As the Fall and Winter seasons approach, the chances of coming down with a flu or a cold increases. Although there is currently no cure for a cold or flu, there are many approaches that one can take to help boost immunity, and prevent catching anything in the first place. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers several remedies that can help to strengthen your body’s immunity to prevent you from getting sick, or ensuring a quicker recovery. Check out the 7 remedies below, as recommended by Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctors.

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

TCM is a type of traditional medicine system that originated in China. It involves a comprehensive toolkit of complementary practices, including:

  • herbalism
  • diet therapy
  • physical approaches like tai chi and qi gong
  • acupuncture
  • gua sha
  • cupping
  • massage, or tuina
  • sports medicine

TCM’s philosophy is generally based on the Chinese concepts of:

  • qi, the vital energy believed to guide physical and mental processes
  • yin and yang, the opposing energies of life
  • Wu Xing, or five elements theory

An ounce of prevention

Strengthening your immune system is the first step in preventing the cold or flu.

“Keeping your immune system healthy is best,” advises doctor of acupuncture and Chinese medicine (DACM) Tom Ingegno. “Visits to your TCM practitioner during late summer and early fall can help build up your immune system with herbs and acupuncture that are specifically aimed at keeping you healthy.”

So how do you keep your immune system in tip-top shape?

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Focus on a nutritionally varied diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • Find constructive ways to manage stress, like meditation.
  • Get plenty of vitamin C.

Traditional Chinese herbal remedies

In addition to prevention, TCM uses herbs and foods to help support your body’s natural healing function.

According to Irina Logman, DACM, “Practitioners can identify weak links in the patient’s constitution and prescribe a treatment plan to strengthen that element.”

She suggests getting a personalized blend of herbs based on an assessment by a licensed professional.

“Although individual herbs are great, the real magic comes in Chinese herbal formulas,” says Logman.

Licensed, board certified TCM practitioners are required to memorize over 3,000 herbs, dosages, and interactions with other herbs and medications.

They can tell you:

  • what kind of herbs you may need
  • whether to take them in capsule, tincture, or tea form
  • how often you should take them

Consistently taking herbs is key to seeing the best results.

Some common herbal formulations include:

  • jade windscreen, or Yu Ping Feng San
  • a ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon blend
  • Gui Zhi Tang
  • Yin Qiao San

Jade windscreen powder

This is a classic herbal mix used in China since the Yu Ping Feng San dynasty, which translates as “jade windscreen” in English.

The mix is a powdered blend of:

  • astragalus root
  • atractylodesTrusted Source rhizome
  • siler root

It’s used to bolster the immune system and safeguard the body from viral and bacterial infections.

Warming herbs like ginger, turmeric, and cinnamon

When sick, you can easily make yourself a warming tea with these common kitchen herbs.

“When it comes to common colds and the flu, you want to break a sweat to get everything out,” says Kung. “These help to heat up the body in a way that’s not too dangerous. It pushes and brings on the sweat and helps to warm up the body.”

Ginger is already known to be antiviral and antibacterial, and it helps with reducing nausea. Chop the ginger up and steep in hot water, adding honey or lemon to taste.

Full of antioxidants as well as anti-inflammatory benefits, turmeric can be added to bone broth or taken in pill form.

Like turmeric, cinnamon is also full of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. It can help fight bacterial and fungal infections.

You can make a tea of cinnamon, Chinese dates, and ginger to help with cold and flu symptoms.

Gui Zhi Tang

You might recognize the ingredients in Gui Zhi Tang:

  • cinnamon
  • white peony root
  • fresh ginger
  • Chinese red dates, or jujube fruit
  • licorice root
  • honey

This blend is recommended by Tang-Ritchie for a cold or flu that comes with:

  • chills
  • body aches
  • clear nasal discharge
  • slight sweating

“This formula will relieve body aches, encourage sweating, and act as a decongestant,” she says. “Patients should drink lots of warm fluids while taking this formula.”

Yin Qiao San

For colds that lean more toward a mild fever, chills, and a slight sore throat, Tang-Ritchie suggests the Yin Qiao San herbal formula. It includes:

  • honeysuckle flowers
  • peppermint leaves
  • fermented soybeans, or natto
  • forsythia
  • bamboo leaves
  • edible burdock
  • balloon flower root

The formula may help reduce thirst and fever and relieve a sore throat.

“Both honeysuckle flowers and forsythia have strong antiviral properties,” says Tang-Ritchie. “Sometimes, Yin Qiao San is combined with a stronger antiviral formula called Gan Mao Ling (a common cold effective remedy) if the sore throat is more pronounced.”

Take only herbs prescribed by a board certified, licensed TCM practitioner. Even though many of the above ingredients are mild, it’s always best to check with a professional when taking any herbs regularly.

Traditional Chinese treatments for cold and flu

TCM emphasizes holistic wellness and balance, which means it often involves more than one approach.

The below treatments can support cold and flu prevention and recovery in addition to herbs.

Gua Sha

Gua sha involves repeatedly scraping your skin in a downward motion with a tool after applying an unguent, like massage oil or balm. It can be performed by a TCM practitioner or you can do it at home if your practitioner shows you how.

“Try gua sha on the chest and upper back,” suggests Ingegno.

He notes that though we see many influencers using gua sha tools for facial treatments, one of its real uses is to break up congestion in the lungs.

“By scraping these areas and breaking surface capillaries, we increase circulation to symptomatic areas and stimulate a healing response, including an increase in white blood cells,” Ingegno adds.


Acupuncture involves inserting tiny needles into specific points on the skin to stimulate a desired response.

It may calm inflammation and support your immune system by promoting circulation, wound healing, and pain modulation.


TCM practitioners can use cupping to create suction and increase blood flow to an area by placing cups on the skin. This can alleviate muscle tension and promote cellular and connective tissue repair.

“Cupping and gua sha on the upper back can help clear congestion in the chest, reduce symptoms, and ease breathing discomfort,” explains Tang-Ritchie. “We use a combination of these techniques depending on the specifics of each patient’s case.”


Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers a broad toolkit of practices and herbs to help support you through the cold and flu season.

As with all medical and complementary treatments, always seek treatment from a licensed medical professional. Never take herbs or perform any of the practices mentioned on your own without consulting a practitioner. Also, note that any advice in this article doesn’t replace personalized medical advice from a professional.

Send an email to to book an appointment with Dr. Peter Wood, our Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (DTCM) and Registered Acupuncturist (RAc)