Cold and Flu Season by Letha Hadady

by Letha Hadady, D. Ac., author of Asian Health Secrets

On television, we are told by an attractive woman MD, “Be sure to wash your hands.” Another expert says, “Avoid people who sneeze.” A third advises, “Wait one week until your cold or flu passes and call your doctor as needed.” The standard medical approach to colds and flu is: Forget prevention and call an expert. But imagine how tough a week of cold or flu symptoms can be. Your fever, headache, painful chest, sneezing, and whirling head feel ready to pop. No one wants to feel helpless and suffer, while drinking lemon water and watching re-runs. Elderly people, very young children, persons with weakened immunity, and smokers easily develop pneumonia from a cold.

I also had my moment on TV. Inside Edition the award-winning news program on FOX (in New York on channel 5 WNYW, November 22nd at 4:30PM) asked me to discuss star anise used by Roche to make the flu drug Tamiflu. The pungent digestive spice is very different from the drug. Shikimic acid is extracted from star anise then other chemicals are added to make the flu drug Tamiflu. Drug company executives often spy on my Chinese herb classes in New York. Recently, an executive from Roche told me that a person needs to take several weeks of Tamiflu before it works. Tamiflu is supposed to treat ordinary flu not bird flu. The risk is that such drugs may cause greater problems. A September 22nd report from Reuters quoted microbiologist Yi Guan, from the University of Hong Kong, who claims that using flu drugs such as Tamiflu could help develop drug-resistant strains of flu.

According to Lancet medical journal, resistance to anti-flu drugs had risen by 12 percent worldwide in the past decade. Why is the media talking so much about Tamiflu? Today’s report on CNN covered a story where the drug killed several asthmatic children in Japan. The media has created a storm of fear about bird flu but offers no help except a dangerous drug that is limited in quantity. This is because they do not know about traditional Chinese herbs that have been used with confidence for generations. During the Inside Edition show, I took the opportunity to describe a colds/flu prevention diet and antiinflammatory, antibiotic herbs such as honeysuckle flower found in Flu Away and Breathe Free, Chinese flu remedies that naturally enhance immunity and prevent flu.

A Cold/Flu Prevention Diet

You and your family can stay safe and healthy this flu season with a pungent diet that improves breathing. Fresh ginger and mint added to hot teas improve digestion and reduce phlegm. Garlic used in cooking or pickled and served as a side dish is a tasty natural antibiotic. Vegetable barley or chicken soup cooked with star anise is warming and improves digestion and breathing.

Star anise, a sweet pungent digestive spice used in cooking soup or spiced tea, settles the stomach, reduces abdominal bloat and indigestion. Star anise may prevent poor digestion that results in a wet, phlegmy cough and wheezing. You might add 1/4 teaspoon of powdered star anise to a pot of tea. Add up to 1/2 teaspoon of star anise powder to cook in a pot of chicken vegetable soup. Chinese herbalists consider star anise to be a warming and drying digestive herb not a germ-killing flu medicine.

Some people never catch a cold unless they are depressed. Germs are only partly to blame for a cold. With digestive herbs such as ginger, mint, cardamon, clove, and star anise to brighten your day, you can protect digestion, vitality, and resistance. Avoid pungent spices if you have a stomach ulcer, dry cough, or irritability. If you are often thirsty, especially if you have a fever or sore throat, use a packet of Flu Away instant beverage. See below.

Symptoms of Colds

Head cold discomforts—a stiff neck, stuffy nose, headache, nausea, and weakness—may develop any time we overdo raw foods or a phlegm inducing diet that stresses salads, raw fish, sweet gooey deserts, and dairy foods. A raw juice first thing in the morning can lead to a migraine by mid afternoon because digestive fire is weakened with raw foods. It is better to start the day with hot tea and digestive herbs such as ginger and fresh lemon. In cold weather, muscles tense so we develop typical stiffness and aches of a cold. If you don’t sweat out a cold with ginger tea, cinnamon tea or a smart combination of Chinese herbs, you may feel chilled and weak.

The Flu

A cold can linger and never really erupt. Flu attacks the respiratory tract (nose, throat, and lungs) suddenly. It may include these symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Extreme Tiredness
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Nasal congestion
  • Body aches

Symptoms appear suddenly and are much more extreme than for a cold. Ancient Chinese medical texts are adamant about preventing illness and low spirits. Germs, so they thought, were brought by evil winds. The idea has validity when you consider how airborne epidemic germs are spread from a sneeze, can linger in the air for hours, or pass from person to person in air tight cabins during international jet flights. Chinese doctors describe using immune-enhancing remedies as though lining a castle wall with a defensive army. The herbs are meant to build resistance by strengthening digestion, circulation, and energy. That helps keeps out cold, humid weather and flu bugs carried on evil winds. The first line of defense for a cold and flu are herbs that fortify vitality, induce sweating, and kill germs. When and if fever develops, the second line of defence is with antibiotic herbs.

