In Upstate New York, we certainly aren’t strangers to the cold and wet weather; it can begin as early as September and last until long after Spring should have thawed us out. A common condition we have all suffered from often plagues us at this time: a cold! Not to be confused with the Flu, a cold comes with the classic symptoms of a stuffy & runny nose, headaches, chills and maybe a slight fever. You may have a cough or a sore throat and perhaps body aches. Most colds last from days to a week, and from a Western Medical perspective, the only thing to be done is to rest and wait it out. What, exactly, does Chinese Medicine say about colds? The answer may surprise you! From an Eastern perspective a cold, or any illness we can get from another person/environment is on the surface layer or exterior of the body. The idea is that our bodies are made up of layers- our skin and muscles are much more superficial (close to the outside), while our bones and vital organs lie deeper within. The pores present on our skin let it breathe its own oxygen and allow for sweat to escape, but they also leave an open space that is room for an invader such as the cold. It is the job of the Lung to make sure the pores stay closed. The cold can weaken the Lung, causing the pores to open when they shouldn’t. If the cold gets in to our pores, it begins to constrict the local tissue; It also begins a battle with the defense qi present on the surface. Whenever there is constriction there is a lack of Qi movement, which is what causes the aches and pains when you have a cold
It seems like if cold got into the pores that the body being warm in nature would just warm up the cold area and there would be no problem, what’s the difference? This however is not the case- the cold is an invader that is not supposed to be present, and it has started to cause changes (such as the local tissue constriction). This puts the body on alert that something is wrong. Exposure to long term cold has been shown to decrease human immune function in studies, and this is backed up by the idea that when we are suffering from cold invasion we are feeling weak, tired and run down. Not only is our Qi mounting a defense, but those defenses are automatically weakened by the cold- they simply don’t work as well. The goal of the body at this stage is to get rid of the evil by pushing it out through the pores. This occurs through sweating and it is called “releasing the exterior”. Usually the body is able to do this on its own- sweat is produced and as it exits the pores it takes the cold invasion with it. If you find yourself suffering from a wind cold, what can you do?
1. Keep warm! Adding on layers and keeping warm can help to bolster the bodies defenses, and it can help release the exterior if your body is ready and able to.
2. Rest! Motion causes you to use up your Qi, which when you have a cold is busy trying to fight off the invader. Rest ensures your body has the energy to stop the invader from going into the deeper layers of the body and making you sicker.
3. Use some warming herbs- Ginger, Cinnamon and a squeeze of lemon make for a great tea to fight a cold. Ginger and black peppercorns can also be added to homemade chicken noodle soup.
4. Protect your neck! If you do have a cold, it means that your pores may be open abnormally and you should keep extra warm when going out to avoid further exposure.
What can you do to avoid cold invasion? The number one thing anyone can do is to protect your body from the cold elements. Wearing a scarf to protect the back of the neck is very important. Eating warming soups (such as chicken noodle) for dinner can also help keep your body warm and bolster its defenses against the cold.
Recipe to Follow!!