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In some respects, Chinese medicine’s fundamental understanding is no different than Western medicine. For example, both systems agree that colds and flus occur from an external pathogen entering the body. However within a Chinese medicine paradigm, this etiology must be understood within the context of the individual’s constitution.

Fundamentally, there must be some weakness (e.g. immune deficiency) for a pathogen to invade. Anything that weakens one’s resistance (overwork, not sleeping, eating poorly, etc.) can weaken one’s immune system and allow a pathogen to attack and enter, causing disease.

Self-treatment for the Common Cold

Of course for optimal treatment it is best to consult your Chinese medicine practitioner at the first signs of a cold. If this is not possible, and you are a generally healthy individual, getting the initial stages of a common cold, there are a couple things you can do.

Signs and Symptoms include:

Mild headache, aversion to wind, mild chills, scratchy throat, and slight runny nose.


  • Miso soup with lots of spring onions
  • Ginger tea – bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add three slices of fresh ginger, and simmer for 15 minutes. After drinking either one of these, one should bundle up, creating a mild sweat, and rest.
  • Take Chinese herbal pills such as “Yin Qiao Wan” from the clinic.
  • Rest Rest Rest; avoid taking too many showers and baths. Do not go into work and give it to everyone.
  • Get cooking and make some immune boosting Chicken soup by Theresa Cutter “The health chef”.


  • 10 cloves garlic, smashed (approx 1 whole bulb)
  • 2 tablespoon finely grated ginger
  • 4 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 litre water 500 g free range / organic chicken breast, cut into chunks
  • 2 bunches coriander, chopped
  • 4 cup mirin or rice wine (optional but delicious)
  • 3 tablespoons tamari soy sauce

Combine the garlic, turmeric, ginger, stock, water and chicken into a large pot.

Simmer for 5 – 10 minutes over a low heat until chicken is cooked through and flavours have infused into the stock.

Add mirin, tamari and coriander just before serving.

Serve in large bowls and sip slowly.


If your symptoms are much different than above, for example, you feel hot, thirsty, have a severe sore throat, severe headache, severe chills, etc. then this approach is inappropriate and you should seek additional treatment strategies.

More to read:

How do acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine help cold and flu?