Enhancing Resistance versus Cold/Flu Treatment

**Prevention foods and herbs are not the same as those used for treatment. The best herbs for prevention are tonic herbs that make the body work better by increasing vitality, metabolism, and absorption. They stimulate the body or increase blood and fluids. For example vitamin C and fresh fruits and vegetables that contain vitamins and minerals, zinc, green and white teas, which are high in antioxidants, and garlic used in cooking. Several forms of ginseng build vitality. The herb astragalus (huang qi) helps prevent colds, allergies, weakness, and cancer.

**Treatment: When you catch a cold or flu, you have to stop taking ginseng. A cold or flu is an acute problem not a chronic problem. It should be treated differently than ordinary fatigue. Chinese ginseng should be stopped during a cold because it would increase fever. Another example, blood-enhancing and moisturizing herbs can increase mucus.

People with Compromised Immunity

Just as vitamin C and garlic prevent fatigue and infection the following herbs increase natural resistance. Use them daily especially if you work and socialize in public. Smokers, persons with AIDS, and people at risk for pneumonia are recommended to use a medicinal mushroom tea or extract daily.

Cordyceps and reishi (Ganoderma lucid) mushroom extracts are top quality Chinese energy tonics for kidney and lung vitality. Those medicinal fungi reduce liver inflammation to prevent allergies, while they increase endurance and prevent colds and flu. Cordyceps allows the heart and circulation to work at optimum performance by reducing heart stress. It allows the aorta to dilate during anxiety, which sends more blood to a tired heart. Cordyceps and reishi are recommended for people who feel short of breath, achy, or depressed from overwork, pollution, and bad dietary habits.

When you catch a cold/flu, use your herbal cold/flu remedy, eat lightly, rest, drink liquids, and avoid aspirin.

For You and Your Kids:

Children do not like to take medicines, but the following powdered herbs can be sweetened with honey or added to juices. They are convenient to use at the office, while flying on airplanes, or anywhere else. Just add the contents of one foil-wrapped packet to water, tea, juice, or soup. For prevention of flu use one packet per day, for treatment of flu symptoms use three or more per day. Smokers and persons with compromised immunity, should use a higher dose. Children under 12 can use half the adult dose. If you use any antibiotic herbs or medicines daily during flu season, add yogurt or 1 – 2 acidophilus pills daily before meals and in baby’s formula. It prevents indigestion and yeast growth.

Flu Away
Flu Away, a Yin/Yang Sisters Instant Beverage made by Jiangyin Herb Work Company a hospital pharmacy in Jiangsu, China contains major antibiotic herbs, digestive herbs for enhanced absorption, and immune boosting herbs against flu. The finely powdered herbs can be used by adults and children as a tea or added to juice. The ingredients include honeysuckle flower, a powerful broad-spectrum antibiotic herb often used for fever and sore throat. Schizonepeta, a twig with tiny flowers is added to dried mint leaves to detoxify the body and encourage sweating. Ligusticum a spicy sliced root is used with vitex seeds to reduce headaches. Burdock seed cleanses the body and reduces sore throat. Forsythia buds reduce fever, and licorice eases digestion and absorption of the herbs. Flu Away beverage is mild tasting and slightly bitter so you can sweeten it with honey after the beverage has cooled to room temperature.

Breathe Free
For sinus congestion, you can combine Flu Away with Breathe Free or use Breathe Free alone. It contains Scutellaria (skullcap) root, ligusticum, black dates, dahurien angelica, Ledebouriella sesloides (siler root), notopterygium root, magnolia flower, xanthium fruit, and cicada (slough). Skullcap reduces headaches. Black dates and angelica are delicious digestive tonics. Magnolia and dried xanthium fruit clear sinus congestion. This is a traditional formula for improving breathing and reducing inflammation including head pain and sore throat.

Powdered herbs such as Flu Away and Breathe Free are the best to use with children because they are convenient and can be mixed with foods. Breathe Free can also be dissolved in hot water and inhaled to clear your senses and improve breathing. Stay tuned to for additional ways to protect your family and safely rid your house of flu germs.


Chinese Herbal Medicine

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