by David Scrimgeour, Acupuncturist, Boulder CO, www.davidscrimgeour.com
As savvy consumers seek tried-and-true nostrums for common medical ailments, more of them choose to stock their medicine chests with natural remedies. And with good reason. Certain conditions, like the common cold, are best treated at the first sign of symptoms. If we wait to see our regular healthcare provider, the cold may become deep rooted and will then need the customary two weeks to run its course. Minor ailments hardly seem to warrant an office visit, and yet suffering through the symptoms until the immune system can rise to the challenge certainly lacks appeal. If only we could keep a collection of effective remedies on hand to beat these common illnesses.
Well, in fact, we can. Oriental Medicine offers a number of alternatives to Western over-the-counter medicines that provide a significant health advantage. Whereas the typical drugstore remedies tend just to reduce or mask the symptoms, often with some unwanted side effects, Chinese remedies, many of which were first documented 1800 years ago in the Shang Han Lun, or Treatise on Damage from Cold, engage the immune system and actually fight pathogens, which leads to a faster healing process.
To turn your medicine chest into an effective arsenal against everyday illnesses, stock it with the following condition-specific remedies.
Ginseng & Astragalus (Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang). An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and the Chinese practice this more than anyone. To this end, they enter the winter months with strategies to strengthen the immune system so the body will not be so susceptible to all those winter bugs and viruses. Start with this powerful immune tonic and you’ll find you have more energy and vitality and make fewer trips to the doctor’s office. Studies have show that the herbs in this formula boost the activity of both B and T cells, basically strengthening your defense system against unwanted invaders. dosage: 3 caps twice a day.
Many Asians also prepare tonic soups to warm the body and fortify the immune system. To whip up an immune boosting bowl, make your favorite chicken soup and add shiitake mushrooms, astragalus (huang qi), ginseng (white or red), Job’s tears (yi yi ren), lycium (gou ji zi), and red dates (hong zao).
Cold Nip: The important thing to remember about a cold is that you can knock it out in the first 24 to 48 hours if you treat it effectively. I use this balanced formula, which combines the herbs from traditional cold remedies from the Shang Han Lun with a potent antiviral herbal combination. Take this blend the moment you start sneezing or feel fatigue, chills, a runny nose, or a sore throat to prevent the development of a full-blown cold. dosage: 1 teaspoon every 2 to 3 hours until symptoms subside, then keep taking it for another day to make sure the virus doesn’t come back.
You can also find two other traditional cold remedies, Yin Qiao San and Gan Mao Ling, at most natural food stores. These are both antiviral in nature, but they often chill the body too much to be taken for extended periods of time. You can, however, take 4 tablets of either formula every 3 to 4 hours at the very first sign of a cold, for up to 4 days.
You can also augment any of these traditional remedies by taking vitamin D (2,000 mg/day), vitamin C (3 to 4 g/day) and zinc.
Agastache Formula (Huo Xiang Zheng Qi Tang): This classic formula works best for acute nausea, diarrhea, or indigestion caused either from overindulgence or a nasty intestinal virus. dosage: 3 capsules taken 3 to 4 times a day on an empty stomach.
You can use a similar patent formula, Curing Pills, for the same issues. You should find it easily in most health food stores. Take 1 to 2 vials of pills 3 to 4 times a day.
Cnidium and Tea Formula (Chuan Xiong Cha Tiao San): This ancient formula dates from 1110 and is used for acute and chronic headaches, including migraines. But you can also use it for the acute frontal headaches associated with sinus congestion or with a cold. This formula stops pain by decreasing inflammation and invigorating the circulation of qi and blood in the head. Traditionally taken as a powder mixed with green tea, Cnidium and Tea can now be found in capsule form with the tea already mixed in. dosage: Take 4 capsules 3 times a day as needed for sinus relief.
You can take 3 to 5 caps for an acute tension headache or 3 caps 3 times a day for a chronic headache until the symptoms disappear.
Cold Nip and Pueraria Combination (Ge Gen Tang) Even with higher quality air purification systems on airplanes these days, we’re still exposed to dozens of viruses and who knows what else every time we fly. That, combined with jet lag and the stress of disturbances in diet, sleep, and exercise routines, creates an ideal scenario for catching a cold. To avoid coming home sick, take Pueraria Combination with you when you travel. Another of the ancient Shang Han Lun formulas, Pueraria Combination warms the body and raises the “wei qi” or the defensive layer that protects us from pathogens. Pueraria is also good for aches and pains, whether from an old injury or the flu. dosage: 3 capsules taken 3 times a day or 3 capsules a half hour before a flight and another two for every two hours of flying time at two hour intervals. Take 3 droppers of Cold Nip before boarding a plane and during the flight if over two hours -- the herbs will activate your "wei qi" and the antiviral herbs will protect against all the viruses encountered on the plane.
You should also take Ginseng and Astragalus (for the immune system), one of the cold remedies above, and (depending on where you’re going, i.e. India or any other third world country), a coptis formula (Huang Lian Shang Qing Pian), which works like an antibiotic in case of infection from intestinal bacteria.
Magnolia Flower Formula (Xin Yi Qing Fei Tang): If a persistent, untreated cold lingers and turns into acute or chronic sinus congestion, this formula generally brings relief. TCM practitioners attribute these symptoms to an excess of heat, and prescribe this combination, which includes magnolia flower (an aromatic herb with a strong, pungent oil content) to open up the head, reduce inflammation, and clear the pathogen from the nasal passages. A variant of this formula, known as Magnolia Flower and Gypsum can be used if there is fever or if strong heat symptoms (sweating, dry mucous membranes, sensations of heat, or a red tongue with yellow coating) are present. dosage: 3 capsules taken 3 times a day.
Heartburn and Acid Reflux
Cardamom and Fennel (An Zhong San, literally “Calm the Center Powder”): This is an ideal remedy for nervous stomachache, heartburn, acid reflux, or chronic gastritis. While diet changes may help regulate the high stomach acid levels that are often responsible for these problems, a natural antacid such as this cardamom and fennel blend will also dissipate the burning sensation in the chest or stomach that is oftentimes caused by stress. And unlike antacids, which simply control the symptoms, this formula works to balance the digestive system. dosage: Take 3 500 mg capsules 3 times a day or as needed.
Of course, we all know how eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly and having a great attitude are critical to staying well. But in the event that sickness does arise, it’s comforting to know you’re prepared with natural remedies that really work.
All of the above products are available at natural food stores or at http://www.sixpersimmons.com/.