How Acupuncture Can Help During the Cold and Flu Season

You might think of acupuncture as a way to relieve your aching back or chronic headache. But the practice, a form of traditional Chinese medicine that is more than 5,000 years old, could also help you avoid colds and flu this winter – or at least send them packing sooner.

In this Q&A, licensed acupuncturist Julia Proctor explains how the treatment works against these respiratory illnesses.

Q: How does acupuncture work?

A: From an Eastern medical philosophy perspective, acupuncture works by balancing and harmonizing qi (pronounced “chee”), or vital, life-force energy. All pain, stress and disease in the body occur when qi has become blocked within the body and/or depleted. By placing tiny hair-thin needles along the meridians (which also correspond with the nervous system) to unblock and revitalize qi, natural healing, pain relief and emotional balance can occur.

Western medicine views acupuncture as a form of therapy that releases hormones into the bloodstream, sending signals to the nervous system. Hormones, such as dopamine and serotonin, have a positive effect on the body by reducing pain, balancing emotions, strengthening the immune system and regulating organ systems.

Q: How can acupuncture help during the cold and flu system?

A: Studies have shown that patients receiving acupuncture have elevated immune-enhancing hormones and blood counts for up to three days after treatment. If you begin to feel the symptoms of the cold or flu coming on, it is important to visit your acupuncturist right away to get the most benefit from your treatment. Acupuncture can:

  • Prevent colds and flu by boosting the immune system
  • Help you get over the cold or flu faster if you already have it
  • Reduce chills, fever and body aches
  • Relieve sore throat and congestion

Q: What else can I do to fight against colds and the flu?

A: This simple soup is an ancient Chinese remedy that is used when someone is experiencing a fever with cold symptoms. Cook this broth as soon you feel a fever coming on, with symptoms of chills and a runny nose:

Green Onion, Garlic and Ginger Soup

  • 2 green onions (use only the white part) cut into several pieces
  • 1 piece of ginger the size of a thumb, cut into slices
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, cut into slices
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons of brown sugar or honey

Put the top three ingredients into a pot and add about 2¼ cups of water. Boil it for 10 minutes and then add the brown sugar or honey. Drink the soup while it is warm or hot. After drinking the soup, curl up into a warm blanket and rest. After a few minutes, you may begin to sweat while your fever and cold symptoms dissipate.

Julia Proctor, LAc, is a licensed acupuncturist with the Connor Integrative Health Network at University Hospitals Ahuja Medical Center. To schedule an appointment with Julia Proctor, please call 216-285-4070.

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