Santa Barbara Wellness Network

The Common Cold and Respiratory Allergies: Natural Methods for Prevention and Treatment

Although colds are more common in the fall and winter, and allergies in the spring and fall, one’s vulnerability to either remains all year long––dependent on the body’s state of health. This article addresses how to prevent, and how to respond to provide quick relief to either a cold or allergies.

Generally, recovery from a cold or allergies is uncomplicated, but occasionally they may linger, and in all instances experiencing them is disruptive and draining. Symptoms that present may indicate a compromised immune system resulting in a vulnerability to pathogenic factors or a hyper sensitivity to environmental factors (allergens) that trigger allergic responses. Building and maintaining a healthy system are core elements for prevention.


Minimizing exposure to pathogens & allergens can be important. Still, keeping your body clean, strong, and free of toxins will strengthen your immune system, deprive pathogens of an environment to live in, and reduce/eliminate inflammation of sinus and respiratory tissue thus enabling you to avoid threats of a potential cold and allergies. Do this by eating pure whole foods that supply nutrients, rest, and exercise regularly. Eliminate offenders from your diet-anything that causes excesses (i.e., phlegm, mucus, or toxic slurries). Regular fasts/cleanses aid in maintaining your body’s balance by removing excesses, keeping your elimination organs clear, facilitating tissue regeneration, and promoting overall rejuvenation.

  • Rest and sleep are crucial to maintaining general health and immunity. When a cold or allergies threaten, rest; allow your body’s energy to focus on healing.
  • Limit your consumption of pathogenic foods. These include sugars, processed foods (pastries, carbohydrates, bottled drinks, etc.). Limit your consumption of dairy, oils, grains, coffee, and alcohol. If your body is congested it may be overburdened and unable to successfully eliminate toxins, exhibiting cold-like symptoms and activating allergic reactions.
  • Drink fresh raw “live” juice. Juicing will rebuild and maintain immunity and health. Live juice (primarily vegetable) is the purest natural source of 100% assimilable nutrients. Live juice requires minimal digestion and deeply nourishes, hydrates, and facilitates detoxification.
  • Eat a variety of fresh vegetables, raw and cooked. These will provide, along with crucial nutrients, fiber/bulk, which is crucial for eliminating waste material. Slightly cooked foods will warm you and are easier to digest. These are beneficial during the cold times of the year––especially for people who are sensitive to cold temperature or who have sluggish digestion.
  • Keep yourself warm. Protect yourself from wind and cold (in Chinese medicine “external wind” designates the invasion of pathogens normally associated with an acute common cold). If you feel chilly, cover up. In the summer over-exposure to sun and heat can also lead to experiencing symptoms.
  • Exercise regularly. Aerobic/cardiovascular exercise 3-5 times a week is essential for a healthy immune system. Exercise balances your mind, body, and spirit. Exercise increases your body’s temperature and metabolic rate, encourages deep breathing, oxygenates and nourishes cells, facilitates cleansing and detoxification through respiration and perspiration, increases peristalsis, stimulates blood and lymph circulation, aids cellular detoxification and regeneration, and contributes to hormonal balance. Stretching exercises (yoga, the five Tibetan rites, and others) are equally valuable to maintaining health and body/mind balance, for healthy skin, toned organs, and emotional balance. Stretching greatly reduces injuries/pain associated with repeated motion activities, work, or bad posture.
  • Practice Qi Gong, an ancient Asian form of movement for energy flow. Qi Gong will strengthen the Wei Qi (protective Qi). This protocol, while difficult to describe in a single paragraph, involves conscious deep breathing to move the Yang and strengthen the Qi of the lungs. Here is an abbreviated form, which you can perform either standing with knees slightly bent, or sitting up straight without back support: Place your tongue on the roof of your mouth, inhale through your nose, count to nine for the entire inhalation while drawing your breath down into your lower abdomen––into the perineal cavity. Hold your breath for the count of nine. Exhale through your mouth with your tongue relaxed, again counting to nine during the exhalation. As you exhale, make a face as though you are about to sneeze, and make a soft “SSSAYY.” This exercise should be done one or more times daily for a minimum of 10 minutes each time to achieve healing results.
  • Practice daily dry brushing your skin. This massage will strengthen your immune system and bring the defensive Qi to the surface to combat pathogens and reduce sensitivity to allergens.
  • End your shower with a cold-water rinse to strengthen immunity and close the pores of the skin.
  • Eliminate or mitigate stress. This is critical. Stress compromises immunity: it locks you into a “sympathetic” response mode, shutting down your regenerative and immune strengthening systems and making you prone to disease. It is scientifically documented that joy and happiness contribute to good health and wellness.
  • Consider regular acupuncture treatment and the use of herbal formulas. These can effectively increase immunity, move stagnant Qi, stimulate antibody production, and revitalize deficiencies.
  • Help balance your PH by drinking 1/4 to 1/2 lemon or lime juice in a glass of warm, filtered water. Do this at least twice daily to maintain internal strength, clear congestion (mucus, phlegm), provide essential alkalinizing vitamins and minerals to your body’s PH, and to aid detoxification of your entire body––especially your liver.  
  • Maintain body/mind/spirit balance. Consider a form of meditation. Be conscious of both physical and mental tensions such as over-exercising, overwork, exposure to extremes of cold or heat, and chronic emotional stress.

