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Acupuncture for the Common Cold

Mom was right when she said, "don't go outside without a coat on or you will catch a cold." Well...she was sort of right. In Chinese Medicine, a common cold is caused by wind entering the body, usually from the back of the neck. We all have a defensive layer of qi, called Wei Qi, that circulates at the surface of the body, beneath the skin. If our defenses are down from things like not sleeping enough, o​verwork, poor diet, and stress, then wind can enter the body and bring in a pathogenic factor.

The lung official, which is apart of the metal element, is in charge of dispersing the Wei Qi in the body between the skin and muscles. If the lungs are deficient, it is then that we are susceptible to invasion by an external pathogen such as wind-cold or wind-heat. The lungs sister meridian is the large intestine official which opens to the nose. Since the lungs and large intestine officials are both affected first, common cold symptoms tend to begin with a cough, nasal congestion, runny nose, and neck ache or a headache. As the body becomes invaded the lungs and large intestine officials do their best kick the pathogen out of the body. As the body fights, you may also experience simultaneous chills and fever. According to Shang Han Lun Theory, fever and chills will begin to alternate as the pathogen moves more internally, something that we don't want.

As mentioned above, there are two common wind invasions in regards to a common cold, a wind-cold and a wind-heat. With a wind-cold, you could experience symptoms such as a cough, nasal discharge or congestion, sneezing, headache, body aches. Wind heat tends to have more hot symptoms like a sore throat, swollen tonsils, and yellow mucus.

Acupuncture can help support you with both a wind-cold and a wind-heat invasion in several ways.

1. Acupuncture can help expel the pathogen from the body by moving it to the exterior and releasing it

2. Descend the lung qi so coughing can subside

3. Open the nose and face, so you don't feel as stuffy

4. Boost the Wei Qi so your body can better fight the pathogen

5. Clear heat to ease the throat and swollen tonsils

6. Bring the body back into balance

So next time you have a cold give acupuncture a try and notice for yourself if symptoms clear up quicker or don't get as bad as usual. In the meantime, do your body a favor and help boost your Wei qi by eating healthily, drinking water, getting plenty of sleep, and keeping your neck covered with a scarf or coat.


Kim, H. (2015). Handbook of Oriental Medicine (5th ed.).

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