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Treating and Preventing Colds and Flus

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Treating and Preventing Colds and Flus

fast and effectively

With Chinese herbs, supplements and Acupuncture

By Collin Stoll L.Ac.



During last years “pandemic” of virulent influenza, H1N1 or swine flu, I had many people ask me, what can Chinese Medicine do to prevent or treat this?  The following article was my response to their questions. Now that we are once again in the flu season I have updated it to include further research and clinical insights into preventing and treating both the flu, colds and lingering bacterial infections.       



About the time that


was reeling beneath the strain of The Plague, the Chinese were learning to deal with their own epidemics including those that produce a fever and are highly contagious.  The Wen Bing (book on feverish disease) mainly written between the 12th and 19th century, still used today in Chinese medicine, contains many formulas used to treat what modern medicine calls the common cold and the flu.


Unlike vaccines, Chinese herb therapies for influenza are not specific for the viral strain. Instead, they have general actions such as to help boost and regulate the immune system in order to help eliminate the virus faster or prevent it altogether. At high enough dosage they may have direct (but general) inhibitory effects on viral reproduction, and they ameliorate some of the symptoms, thus making a serious infection seem mild. There is not one herb or formulation that is known to be a reliable treatment for the flu or colds; rather, there are a collection of herbs and formulas that have developed a good reputation.


During the period from the 1950s to the 1970s, several large-scale studies were undertaken in


to evaluate the use of traditional herb formulas and newer herbal remedies to prevent and treat colds and influenza, with favorable results reported for several compounds. Since the outbreak of SARS in 2003 and last years H1N1 Chinese Hospitals and health authorities have expanded research and developed several effective herbal formulas for preventing and diminishing flu symptoms.  While the older studies do not show Chinese herbal therapies can cure or impede all colds and influenza, the recent clinical evidence from China, Korea and Japan in dealing with SARS and H 1N1 suggests that they are highly effective.  







it is increasingly common to prescribe nutritional supplements, along with herb remedies. Chinese herbal formulas combined with western supplements and vitamins to support and regulate the immune system can decrease the chances of contracting or the potential duration and severity of colds and the flu.  For individuals who are highly susceptible to colds and the flu and those who tend to experience severe symptoms, as well as during influenza seasons it is prudent to treat even the initial symptoms as though a severe case is about to develop. The following protocols can also be followed by people who are developing symptoms despite having been vaccinated (since the possibility exists of vaccine failure, especially later in the season when new strains might dominate).


(The dosages below are for adults except were noted):



    Bio-Glycozyme: 1 tablet 1-3 times a day with food $27 for 90 caps.

    Bio D Mulsion Forte: 10,000 IU a day $20 for 750 2,000 IU drops. 

    Jarrow Dophilus EPS: 1 pill 1-2 times a day on a empty stomach $20 for 60.

    Kids Yum Yum Dophilus: two chewable pills a day $13 for 60.

    Five Mushroom Formula: 2 capsules twice daily $30 for 100 pills.

    Jade Wind Screen: 3 tablets twice daily $19 for 90 pills.




    Yin Qiao-Echinacea Plus: 1 cap every 2 hours $15 for 60 caps.   

    CQ Jr.: 1-3 droppers full up to three times a day for kids $18 for 2 oz.

    Huang Lian Jie Du Tang: 2 pills three times daily $19 for 90 pills.

    Ban Xia Huo Po Tang: 2 pills three times daily $19 for 90 pills.

    Lung Clear: herbal lozenge for sore throat $5 for 30 lozenges.

    Forsythia 18: 4-6 pills 3-4 times a day $15 for 100 pills.

    A.D.P.: 1-3 pills 2-3 times a day with food $21 for 60 tablets.



Bio-Glycozyme Forte (Biotics Research) is a comprehensive mineral, glandular and vitamin supplement (not a Chinese formula). The concept behind its use is that by providing optimal or even high levels of certain nutrients, the immune system has a stronger resistance against pathogens. Besides immune system supporters like vitamin C,  Zinc and Selenium this formula helps support normal blood sugar levels in non-diabetic individuals.  Spikes and dips in blood sugar levels are associated with poor immune response.  The point of providing a broad nutritional supplementation, rather than just focusing on a few of the established ingredients, is to assure a more balanced effect.