Despite your use of preventative methods, you may occasionally experience cold and flu symptoms or allergies. When your body is clean and free of excesses these symptoms will quickly pass, decreasing in frequency and intensity as you progress on your path of health.

If cold or allergy symptoms manifest as body and neck aches, nasal drip or congestion, cough, itchy eyes, etc., the following steps to arrest deeper penetration and congestion, and to facilitate healing, can be very effective.

Treating the Common Cold-Wind Invasion (An Oriental/Natural Medicine Approach):

In Oriental Medicine the common cold is called Wind Invasion––a pernicious evil that penetrates the protective Qi. Exogenous factors characterized as cold, heat, dampness, dryness, phlegm, etc. contribute to Wind Invasion. (The Traditional Chinese Medicine system below examines Cold, Heat, and Damp Wind Invasion patterns.)  The acute phase of allergies is also viewed in Chinese Medicine as a Wind invasion, the symptoms that present being more of a Wind heat and/or combined with damp.

To combat most types of Wind Invasion, sweating is important. When your body’s vital energy elevates its temperature, perspiration expels toxins through your pores. A fever increases metabolism, creates an inhospitable environment for pathogens (pathogens are denatured/killed off due to higher temperatures), and burns off congesting materials in your body. Therefore, specific nutrition, acupuncture, and herbal therapies may be used to encourage sweating, unless you are already sweating profusely with a high fever (Caveat: if your body’s temperature is high and sustained, different therapies are advised––consult with your natural health practitioner as soon as possible).

Depriving pathogens of their energy sources (primarily sugars) while encouraging elimination can effectively halt the progress of a cold and allergies. Reducing your diet to liquids (filtered water, live juice, broth, organic teas, light soups) refocuses the energy normally used for digestion toward the present healing crisis. Eat lightly and/or juice fast until symptoms abate.

Likewise, when you feel a cold coming on, lessen your activities to conserve your body’s energy and to redirect it toward healing. However, unless you are feeling extremely weak, continue gentle exercises such as walking and stretching to maintain circulation and oxygenation.

In all cases, the therapies and strategies mentioned above must be applied as early as possible––preferably at the very onset of symptoms––to avert dis-ease, and to accelerate recovery. If not addressed early, a cold can deplete your energy, magnify symptoms, and make healing more challenging.

Wind Invasion Patterns

Wind Cold:

Wind Cold symptoms generally manifest during cooler weather when exposure to cold temperature is common. A cold wind can penetrates the superficial skin layer, move deep into the body, and activate the body’s defense system. Individuals with weakened immune systems are the most vulnerable to these conditions. Common symptoms of Wind Cold may include: chills, with perhaps a mild fever; head, neck, and body aches; general malaise; sneezing; an aversion to cold and wind; clear nasal discharge.

  • Fresh ginger root is invaluable during a Wind Cold episode. Ginger root relieves digestive disorders, warms the body, eases nausea, and expels pathogens. Slice the root into 1/8-inch-thick slices, 7-10 slices per 1-2 quarts of water, bring to a boil and immediately turn down and simmer for 20 minutes. During the final 5 minutes of simmering, add any, or a combination of no more than 3, of the following ingredients: fresh green onions, cilantro, basil, garlic, cinnamon, licorice root, or parsnip. Drink as much of the tea as possible to warm your body, increase metabolism, and initiate detoxification through sweating. (Image Credit-Google Images)
  • Add ginger and/or garlic to freshly pressed vegetable juice or include in your food. Both are warming and have antimicrobial properties.
  • A hot bath or dry sauna can be beneficial; warming the body will induce sweating. (Drink ample fluids during and after sweating.)
  • Warm-foot therapy before bed can be beneficial. Soak a pair of socks briefly in warm water, wring them out, and put on your feet. Cover the wet socks with a dry pair, lie down, and prepare to sweat.

Chinese herbal formulas can be very effective in arresting the onset of a cold and in accelerating recovery. Each Chinese formula is made specific to the manifesting symptoms.

A Chinese herbal formula for Wind Cold could include Xin Yi San, Ge Gen Gang, Gui Zhi Tang, Ma Huang Tang, or Chuan Xiong Cha Tiao San.

Wind Heat:

Common Wind Heat symptoms include high fever alternating with chills, sweating, sore throat, body aches, red itchy eyes, a productive cough, thick nasal congestion, and an aversion to the elements. When experiencing a fever, take only cooling herbs and food.

