By Sean Michael Hall, L.Ac.
There are two herbal formulas that have been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to prevent colds, flus and other viral and bacterial infections.
One formula, Jade Screen (Yu Ping Feng San), is best taken preemptively on a daily basis for a month or two near the beginning of cold & flu season, as well as during times of higher stress.
The other, Lonicera & Forsythia Formula (Yin Qiao San), is taken at the very first signs of cold or flu. If taken early enough, it can often prevent the full expression of the flu or cold.
1. Jade Screen Formula (Yu Ping Feng San)
Overview: This is a very simple formula containing only 3 herbs, astragalus (huang qi), atractylodes (bai zhu) and siler (fang feng). From a TCM perspective it supplements the qi and secures the exterior, which in biomedical terms means it has adaptogenic and immune system strengthening effects. The majority of the formula is comprised of astragalus, with atractylodes and siler supporting and balancing its actions, and it is the astragalus that has been most thoroughly researched for its immune system activating and anti-viral effects.
Form: The formula can be taken in either granule or tablet form. The granule form is less expensive and allows me to modify the formula to meet your specific needs. The down side is that some people have a harder time remembering to take the granule form, as it must be stirred into warm water to drink. The tablets are slightly more convenient, but the formula can’t be modified, and it is more expensive.
Instructions/Dosage: This formula should be taken for a month or two near the beginning of cold & flu season if you get sick occasionally, and throughout the cold & flu season if you get sick regularly. If you’re feeling run down, taking numerous flights, or otherwise at risk, I recommend taking it for an additional week or two around that time. Tablets should be taken twice a day, 5 tablets each dose. Granules should be taken twice a day, and depending on need, either 1 or 2 teaspoons each dose.
2. Lonicera & Forsythia Formula (Yin Qiao San)
Overview: TCM offers dozens of herbal formulas to take in the early stage of a cold or flu, and many others to manage the symptoms if a cold or flu fully takes root. I recommend bypassing that complexity and keeping a modified form of Yin Qiao San on hand. Time is of the essence, and the sooner you take this formula after you experience the first symptoms of cough, sore or scratchy throat, chills or body flush, body aches or congestion, the more likely it will work to fight off the illness. From a TCM perspective, the formula releases the exterior, clears wind-heat and reduces toxicity. From a biomedical perspective, this formula has anti-viral, anti-bacterial and diaphoretic properties.
Form: Though the granules offer a stronger, less expensive dose, I generally recommend taking this in tablet form, so that the first dose can be taken as soon as the first symptoms show. Tablets should be kept in your car, purse, and/or desk drawer at work, to make sure they are easily and quickly accessible. If you happen to see me in that very early stage, let me know and I can prepare an herbal granule formula that will be modified to more specifically address your specific symptoms. Otherwise, the tablet form I recommend is a product by Health Concerns called Cold Away, which is Yin Qiao San with the addition of other anti-viral and bacterial herbs such as da qing ye and ban lan gen.
For Cold Away tablets, take 5 tablets four times a day, about every four hours. For granules, take 1 teaspoon four times a day. Take either form for 3 days at the most, or until symptoms have been absent for 24 hours.
To stay healthy this season, contact me now to arrange purchase of Jade Screen to take for 1 or 2 months to strengthen your immune system and prevent colds & flus, and modified Yin Qiao San to take if you feel like you might be getting sick to ward off the illness. This power duo, along with my cold & flu season lifestyle recommendations, will help you stay cold & flu free this season.