TCM and cold/Flu

TCM and cold/Flu

It seems the long and cold winter has almost ended, my frozen brain has to follow the nature and start to wake and work more.

Last year, before the flu season, I really want to wrote this topic to give people my experience and knowledge to treat  cold and flu in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) way.  Especially this long winter, I used all these methods, including Chinese formula, herbs, acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, successfully helped my patients, myself, and my family members. I’m so proud of that.

Let’s started 1999. In that year, severe cold and flu in Massachusetts, even Boston Globe had article reported it. At the time, I was an acupuncturist working in North End health center and MGH. I never forgot myself got the flu from the patient, in my memory, this was the first time I had bad flu, high fever, body ache, constant cough, day and night, a lot of phlegm, all suffer had to described. I prescribed herb medicine for myself, even night, I got up to drink the bad taste of the herb decoction. And my friend colleague gave me the acupuncture treatment, the acupuncture is like the last push for my flu. In three days, I’m totally recovered, even no lingering cough. At that year, I treated other patients used the same way. That was first time, I realized that flu can make such terrible suffering. I recall some expert said: most terrible epidemic disease isn’t AIDS. It is like flu or bird flu in 2009, and SARS in 2003 in China.

In the April of 2009, I had chance went to China follow the famous TCM doctor, Prof. Wang to study in a teaching clinic in Beijing. When flight arrived Shanghai, all passengers has to stay in flight, waiting for customer to check everyone’s body temperature. We stayed in flight for two more hours to finish the checking. I remember some flight attendant yelling aloud” This is ridiculous, but inside, I convinced myself this is understandable, especially experienced 2003 SARS.

In Beijing, I started clinical observation: busy schedule, pollution, bad traffic and a lot of patients. But this is a very valuable opportunity, I learned a lot, more opened my mind and eye. Suddenly, I realized before western medicine went to China at most about 300 years,  but before that, thousands of years, this large population, generation by generation, just depend on TCM, it not only treated the chronic, mild problem, but also treated all area disorder, including epidemic disease, cardiac problem, stroke, woman’s problem, even emergency, etc. Most impressed me, in Prof. Wang’s clinic, people with the severe chronic problem, like the kidney failure for almost 20 years, they just live with the disease, no need of dialysis (In China, not so many people can afford the dialysis, in US, I heard federal  funding pay for that, it’s huge money for medical sources.)

Definitely, a lot of treasure in the TCM, I hope someday, TCM can play more powerful and important role in the medical system in the US.

Back to the topic of how to use the TCM to treat the cold and flu, cold and flu are ancient disease of the history. More than 90% of the flu caused by the virus, flu virus is No.1, infection time came from 2 hours to 3 days. How to prevent and treat the cold/ flu are big topics. It is hard to cover everything in one blog, but I would like to introduce some basic knowledge, methods, formula to people, who is interested in this topic.

The cold/flu are common disease, but how to make patients get back quick, and no secondary complication, like lingering cough and pneumonia, the key of the successful treatment is to get control as early as possible, don’t let it go deep. In TCM point of view, practitioner has to know patient basic constitution, such as excess, deficiency, heat or cold, etc, and give them accurate differentiation depend on symptom and signs, then choose right herb, formula, and treatment method. This part is the professionals work, for most of people, I would like to offer the recipe in my clinic I recommend to my patient. It works for majority. I’d like to emphasis from my experience, any cold and flu started with catching the cold,  immunity system decline. At the early time, it is best chance to treat it with herbs and medical diet. It may make a little bit sweat and most of case, cold will “disperse”, not go to deeper to bronchus and lung.


Ming’s Cold/Flue Recipe

Do the following immediately upon feeling the symptoms of cold or flu.

  1. Make a tea using the following ingredients:

3/8” Perilla Leaves

3 large slices of ginger (cut lengthwise)

3 or 4 scallions, cut off from the green part, including the root. Place the entire part of the scallion from the root up in the pan.


Mix the ingredients in a pan. Cover with cold water. Boil for short time, no more than 5 minutes. Pour liquid through sifter and drink as a tea. You may use the ingredients two times.


  1. Take 8-10 Cold and flu tablets or power form twice or three times a day, depending on the severity.


  1. Often used formula:

Yin Qiao San (used for thirsty sore throat)

FANG FENG TONG SHENG SAN (for constipation company with running nose, congestion, aversion to cold)

Phragmites communis  rhizome (Lu Gen), Isatis indigotica root (Ban Lan Gen)

If in one or two days, symptoms get worse, especially body ache, or high fever, call  your doctor.

Be health, good luck.



Effectively Treating Gastrointestinal (GI) Disorder with Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine

ming at herb store

“I feel so much better after working with Ming Li. She helped me with a long-term digestive problem – after 10 visits or so, I was back to normal. Ming was very clear about my need to change my diet and eating habits in addition to using acupuncture. I highly recommend her services – it made a big difference in my life!

