TCM and Colds & Flu

Traditional Chinese Medicine does not categorize these viral infections as the common cold and influenza. It has its own classification system for Wind attacks based on symptoms. Specifically, TCM holds that various manifestations of symptoms indicate Wind has combined with another pathogen to attack the body and, in fact, that it is Wind that brings this pathogen into the body. Entire theoretical systems have been formulated about the nature of infectious diseases, each focusing in particular on how the pathogens of Cold or Heat can combine with Wind.

One may thus characterize these exterior Wind attacks as falling into two basic categories: Wind-Cold and Wind-Heat. The major distinction between the two is the presence or absence of Cold and Heat signs.

In Wind-Cold attacks, the patient has symptoms such as chills and fever (heat effusion), with chills predominant; sensitivity to wind; lack of thirst; cough; lack of sweating; stiff neck and possibly occipital headache; body aches; runny nose with clear or white discharge; a tongue that is normal colored with a thin white coat; and a pulse that is floating and tight. If there is slight sweating with the above presentation and the pulse is floating and moderate, TCM holds that Wind predominates over Cold.

If the patient has severe body aches and a feeling of heaviness, perhaps with nausea, vomiting, and epigastric, or chest oppression, TCM holds that the Wind-Cold attack is accompanied by the Dampness pathogen. If the cough is dry and the patient complains of dryness, TCM holds that the Wind-Cold attack is accompanied by the Dryness pathogen.

Wind-Heat manifests as chills and fever (heat effusion), with the fever being predominant; thirst; sore throat; slight sweating; cough; urine darker than normal; possible skin eruptions; headache; runny nose with a yellow discharge; a tongue that is slightly red with a thin white to thin yellow coat; and a pulse that is floating and rapid.

Accompanying signs and symptoms indicate the extent to which other pathogens are also involved. For example, if there are severe body aches and a feeling of heaviness, perhaps with nausea, vomiting, and epigastric or chest oppression, a Dampness pathogen is also involved. If the cough is dry and the patient complains of dryness, a Dryness pathogen is involved as well.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 02 Jan 2001

Last Modified: 03 Jun 2011