Frequent colds or flu according to Chinese Medicine

TCM Education Center > Symptoms list > Frequent colds or flu

Frequent colds or flu can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like frequent colds or flu here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here frequent colds or flu is often associated with shortness of breath, coughing and weak voice in the pattern “Qi Deficiency”.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of frequent colds or flu we’ve identified two herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the four medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat frequent colds or flu.

Qi Deficiency, a "pattern of disharmony" that can cause frequent colds or flu

In Chinese Medicine frequent colds or flu is a symptom for the pattern "Qi Deficiency". Below is a small explanation for it with links for more details.

Ginseng (Ren Shen) is the king ingredient for Si Jun Zi Tang, a formula used for Qi Deficiency

Qi Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Empty (Xu), Weak (Ruo)

Tongue color: Pale

Qi Deficiency simply means lack of Qi. It includes the lack of Original Qi, Nutritive Qi, Defensive Qi or the Qi that resides in Organs or Channels. It mainly manifests itself in a weakened function of Organs and a declining ability of the body to resist diseases.

In addition to frequent colds or flu, other symptoms associated with Qi Deficiency include shortness of breath, coughing and weak voice.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Qi Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Abnormal Uterine Bleeding or Heavy Menstruation.

Qi Deficiency is often treated with Si Jun Zi Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Ginseng - Ren Shen - as a key herb). Si Jun Zi Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that tonify qi", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Tonifies Qi".

Read more about Qi Deficiency here

Two herbal formulas that might help with frequent colds or flu

Si Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach.

Why might Si Jun Zi Tang help with frequent colds or flu?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi Deficiency' of which frequent colds or flu is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Qi Deficiency include shortness of breath, coughing and weak voice.

Read more about Si Jun Zi Tang here

Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1107

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Qi. Strengthens the Spleen and Stomach. Clears Phlegm and mucus. Promotes appetite.

Why might Liu Jun Zi Tang help with frequent colds or flu?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi Deficiency' of which frequent colds or flu is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Qi Deficiency include shortness of breath, coughing and weak voice.

Read more about Liu Jun Zi Tang here

The four Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat frequent colds or flu

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with frequent colds or flu?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat frequent colds or flu as a symptom, like Si Jun Zi Tang or Liu Jun Zi Tang for instance.

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit.

Read more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms here

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with frequent colds or flu?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat frequent colds or flu as a symptom, like Si Jun Zi Tang or Liu Jun Zi Tang for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with frequent colds or flu?

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat frequent colds or flu as a symptom, like Si Jun Zi Tang or Liu Jun Zi Tang for instance.

Atractylodes Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Fortifies the Spleen Yang and dispels Damp through urination. Tonifies Qi and stops sweating. Calms restless fetus when due to Deficiency of Spleen Qi.

Read more about Atractylodes Rhizomes here

Why might Ginseng (Ren Shen) help with frequent colds or flu?

Because Ginseng is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat frequent colds or flu as a symptom, like Si Jun Zi Tang or Liu Jun Zi Tang for instance.

Ginseng is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Very strongly tonifies the Qi. Tonifies the Lungs and Spleen. Assists the body in the secretion of Fluids and stops thirst. Strengthens the Heart and calms the Shen (mind/spirit).

Read more about Ginseng here