Bio D Mulsion Forte (Biotics Research) is a high potency pharmaceutical grade vitamin D supplement.  For prevention of colds and the flu it is recommend to maintain blood levels at around 75 ng/ml.  In the NW this is usually achieved by take 2,000-10,000 (1-5 drops) iu a day of vitamin D.  With the first symptoms of a cold or flu take 10,000 IU a day until symptom resolve. For more information on Vitamin D please visit


Jarrod Dophilus EPS/ Yum Yum Dophilus (Jarrow Formulas) Plenty of evidence exists showing Probiotics (beneficial bacteria) are good for the immune system and may help prevent you from getting colds or the flu.  

In a double-blind, controlled trial of 479 healthy adults, scientists looked at the effect of probiotics on viral respiratory tract infections (influenza, common cold) over a total of three months.  The people who took probiotics were sick for significantly less time (about two days less) than the control group. The probiotics users also had much less severe symptoms and had a large increase in T lymphocytes.[iii]

Researchers from

Georgetown University Medical Center

enrolled more than 600 children, ages 3-6, in a study to see probiotics effect on common infectious diseases.  By the end of the three-month study, the children who received the probiotic yogurt had 24 percent fewer gastrointestinal infections and 18 percent fewer upper respiratory infections than children who were getting regular yogurt.

Now the science stuff: Probiotics significantly boost the immune system via several ways. Of the two primary types of probiotics—Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria, the former enhances both cell-mediated immunity and humoral immunity.  Cell-mediated immunity prompts white blood cells to attack and destroy viruses and other harmful factors and stimulates the secretion of a protein that boosts the immune system’s response by activating natural killer cells and macrophages.  Humoral immunity is the immune system’s response to antibodies, which are proteins the body makes in response to viruses and other foreign substances. Thus when probiotics enhance humoral immunity, it means the immune system is better able to fight viruses.


Five Mushroom Formula (Peoples Herbs) A combination of Coriolus, Cordyceps, Maitake, Reishi and Shitake mushrooms in a highly concentrated formula for boosting and modulating the immune system. 

Now the science stuff: Coriolus Versicolor is thought to be a biological response modifier. The proteoglycan constituents (PSK and PSP) are thought responsible for its immunostimulant and anti-cancer activities. Cordyceps stimulates the number of T helper cells, prolongs the survival of lymphocytes, enhances TNF-alpha and interleukin 1 production, and increases the activity of natural killer cells. Maitake is thought to exert its effects through its ability to activate various effector cells, such as macrophages, natural killer cells, T cells, interleukin-1 and superoxide anions.  Reishi Mushroom triterpenes and polysaccharides have demonstrated antitumor and immunostimulating activities. It has demonstrated the ability to stimulate macrophages to produce increased levels of TNF and interleukin-10. The steroids are reported to act as hormone precursors and the triterpenes are reported to have adaptogenic and antihypertensive, as well as anti-allergic effects. The adenosine in reishi is thought to be responsible for the inhibition of platelet aggregation. Shitake Mushroom contains Lentinan which has immune-regulatory effects, antimicrobial properties, anti-viral activity and cholesterol-lowering effects.

Bottom Line: great for protection for immune compromised patients, the elderly or those highly stressed.


Jade Wind Screen ( Yu Ping Feng San): Created in 1481 this formula has been literal used for centuries by millions of Chinese, Japanese and Koreans to strengthen the immune system and prevent colds and the flu. It contains just three herbs that work synergistically to prevent infection by supporting and regulating immunity (Astragalus), digestion (Atractylodes) and circulation and inflammatory response (Siler).   It is especially beneficial for people with low immunity and who frequently catch colds and the flu.  Also people who are worried about high exposure in crowds or travel.   Because of its mild balanced nature Jade Wind Screen is safe to take for up to 10 weeks at a time.   




High doses of immune enhancing formulas, like Jade Screen Tablets, and Five Mushroom Formula are not suitable in treating the flu or a cold during its primary active phase. The harmful effects of the flu at that time may include the adverse impact of a high immune response, and attempts to elevate that immune response will not only fail to have a substantial extra impact on the virus but may contribute to the severity of the symptoms. In the case of H1N1 this is likely considering early reports of young adults being hospitalized with a Cytokine Storm immune responses. Generally, the immune based therapies are applied either during a preventive health care phase of treatment or during a recovery phase when the dominant symptoms are reducing.




