traditional and Modern Nutrition.
North Atlantic Books. Berkeley:
Laurel studied Chinese Medicine, including Acupuncture and Herbology at The American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco. Her study of Herbalism was conducted over a period of sixteen years, four of which she spent living in Hong Kong, participating in the founding of Cheryl’s Herbs. She has studied with international leaders in Chinese and Western Herbalism, as well as aromatherapy and mycology. She has taught classes on subjects from cooking to pulse diagnosis, and written for and edited herb and aromatherapy books. She lives and works on an herb farm in the Baraboo Hills, and maintains a practice and herb shop in Madison. Her Red Sage Classical Chinese Herb Formulas are available exclusively through Cheryl's Herbs.
© 2012 Cheryl's Herbs. All Rights Reserved.