Still feeling good – no problems!”


I have many digestive ailments – Acid Reflux, Ulcers and IBS.  I’ve also had Pancreatitis and Diverticulitis. For years I endured severe stomach pain and diarrhea.  At various times, my gastroenterologist has prescribed Zantac, Prilosec and Nexium.  The last few years, I’ve been on Prevacid. I was referred to Ming by my cousin.  Since I started acupuncture with Ming, my stomach pain and diarrhea are practically non-existent.  It’s like a miracle!

I’ve referred at least 7 people to Ming, including my son and daughters.  I have nothing but praise for Ming and Acupuncture, and anyone having Ming as their acupuncturist should consider themselves fortunate.”



If you ask the acupuncturist or herbalist, what problem will have the best result of using acupuncture and herb medicines. Maybe different acupuncturist or herbalist gives you different answer depending on their personal experience and training. But for me, I’ll tell you Gastrointestinal (GI) disorder, at least, is one of the best results from acupuncture and herb medicines. They are fast, benign and long lasting in many perspectives.


I feel traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) on treating GI disorder have a lot of special and dramatic values comparing with western medicine. Western medicine has its own advantage, such as using endoscope to detect cancer and body structure problems, this is irreplaceable and cutting-edge medical science. However, western medicine target more on the symptoms and signs, so the function of western medicine became narrow when used in treatment, and a lot of medicine have to be used the whole life, which result in a lot of severe and harmful consequences. For example, long time using of anti-acid will cause patient easy to get GI infection disease because acid is very important for body. Acid is part of digest juice, and body’s digestive process cannot lack of the acid. Taking the anti-acid medicine may also destroy the important barrier for bacteria. Many years ago, from my family member’s case, I already noticed this. I asked question and looking for the solution. I talked to my patient and the medical doctor about my opinion of this.


Fortunately, now even main stream realize the consequence of using anti-acid medicine. On the New York times, there is a big article talking about this. It’s not only anti-acid drug, but also another common problem, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gluten intolerance (celiac disease) or wheat allergy, all of these diseases are patients and doctors headaches, and western medicine had no successful treatment. But we used the TCM, especially differentiation in patient, and achieved much better result for a lot of cases. Some of my patients used to be every day, or every week onset, but after my treatment, they had significant improvement, and in some cases, they don’t have big onset for years, maybe we can call it clinical recovery. For more information, please refer to the testimonials.


Here are the two main points of the difference between eastern and western medicine in curing GI disorder:

1. From thousands of the years, because of the history of China and the developing country’s condition, Chinese as a nation tend to have more Gastrointestinal than western society, that’s why in TCM we have famous scholar Dongheng Li, who constructed the treatise on the spleen and stomach from both research and clinical practice based on huge population. We have rich treatment method, acupuncture, herb formula, self-health-care, life style changes, medical diet, etc.

2. TCM not only focus on symptoms and signs, but also helps the improvement of the entire body and restores the internal organ balance, which means re-harmonizing the relationship among different organs, because TCM is not isolating each organ, they look at the relationship and interaction of each organ. For example, emotional problem and stress may affect digesting system, cause the irritable bowel syndrome and acid reflux, which related with lever (lever has more connection with the emotion in TCM). Similarly, GI disorder also related with many organs, such as stomach, kidney and spleen. All of the treatments aim to restore the balance of the entire body, not only cure the symptoms such as acid, diarrhea and gas. If the patients maintain therapeutic life style changes, the rewards will be much more than you thought. The majority don’t need to take anti-acid drug, or very narrow restricted food, or expensive probiotic formula all their life time. That’s why treatments are more successful, benign, and long lasting.


If you think my points give you some inspirations, that makes my day. Hope you enjoy the rich food, clean water, fresh air, and appreciate what you have.  Hope you all stay healthy!


What Can Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine Treat?

Chinese HerbsChinese medicine is a system which can affect your health in the following ways:

  • promotion of health and well being,
  • prevention of illness
  • treatment of various conditions

Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be effective as sole treatment methods, or as a support or adjunct to western medical treatments for many illnesses.  The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of medical problems, including:

  • Digestive disorders: gastritis and spastic colon, constipation, diarrhea. 
  • Respiratory disorders: sinusitis, sore throat, bronchitis, asthma, recurrent chest infections, 
  • Neurological and muscular disorders: headaches, facial tics, neck pain, rib neuritis, low back pain, sciatica, osteoarthritis.
  • Urinary, menstrual, and reproductive problems.

National Institute of Health (NIH) has concluded that acupuncture eases certain pain disorders and nauseous.

In addition to the above conditions, acupuncture is very helpful to address emotion and stress related conditions. More studies have shown that acupuncture can regulate the body’s immune system.

Chinese herbal medicine is more widely practiced than acupuncture in China and other Asian countries. Chinese herbs can address a broad variety of conditions than acupuncture. In some cases, Chinese herbs are more effective than acupuncture, such as hypertension (high blood pressure), hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol), diabetes, arthritis. Chinese herbal medicine has shown impressive result in treating these health problems.

