Pulse of Oriental Medicine: Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks
Alternative Medicine That Works for Regular Folks


Food Therapy for Colds, Flus and Sinus

by Juliette Aiyana, LAc


Table of Contents:

It's Cold and Flu Season!

Yes, dear readers... it is that time of the year again. That time when colds, flu's and sinus congestion abound.

Remember how your parents always bugged you about wearing a hat and sweater in cooler weather? They knew that - perhaps in different words - a "Wind-Cold invasion" could lead to the flu, runny or stuffy noses, body aches and fevers. We try to prevent Wind invasions with our hats and sweaters... but what happens if that fails? What if you catch a cold and steadily get worse?

Oriental Dietary Therapy for Colds and Flus

Oriental Dietary Therapy can help prevent and treat most wind invasions. Please note that when we talk about dietary therapies, I will be talking about the qi, nature, or properties of foods. When I say hot, warm, cool, or cold, I don't mean just the physical temperature, but a quality in Chinese Medicine. With this article, I am making available The List- a list of foods under their various qualities. You may want to peruse it to get a sense of these qualities before going on.

Wind is considered a pathogenic source which enters at the level of the head and face and if not expelled quickly may move deeper into the throat and chest.

There are two types of wind pathogens:

  1. Wind-Cold and
  2. Wind-Heat.

Most colds begin as a Wind-Cold invasion and may progress into wind-heat. We want to protect and nourish the Wei (Defensive) qi of the body through diet, herbs and exercise. Our bodies are made of Yin and Yang potentials. When they are balanced, we are healthy. Exterior pathogens can create an imbalance of our qi. The nature of food is also yin or yang. Therefore we can use food medicinally for balance.

(For more about Chinese Medicine concepts of immunity, read "Colds and Flu's II: Antibiotics, Herbs, and Oriental Medicine Concepts of Immunity")

First let's examine the signs & symptoms of two common exterior conditions and then we will explore dietary prevention and treatment options.

Compare the following two lists of symptoms. You should have most of the symptoms in one category before applying a dietary change. If you have conflicting symptoms, see your Oriental Medical Healthcare practitioner for clarification or contact me.

Headache, runny nose with clear discharge, neck and shoulder aches, aversion to cold, a white tongue coating. Sore throat, headache, cough, fever or elevated body temperature, body aches, little or no sweat, runny or stuffy nose with yellow discharge, a red tongue body w/ yellow coating. If the heat is very deep it may cause nausea or vomiting, depressed appetite, abdominal distention, chills and fever, heavy sweating, irritability, strong thirst.
Special Dietary Considerations

Stick with foods whose qi qualities are warming, neutral and hot foods.

Click Here for The List!

Stick with foods whose qi quality is neutral and cooling (try to avoid too many cold foods because they can damage your qi).

Click Here for The List!


Basic Dietary Considerations for Wind-Cold and Wind-Heat Invasions

While ill, it is best to:

  • Eat light, easy-to-digest foods like soups, veggies, rice and rice noodles.
  • Avoid eating lots of cold foods like salads, cold sandwiches, chilled drinks, ice pops, and soy ice cream.
  • Also avoid foods that may cause Dampness in the body. Dampness is heavy, obstructs Defensive qi and contributes to phlegm production. Therefore, stay away from foods that are damp such as dairy products, fried foods, greasy foods, foods high in fat and alcohol. (Stir fry is usually OK as long you cook with a small amount of oil).
  • Raw foods also contribute to cold and dampness. Salads, fruits and fruit juices should be taken in moderation.
  • Be aware that most chickens and meat contain antibiotics. It is best to eat organic chickens and meats because they are not fed antibiotics. The more antibiotics we consume the faster our body becomes immune to them. Antibiotics are also seen as a cause of dampness and cold in the body and when overused can cause qi imbalances which may manifest as fatigue, a susceptibility to more bacterial infections, yeast infections and more.
    (For more about antibiotics and superbacteria, read the first part of "Colds and Flu's II: Antibiotics, Herbs, and Oriental Medicine Concepts of Immunity" and the the first part of "Sinus Infections & Antibiotics")

Prevention and Treatment of Wind-Cold Invasion

Generally, I recommended foods to promote perspiration which forces out the wind toxin such as:

  • ginger
  • scallion
  • chilies
  • coriander
  • cabbage

Avoid vinegar because it contracts the pores.

