acupuncture, health, herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Oh no! The acupuncturist is sick! What does she do?

Ekka 2013
The Ekka may look harmless but beware of the lurgy!

It’s Ekka time. Everyone in Brisbane knows that when the Brisbane Exhibition is on that the flu goes around. Regardless of whether I go to the Ekka or not (and I did go this year – and I took hand sanitiser), I come down with the lurgy on exactly the same day of the year, the Monday before the Brisbane Exhibition Show Day. Yes, even I get sick sometimes! Picking up a respiratory infection 1-2 times per year is quite healthy and normal. In saying that, being sick is no fun and we like to prevent these things dragging on any longer than they have to.

So, as an acupuncturist, what do I do when I get sick?

Firstly, I should explain that in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we classify the common cold or flu generally into one of two types: hot or cold.

How do you know which one you have?

  • Hot signs and symptoms: fevers or feeling hot more predominant, excessive sweating, yellow & thick mucus, razor blade sore throat and a red face.
  • Cold signs: chills or feeling the cold more predominant, none/slight sweats, clear & runny mucus, sneezing and pale face.

Treatments for the two types have some similarities but also many differences. It’s important to nut out whether you have hot or cold symptoms, and exactly what those symptoms are, before proceeding to treatment. Your acupuncturist can help you to do this.

I was knocked down with the hot type – a hot-cold. This means that my treatment is based on clearing the heat as well as releasing the exterior (a TCM term which is badly translated as opening the pores to release the pathogen that has made you unwell). If you have the cold type, we can employ more warming methods and herbs in your treatment. Here’s a nice soup if you have a cold-cold.

So, what did I do:

  1. Acupuncture. Yes, that was my first stop. I had an acupuncture treatment to clear out my sinuses, dull my headache and release some heat that was contributing to that sore throat.
  2. Herbs. Being able to make up individualised herbal formulas means that I can match the herbs to the symptoms. I used herbs that ‘release the exterior’, dry up phlegm and cool the heat signs. The herbs usually taste quite awful however the upside to having a blocked nose is that it drastically reduces your sense of taste – awful tasting herbs go down easily. Win!
  3. Fluids. Keeping up your 2 litres of fluid per day is essential and if you are sweating well you’ll need even more. It’s okay to include some herbal tea into your total fluid intake. I combined some HealthWise Clinic Cold & Flu Tea in a pot with a squeeze of fresh lemon (picked from my parents’ lemon tree) and a spoon of honey mixed through it. The herbs were pungent and the lemon and honey were cooling and soothing for the sore throat.
  4. Inhalation. Clearing your head out when it’s blocked up with mucus is best done with a steam inhalation. Just like your grandmother recommended: tea towel over your head, breathing over a pot of gently steaming water. I usually would add a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil or a blend of nose clearing oils to the water.
  5. Gargle. One of the simplest gargles that is also very effective is the salt water gargle. Mix a teaspoon of salt into a glass of water. Then gargle to your heart’s (or rather throat’s) content. Don’t swallow. Yuck. Salt is cooling for that hot, sore throat.
  6. Rest. Get as much sleep and rest as you can. Don’t go out if there is anyway to avoid it. No one wants your germs and rest will help you get better faster. I love this post on the importance of rest when you are ill – no one says it better than Kathleen, the naturopath! And here is how she manages a cold as a naturopath.
Cold & flu tea, with lemon and honey.
Cold & flu tea, with lemon and honey.

How do you prevent getting sick? Here’s a post I wrote a little while ago on getting your defenses (immune system) prepared for cold and flu season.

So if you aren’t sick, look after yourself. And if you are sick also look after yourself. Get better soon and seek help if the symptoms are severe or long-lasting.

And just in case you have an acupuncture appointment tomorrow, I’m pleased to report that I will be back on deck after a good rest.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.

Diet, food, food allergy, Traditional Chinese Medicine

Releasing the exterior: a soup to expel the common cold

spicy noodle soupWhat should you eat at the first signs of picking up the common cold? Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) recommends increasing your intake of foods that are pungent in flavour, such as these:

  • onions
  • garlic
  • chili
  • mints and fragrant green leafy culinary herbs
  • ginger

You may have noticed that when you eat foods that have a pungent (spicy) nature they induce perspiration and help to loosen up blocked noses. Basically, pungent foods help us to excrete the stuck fluids in the upper and outer parts of our bodies. TCM refers to this area as the ‘exterior’, as the symptoms are not quite in the internal organs (eg. lungs) yet. Inducing perspiration and getting that blocked nose running helps to ‘release the pathogen from the exterior’. Better out than in?

While you are under attack, decrease your intake of any foods that will produce excessive phlegm or ‘tonify’ the pathogen (virus) in your system:

  • dairy
  • cold temperature and raw foods
  • animal protein
  • excessive sweet foods
  • excessive fatty foods

If your common cold comes with fever, sore throat and yellow mucous choose cooler foods such as mints and green tea.

If it is chills and clear runny mucous that are more of a problem for you choose  chili, cinnamon and ginger to warm you up.

I came across this incredibly delicious New Year Noodle Soup that ticks all of the boxes for a soup to ‘release the exterior’. I left out the cream from the topping and replaced the egg noodles with konjac noodles (popular in Japan) that are now marketed in Australia as SlimPasta. Konjac (ju ruo) is an Asian root vegetable. TCM has used it for resolving phelgm and blood stagnation. The soluble fibre absorbs water and can be shaped into a very low calorie pasta substitute. The noodles have a bland taste which makes them great for using in soups and sauces and a slightly chewier texture than a regular noodle. All in all, they were terrific in the soup.

For more information on preventing the common cold you should read: The art of war: your defences v the common cold.

To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture).  Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.