(NaturalNews) In the fall as the weather gets cooler ailments tend to affect our Lungs in the form of coughs, sinus issues, colds and flu. In Traditional Chinese Medicine autumn relates to the metal element which corresponds to the Lungs. The taste that strengthens the Lungs is pungent: the spicy flavor of foods and spices like cinnamon, ginger and onions.
In traditional Chinese medical theory, when one gets sick with colds or flu it is thought that an external pathogen has invaded the system. Western medicine similarly holds that colds and flu are caused by bacteria or viruses. Each of the five tastes (sweet, salty, bitter, sour and pungent) has a specific action. The pungent taste has the action of pushing outward and dispersing unwanted "invaders" through the skin, as evidenced by sweating.
When coming down with a cold or flu the herb to take is actually a food: scallions. Known as the Chinese herb cong bai, scallions release the pathogen by inducing sweating. Simmer scallion or other onion along with garlic and ginger and drink the broth to keep a cold or flu from going deeper.
If a cold or flu has gone deeper and has affected the muscles, the herb of choice is cinnamon, known in Chinese as gui zhi. Cinnamon is warming and can help when the person is feeling weak especially if sweating does not help them feel better. In this case, cinnamon will warm, strengthen and increase immunity.
Fresh ginger (sheng jiang) is also warm and releases the pathogen. Ginger is especially good if the person feels cold and is coughing. Similar to cinnamon, ginger strengthens the immunity for weaker people who are sweating without relief of symptoms.
A nice tea for the fall, especially when feeling chilled and trying to recover from a cold or flu, is made by simmering a couple of cinnamon sticks and sliced fresh ginger in water for at least 20 minutes, strain and drink as needed.
If there are heat symptoms such as a sore throat or fever, switching to a cooler herb which still releases the pathogen is appropriate. One such herb is field mint, or bo he. Flowers such as chrysanthemum (ye ju hua), honeysuckle (jin yin hua), and dandelion (pu gong ying) mix well with mint to cool the body and release the pathogen.
One important note: herbs such as ginseng, astragalus and bee pollen also strengthen the immune system, but these herbs have a sweet taste and will actually strengthen pathogens. They are wonderful to take as prevention, but if you end up coming down with a cold or flu, stop taking them and switch to one of the above remedies. Once the illness has passed completely, it is safe to take the sweet strengthening herbs again.
Bensky, Dan and Gamble, Andrew. Chinese Herbal Medicine, Materia Medica. Eastland Press, Seattle. Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods. North Atlantic Books. Berkeley, CA. Shanghai College of Traditional Medicine. Acupuncture, A Comprehensive Text. Eastland Press. Seattle.
About the author
Melissa Sokulski is an acupuncturist, herbalist, and founder of the website Food Under Foot, a website devoted entirely to wild edible plants. The website offers plant descriptions, photographs, videos, recipes and more. Her new workbook, Wild Plant Ally, offers an exciting, hands-on way to learn about wild edible plants. Melissa also runs The Birch Center for Health in Pittsburgh, PA, providing the best in complementary health care: acupuncture, therapeutic massage and herbal medicine.
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