The Common Cold - Causes and Food Therapy in Chinese MedicineThe Common Cold – Causes and Food Therapy in Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac.

How many of us, with the coming of winter and colder weather, succumb to the common cold? Sore throat, stuffy nose, fever and chills are all symptoms that accompany a cold, and ones most of us have come to know so well.

In Chinese medicine, the common cold is seen to be caused by external pathogens invading the body. There are several kinds of external pathogenic factors leading to the common cold. The first is wind-cold, the second is wind-heat and the third is summer-heat and dampness. Remember, if your immune system is depressed or under stress then your defenses are less able to fight off a cold or any pathogenic factors.

The common cold occurs at any time of year, but is most common in winter and spring. The incubation period for a cold is about one day. Symptoms usually begin around the nose and throat, with a stuffy nose, sore throat or sneezing, and sometimes there may be a slight fever. Here is how, in Chinese medicine, you can tell what kind of cold you have and below are some simple Chinese herbal recipes to help relieve symptoms and help you get over your cold sooner.

Wind-Cold Common Cold

The symptoms of a wind-cold invasion are:

~ strong aversion to cold
~ slight fever without sweating
~ headache
~ stuffy nose
~ watery nasal discharge
~ cough
~ expectoration of thin, white sputum
~ thirst with a desire for hot drinks
~ pain in the limbs

Wind-Heat Common Cold

The symptoms of an invasion of wind-heat are:

~ high fever
~ slight aversion to wind
~ distending pain in the head
~ a little sweating
~ sore throat
~ stuffy nose
~ thick yellow nasal discharge
~ cough with sticky yellow phlegm
~ thirst with a strong desire to drink

Summer-Heat and Dampness Common Cold

The symptoms of a summer-heat with dampness type cold are:

~ fever
~slight aversion to wind
~ heavy and distending pain in the head
~ aching pain in the limbs
~ thirst but little or no desire to drink
~ chest oppression
~ loss of appetite
~ nausea
~ yellow or cloudy urine

Food Therapy Recipes for the Common Cold

Wind-Heat Common Cold Recipe

Peppermint Porridge (Congee)

Step 1

1. Take 30g (1 oz) of fresh peppermint, or 15g (1/2 oz) of dried peppermint.
2. Add 2 cups of boiling water to fresh or dried peppermint
3. Cover and allow to steep for 5 minutes
4. Strain and save the liquid to add to step 2

Step 2

5. Take 90g (3oz) round grain rice, 3 cups of water and 1 tsp of honey
6. Bring rice and water to a boil, then allow to simmer for 30 minutes
7. When the rice is cooked, add the peppermint tea and teaspoon of honey
8. Stir and allow to boil for 5 minutes
9. Divide porridge into 2 servings and take on in the morning and the other in the evening.

Wind-Cold Common Cold Recipe

Ginger Rice Soup

1. Take 10g (5 slices) of fresh ginger, 100g (3 1/2 oz) polished round grain rice or glutinous rice and 30g (2 pieces) green onion

2. Cook the fresh ginger and rice in 4 cups of water for 30 minutes

3. Then add the green onion and simmer for 30 minutes

4. Eat the entire amount while it is still hot

5. After eating, lie in bed under a thick blanket to sweat out the cold that has entered the body. (This soup enduces sweating!)

Summer-Heat and Dampness Common Cold Recipe

1. Take 30g (1oz) Job’s-tears seed, 30g (1oz) white hyacinth bean, 100g (3 1/2oz) round grain rice

2. Bring all ingredients to a boil in 4 cups of water

3. After bringing to a boil, reduce to a simmer and allow to cook for 40 minutes

4. Separate porridge into 2 servings, and take one in the morning and the other in the evening.

There are several things we can do to prevent catching a cold. Things like dressing warmly (so wind doesn’t get in), getting enough sleep to keep your immune system strong, staying hydrated, eating well and exercising are all important to staying healthy in the winter months and all year round. But, with our busy lifestyles, if you do happen to come down with a cold, resting, and using Chinese food therapy is a good way to get over your cold as quickly as possible.


About the Author:

Emma’s love for Chinese Medicine began as a teenager when, like many people, western medicine failed to solve the underlying health issues she faced. Her doctors proposed only surgery or a lifetime of drugs. However, after a few months of acupuncture treatments and herbs those problems were resolved. From that moment forward she was committed to extending this gift of health to others.

Emma received a Diploma of Acupuncture from the Institute of Traditional Medicine in Toronto in 2006. Immediately after graduating, she started her first job treating postal workers and seeing up to 20 patients a day! Over the next several years she worked at 5 other multidisciplinary clinics throughout Toronto developing her skills and technique while working collaboratively with other health professionals, including medical doctors, to restore health to her patients holistically.

Today she specializes in gynecology, pediatrics and treating emotional issues and mood disorders through her own practice, Ukiah Clinic. She also shares her experience and enthusiasm on her new website, Chinese Medicine Living that explores ancient Chinese wisdom for better living in the modern world.



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