03 93789479 [email protected]

Chinese Medicine for Cold and Flu Symptoms

treat cold flu with acupuncture Chinese medicine at Almond Wellness CentreCold and flu affect millions every year, causing fever, sore throats, congestion, fatigue, and more. Although colds are less severe than the flu, they can still make you feel miserable. Catching a cold can also be a sign of a weak immune system. And a cold can leave you vulnerable to more illnesses.

Cold and Flu Symptoms

Cold and flu are viral infections that affect the respiratory system. They share some common symptoms, but the flu is generally more severe than a cold. Common symptoms of cold and flu include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • Sneezing
  • Watery or irritated eyes
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting (more common in children)
  • Diarrhoea (more common in children)

Traditional Chinese Medicine’s View

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), cold and flu symptoms show weak defensive energy (Wei Qi). When Wei Qi is weak, external pathogens like Wind, Cold, Heat, Dampness, and Dryness can get into the body. This causes cold and flu to develop.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatment Principles

TCM treatment principles involve expelling pathogens and restoring normal Qi flow. Herbal formulas and acupuncture are used to eliminate pathogenic factors and promote a healthy flow of Qi. TCM also aims to harmonise Yin and Yang, and boost Wei Qi -the protective energy.

Individualised treatment is crucial in TCM, with a focus on each person’s unique constitution, symptoms, and underlying imbalances. Qualified TCM practitioners diagnose and prescribe the appropriate herbal formulas, acupuncture points, and lifestyle recommendations to manage cold and flu symptoms. TCM  complement conventional medical treatments for a comprehensive approach to tackling these conditions.

Benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers various therapies that may help improve cold and flu symptoms, and enhancing overall well-being. Some of the TCM treatments that may be beneficial include:

  1. Acupuncture: By stimulating specific points on the body with thin needles, acupuncture helps balance the body’s energy (Qi) and strengthens Wei Qi. It can relieve symptoms like headache, sore throat, and congestion.
  2. Cupping: Cupping involves placing cups on the skin to create suction, which helps improve blood circulation and relieve muscle tension. It is beneficial to muscle aches and body pains associated with cold and flu.
  3. Gua Sha: Gua Sha involves using a tool to gently scrape the skin, promoting blood flow and reducing inflammation. It can help with sore throat, body aches, and congestion.
  4. Moxibustion: Moxibustion involves burning a dried herb (mugwort) near acupuncture points to warm and stimulate them. It can be used to boost the body’s Qi and Wei Qi (defensive Qi). It may help to relieve  symptoms such as body aches and cough.
  5. Chinese herbal medicine: Chinese herbal medicine offers a wide range of herbal remedies that can help alleviate cold and flu symptoms. Herbal formulas are tailored to each individual’s specific condition and may include herbs with antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties.
  6. Herbal Teas: Drinking warm herbal teas, such as ginger or honeysuckle tea, can provide soothing relief for sore throat and promote sweating to help the body expel pathogens.
  7. Dietary Adjustments: TCM practitioners may recommend specific dietary adjustments during a cold or flu to support the body’s healing process and strengthen the immune system.

Yu Ping Feng San - Chinese herbal formula for strengthening immune system

Chinese Medicine Pattern Diagnosis and Herbal Treatment

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the treatment of cold and flu symptoms involves pattern diagnosis, which is based on identifying the specific imbalances or patterns of disharmony in the body’s energy (Qi) and its interactions with external pathogenic factors. Each pattern corresponds to a set of symptoms and signs that guide the TCM practitioner in selecting appropriate treatment strategies, including herbal remedies and acupuncture points. Here are some common patterns and their corresponding treatments for cold and flu symptoms:

1. Wind-Cold Invasion Pattern:

Symptoms: Sudden onset of chills, aversion to cold, headache, sneezing, clear runny nose, no sweating, and a white tongue coating.

Treatment: The focus is on expelling Wind and dispelling Cold. Treatment aim to promote sweating and release the exterior (Taiyang), expel the pathogens and restore normal Qi flow.

Herbal Formula: Ma Huang Tang (Ephedra Decoction) Key Herbs: Ma Huang (Ephedra), Gui Zhi (Cinnamon Twig), Xin Yi Hua (Magnolia Flower), Bai Shao (White Peony Root)

2. Wind-Heat Invasion Pattern:

Symptoms: Sudden onset of fever, aversion to heat, sore throat, cough with yellow or green phlegm, headache, and a red tongue with a yellow coating.

Treatment: The aim is to clear Heat and dispel Wind. Treatment aim to clear Heat and release the exterior (Taiyang), and address the Wind-Heat pathogens.