  • Drink plenty of fluids: fresh juices, herbal teas, lemon water.
  • Drink herbal tea that includes 1-3 of the following: peppermint or spearmint, cilantro, honeysuckle flowers, chrysanthemum flowers (especially if you have red, itchy eyes), burdock root, licorice root, dandelion greens or root.
  • Drink cabbage broth.
  • If coughing, poach or juice 1 pear or apple.
  • Drink cooling and detoxifying leafy-green juices containing the following: dandelion, parsley, cilantro, cabbage (combine these with any of the herbs listed above).

A Chinese herbal formula for Wind Heat could include Gan Mao Ling, Yin Qiao San, Sang Ju Yin, Cang Er Zi San, Bi Yan Pian.

Wind Damp:

Dampness is a tenacious pathogenic factor that, typically, is a pre-existing condition exacerbated by a moist environment. When cold-like symptoms appear suddenly, accompanied by excessive mucus, this is referred to as Wind Damp.

Two different etiologies create a damp constitution in individuals. The first involves a compromised digestive system; some systems are unable to separate and eliminate turbid fluids from healthy fluids. Turbid fluids (dampness) are pathological and accumulate in tissue. Over time they can manifest as edema, or excessive phlegm and mucus.

The second causative factor of dampness involves overeating. Specifically it involves the consumption of greasy and/or processed foods (carbohydrates, refined sugars, canned foods, etc.). These foods cause elevated glucose levels, impede digestion causing stagnation, and produce dampness. Traditionally this phenomenon manifested in entitled societies. It was exclusive to those who lived the “good life” and ate rich, heavy foods––often to excess. However, in the more affluent western world there is generally no shortage of food. Paradoxically, in this society of plenitude there is often a shortage of time to prepare nutritious foods and, consequently, there is an abundance of nutritional-deficit fast foods. The nutritional challenge, therefore, is to eat natural whole foods in appropriate quantities to avoid Wind Damp.

Excessive dampness or phlegm generally exists in an environment where bacteria, virus, yeast, and fungus can thrive. Dampness sets the stage for pathological conditions: inflammation, digestive disorders, elevated glucose levels, depression and psychological imbalances. If untreated, these conditions can advance to degenerative and possibly fatal diseases such as obstruction of the cardiovascular system, buildup of masses, and the general impediment of normal organ functions. Addressing excessive dampness and phlegm in a timely manner is imperative for a healthy, productive lifestyle.

When the common cold (Wind Invasion) manifests as Wind Damp, it is often combined with other wind pathologies: Wind Heat or Wind Cold. However, Wind Damp can exist separately. Whether combined or separate, dampness symptoms are characterized by heaviness in the head and body causing pain and/or lethargy, sinus type headaches, cough, nasal drip or congestion, and abundant mucus production. Clear mucus indicates Wind Cold, while thick, yellow mucus indicates Wind Heat. (If mucus is green, this is a sign of extreme heat, a serious imbalance, and consulting with a health professional is recommended.)

It is not uncommon to see Wind Damp manifest at the tail end of Wind Cold or Wind Heat symptoms. Wind Damp’s cloying, sticky nature can prolong and exacerbate the common cold. When a health crisis involves dampness, it is important to address it quickly. For Wind Damp use the following:

  • Drink plenty of fluids: peppermint, chamomile, lemon water, and/or ginger tea.
  • Drink raw fresh juices that include dandelion, spinach, romaine lettuce, carrot, ginger, and, importantly, daikon and red radish.
  • Exclude or limit dampening or mucus-forming foods such as dairy, eggs, sugars, meat, oil, and processed foods.
  • Include an abundance of green leafy vegetables, lettuce, celery, turnips, asparagus, and radishes.
  • Eat mung or aduki beans, especially in soup.

A Chinese herbal formula for Wind Damp could include Er Chen Tang, Ren Shen Bai Du San, Xiao Feng San, or Bei Mu Gua Lou San.


Herbal Formulas: 

Having cold-prevention herbal formulas on hand––and taking them at the first sign of dis-ease––is very effective in averting the common cold and in facilitating a quick recovery. Seeing an acupuncturist for treatment and herbs can aid recuperation tremendously, allowing you to quickly return to your normal active life. 

You can order Chinese herbal formulas for adults, children, or infants from Alfred Pomerleau, a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist in private practice in Santa Barbara, California. All formulas are specifically blended to address the various symptoms that manifest as the common cold. With the formula you will receive an instruction guide to use according to your presenting symptoms.

CAUTION: Although the formulas listed in each category can be used, it is only with very specific symptoms presenting and should only be used with appropriate knowledge of their function.

Addressing constitutional imbalances with whole-food nutrition and juicing promotes vitality and prevents or mitigates the common cold. More important, regulated nutrition and juicing promote healthy living and wellness.

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