Yin Qiao-Echinacea Plus:  Together, Yin Qiao and Echinacea form a valuable team in extending the window of time for efficacious treatment at the onset of a cold or the flu. Yin Qiao Jie Du Tang is one of the best known and most effective formulas to prevent colds and the flu when taken at the first sign of symptoms. However, once you really start feeling ill, the timing for maximum efficacy has been missed. I have found it is often unlikely that patients will have their Yin Qiao formula on hand when needed, so the addition of Echinacea root extract to the formula extends the treatment window. Echinacea, while perhaps having only moderate benefit to prevent a cold, has been studied for its ability to lessen the symptoms of colds, the flu and upper respiratory tract infections. It is a well known immune system supporter.


CQ Jr.: Similar to Yin Qiao-Echinacea Plus but for kids in a liquid glycerin base that even mine will take.


Huang Lian Jie Du Tang and Ban Xia Huo Po Tang:  The two formulas combined together present a potent broad-spectrum antiviral, antihistamine, antinflamitory, antiemetic combination of herbs in a concentrated 7:1 extract pill form.  This combination is excellent in reducing the severity and duration of symptoms once you are in the grips of a nasty cold or flu.  While I don’t recommend going back to work or school while symptoms persist for the first 1-3 days due to infection risk of others, you can at lest reduce the time away and recover more comfortably.


Forsythia 18: A complex balanced formula that address both early and later stage cold and flu symptoms of the head and neck including sinus congestion, red itchy eyes and ears, lymph node swelling,  head and neck stiffness and pain, restlessness and irritability.  Because of its balanced nature this formula is safe to take over a prolonged period of time to possibly help prevent secondary bacterial infections


Towards the end of a viral cold or flu infection the immune system is often weak and easily susceptible to secondary bacteria infections; typically, a bronchial or sinus infection. Symptoms include a protracted cough or painful sinuses, throat or chest when breathing deeply.


 A.D.P.: is a emulsified oil of oregano extract that has strong anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.  Dosing is usually 1-3 pills 3 times a day with food. If protracted symptoms do not begin to resolve with 1-2 days or become worse antibiotic therapy may be necessary.  In either case it is recommended to take probiotics in order to mitigate the destruction of beneficial bacteria in the digestive system.



Acupuncture for the prevention and treatment of the flu and colds.

As many of you know acupuncture when done regularly is very effective in boosting the immune system and preventing colds and the flu. What you may not know is that it can also stave off an impending cold or flu and potentiates the effects of the herbal formulas described above.  Because of cold and flu viruses highly infectious nature during the middle or active part of the disease cycle I recommend self treatment with acupressure along with the herbs.  The points diagramed below can be massaged periodically to help decrease the severity and duration of symptoms..    Often these points will feel bruised or tender, just gently massage them until the feeling dissipates. If you are pregnant please do not massage He Gu (LI4) or San Yin Chiao (Sp 6) because they can potentially induce labor.



 After a few days, if a fever has broken and or symptoms have shifted and are less severe, an acupuncture treatment along with cupping or Gua Sha[iv] on the back can finish off the virus, clear out the residual crud and aches and boost the immune system to prevent opportunistic bacterial infections.


Beside herbs, supplements and acupuncture nothing beats a virus like sleep and plenty of fluids. I would avoid sugar which lowers the immune system. Also avoid dairy products which may cause more congestion and a better environment for the virus to replicate. I recommend eating cooked easy to digest foods like miso or chicken soup.  Knox Gelatin added to soup or tea helps restore strength and reduce pain[v].  Fresh Ginger in a tea form or in soup can induce sweating to help break a fever, reduce nausea and decrease inflammation and pain.

I hope this article helps you survive and thrive through the cold and flu season.

The herbal formulas and supplements described in the article are available through the clinic. Please call ahead to make sure they are in stock.  If you have not been seen recently by me please make an acupuncture or herbal consult appointment to purchase them.

The Cold and Flu season herbal consult rate is only $25.


To make an appointment 

Please call 503-620-5556 ext 5


The disclaimer: This letter is not intended or nor should be used as a substitute for medical advice from your doctor.  If you are suffering from a serious or life threatening illness or medical condition please seek the advice of your doctor before utilizing any of the suggestions written in this newsletter.


Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology, Chen & Chen, Art of Medicine Press, 2001.

Memorial Sloan-


 Cancer Center

Chinese Herbs and Influenza by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine,

Portland , Oregon

, October 2005

[iii] Brown, Donald. Original Internist, Winter 2005.


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