Herbal Formula: Yin Qiao San (Honeysuckle and Forsythia Powder) Key Herbs: Jin Yin Hua (Honeysuckle Flower), Lian Qiao (Forsythia Fruit), Bo He (Peppermint), Jie Geng (Platycodon Root)

3. Dampness-Cold Invasion Pattern:

Symptoms: Heavy sensation in the body, aversion to cold, headache, nasal congestion with thick, white or yellowish discharge, and a white, greasy tongue coating.

Treatment: The focus is on dispelling Dampness and warming the body. Treatment aim to promote Qi circulation and expel Dampness.

Herbal Formula: Ping Wei San (Calm the Stomach Powder) Key Herbs: Cang Zhu (Atractylodes Rhizome), Hou Po (Magnolia Bark), Bai Zhu (White Atractylodes), Chen Pi (Tangerine Peel)

4. Dampness-Heat Invasion Pattern:

Symptoms: Heavy sensation in the body, fever, aversion to heat, headache, nasal congestion with thick, yellow discharge, and a yellow, greasy tongue coating.

Treatment: The aim is to clear Heat and dispel Dampness. Treatment aim to promote Qi circulation, clear Heat, and transform Dampness.

Herbal Formula: Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San (Agastache Powder to Rectify the Qi) Key Herbs: Huo Xiang (Patchouli), Pei Lan (Eupatorium), Ge Gen (Kudzu Root), Bai Bian Dou (Hyacinth Bean)

5. Lung Qi Deficiency Pattern:

Symptoms: Persistent cough, weak voice, shortness of breath, fatigue, spontaneous sweating, and a pale tongue with a white coating.

Treatment: The focus is on tonifying Lung Qi and consolidating the exterior. Treatment aim to tonify Lung Qi and strengthen the body’s defensive Qi (Wei Qi).

Herbal Formula: Bu Fei Tang (Tonify the Lungs Decoction) Key Herbs: Ren Shen (Ginseng), Huang Qi (Astragalus Root), Bai Zhu (White Atractylodes), Dang Gui (Chinese Angelica)

6. Spleen Qi Deficiency Pattern:

Symptoms: Fatigue, loss of appetite, loose stools, and a pale tongue with a white coating.

Treatment: The aim is to tonify Spleen Qi and dispel Dampness. Treatment aim to strengthen the Spleen and promote Qi circulation.

Herbal Formula: Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (Tonify the Middle and Augment the Qi Decoction) Key Herbs: Huang Qi (Astragalus Root), Bai Zhu (White Atractylodes), Dang Shen (Codonopsis), Chen Pi (Tangerine Peel)

7. Lung-Heat or Lung-Dryness Pattern:

Symptoms: Dry cough with little or no phlegm, sore throat, dry mouth, thirst, and a red tongue with a thin coating.

Treatment: The focus is on clearing Lung Heat or nourishing Lung Yin. Treatment aim to clear Heat or moisten the Lungs.

Herbal Formula (Lung-Heat): Qing Fei Tang (Clear the Lungs Decoction) Key Herbs: Sang Ye (Mulberry Leaf), Ju Hua (Chrysanthemum Flower), Xing Ren (Apricot Seed), Jie Geng (Platycodon Root)

Herbal Formula (Lung-Dryness): Bai He Gu Jin Tang (Lily Bulb Decoction to Preserve the Metal) Key Herbs: Bai He (Lily Bulb), Mai Men Dong (Ophiopogon Root), Xuan Shen (Scrophularia), Jie Geng (Platycodon Root)

It’s important to note that these patterns may vary from person to person, and an individualised approach is essential in TCM treatment. At Almond Wellness Centre our fully qualified TCM practitioners will diagnose the specific pattern of disharmony and tailor the treatment plan accordingly. We may use a combination of Chinese medicine treatment including herbal remedies, acupuncture, cupping and lifestyle recommendations to address your cold and flu symptoms.

Choosing Holistic Care for Cold and Flu

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine provide drug-free and natural support to the body’s self-repairing, self-balancing, and healing system.These traditional therapies may help rebalance the body’s energy, relieve cold and flu symptoms and support natural healing processes. For personalised and effective treatment, it is essential to consult with a qualified TCM practitioner like us at Almond Wellness Centre Coburg clinic and Ringwood clinic.

More to read:

How to avoid cold and flu season

Hay fever


Lei Wang, Chinese herbs in treatment of influenza: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Respiratory Medicine, Volume 104, Issue 9, September 2010, Pages 1362-1369

Shengxian Wu,Traditional Chinese Medicine for the Common Cold: Evidence and Potential Mechanisms, The American Journal of Chinese Medicine. Vol. 51, No. 03, pp. 487-515 (2023)