Thoughts on the “Seasonal Flu”
The Seasonal Flu, often referred to as the “common cold” in common English, shares quite (another) common denotation in TCM or eastern medicine. In terms of Yin and Yang theory, our Yang natured body which constantly maintains a warm temperature of 36.5 degrees (isn’t it magical ?), can be easily counterbalanced by the “cold” natured force of Yin.
(That’s why I often discourage patients in taking a whole body shower on the day of acupuncture treatment, because the acupuncture treatment is basically about balancing the activities of a Yang force called “Qi”. A patient might have a question about taking a hot shower, “Isn’t it Yang nature ?”. Please think about the nature of water itself and you’ll realize).
Same reason why I’m against taking a shower when the flu symptoms are felt. You will recover much faster if you can postpone taking showers. It is the same reason why I’m also against patients taking a cold shower, especially right after the delivery of a baby, when the body is sweaty.
Quite often, we find ancient wisdom embedded beneath the words of everyday language.
The flu, be it seasonal or epidemic, has some significance and influence in the history of TCM. As early as 200 A.D., the epidemic flu was sweeping across a region of China and prompted the advent of a clinical textbook called, Shang Han Lun (treatise of cold injury) by Dr. Zhang Zhong Jing.
In this masterpiece, the signs and symptoms are analyzed, diagnosed and prescriptions are formulated accordingly. The existing TCM theories were matured into practical clinical applications linking the “Six acupuncture channels and twelve internal organs” with the progression of the Cold pathogenic factor (which can be regarded as a “virus”).
The “Cold” pathogen usually lasts around 6 days because it travels our 6 channels and after 6 days, it can be gone or run another cycle, if you are unfortunate.
Maybe that’s why we usually take the flu lightly, but children, seniors or people with pre-existing medical conditions should pay more attention as that “cold” yin natured pathogen is ever evolving inside us.
In Western clinics, your treatment options are ready-made pills such as Tylenol, Aspirin, or combinations of both and prescribed antibiotics. In TCM, diagnosis are made by analyzing signs, symptoms, looking at your tongue, and feeling your pulse. The herbal formulas are always individually designed, and maybe that’s why TCM and Herbal Medicine is not as popular in this fast paced world or economy. Usually people can feel improvements in a day or two, and my herbal prescriptions are usually dispensed for no more than 3 days.
Let’s look at the flu in terms of two aspects of Yin and Yang. The “Yang”, the external factor which western medicine is mostly concerned, with lots of politics and dollars involved, and the “Yin” the internal condition of your whole system including the immune system. Everyone of us is a fractal representation of a bio-system where billions and billions (who knows how many ?) bacterias and viruses, good and bad, coexists in a balance of another level of Yin and Yang. Next time, if you ever catch a cold more seriously and are bed-ridden, ask yourself, what is the value of “being well” and “being in harmony” with other forces in your own system.
Don’t just throw a nuclear bomb if the “other” forces are disagreeable.
Why ? Because the others are still a part of a precious you.
Who are you catching the cold ?
Ben Lim / Dr. TCM / December 2011