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  • Writer's pictureEartha Armstrong, L.Ac.

It's the season where a lot of patients are coming in for coughs, colds and the flu, oh my!

Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine are great for treating colds and flu.

Staying strong with acupuncture and herbal medicine during the cold and flu season.

How can Chinese medicine help if I get sick?

With the change of seasons it’s common for us to get sick or get seasonal allergies, the good news is that acupuncture and herbs can help lessen the effects and shorten the duration of sickness. We’ve all gotten sick and it’s no fun!

Some common symptoms are chills and fever, sweating, headaches, vertigo, body aches, stiff neck, changes in appetite and bowel movements, thirst, shortness of breath, cough, sore throat, increased mucus, irritated, red or itchy eyes, ear aches, nausea, vomiting and disrupted sleep.

Herbal medicine and acupuncture treatments are incredible, natural ways to treat colds, flus, allergies and sinus congestion or infection. They can also help when you just feel like you’re getting every cold that goes around by building the immune system and warding off those pesky bugs.

I often get asked what sort of modalities are helpful for colds and flus and in addition to the acupuncture and herbal medicine and here are a few of the ones you’ll most commonly experience in the clinic:

Moxabustion or moxa is an ancient modality, that uses herb which is placed on top of the acupuncture needle and burned to warm the body.  It helps with treating colds, flu, pain, arthritis and more.

Moxibustion: this is the burning of the herb artemisia vulgaris (mugwort) on an acupuncture point. The heat and volatile oils stimulate the tissues and help warm and regulate the energy of the body (Qi). It gets rid of cold in the body and is wonderful at preventing illness. It is very helpful for relieving pain, improving circulation, clearing congestion, and building the vitality and healing ability of the body.

What to expect: Small cones of moxa may be burned on specific points until you feel the warmth and then are removed, alternately a pole of moxa (like a cigar) may be circled over a point until it’s warm or a ball may be put on the top of a needle which brings the warmth into the point. It’s not painful and has incredible benefits!

Glass cups are used to create suction on the skin, bringing new blood to the area.  Cupping helps to relieve pain and sore muscles and is used to treat colds and the flu.

Flash Cupping: for this modality a suction is created with glass cups on the upper back and then pulled off with a satisfying “pop.” In this way it is said to release the pathogen and cold from the body. This therapy warms the local area, increases blood and lymph circulation and strengthens the body to fight off pesky pathogens.

Guasha: gua means to “scape or scratch” and sha means “sand.” This modality is an ancient folk remedy used by everyone in China at the first sign of a sore throat or cold. A spoon or gua sha tool is used to scrape the shoulders and neck and it brings up raised bumps or “sand” to the surface releasing the pathogen from the body.

What to expect: with cupping and gua sha, petechiae marks (like bruises) may be seen afterward and usually resolve in a few days. It’s important to keep the freshly cupped and gua sha-ed areas covered and protected from drafts or over exposure to the sun as this is a way of releasing the pathogen out of the body, but it’s like an open door and we don’t want to let other things in.

I recommend scheduling an appointment with your acupuncturist at the first signs of your illness! There are powerful points and modalities that can help boost your immune system and help relieve nasal congestion, body aches, sore throat, and fever. When colds and flus are detected early, acupuncture, moxa, cupping and gua sha are especially effective when used in conjunction with Chinese herbal medicine, they lessen the severity of symptoms and allow the body to recover more quickly.

May health and wellness be with you and your family in every season!

Happy health family that stays healthy with regular acupuncture treatments.

This blog and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on this blog is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health related program. 


Nielsen, Arya. Gua Sha: a Traditional Technique for Modern Practice. Elsevier Health Sciences UK, 2014.


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