Let’s face it; we all get it. Some more often than others, with children getting it the most. It’s the common cold. It’s a nuisance, a drag, it slows us down, and gets in our way. Sometimes it passes quickly, other times it lingers and gets caught in the chest, the sinuses, or the ears.
Cold viruses are constantly around us. Luckily we do not contract each virus that we come into contact with. This is due to our immune system, which is known as our defensive Qi in Chinese medicine. This is our body’s protection from external influences. If our defensive Qi (wei qi) is sufficient, we can walk directly through a viral cloud and not be bothered. However, during times of defensive Qi deficiency, we are most likely to become ill.
Now for a little Chinese medical anatomy lesson. The Lung is responsible for maintaining our defensive Qi. If the Lung is weakened, through improper diet (too much cold, damp foods–yes, there is a relationship between the Spleen and Lung), poor sleep, insufficient or excessive exercise, our defensive Qi becomes weakened. While most of the time we can get away with washing our hands and avoiding the common cold, if the Lung is not able to keep our defenses strong, no amount of diligent hand washing will be enough.
As a rule of thumb, at the first sign of a cold, a pre-sign, even, such as a faint scratchy feeling in the back of the throat, a little extra sinus congestion, a sneeze that has nothing to do with the dust mop, stop, sit down, drink a large cup of water. It may not have gripped you yet. If you have some echinacea or vitamin C, dose up. Even better, if you have some Chinese herbs (my favorite being Cold Away or Gan Mao Ling), it’s time to dose up. Acupuncture is also helpful. If the cold has set in, acupuncture may help to express it faster, meaning the duration of the illness may be shortened.
Indeed, the best way to boost your defensive Qi is to keep your Lung energy happy. Drink plenty of water every day, eat a balanced diet, get plenty of sleep, and of course, keep your hands clean and away from your face. In addition, regular acupuncture treatments can increase your defensive Qi and increase your general immunity. If it’s been more than 4 weeks since your last treatment, get in before the winter winds blow in.