(from Insights Magazine)

by Blake More

Although directly responsible for reams and reams of research and debate, the cause of the common cold, as well as its cure, still remains a mystery to modern medicine. However, when we look to nature, we can immediately see that 99.9 percent of all cold suffers survive despite, or to spite, their sniffles, coughs, and whines. This alone tells us that we already possess the resources needed to overcome any cold that happens to invade our bodies. To be truly effective, treatment and research should emphasize methods to strengthen our curative mechanisms rather than on dispensing drugs to mask the body's natural defensive system.


Identifying The Culprit

In Western medicine, a cold is identified as a virus which invades the upper respiratory tract and produces inflammation. Generally, it is characterized by a fever, running nose, cough, and a feeling of overall malaise. True enough, but this germ/viral theory falls short of explaining the common cold because not everyone exposed to a cold virus actually gets sick. For instance, health professionals are constantly in contact with just about every conceivable form of virus although they seldom come down with anything themselves.

So what is it that makes some go through box after box of tissues every winter while leaving others to weather the season with barely a sneeze? To begin with, it helps to look at cold pathology from the perspective of oriental medicine. The Chinese character for wind is combined with the character for evil, so together they form the word "evil wind" or the oriental equivalent of the common cold. The evil wind is able to penetrate the body when there is a deficiency of ki---especially in the defensive ki that surrounds the body like a protective energy shield---and make its way through the meridians and, if left unchecked, eventually into the organs themselves. Any guesses as to where this wind enters the body? You got it, it weasels its way in through the back of the neck and the upper back area. Indeed, one need only look at the high collars of traditional oriental coats and jackets to see the great care taken in protecting this important section of the body.

Although it can come into the body through different points, this evil wind often goes straight for the two points called "fu mon", which literally mean "wind gates", and, from there, travels on in two separate directions. One, it goes up the neck and into the back of the head where it pools at two points called "fu chi", or "wind ponds"; and two, it goes down the back where it collects at "hai yu", the lung transporting points. This helps to explain the upper back stiffness present at the beginning stages of a cold. When the evil wind reaches this stage and the body still cannot resist it, it then continues down through the body, connecting with various organ points that eventually become responsible for the common aliments associated with the cold virus.


Exorcising The Wind

Before describing ways to treat this evil wind, it is necessary to explain what we are actually treating in the first place. This means we must shift our thinking so we begin to associate a cold's symptoms not as the disease itself but as the body's attempt to regain health. For example, a fever raises the body temperature to kill off viruses and bacteria, a cough (but not the dry hacking type) clears the lungs and throat of unwanted matter, and diarrhea quickly removes waste from the digestive system. Thus, by recognizing these symptoms as necessary disease fighting mechanisms, we immediately see the foolishness of suppressing them.

Ultimately, the only correct approach to treating a cold, and any disease for that matter, is to assist with the natural functions of the body. Cold and flu medicines, especially antibiotics, do little to fight the virus itself. At best, these nebulous medicines may stave off the secondary infections that can arise in response to the body's weakened state; at worst, they may produce long-term weakening of the immune system and lead to more virulent, treatment-resisting strains of bacteria. Therefore, the most effective, beneficial, long lasting method to deal with the common cold is to seek a treatment which helps the body resolve its present condition and creates a constitution better able to resist future diseases.

Of course, oriental medicine, especially acupuncture and moxibustion, assists your body with this process. It is natural, non-intrusive, and works with the body rather than against it. However, not everyone wants to, nor is able to, call their acupuncturist the minute they notice a slight ache or a scratchy throat. So, here are a few things you can do at home in order to help your body feel its best.

1. Changes in the body's natural heat distribution, i.e. a stuffy or feverish head, are one of the first signs of any disease. Possibly, this is why oriental medicine describes health as "zu kan soku netsu"---cool head warm feet. A hot foot bath is a simple, but extremely effective, solution to this problem. Dip your ankles in a bowl or bowl or bath full enough to cover your ankles and relax for about 20 minutes as you enjoy the sensation of your whole body becoming pleasurably warm from the inside out. (Incidentally, in England, there is a traditional home cold remedy which calls for a foot bath with mustard mixed into the hot water.)

2. Besides keeping your body warm and getting plenty of rest, it is a good idea to use a hair dryer to warm your upper back and neck. Do this intermittently until the skin in these areas becomes a light red color.

3. Eliminate all cooling foods until your cold is gone. This includes cold drinks, salads, fruit, ice cream, and so on.

4. Consume mainly hot drinks (unsweetened, preferably herb tea), soups, and other nutritious light food.

5. If you're not hungry, don't force yourself to eat. Sometimes fasting for one day with nothing but hot water is a big cold reliever.

6. Recognize and affirm that your cold symptoms are your body's efforts to reestablish health. Do not label them as undesirable symptoms or take cold medicine to cover them up. Instead, see them as your road to recovery.

7. Resolve to make changes in your lifestyle---watch your diet, exercise more, get plenty of sleep, pay attention to sources of stress and anger, etc---in order to strengthen your constitution and your resistance to disease in the future.

Finally, if you've tried the above steps and still feel that your body isn't responding, then it's time to make an appointment with your acupuncturist so he or she can help energize your body's immune system and aid your body into a faster recovery. Furthermore, if you're the type who's constantly catching colds, it may be good for you to seek regular treatments until your body's protective ki increases and your natural killer cells and other immune system components begin to work more efficiently.

Maybe, with a little luck and a lot of emphasis on your protective ki, you may just make it through this season without a single visit from the dreaded cold virus---and wouldn't that make Winter more enjoyable! So remember, raise your collars and wrap your scarves tight. You never know where that evil wind is lurking.


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