How to Reap the Benefits of Chinese Herbs Without Preparing and Drinking the (Bitter) Tea

If you are hesitant to use Chinese herbs, you are not alone. Many of my American friends and patients do not like the taste or the idea of Chinese herbs.  It is understandable. Preparing for Chinese medicine can be time consuming and tedious, and the herbal tea you just spent an hour preparing, tastes, well, bitter!  To make matters worse, you probably need to spend another hour to drink it.



If you are like many of my American friends who object to Chinese herbs because of the above reasons, take heart. There are three commonly used forms of Chinese herbs:

  • decoction: the herbal tea cooked from the orignal dry roots or leaves of herbs
  • concentrated herbal powder, which can dissolve quickly
  • tablets and capsules. 

Each form has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Decoction is the oldest way of using herbs.  Usually it makes herbs more potent and is considered to be more effective than the other forms. Decoction takes time to prepare as one must cook the herbs, some time several times.  The taste of herbal tea is not very pleasant for some people, while most people are able to tolerate the taste.

Concentrated herbal powder is an extract of the herbs. It can be dissolved into hot water directly without cooking. Only a small amount of powder is needed each time.

Taking the tablets and capsules are as easy as taking regular pills. However, sometimes this means less flexibility to individualize the treatment.

When you visit a Chinese herbalist, it is common that you will receive a group of herbal mixtures instead of one or two individual herbs. After using the herbs for a few weeks, it is necessary that your herbalist reevaluates and modifies your herbal prescription to match the changes in your condition.

So be sure to check with your herbalist to see if you can have the Chinese herbs in powder or capsule forms if you are don’t have the time to cook the herbs yourself or don’t think you will tolerate the taste well.  A little Chinese herbs can do wonders for your health.

How Different is Chinese Medicine from Western Medicine?

chinese medicine

Chinese medicine

As a Chinese medicine practitioner, I often see patients who had been treated by western medicine previously, usually for years, but received little or no success in treating their illnesses.  Many people who had been helped by Chinese medicine or saw others did became “devout converts”, and vowed to never return to western medicine anymore.

Being trained both in western and eastern medicine, and having practiced almost all my entire adulthood life in the field of medicine, I would like to share my views on the differences between Chinese and Western medicine.

Both Chinese medicine and Western medicine are health care treasures based upon many years of clinical experiences and researches. In my view, these two schools of medicine are perfect complement, with neither dominating the other.  Let me explain.

Chinese medicine, also known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is the oldest continuously practiced medicine in the world. A wealth of wisdom and experiences have been developed from over 2,000 years of practice and clinical observation.  Chinese medicine uses an unique theory to explain the physiological and pathological changes that take place within our bodies. The terminology and concepts in Chinese medicine like “Yin”, “Yang”, “Qi” and “meridians” are now more familiar to many westerners. These are the primary concepts that are used in Chinese medicine.  They describe the flow of energy within the boy.  According to the theory, the fundamental principle of health is the harmony of the body, and the balance of “Yin” and “Yang”. Niether “Yin” nor “Yang” is strictly good or bad by itself. However, it is the imbalance between the two that causes pain and illness. The goal of Chinese medicine is to achieve the harmony between the body and environment.

Chinese have used acupuncture and herbs to restore the balance and to “wake up” the body.  These techniques not only treat illnesses but also promote overall health.  I have some patients who initially came for the treatment for pain.  Usually after treatment only the pain is gone, they felt more energetic.  This is because we are not just working on an isolated problem, but on the entire body.Clinically, Chinese medicine pays more attention to the whole picture of the body’s condition, including the state of the mind and environmental influences. Information is collected from patients and specific diagnostic methods are employed to differentiate each patient.  

Western medicine is mainly based on the understanding of bio chemical interactions within the body. It is the product of the development of modern science and technology over the past hundred years.  Compared to Chinese medicine, which is more suitable for many chronic, functional disorders and conditions, Western medicine is more effective in dealing with organic diseases, acute and emergency conditions. It is also good at finding the specific origins of conditions by using laboratory tests and medical images like X-ray and MRI. Chemical drugs are powerful but often have more side effects. In many cases, Chinese medicine and Western medicine can work together to obtain the greatest benefits and the lease adverse effect profiles.

So in a nutshell, I believe acupuncture and herbal medicine can play a special role complementing modern western medicine. Some problems which cannot be treated easily using western techniques can be very effectively alleviated with traditional oriental techniques.


Side Effects of Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs?

I am often asked about the side effects of using acupuncture and herbal medicine.  It is an important question as that might be the one holding you back to enjoy the benefit of Chinese medicine. Using acupuncture and Chinese herbs usually have little side effects.  Both methods have been used safely for centuries by well-trained Chinese practitioners.Continue Reading