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By Arwen Careaga, LAc., MSTOM, NCCAOM Diplomate of Acupuncture

This is a fairly short article, but important – if you consider it important to avoid unnecessary suffering, that is! Two days ago, I was working from 9-8, entering data, etc., and sitting in the air conditioning in a sleeveless, collar-less shirt. Two nights ago, I sneezed (technically more than twice), had a sudden burst of chills followed quickly by a heat wave on the surface of my skin. My left eye watered. Clear liquid seeped from my nose. My head hurt. My ears felt full and tingly. To many people, these may seem to be unrelated events. How could sitting around working on a computer have anything to do with catching a cold?

For the sake of getting to the point I will assume that you, dear reader, have some background on qi. (If not, feel free to check out our article here: In the case of “catching cold,” we are talking about the “wei” or “defensive” qi. It dwells at the surface of the body and serves as early defense against pathogenic attack. It is linked to the immune system and in my case was weakened by constant working in an air conditioned room. Those alternating chills and fever were a physical manifestation of my defensive qi fighting against the cold pathogen. Since my defenses had been weakened by overwork and under-protection (no sleeves, no collar), I began to develop the symptoms that, unchecked, would have plagued me miserably for a week or more. (The same thing can happen in the cooler seasons, especially when the pores are open and the cold wind blows – hence my seasonal post on facebook on many ways to tie a scarf!)

The good news is that if your defense qi is being attacked, you can give it a boost! In this scenario, a good way to do that is to sweat. As soon as the symptoms started and I felt “aversion to cold”, I covered up – sweatshirt, sweat pants, thick socks – and took a strong dose of an herbal formula designed to regulate the qi and kick out the cold.  I took to bed and fell asleep quicker than I imagined possible. When I awoke after just an hour I could tell that I had been sweating and most of my symptoms were gone. (As sweat leaves the pores, it whisks out the cold pathogen as well.) At that point, it was tempting to throw off the sweat-inducing clothes and fan around in the cool air, but, knowing the importance of staying protected, I changed into another sweatshirt and went to sleep for the night. I awoke the following morning feeling as good as new!

There are a couple of straightforward take-aways with this article. The first is pay attention. The sooner you intercept a “cold” in the early stages, the less you will suffer. I could have caught this even earlier and done some gua sha, put on a sweater and avoided most symptoms altogether if I had heeded the first warning. It was just a fleeting thought of, “This could make me sick” when I felt a slight chill while working. The second take-away is take action. Rather than just succumbing to the “inevitable” suffering, do something about it to the best of your ability! In my case, that involved covering up and taking herbs. This brings us to the third take-away: be prepared. While I am intentionally not listing the name of the formula I took because I do not want to encourage anyone to order herbs willy-nilly from the internet, I can give you instead a very simple recipe. Read it now, amass these ingredients, and follow these instructions the next time you feel a cold coming on:

Place the 3 quarter-sized slices of ginger in 2 cups of water, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer for 15-20 minutes. This part is finished once the water takes on a slightly yellow color. Add in one dried orange peel (or 2-3 tangerine/clementine/etc peels) and 3-4 dried green onion bulbs with some green stem left on. Boil 5 minutes longer. Strain off the liquid (discard the solids) and let it cool just enough to sip it. Put on a hooded sweatshirt, sweatpants, socks and a blanket – cover up and drink the tea slowly. You may feel tingly, you will probably sweat. Stay covered as I’ve outlined above, nap if possible. Do not over-exert yourself or consume greasy/fried foods, alcohol, or dairy products at this time.  If you have missed the opportunity to kick out the cold in the early stages and this process doesn’t work, take heart – acupuncture and herbs can help you, whatever stage of illness (or wellness) you’re in. Just bear in mind that, as in most cases, the sooner you address the situation, the better off you’ll be. In the meantime, go ahead and “like” us on facebook! I hear there’s an awesome post coming up about “How to Tie a Scarf!”

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