Winter Flu Season Food & Tea–Viruses generally cause cold and flu. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) also recognizes the presence of external pathogens, it has a unique way of viewing and treating these pathogens.
TCM also understands the role an external environment that we live in, as well as our internal emotional environment, can play in our immunity to disease. When the Cold and Flu season strike, TCM considers over-exposure to the elements – wind, heat, cold, damp, dryness – can have on the body.
The times of greatest climatic instability tend to be when colds and flu peak.
Winter Flu Season Food & Tea–What Works Best?
The traditional remedy for stopping a cold it in its tracks is to treat it early enough before it gains enough strength penetrate into the body.
- On the first day use the white part of the three spring onions near the roots, crush the ginger (2 slices) and add both to two cups of boiling water.
- Bring back to the boil and simmer uncovered until the liquid content has halved.
- Add mint, re-boil briefly and drink as soon as it is cool enough.
Then hop into bed covering yourself warmly to enhance sweating and sweat the cold out. As soon as the sweating stops you should change your bed-wear and bedding so that you don’t get chilled again from being wet and cold. Take it easy for the rest of the day. Be gentle with yourself for the next couple of days, including eating well and getting enough sleep.
Timing is critical.
As symptoms change, from a sore throat to lethargy, to a cough, for example, and treatment will need to change as the disease and healing process progresses.
Early-stage Wind-Cold herbs, for example, should only be used in the early stages, because if they are used in the later stages, if the cold has set in this type of treatment will actually drain the body and is not helpful. If you already have the flu (second day onwards) and you just want to get over it as quickly as possible then the best is to look at raw or prepared medicines from the TCM pharmacy that treats those later-stage issues, like phlegm or a cough.
The most common and available Chinese medicine formula that I recommend here is ‘gan mao zhi ke’ granules where the number one ingredient is thorowax root (chai hu) that will help transform the cold and speed up the recovery.
Winter Flu Season Food & Tea — Prevention
Prevention, of course, is the key. Strengthening the body to resist infection in the first place is always preferable to treating disease. Eating warm foods like soups and stews in winter creates warmth, support the Kidney yin and yang and encourages the qi down and in. Try leek or dried ginger soups for colds to strengthen immunity. In winter you can combine these ideas with the time-honored winter favorite to build strength – congee. You can also use herbal tonics like ganoderma mushroom (ling zhi) and astragalus (huang qi) to build immunity. For hot phlegm (yellow or green colour) in the lungs use watercress, radish, daikon radish, and seaweed. For cold phlegm (white) use warm damp removers such as fennel, cayenne, garlic, onions, mustard greens, horseradish, and ginger. There are foods that can be used to clear all types of phlegm in the Lungs, including potato, pumpkin, linseed, turnip, job’s tears barley, tuna, and mushrooms.
In the cold of winter keeping your feet warm with a hot-water-bottle or a hot footbath will help the qi flow properly and build resilience. Winter is the time to enjoy an alcoholic beverage in moderation and is the season for medicinal liqueurs. Small amounts of wine or even better, glügor gluwein – is pungent, bitter, sweet and enlivens the spleen, warms the digestive system, expels wind and cold, promotes circulation of qi and blood, improves appetite and dispels fatigue.
Don’t forget immunity relies on the basics of regular lives, good digestion and rest. Regular hours of sleep and three meals a day of mostly cooked grains and vegetables (with small amounts of meat and spices for enjoyment) will do wonders for your immunity and your spirit.