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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Physician Wong Si Xuan and Dr Eki Wari on January 3, 2023

Top TCM Herbal Remedies To Help Fight The Flu

Herbal remedies and formulas can help manage flu-like symptoms, such as a stuffy nose, sore throat, fever, chills, and body aches. Learn the best ones to take here.

Family sick in bed min scaled

Herbal remedies can help if you are worried about keeping your family healthy this flu season. Although the number of flu cases varies each year, an estimated 3% to 11% of Americans will get it.

Additionally, the flu seems to be getting worse since the COVID-19 pandemic. During the 2021-2022 flu season, the flu affected 9 million people. It caused 4 million medical visits, 10,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths. It was the worst flu season since 2011.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) often uses herbal remedies made with anti-viral and immune-boosting properties to help fight respiratory infections and flu symptoms.

Read on to learn how herbal remedies are used in TCM to help combat the flu. Then find out which ones are best for keeping your loved ones healthy this year.

How Are Herbal Remedies Used In TCM?

TCM herbs pictured in bowls with decorative flowers
TCM herbs can be used to make formulas that help manage flu-like symptoms.

An herbal formula consists of a variety of herbs in their specific quantity. They are made to treat a specific syndrome, while not limited to the type of disease.

Many classic Chinese herbal formulas were invented thousands of years ago through clinical practice and the experience of various famous Chinese physicians, and they still remain widely used today.

“For each herbal formula, different herbs are selected in their specific quantities to work synergistically to target a syndrome. Herbal formulas are prescribed to patients based on their symptoms while taking into account their body constitution.”

TCM Physician Wong Si Xuan

Best Herbal Remedies To Fight The Flu

According to Physician Wong, common herbal formulas used for people with the flu include Yin Qiao San, Sang Ju Ying, Gui Zhi Tang, and Jing Fang Bai Du San.

“Yin Qiao San and Sang Ju Ying are mostly used for Wind-Heat syndrome, where the patient exhibits fever with slight chills, headache, cough with yellow sticky Phlegm, sore throat, runny nose with yellow mucus, and frequent thirst. For Wind-Heat syndrome, herbs used are mainly cooling in nature, such as Lonicera japonica Thunb and Forsythia suspensa. Various herbs in the concoction work to dispel Wind and Heat pathogenic factors out of the body.”

Physician Wong.

Gui Zhi Tang and Jing Fang Bai Du San are mostly used for Wind-Cold syndrome, where the patient exhibits frequent chills with fever, aversion to cold, cough with white Phlegm, and runny nose with white mucus. For Wind-Cold syndrome, herbs used are mainly warming in nature, such as Cinnamomi Ramulus and Nepeta cataria. These herbs work to expel Wind and Cold pathogenic factors out of the body,” continued Physician Wong.

How to tell which TCM syndrome you have

Symptoms occur when the external pathogens meet and fight what TCM refers to as the protective qi (vital life energy).

In Western medicine, the concept of protective qi is the same as immunity. A person will fall ill when their protective qi is weak against external pathogens.

SyndromeSymptoms
Wind-HeatFever, difficulty sweating, aversion to wind, sore throat, yellow phlegm
Wind-ColdAversion to cold, slight fever, no sweating, runny nose, chest congestion, sneezing, itchy throat, cough with clear mucus
DampnessConstantly feeling hot but no fever, feeling thirsty, mild sweating, fatigue, occasional chest tightness
Use this chart to help determine which syndrome you have based on your flu symptoms.

Depending on an individual’s body constitution, varying severity of accompanying symptoms, and stage of flu, a physician may choose to give a particular herbal formula that is suited to the patient’s current condition.

If unsure, consult a certified TCM practitioner for proper diagnosis and personalized treatment.

Other remedies you can try

Other immune-boosting supplements you can take to help fight upper respiratory viruses include bird’s nest and Cordyceps.

You may also find it useful to purchase an herbal supplement made with TCM ingredients to clear toxins that cause common flu symptoms, like fever, sore throat, and cough.  

Pair Herbal Remedies With Acupressure

As Physician Wong suggests, patients with Wind-Cold syndrome should keep warm and reduce their exposure to the wind and cold.

  • At the initial stage of the flu, you could also boil ginger drink to help warm up your body.
  • Those suffering from a blocked nose can do acupressure on Ying Xiang (LI 20) acupoint to help clear congestion.
  • Meanwhile, those suffering from headaches can do acupressure on the Feng Chi (GB 20) acupoint to alleviate the pain.  

Always be sure to consult with your doctor or a registered TCM physician before taking any herbal remedies. You may also wish to talk to your doctor about getting the flu vaccine to help prevent serious illness.

What are your best tips for protecting against the flu? Share with other readers below.

References

  1. Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. 2022-2023 U.S. Flu Season: Preliminary In-Season Burden Estimates.
  2. Centers For Disease Control and Prevent. Key Facts About Influenza (Flu).

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