Treating Colds at Home
Updated: Jun 2
Prior to the pandemic, many BAP patients relied on acupuncture and herbs to stay healthy and fight colds. Since COVID, we no longer can treat patients in the clinic who are coughing, sneezing, have a sore throat or the other common symptoms of a cold. But there is plenty you can do at home to stay healthy and fight colds when you do get them.
*Below you'll find health tips as well as information on herbal formulas and supplements that can help support your immune system and recover from colds. Email us with any questions at email@example.com.
Shop Immune Support
Browse our online shop (via "Fullscript") for the products recommended below plus other handy immune support formulas and supplements. To view, you will be asked to create an account but are under no obligation to purchase. Browse immune support products here.
Local shops to buy herbs: BAP - pick up some Gan mao ling, Cold Quell or Jade Wind Screen at your next visit or try these brick and mortars: Five Flavors (Oakland), Lhasa Karnak (Berkeley), Shen Clinic (Albany)
Immune Support & Prevention
The best immune support we can do for ourselves is to get adequate sleep and rest, moderate exercise and movement; eat healthy foods, and minimize sugar and alcohol intake. Herbs and supplements that support the immune system include; adequate vitamins D and C, echinacea, and certain mushrooms. More and more research is also showing a connection between gut health and immune health. The TCM formulas, Jade Wind Screen (aka Yu Ping Feng San), Astra C, Cold Quell, (described below) also support our immune system when we are feeling run down or are catching frequent colds.
We've all also learned first hand over the last two years that hand-washing and masks play a big role in preventing illness.
Vitamin D: Should I take it?
Vitamin D plays an essential role in immune regulation and function (as well as skeletal integrity and function, electrolyte reabsorption, and other health benefits). Several studies have indicated that a large portion of the U.S population is deficient in vitamin D. Since vitamin D is fat soluble, it is possible (though rare) to have too much so be careful if you are taking a supplement. Toxicity from vitamin D is rare in the U.S. but can be serious and lead to conditions such as kidney stones. The best way to know if you need vitamin D is to be tested by your primary medical provider at your next check up. There are home tests available as well (they do involve pricking your finger, so be prepared!).
The safest way to make sure your vitamin D intake is adequate, especially if you haven't been tested in a while is by eating foods that contain it. Fatty fish (like salmon and cod) are rich is natural D3. Most dairy products like milk and yogurt are fortified with vitamin D3 as are many soy, almond, and oat milks. We like Green Pastures fermented cod liver oil products. They have a fantastic product that includes butter oil (rich in vitamin K2) that improves the metabolism of the fatty acids in cod liver oil. D2 can be found in maitake, morel, chanterelle, oyster, and shiitake (when cultivated in or exposed to sun or ultraviolet light; check labels.)
Shitake, maitake, morels, reishi, cordyceps, turkey tails, lion's mane, and oyster mushrooms have all been shown to be effective in immune support. Mushrooms can be found year round in local markets. If you want to supplement, we like Health Concerns "Power Mushrooms" or "MyCommunity" available through our Fullscript shop. "MyCommunity" can also be purchased directly from the manufacturer, Host Defense (Paul Stamets, featured in the Netflix special "Fantastic Fungi").
Echinacea is well known as an immune support. All nine known species are native to North America. It has been used by the Indigenous people of the Great Plains and other areas for centuries or longer. Numerous studies have been conducted which have shown that it can help prevent colds, and it is empirically used to fight them once infected. Echinacea is available in tincture or capsules.
Eating a diet rich in fiber (fruit, veggies and whole grains) is also a big part of maintaining gut health. If you need to supplement fiber, Heather's Tummy Care is an effective and gentle option. Pre and probiotics also support a healthy gut ecosystem. They can be obtained in supplement form but also through foods such as sauerkraut and other lacto-fermented veggies, yogurt, kefir, kombucha, pickles, miso, tempeh, kimchi, and sourdough bread.
Make your own sauerkraut and fermented veggies at home! It's simple and economical. Learn how on our Recipes page.
Already have a cold?
Symptoms of the common cold can actually show up differently in people. For instance; some people will have more nasal signs (stuffy, runny nose, sneezing etc.) whereas others will have more chest signs like sore throat and coughing. Read about different TCM formulas below.
Gan mao ling: This anti-viral formula is the basic “go to” formula for first sign of a cold. It is recommended to take the maximum dose every 3-4 hours until your symptoms have resolved. (also available as a tincture). This formula can be taken preventatively for travel on airplanes, if you are around people who are sick, etc. In these cases, taking 2-3 per day is sufficient.
Yin qiao san: This product is for when symptoms known as “heat” signs are stronger. Key signs include: fever more than chills, sore throat/swollen lymph glands, thirst, red itchy eyes. Strongest if used in the first 24 hours. *May contain soy.
Cold quell & *Cold quell Jr.
Key signs: Cold signs with sore throat and fever. This formula was designed to be taken at the initial signs of a cold in people who are over-worked, tired, or otherwise depleted. During the acute phase, increase the dose to up to 6 caps, 3x per day. Available here, at BAP, or Amazon *Pediatric version
Frequent colds or feeling run down
Jade Wind Screen AKA Yu Ping Feng San Used for decreased immune resistance. Key signs: spontaneous sweating, chronic nasal discharge (clear and watery), recurring colds and upper respiratory infections. This formula is best used preventatively. Also available as "Astra C" from Health Concerns (Jade Wind Screen plus vitamin C.)
We recommend keeping a bottle of Gan mao ling or Yin qiao in your home medicine kit so that you have it ready to take at the first signs of a cold. Echinacea and Jade Wind Screen (or Astra C) are also handy to keep at home for when you're feeling run down and need immune support.
AcuPoints and Self-Massage
Don't underestimate your ability to self heal with touch. With acupuncture, the healing power is not in the needles but in you - the points where we place needles themselves hold the keys to health regulation. Points can simply be pressed on or "held" or massaged. You can find the location of the following acupoints and more info on acupressure for self-massage here.
Immune support: massage Li11, Lv3, Sp6, St36 regularly to stimulate immune strength.
Nasal congestion: massage Li4 and Li20; Gb20
Headache: massage Li4, Lv3, Lu7, Gb20
Cough: Pc6, Gb20, Gb21
Rest, exercise, and a nutritious foods are still the best strategy in supporting our immunity and fighting colds - but aren't fool proof and, frankly, are sometimes hard to sustain consistently. Being prepared with herbs and similar products may make your next cold a little easier.