Photo By: Courtesy of Ted Ray
Fresh ginger, which is bright yellow inside, can ward off indigestion as well as cold and flu symptoms.
When I started acupuncture school in the fall of 1998, I knew very little about herbal medicine and mostly relied on my doctor’s advice for cold remedies. That quickly changed as I began experimenting with classical Chinese formulas for cold and flu – of which there are nearly 2,000.
I recall one particularly disgusting combination of fermented soybeans and green-onion stalks. This salty-spicy “tea” was designed to help you sweat away the cold.
Fortunately, many excellent herbal remedies now come in pill form. Following are a few I prescribe for patients during cold and flu season. It’s important to note that these remedies work better if taken at the proper time and at the correct dosage.
If you have any questions about how to take a specific remedy, it’s always a good idea to consult your local herbalist or nutritionist. Many health food stores have very knowledgeable employees on hand to offer assistance.
1. Gan Mao Ling (Mayway)
Key uses: Early-stage cold with runny nose, sneezing; use at first sign of cold.
Where to buy: Health food store; health-care practitioner’s office.
Dosage: 4-6 pills every 3 hours for first 2 days; then 4-6 pills 3 times per day for 2-3 days.
The skinny: Gan Mao Ling is what’s called a “patent formula,” meaning a tried-and-true remedy used for millennia in Chinese medicine. It employs antiviral and antibacterial herbs along with herbs for allergy, runny nose and congestion. I never travel without it.
2. Fresh ginger
Key uses: Indigestion; feeling cold, fluish and/or achy.
Where to buy: Any grocery store (fresh ginger is bright yellow inside).
Dosage: Rinse and slice a 4-ounce piece (roughly as long as your index finger), leaving skin intact, as skin has warming properties. Boil in 4 cups water for 10 minutes, until 2 cups remain. Add 4 ounces of the spicy liquid to a coffee cup and an additional 4 ounces of boiling water. Add milk (or milk alternative) and honey. Enjoy up to 4 cups per day.
The skinny: Ginger has been used around the world for its spicy, warming properties in food and tea. In Chinese medicine, this herb is used specifically to nourish the middle burner and assist the body in fighting cold and flu. Used in tea, it’s a great way to warm the body from the inside out.
3. Children’s Echinacea Glycerite (HerbPharm)
Key uses: Cold/flu prevention; immune support.
Where to buy: Online; health food store.
Dosage: 1 drop per 4 pounds of child’s body weight (e.g., 10 drops for a 40-pound child) 3-5 times per day; mix drops in juice or water.
The skinny: This often-misunderstood herb works best as an immune modulator prior to getting sick, though it can be used at higher doses at the onset of a cold. Immune modulators help the immune system to identify and process pathogens. In my office, I use a combination of the roots of Ech. Purpurea and Ech. Angustifolia. Only the root has these benefits.
Note: Most manufacturers under-dose, so I often have my patients take this product up to 4 times per day and at twice the dosage. For children under 6, it’s best to follow the suggested dose because children’s livers are not fully developed.
4. Sambucus for Kids (Nature’s Way)
Key uses: Common cold; sore throat.
Where to buy: Online; health food store.
Dosage: As directed.
The skinny: Made from elderberries, this standardized extract has been used for centuries as a traditional winter remedy. Several manufacturers make elderberry extracts, but they should all be of similar strength and efficacy. I sometimes combine this product with Windbreaker for my children.
5. Cold & Flu Wind Heat (KW Botanicals)
Key uses: Obliterating a cold or flu.
Where to buy: My office. Only sold through health-care practitioners.
Dosage: 1 teaspoon in 1/4 cup warm water, 4-6 times per day, then 1 teaspoon 3 times per day.
The skinny: Nothing is better than herbal extracts for fighting a cold or flu. Extracts already contain the active ingredients from an herb and so need not be digested by the body – they are already bioavailable. This product contains essential oils of Eucalytpus, Oregano and Mint, so it quickly opens up your head.
It also includes four of my favorite herbs: Echinacea, Elder flower, GoldenSeal and Ginger. Buyer beware: This formula tastes terrible but works great.
Ted Ray is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist in private practice in Mountain View and Woodside. For more information, call 564-9002 or visit www.peninsulaacupuncture.com.