Southwest Austin and Blanco Acupuncture

Chinese Herbal Medicine for the Common Cold

In Chinese Herbal Medicine we have a concept of cold disease. Did you know that Chinese Herbal formulas can treat the common cold? Not only can Chinese Herbs treat the common cold, but also prevent the cold from becoming worse if treated in time.

Yesterday I patient came to see me and he said “It’s really cold out there, but it’s like a cold cold.”  I’m sure a lot of you felt it too! We chatted about flu vaccines and colds. He wanted to know about Chinese Herbal Medicines and how they can prevent colds.

Patients have been requesting Chinese herbal formulas to put in their medicine cabinet for when they catch a cold later. It doesn’t quite work that way because Chinese Herbal Medicine  treats various types of colds. If you have the wrong formulas it could make your cold worse. The best thing to do is strengthen your immunity through your lifestyle habits. American culture bombards us with sugary treats and alcohol through the holiday season…Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve, and Valentine’s Day. My advice is simple and always the same.

Stay away from the sugar, nourish with whole foods that are warming, conserve your energy by doing restful activities during the winter and go to bed early. (Sounds super boring, I know. I’m just the messenger here…)

Okay…back to Chinese Herbs…

I’ve started teaching my patients the first symptoms they need to look out for which is body aches and a stiff neck,  aversion to cold such as wanting to stay wrapped and warm. This is when the ‘cold’ is in Taiyang. The formula prescribed might be Gui Zhi Tang. At home choose recipes with ginger or drink ginger tea. (See below for a soup recipe).

  • The cold can turn into heat symptoms quickly and then suddenly there is a sore throat, mild fever and irritability. We call this Wind Heat. The formula prescribed might be Yin Qiao San. (Note some stores sell this formulas over the counter. Do not take it if you do not have heat symptoms.)
  • If the cold is not resolved it may move into the lung system. Symptoms are cough and/or a runny nose. If there is cough with mucus or without. It’s important to know the color of the mucus too. There are numerous Chinese Herbal Formulas to choose from.
  • Then there is the Shaoyang type of cold where one feels hot and then they feel cold. Yet again, another formula is prescribed for this type of cold.
  • Some of the patterns are mixed and in that case the Chinese Herbal formulas are modified so the patient has a custom formula.

I hope I’ve convinced you the power of Chinese Herbal Medicine and to make an appointment today!


Enjoy the recipes. It’s very hearty and filling!

 EatingWell Test Kitchen
“This satisfying vegetarian, sweet potato soup is inspired by the flavors of West African peanut soup. We like the added zip of hot green chiles, but they can sometimes be very spicy. It’s best to take a small bite first and add them to taste. Try chopped peanuts and scallions for a different garnish. Serve with a mixed green salad with vinaigrette. Recipe by Nancy Baggett for EatingWell.”


    • 2 large sweet potatoes (10-12 ounces each)
    • 1 tablespoon canola oil
    • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
    • 1 large clove garlic, minced
    • 3 cups reduced-sodium tomato-vegetable juice blend or tomato juice
    • 1 4-ounce can diced green chiles, preferably hot, drained
    • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
    • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
    • 1 15-ounce can vegetable broth
    • ½ cup smooth natural peanut butter
    • Freshly ground pepper to taste
    • Chopped fresh cilantro leaves for garnish


  • 1Prick sweet potatoes in several places with a fork. Microwave on High until just cooked through, 7 to 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  • 2Meanwhile, heat oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until it just begins to brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Add garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Stir in juice, green chiles, ginger and allspice. Adjust the heat so the mixture boils gently; cook for 10 minutes.
  • 3Meanwhile, peel the sweet potatoes and chop into bite-size pieces. Add half to the pot. Place the other half in a food processor or blender along with broth and peanut butter. Puree until completely smooth. Add the puree to the pot and stir well to combine. Thin the bisque with water, if desired. Season with pepper. Heat until hot. Garnish with cilantro, if desired.
  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. Thin with water before reheating, if desired.

One thought on “Chinese Herbal Medicine for the Common Cold

  1. Thom Pfeil

    I’m a medical doctor (MD) and get exposed to coughs and colds frequently this time of year. Several weeks ago I saw Drea for the beginnings of a cold with body aches and sore throat. She did an acupuncture treatment and prescribed several herbs. Within 3 days I was back to normal! The key is early assessment and treatment. I’ve practiced Western medicine for 20 years and have found Traditional Chinese Medicine to be complementary, and often effective in treating conditions Western medicine has less to offer for. Having Drea as part of my health care team has definitely enhanced my overall well being.

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