How To Fend Off a Common Cold – The Chinese Medicine Practitioner’s Guide

Editors Note: Dana Hoffman, my personal acupuncturist and The Succulent Wife's resident natural health expert, wrote this piece at my request. The cold season is now upon us. I have already had to fend off a cold. The remedies recommended by Dana last year worked their magic again (with the Yin Qiao San herbs as my elixir of choice). They also helped all my family members successfully fight off numerous colds all winter long. So, I was wondering “why doesn't everyone know about this?” Now you know thanks to this “How-to Fend off a cold with Chinese medicine guide”. Not only did I manage to avoid common colds all last winter, I also avoided the OTC meds that make me so groggy and foggy and often make me feel even worse.  

PLEASE NOTE: you should only use these suggested medications with the orders of a licensed specialist, herbalist or acupuncturist. 

By Dana Hoffman, Licensed Acupuncturist

How to fend off a common cold
One minute you’re fine and the next you’ve got shivers, a stiff neck, your head feels foggy, you’re sneezing and your nose is running. You have a cold and the faster you act, the faster you can reduce this cold to a minor hiccup rather than a full-blown upper respiratory event.

Ideally, you were already getting ample sleep, exercising, and eating well. But sometimes you catch something anyway. Here are my go-to methods on how to shorten the intensity and duration of a cold.

  1. By acupuncturist prescription only – A short course of Chinese herbs
    Taking a properly chosen Chinese herbal formula for 24-48 hours will function as an antiviral or be an effective anti-bacterial. Chinese herbal formulas have been used and field-tested for thousands of years. They are regularly used to treat colds, bronchitis, the flu, shingles, UTIs, digestive disorders, mild depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) antivirals are more effective at treating a cold than western antibiotics which won’t treat a virus anyway, and can throw off your intestinal flora balance.
    Some examples of formulas used for the early stages of a cold are Yin Qiao San, Sang Ju Yin, and Gan Mao Ling. None of these should be taken without having a full medical history evaluated by your practitioner including any known allergies. The practitioner must assess whether your illness is hot or cold in nature (think of a burning hot fever and extreme thirst versus being chilled to the bone and not thirsty at all).
  2. Take lots of Vitamin C
    Take 1,000 mg of Vitamin C every hour until either your stomach starts to gurgle or you get loose stools. You can usually get 9+ doses in until this happens. Vitamin C is water soluble so it will pass through the body quickly. Linus Pauling was a fan and you will be too.
  3. Take Vitamin D
    Taking Vitamin D improves your immunity. Boost your Vitamin D intake at the first sign of a cold but also get your levels checked at your next physical. If they are normal you don’t need to supplement Vitamin D and shouldn’t as it is a fat soluble vitamin which means that too much Vitamin D for an extended period of time can be too much of a good thing.
  4. Fluids, fluids, fluids
    If you’ve got any fever, your body needs to compensate for what it’s sweating out.
  5. Cover up the back of your neck 
    The Chinese have a saying that Wind is the mother of a thousand diseases and that wind invades the body at the back of the neck, so keep it covered especially in a draft.
  6. Use a neti pot or sinus rinse twice a day
    You will clear out the sinuses and relieve pressure while reducing chances for bacteria to fester.
  7. Get in to see your acupuncturist that day or the next
    He or she can boost your body’s immune system with an acupuncture treatment. Also, your acupuncturist may include some other modalities such as: gua sha over the lungs or cupping. Neither is painful.
  8. If a low-grade fever: do nothing
    DO NOT take a fever reducer (aspirin, acetaminophen, etc). That small fever (98.0-100.5 degrees) is trying to burn up the virus causing this mess.
  9. If a moderate to high fever
    Yes, you can take a fever reducer, but you can also use the tui na technique of plucking over the back of the neck. To lower a high fever, soak your feet in warm water, not cold, not hot. If your fever and other symptoms worsen or persist, call your doctor.
  10. Assess whether you’ve got something bigger than a common cold
    If you have a fever above 101 degrees, are sweating profusely, blowing or coughing a lot of green or yellow mucous, have an intense headache or developing a rash, you are sicker than a cold and should call your doctor.
  11. Sneeze into the crook of your arm to minimize the spread of your cold to others
    If you cough or sneeze into your hands, wash them immediately.
  12. Wash your hands lots to ensure you don’t transmit nor pick up other germs and viruses.

And if you still get bronchitis or the flu, then your acupuncturist can give you acupuncture and herbs to get you over the illness faster and break any leftover cough or phlegm.

And if anyone offers you homemade chicken soup, it’s always a good choice.

Be well!

Dana HoffmanDana Hoffman is a Nationally Board Certified Diplomate in Acupuncture and is a Licensed Acupuncturist in the State of Illinois. In addition to hundreds of hours of clinical training she also studied under several esteemed doctors in Beijing, China. She has been featured in CS Magazine and runs her own acupuncture clinic in Chicago and the North Shore. Find her at

Enjoyed this post?
Subscribe to receive our latest serendipitous lifestyle finds right in your mailbox. 

2 Responses to How To Fend Off a Common Cold – The Chinese Medicine Practitioner’s Guide

  1. I always use a neti-pot during the winter and it helps prevent dryness. It has also helped me prevent colds.

    • Anne Marie Kovacs says:

      Judy, you’re right. It does help prevent colds and if you have a cold, it helps to “clear things up” faster. My daughter also uses her neti pot daily to keep her allergies at bay. It helps there too.

Leave a comment