Cold and Flu Article Highlights

  • Learn the basics of preventing cold and flu naturally
  • Effective home remedies for you and your family
  • Helpful Links to online resources

Alaska Center for Acupuncture
Cold and Flu Tips

Font Size

Preventing Colds and Flu Naturally with Common sense
and Chinese wisdom

BySamanth Berg M.Ac., L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.
Kevin Meddleton M.Ac., L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.

In the Chinese medical system, the back of the neck is an especially vulnerable part of the human body during cold, windy seasons. So the first line of defense against colds is to wear a good scarf or neck warmer when it's cold and windy outside. When the wind whips up, make sure your neck and lower back are not exposed, even for a short time.

Another reason people may get more colds in the winter is from being around other sick people. We tend to spend more time indoors and less time outside breathing fresh air. If there's a cold going around your office or household, wash your hands frequently and/or use alcohol hand sanitizer. Sleep is a challenge in winter, especially during the holiday/travel season. Take the cues from outside – when there's less light out, your body needs more sleep. Try your best to get to bed earlier and sleep a little later if possible. Listen to what your body is telling you and don't try to push yourself to exhaustion with coffee or other stimulants.

By artificially pushing into your reserves, you're actually borrowing from tomorrow's energy and depleting yourself further. Pretty soon there are no reserves left when your body needs it to fight off an illness. A healthy, strong and well rested person is a much better match for a virus than an exhausted, stressed-out person. Your immune system is only as healthy as you are.

It's still important to get regular exercise, but this time of year it's better not to go all out. Do not exercise to the point of total fatigue in the late fall and winter. This time of year is about storing energy instead of spending it. Instead of using 100% - go for 80% and still have some energy left in your body at the end of the day. At the very least you should consider alternating vigorous workouts with more gentle restorative activities like casual walks, stretching and yoga.

What you eat this time of year is also important. Leave out the sugar, processed foods and artificial sweeteners. Eat more whole foods –especially root vegetables. Avoid cold drinks and opt for warm herbal teas instead. Instead of salad, have soup. Warming spices such as cinnamon, ginger and garlic are also great to add to your food this time of year too. A great winter drink is some grated fresh ginger, a squeeze of lemon and a little raw honey or organic maple syrup mixed with hot water. Even with the best efforts, sometimes, you may get sick anyway. Don't get discouraged! Sometimes colds are actually your body's way of doing a little house cleaning, and in some cases, forcing you to get the rest you need in the winter.

At the first sign of a cold or flu, give us a call. Often Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help your body to completely kick out a cold or help it move through faster. And acupuncture can prevent colds from moving into the lungs – which is important for people who already have breathing issues such as allergies or asthma. For people who tend to get frequent colds, regular treatment during this time of year can be extremely beneficial. Many of our clients report that they get sick a lot less often than they did before starting treatment.

Unlike over-counter medications which merely mask the symptoms of an illness, Chinese herbs and acupuncture actually help your body to rid itself of the cold. And Chinese Herbs won't cause drowsiness, dry mouth, irritability or any other side effects common to over the counter drugs. Depending on the type, severity and location of cold and symptoms you are experiencing, we will diagnose the suitable herbal formula for you. Some herbs are appropriate to take for prevention, while some are best taken at the onset of symptoms.

Tips for Cold and Flu

What follows are some other home remedies and prevention tips in case you can't get in right away for Acupuncture treatment. We're offering many options because everyone's body is different and every remedy will not work the same for every person. However, if you are persistent and like to experiment, you will likely find the combination of remedies that is most helpful for you – and you will be ready the next time a cold or flu comes around.

**NOTE:  Always call your doctor if your symptoms are severe – such as high fever, profuse sweating, vomiting, diarrhea or coughing up yellow or green phlegm.

  1. Ginger/Scallion Tea – chop fresh ginger and scallions and cook in a quart of water for about 20 minutes. Strain out the ginger and scallions and drink as fast as possible. Wrap up in blankets and sweat! Sweating throws open your bodies pores and sends pathogens out to the surface.
  2. Garlic – Garlic is a powerful antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal. So eat more garlic, especially in the winter. To learn more read Six Ways Garlic Can Improve Your Health.
  3. Grapefruit Seed Extract – Grapefruit Seed extract has strong anti-viral and antibiotic activity in very small amounts. You can gargle with a 1 or 2 drops in warm salt water (use sea salt if possible) at the first sign of a sore throat. Check out Grapefruit Seed Extract, Liquid and Tablets at

