Lana Farson, M.S., L.Ac., Licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist

Common Cold – Different Versions and How to Treat Them

The illness known as ‘common cold’ is simply called a ‘cold’ in English.  But in Asia, the thinking is different.  In Asian medicine, the ‘common cold’ illness is divided into two types, and we call them either a ‘wind-cold’ or a ‘wind-heat’. This thinking allows us to treat various ‘common cold’ cases on an individual basis with tailored herbs for the different versions.

The condition is called a ‘wind-cold’ only when there really are symptoms indicating true coldness, such as chills or cold & tight muscle aches.  If the symptoms look more heated (red, hot, dry), then it is not called a ‘cold’, but instead is called a ‘heat’ or ‘wind-heat’.

Below is the breakdown of this more refined idea about common cold, along with a few over-the-counter remedies.


‘Wind-cold’ type common cold has more cold symptoms; some important ones are:

  • the person feels cold or chilled, and/or has aversion to drafts and to cold environments
  • throat tickle or an itchy feeling or a feeling of thickness. This is all more mild than an actual sorethroat.
  • clear or white mucus (not yellow) from nose or throat
  • sneezing
  • cough
  • headache and body aches

    Making Onion & Ginger Tea: for Intital Stage of Mild Wind-Cold Common Cold

    Making Onion & Ginger Tea: for Intital Stage of Mild Wind-Cold Common Coldsneezing

Possible herbal treatments for Wind-Cold:

  1. Ginger and Onion Tea – ‘Cong Chi Tang’. This is a simple and very effective home remedy if you catch the cold in the very initial stages on the first day. To make: use 3 pieces fresh ginger (with skin on) & 3 fresh scallions or green onions.  Cook 20 minutes with 2 cups water. Strain and drink warm.
  2. Cinnamon and Peony Tea  – ‘Gui Zhi Tang’. This is a little stronger formula than ‘Cong Chi Tang’.  Gui Zhi Tang formula has 5 herbs and can be modified by your herbalist to add more herbs and make it more precise.  (I often need ‘Gui Zhi Tang’ plus ‘Jie Geng’ Balloon Flower Root and possibly other herbs for more severe cases.)

Note: If the case looks like ‘wind-cold’, but there are also a few hot symptoms as noted below, then the case is probably not just wind-cold alone.  It could be a mixed case and you should be careful not to give the above warming remedies alone.  For example, someone could have external ‘wind-cold’ with internal heat.  This would be a more complex case that your acupuncturist or herbalist should help you sort out.


‘Wind-heat’ type common cold has more hot symptoms, which is why in Asian culture it is not called a ‘cold’.  It is more like a ‘common heat’.  Well actually we call it ‘wind-heat’, because the wind has a role in blowing this hot pathogenic factor into our body from the external environment.  When some people get sick with a ‘common cold’, they skip the cold-stage completely and go straight to having heat signs. Some important ‘wind-heat’ symptoms are:

  • sorethroat
  • cough
  • the mucus or phlegm is slightly yellow, dark-yellow or green
  • the body feels slightly warm or feverish
  • the skin may have rashes or reddish-pink break-outs
  • :'Yin Qiao San' Honeysuckle & Forsythia Formula Contains 10 Herbs

    'Yin Qiao San' Honeysuckle & Forsythia Formula Contains 10 Herbs

Possible herbal treatments:

  1. Mulberry & Chrysanthemum Tea – ‘Sang Ju Yin’. Use the formula when cough is predominant.
  2. Honeysuckle & Forsythia Tea – ‘Yin Qiao San’. Use the formula when sorethroat is predominant

The above teas are considered to be basic, over-the-counter remedies for common cold.  I usually have all of them on hand and consider them to be part of a herbal first-aid kit.

One Comment

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