Colds and Flu

Related Health Condition

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Colds and flu in Chinese Traditional Medicine are exterior syndromes manifested in fever, sensitivity or aversion to cold, headaches, aches and pain or tenderness in the extremities, nasal congestion, sore throat, sneezing, and coughing.

Colds and flu in TCM belong to Feng Wen and seasonal Gan Mao categories. The earliest record for treating this condition is Wen Bing Xiao Bian by Ye Tian Shi from the chapters on Wind Wen Spring, Damp Wen, Heat Wen, and Cold Wen and Shang Han Lun by Zhang Zhong Jing from the chapters on Tai Yang Disease, Yao Ming Disease, and Shao Yang Disease. From these two books, the main causes of these are abnormal weather changes, weak constitutions, and invasions of pathogens.

Primary Treatments with Chinese Medicinal Herbs

Yin Qiao San

Ingredients: Jin Yin Hua (Lonicera Flower), Lian Qiao (Forsythia), Bo He (Mentha), Jing Jie (Schizonepeta), Dou Chi (Dan) (Soja), Niu Bang Zi (Arctium), Jie Geng (Platycodon), Zhu Ye (Dan) (Lophatherum), Gan Cao (Licorice), Lu Gen (Phragmites)

Clinical Application:
A classical herbal formula is called Yin Qiao San (Lonicera & Forsythia Formula). It is the most commonly used formula for colds and flu, especially with the symptoms that in TCM are the wind-heat type. Researchers have found that this common formula can induce perspiration, reduce fever, relieve pain and coughing, resist bacteria and viruses, and subdue inflammation.

The Common Cold: A study treated 1,150 common cold cases treated with the coarse powder form of this formula, and reported the results as follows: after one day of treatment, fever was reduced across the board, the less severe cases were significantly improved, and the more severe cases experienced quick alleviation of symptoms while taking a somewhat longer time to recover fully; on average, all cases recovered in 2.7 days. (1)

Influenza: Of 50 flu cases treated with this formula in a study, all cases showed a speedy decrease in body temperature, self-reported significant improvement in symptoms, ancd were resolved in two to four days. (2) In another study, this formula was given to 1,480 people as a preventive measure against influenza (treated with 1-2 pills daily for 1.5 months), and the results were: the treatment group had a flu contraction rate of 2.6%, while the comparison group had one of 17.55%. (3)

Other Treatments with Chinese Medicinal Herbs

Jing Jie, Fang Feng, Chai Hu, Ge Gen, Jin Yin Hua, Lian Qiao, Da Qing Ye, Shi Gao, Xing Ren, She Gan, Yin Chen, and Gan Cao

Liu Zheng, et al. used a formula containing Jing Jie (Schizonepeta), Fang Feng (Siler), Chai Hu (Bupleurum), Ge Gen (Pueraria), Jin Yin Hua (Lonicera Flower), Lian Qiao (Forsythia), Da Qing Ye (Isatis Leaf), Shi Gao (Gypsum), Xing Ren (Apricot Seed), She Gan (Belamcanda), Yin Chen (Oriental Wormwood), and Gan Cao (Licorice) made into an herbal decoction and warm rice soup. Of 201 cases, after 1-2 days of treatment, 178 patients (88.6%) were no longer febrile. (4)

Jade Screen

Zhang Hui Ling, et al. used the formula Jade Screen, containing Huang Qi, Bai Zhu, and Fang Feng in a decoction to treat recurring upper-respiratory infections in 120 patients once per day for one month. He then changed to a decocted syrup for two months. He followed up with a visit 4-6 months after the treatment concluded. 37 cases had no recurring infection, 50 cases showed noticeably reduced frequency of infection, 3 cases showed no change. (5)

External Treatment

Wang Zhen used external herbal treatment for 32 pediatric patients. He used Gui Zhi (Cinnamon Twig), Shao Yao (Peony), Sheng Jiang (Ginger), Gan Cao (Licorice), and Da Zao (Jujube), decocted into syrup. With patients prone, he applied the syrup along the neck and spine and massaged the area for 15 minutes; he performed this treatment twice per day for 3 days. After 1-2 treatment units, 27 patients significantly improved, 4 did not respond, and 1 patient did not complete the treatment for a total effectiveness of 84.4%. (6)

Ji Yuan used Jade Screen prepared as above for preventing colds and flu for 466 patients. He used the syrup and massaged Bai Hui (Du 20), and Nei Lao Gong (P 8), as the main points 15 times as a treatment unit. There was a three-day break between units. He found that the group of children who received the treatment had noticeable results compared to the control group (p < 0.005). The control group had 15% more frequent colds and flu/month than did the treated group. (7)

Zhao used herbal aroma for preventing the flu in 83 patients. The herbal formula contained Bo He (Mentha), Cong Bai (Scallion), Ju Hua (Chrysanthemum), Jing Jie (Schizonepeta), Zi Su (Perilla), Cang Zhu (Atractylodes), Gui Pi (Cinnamon), Da Hui Xiang (Truestar Anistree), Xin Yi (Magnolia), and Xi Xin (Wild Ginger), combined and grouded into powder and put into a cotton bag, which the patients wore on their chests, inhaling the aroma deliberately at least 9 times per day. Every 29 days, the formula was replaced. The 83 patients showed good results compared to the control group. (8) , (9)

Hu Zhi Ping, et al. used moxibustion to treat Wai Guan for 120 colds and flu patients. 3 treatments was one unit. 94 cases significantly improved, 12 improved, 14 did not respond. (10)

Acupunture & Acupressure

Chen Su used Yin Tang (Extra 2) to treat 100 patients for colds and flu. He used 1" 30-31 guage acupuncture needles. After insertion, he manipulated them for about 1 minute to gain sedating effects. He then left the needles in place for 20-30 minutes, turning the needles every 5-6 minutes. Three days was one treatment unit. 77 cases significantly improved, 19 improved, and 4 did not respond for an effectiveness rate of 96%, compared to the control group (p


  1. Peng Yu Lin. Guangdong Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 1962;(5):25.
  2. Group of Infectious Diseases. Journal of Changchun Medical College. 1959;(1):119.
  3. Han Da Wei. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 1957;(12):653.
  4. Liu Zheng Li, et al. Analysis of Treatment for Influenza in Chinese Traditional Medicine. Journal of Chinese Traditional Medicine. 1991;(1):25-26.
  5. Zhang Hui Ling, et al. Laboratory Research and Clinical Trial on Recurring Upper-Respiratory Infections using the Jade Spring Formula. New Journal of Chinese Traditional Medicine. 1996;(1):22-24.
  6. Wang Zhen. External Treatments for 32 Pediatric Patients with Colds Using Gui Zhi Tong. Journal of An Hui College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 1999;18(2):117.
  7. Ji Yuan. Observation on Herbal Massage for Preventing Pediatric Colds. Journal of Chinese Traditional Medicine, External Treatments. 1999;8(3):7.
  8. Peng Yong, et al. Review of Prevention and Treatment of Influenza with Chinese Traditional Medicine. Journal of Botanical Herbs. 1998;29(8):561-563.
  9. Zou Zhi Dong, et al. Subjective Experience with Preventing and Treating Influenza with Herbal Medicine.
  10. Hu Zhi Ping, et al. Moxibustion treatment for Common Cold. Journal of Chinese Acupuncture. 1999;(10)612-613.