    For nasal/sinus conditions you can add a small drop to the Neti pot (see entry below) OR add a couple of drops to a pot of boiling water, put a towel over you're your head so that it partially covers the pot as well and inhale the steam vapors for 5-10 minutes. Take breaks if it's too hot, and be careful not to burn yourself.
  4. Neti Pot/Nasal Wash – keeps the sinus membranes clear and healthy. Check out's Himalayan Institute - Neti Pot or do a Goggle search for "Neti Pot"
  5. Sambucol – a product based on elderberry extract that can shorten the duration and lesson symptoms of cold and flu. Several variations of this formula are available in the Mat-Su Valley. Check Ideal Nutrition in Palmer, All About Herbs in Wasilla, and Fred Meyer and Carrs usually carry this in the health food section. Learn more at:
  6. Hydrogen Peroxide – you can put this in your ears at the first sign of a cold or flu – read Hydrogen Peroxide for Colds and Flu to learn more.
  7. Black Seed or Black Cumin – a powerful herb that is a strong antioxidant and supports the immune system. It is available in many forms. We like black seed oil and ground black seed mixed with ground flax seed in the morning as an overall immune tonic. To learn more go to Sweet Sunnah Black Seed Herbals
  8. Our herbalist friend, Stella Lyn, says Garlic Honey is one of her favorite cold and flu remedies. Here is her recipe:

    Garlic Honey – Fill a jar with unpeeled garlic cloves and cover it with honey use the best quality honey you can find - raw, local is best. The honey will liquefy slightly in 24 -48 hours. Strain out the garlic and put the liquid in the fridge.

    Take the honey by the spoonful at the first sign of cold or flu. Kids will actually eat this! If you want to leave the garlic in the honey, that's OK, but make sure the honey is still covering it or it will get moldy. A variation is Onion Honey. Peel and chop 1 onion in large chunks. Follow the same instructions as above. The honey will liquefy even more and turn into a syrup. Onion honey is excellent for coughs! And while we're talking about onions, they are also a great folk remedy for earaches. Cut an onion in half and heat it up in a pan - put the hot onion over the ear that hurts - it will alleviate pain and pressure.
  9. Earaches – Stella has two great remedies for earaches too! First is to cut an onion in half and warm it up in a pan. Put the warm (not too hot!) onion over the affected ear. It will alleviate pain and pressure. Second option is Garlic and Mullein Oil. Warm a few drops of the oil and put it in the ear. This is great for infections but should not be used for perforated eardrums. It is especially helpful for earaches in children. HerbPharm is an excellent brand check out their Herbal Oils & Salve
  10. It's great to be prepared, so visit one of our local herb shops BEFORE you get sick and you'll be ready with some remedies at home when you start feeling a cold coming on. Our local herb stores are:
    • Ideal Nutrition in Palmer (in the Koslosky Center),  owner Karen Hurst 745-8487
    • All About Herbs in Wasilla and a second location on the Palmer-Wasilla Hwy next to Peak Fitness, owner Dori Crannmore, R.N. 376-8327
  11. Considering a flu shot? Think twice before you do and read this article first: Why I Never Get Flu Shots
  12. Hydrotherapy/Magic Socks Method The article below, by Dr. Amy Chadwick, ND, details an easy hydrotherapy technique that is excellent for warding off colds and flu especially at the first signs of onset. This technique also helps to strengthen the immune system and improve sleep. Hydrotherapy increases blood circulation, including circulation of the immune system’s white blood cells, and it increases the body’s production of endorphins. Enhanced circulation and increased endorphins strengthen the immune system, reduce inflammation, heal injured tissue, improve well-being and energize the body. Click here to download a pdf of the Magic Socks Technique
    Click to Open Magic Socks: Make Your Winter Colds Disappear.

    Magic Socks: Make Your Winter Colds Disappear.

    If there is magic on the planet, it is contained in the water. —Loren Eisley

    Why would anyone put cold, wet socks on their feet and jump into bed? Because their doctor told them to!

    Indeed the "magic sock" treatment is just one form of an easy home-health hydrotherapy remedy that promote healthy circulation, make a fever efficient, decrease head congestion, improve sleep, and – most importantly – help the body heal.

    Hydrotherapy – or, using water for soothing pains and treating disease – may be the oldest form of medical treatment. Recorded in ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations, hydrotherapy is also one of the primary modalities in Naturopathic Medicine. Basically, hydrotherapy uses water as a medium for heat and cold to enhance the body's ability to heal. Sounds simple but – how does this really work?

    Health and healing is proportional to the normal flow of healthy blood in the body. More than just soothing a sore muscle or decreasing swelling, water treatments affect the quality of circulating blood. That is, heat and cold transferred to the body via water enhances blood flow through the organs of elimination – such as the skin, liver, kidney and bowels. Detoxification (and thereby improvement of the blood) thus takes place. In addition to improving blood quality by eliminating undesirable waste products, water treatments can also help enrich the blood by increasing oxygen, nutrients, red cells, and white cells. In short, naturopathic hydrotherapy works because it optimizes the quality of blood while improving the efficiency of its circulation.

    Heat and cold applied to the skin affect peripheral circulation via dilating or constricting peripheral blood vessels. When peripheral blood vessels are dilated, they become a reservoir for blood, reducing the load on the heart. When they are constricted, blood is returned to the heart faster. Therefore, through the use of hot and cold water, circulation and metabolism are optimized, the immune system is primed and ready to fight disease, and the body detoxifies itself gently and appropriately. 1830's Hydrotherapist Frederick Erdman stated "the rate of the flow of the blood determines the state of nutrition and the functioning of every cell in the body."

