Lots of people assume that because Winter is over and Spring is rolling in, we can relax our vigilance against catching colds and flu. In fact, Spring and Summer influenza reporting in Australia has increased significantly in recent years (Kelly et al, 2013). So what can we do to prevent these illnesses from coming on, and stay healthy and strong for the Spring and Summer months? The people to ask are Chinese medicine practitioners, who understand the differences between these types of issues and can devise personalised treatments according to your individual symptoms and presentation.
China, similarly to Australia, has a wide range of geographical, topographical and climactic regions. Because of differences in climate between Northern China, which is usually cool and dry, and Southern China which is tropical, different environmentally related diseases occur in each region. Likewise, Northern Australia is more tropical than its Southern counterpart, and so a tendency toward what we refer to as Warm Disease (Wen Bing) is more prevalent than in the Southern states.
How does Warm Disease start?
Warm Disease happens when we are exposed to infections and viruses that flourish when the weather is warmer and more humid. Spring Warmth is a category within the Wen Bing framework that occurs most commonly during this time, usually as a result of exposure to warm winds and pollen, blowing in the new season. If the immune system is compromised due to constitutional problems, poor diet, high stress or overwork, the disease can take hold and make us sick.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of Warm Disease often begin with sore throats, hayfever or cough, and progress into full blown flu symptoms if nothing is done about them from the beginning. They have yellow or green congestion which ranges from thin to thick, depending on severity and levels of Heat. They usually progress to ear infections, sinusitis and throat infections, then start to attack the lungs, causing cough, lung infections, or asthma. If left even longer they can result in post-viral fatigue, chronic fatigue or skin problems.
What can be done?
At the FIRST sign of a cold or flu, which means sore throat, runny nose, general tiredness – come in and have acupuncture, cupping and some herbs from your Chinese medicine practitioner. We can help to shorten the duration and severity of the symptoms significantly.
Supplements are important at this time, to support the immune system and prevent the disease from penetrating more deeply. 1000mg of vitamin C daily is important, as is 10mg Zinc, for reducing symptom duration, beginning consumption at onset (Maggini, Beveridge, & Suter, 2012).
Following is a recipe for early treatment of cold and flu, at any time of year but particularly in Spring or Summer. It’s important that you ONLY take this at the first sign, and make sure you get in contact with your practitioner to get some more advice and perhaps book an appointment.
Soup for treating Warm, flu-like disease
- 2tb Miso paste
- 3 thin slices of fresh ginger
- 1-2 chopped spring onions
- Boiling water
- Put the miso paste in a bowl, add 1/4 cup boiling water and mix until the paste thins out and you form a thinner, smooth paste with no lumps.
- Gradually add more boiling water, stirring, until you have around 1 1/2 – 2 cups of liquid.
- Place the ginger and spring onions in the miso soup and allow to stand for 10 minutes. This will allow them to release their volatile oils into the miso soup but will not cook them so that the oils dissipate.
- This soup can be a base for other dinners and you can add green veggies, mushrooms, rice noodles, chicken or fish if you eat meat, tofu if you don’t, and other more filling items to make a complete meal from it. Other herbs like mint or coriander are also tasty and useful additions.
Kelly, H. A., Grant, K. A., Tay, E. L., Franklin, L., & Hurt, A. C. (2013). The significance of increased influenza notifications during spring and summer of 2010-11 in Australia.Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses,7(6), 1136-1141. http://doi.org/10.1111/irv.12057
Maggini, Beveridge, & Suter. (2012). A Combination of High-Dose Vitamin C plus Zinc for the Common Cold.Journal of International Medical Research,40(1), 28-42.