Teas- Try Green tea mixed with Peppermint tea. Fresh Ginger tea with a bit of brown sugar is good when you have the other symptoms as well.

Breakfast Food Example- Hot oats with honey (or pure maple syrup) and powdered cinnamon. Oats are warm and easy to digest, honey is sweet, nourishes body fluids and cinnamon is warm, pungent and unblocks channels for the upper body aches.


1. Miso Soup with Scallions

The fermented miso (soy paste) is sweet, salty and neutral. It strengthens the Stomach qi and detoxifies which will help dispel wind-cold and the scallions are warming and pungent which promotes sweating to relieve the exterior wind-cold invasion.

Simply bring 2-3 cups of filtered or spring water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of miso paste, let dissolve. Cook for 10 minutes on low flame.

Taste. If the flavor is too strong, add some water, vegetable or chicken broth. Chop the scallions and sprinkle about a teaspoon on top of your miso soup in the bowl. Avoid adding seaweed to this recipe because it is cold in nature.

2. Chicken Soup


  • 3 Leeks thinly slice
  • 2-3 Tablespoons Olive oil
  • 6-8 cups filtered or spring water
  • 1 whole organic, antibiotic free chicken or chicken parts
  • 2 cups rice
  • Veggies for Wind-Cold or Heat as listed below
  • ½-1 teaspoon per serving of freshly grated ginger

Take 3 thin leeks, wash. Thinly slice the whites. Add 2-3 tablespoons of Olive oil to the bottom of a stock pot and turn flame on medium. When oil is warm, stir in leeks until they are lightly covered with oil. Lower flame and cover the pot to let leeks "sweat" for 10 minutes, occasionally stirring. Add 6-8 cups of water to the leeks. Add one washed organic chicken or 1 pound of organic chicken parts with bones. Place in stock pot. Cover with water. Boil for one hour. Cook 2 cups of unpolished white rice (20 minutes) or jasmine rice (10 minutes). Prepare freshly grated ginger, about 1 tablespoon. Turn down heat to let the water and fat settle. Scoop out or strain fat. Remove chicken from stock. You may prepare and add any of these warming veggies: squash, green bean, sweet potato, kale. Add veggies to a simmering stock for 10-15 minutes (or longer if using sweet potatoes). While the veggies are cooking, chop the chicken into spoon size pieces and add to the stock. After all the chicken is back in the stockpot, turn off the flame. Place rice and a ½ -1 teaspoon of grated ginger and desired amount of rice into a bowl and ladle soup over it. You can add a cinnamon stick or a touch of grated cinnamon to each bowl as well. To induce more sweating or clear the sinuses you can add some hot chili sauce to your soup.

NOTE: This soup does take time to make. You may want to prepare and freeze a few containers of it now that when you are ill and fatigued you can simply warm it up and eat it.

Prevention and Treatment of Wind-Heat

  • Generally avoid spicy (pungent) tasting foods and foods that have a very warm or hot nature such as scallions, chilies, garlic, wine and keep your intake light.
  • Use ginger with care. It is great to help stop cough and nausea but do not overuse because it is warming.
  • If you have a Wind-Heat Invasion you should also see your practitioner of Oriental Medicine for herbs and other treatments.

Teas- Peppermint and or Chrysanthemum tea with honey. These herbs dispel heat and the honey nourishes Yin body fluids that may become damaged by heat and peppermint is also used for sinus congestion.

Breakfast Food Example- Warm tea and Amaranth flakes cereal with soy milk. You may add almonds, walnuts and or honey to help stop coughing.

Soup- We are going to use the same basic chicken soup recipe as above except you will not use cinnamon or chiles, or the warming vegetables. Instead you can use cooling veggies: bok choy, broccoli, cauliflbower, celery, corn, mushroom, spinach, swiss chard, turnip, zucchini, bamboo shoots, button mushroom, carrot, dandelion greens, potato.

Make sure you check out The List for the foods with the appropriate natures! The list is extensive but not exhaustive. So, if you can't find your favorite food on this list please e-mail me and I will add it to the list. Have fun and until next month, Salute!

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All information herein provided is for educational use only and not meant to substitute for the advice of appropriate local experts and authorities.
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