    Blood makes up approximately 8 percent of total body weight. Lymph fluid makes up approximately 3 percent of the total body weight. The blood carries oxygen, nutrients and immune cells to the peripheral tissues. Waste products are returned via the blood to the liver, the kidneys and the lymph. Lymph is the body's garbage system. Each cell in the body dumps the waste of the day into the lymph, which is circulated back to the heart and then to the liver, kidneys and digestive tract to be excreted. The lymph also circulates through the lymph nodes where white blood cells hang out scanning for foreign objects which might cause disease, such as bacteria, viruses and fungi. Healthy lymphatic flow is essential for a strong immune system and for detoxification. Because hydrotherapy works primarily on blood and lymph, it is a very powerful tool for health.

    All of us have experienced some form of hydrotherapy in our lives; sitting in a steam bath or sauna; exercising in a swimming pool; taking a warm bath; inhaling steam; putting an ice pack on a sprained ankle; playing in the sprinkler; or even something so simple as drinking a glass of water. While some of these things we may have done for the specific purpose of health and well-being, others we did just for fun. Sometimes hydrotherapy even occurs "accidentally" – such as a cold shock of water in the shower as hot water is directed to another sink in the house. When used intentionally, however, hydrotherapy is a powerful tool for treating acute illness, assisting in the reversal of chronic disease and helping to prevent disease and maintain wellness.

    Northern cultures are well known for their uses of hydrotherapy. In Scandinavian countries, the sauna is a staple of most homes. Native Alaskans also use steam baths for bathing, social interaction, relaxation and health. The word "sauna" means the act of exposing your body to hot steam followed by cold water. Sauna can also denote a room or hollow in which to experience the hot steam. The application of moist heat and cold water stimulates the immune system, primes the circulation, and calms the nervous system. We in Alaska would be wise to learn from our northern friends and incorporate hydrotherapy into our daily routine!

    Some simple home hydrotherapy techniques designed to help you through winter cold and flu season are described below. When trying these techniques, however, please remember that each person is individual in his or her state of wellness and response to treatment. So, let your body be your guide. If a treatment does not feel right, stop and seek help from a physician or healer familiar with hydrotherapy.

    Magic Sock Treatment:

    Indications: Use at the first sign of a head or chest cold, earache, headache, sinus congestion, and/or fever. This can also improve sleep, especially during an upper respiratory infection. This is a wonderful – and fun – treatment for kids!

    Contraindications: Don't use in babies under 4 months of age or on someone with poor circulation unless directed by a doctor.


    • Large tub or bucket to soak feet, filled with warm water (see instructions)
    • One pair thin cotton socks (do not use acrylic or polyester!)
    • One pair thick wool socks
    • Small bowl of icy water
    • Towel


    1. Warm the feet. This can be done by soaking the feet in tolerably hot/warm water until the skin is pink (about 5-10 minutes). While care should be taken no to burn the skin or cause any discomfort, it is very important that the feet are very warm before continuing. This will greatly increase the effectiveness of the treatment and prevent possible harm.
    2. While warming the feet, soak a pair of light cotton socks in icy cold water.
    3. When feet are warm, use a towel to dry completely.
    4. Take cold-soaked socks out of water and wring out well.
    5. Put cold socks on dry, warm feet.
    6. Quick, pull a pair of thick, wool socks over the cold socks.
    7. Go to bed. Be sure to cover up well and don’t get chilled. You will find your feet warm up very quickly and the socks will be "magically" dry by morning, if not sooner.
    8. Repeat at least 3 nights in a row for an optimum positive effect on the immune system.

    Alternatives: You can use this same principle to create a warming compress for the throat or the chest. Again, make sure the skin is warm. Place a well wrung-out cold t–shirt or towel over the affected region of the body and cover with wool. Avoid getting chilled by curling up in a blanket or snuggling into bed.

    Cold Water Rinse:

    Indications: This is a general immune and circulation tonic that help prevent colds and flus.

    Instructions: End your hot shower, sauna or bath each day with a cool/cold rinse. The more contrast in temperatures, the stronger the treatment. So, start with less contrast and work up as you become stronger and healthier.

    Remember: optimum healing comes to us in many ways – through water in all its abundance and affordability; through clean air, simple foods, movement and laughter; and, through a connection to spirit. May the powers of water bring you health this winter!

    Bio: Dr Amy E Chadwick, ND

    Dr Amy E Chadwick, ND is a Naturopathic Physician in Palmer, AK, treating children and adults in all stages of the healing journey. For more information, contact Amy at 745-3999 or go to

  13. Feed your soul! A healthy immune system starts with a healthy body, mind and spirit. Devote some time every day to doing something you love and share that love with other people.

Back to top