Upper respiratory infections such as colds or the influenza virus are prevalent during the cold months of the year, but can be caught all year round. Typical symptoms are headache, coughing, sore throat, stuffy and running nose and body aches.
Pores are the windows of your body
During hot climate seasons like summer, the pores of our skin are wide open. These pores on our skin are like the windows of our body. They can help with releasing the heat from our body and promoting sweating. When the weather gets cold, our body starts to close these ‘windows’ entirely, so it can prevent the external wind and cold from entering. The process of these windows closing, however, is slow and adjusted according to the weather changes. Therefore, if the temperature suddenly drops and the windows are still open, we’re easily vulnerable to a wind-cold pathogenic factor attacking us.
Releasing the Exterior
Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to help enhance the immune system and ward off illness. Its immunostimulating functions treat all types of upper respiratory infections -- including colds -- effectively, achieving a quick recovery without side effects. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) views colds and flus as pathogenic invasions that can easily be expelled using certain treatment points and herbs. This is called “releasing the exterior” in TCM.
Why do some people easily catch colds, but others not so often? In biomedicine, we often say those people who have strong immune systems are less likely to catch cold. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we say these people have strong defensive Qi (or wei qi). Their body has a quick adjustment to the environmental changes around them. In other words, they can close their windows faster, allowing their body surface to be sealed so wind-cold pathogens have no chance to get in.
When a wind-cold pathogen enters our body, it causes sneezing, itchy eyes, runny nose, body aches, and headaches. That’s when we say, “You caught a cold.” In this case, your acupuncturist would recommend some pungent herbs to help the body expel the wind-cold pathogen. For example: ginger, onion and peppermint are the most commonly used herbs in herbal teas for common cold.
Take a Ginger Bath
A ginger bath can be very soothing and therapeutic when you are coming down with or already have a cold. Again, this helps to “release the exterior” and expel the pathogen. Take a large ginger root and let it boil in a pot of water until the water turns golden in color. Pour this into your hot bath and soak. You can also drink a cup of the ginger tea while you take the bath.
If caught in the early stages, especially within the first few hours of the onset of symptoms, acupuncture, herbal medicine, and qigong can be very effective at eliminating pathogens. Once illness has progressed beyond the early stages, Chinese medicine can be used as symptomatic relief and adjuvant therapy.
Chinese Herbal Remedies for Colds
In the process of treating immunity, Chinese medicine also transports nutrients, improves circulation, balances the body, supports vital energy, and assists your body in maintaining its natural healthy state on its own. Several clinical studies have demonstrated that Chinese medicine reduces the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections and shortens the course of illness.
The Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal remedy most often used for people with weak defensive qi is called Jade Windscreen Formula. It contains:
Radix Astragali Membranacei (Huang Qi)
Radix Saposhnikoviae Divaricatae (Fang Feng)
Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae (Bai Zhu)
It is suggested to take the formula 1-3 months before the cold season comes to help prevent the onset of the common cold and strengthen the defensive qi. While most Chinese herbal remedies require a prescription, there are certain brands that make the Jade Windscreen Formula that you can get without one.
When I started studying Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) I was overwhelmed with what seemed like the exotic nature of the plants we used. I developed a reverence for these plants and imagined they were somehow different, that they must be grown on the misty sides of mountains and tended by enlightened monks. I kept this notion for an embarrassingly long time, which was confirmed by my inept attempts to grow some of the herbs I thought would be able to take the Texas heat.
(protip: turns out you have to water and care for plants and just because the nursery sells it doesn’t mean it is a good match for my special kind of neglect.)
Fast-forward a couple of years and I had a nice little coincidence convince me just how wrong I was. We have to use the Latin names for herbs on our labels, so I started to get used to going back and forth between pin yin and Latin. Then I did a little work with the City of Austin invasive plant monitoring team, which involved a lot of pouring over lists of, you guessed it, Latin plant names. I started to see Chinese herbs everywhere and quite a few of them are considered invasive. So let’s go through a quick list of some Chinese herbs that you probably walk past almost daily.
Number one on the list of Central Texas invasive list that is also a Chinese herb:
1. Taraxicum officinale or T. mongolicum – Common Dandelion – Pu Gong Ying
This perennial aster long considered the scourge of the suburban lawn also has an extraordinarily long history of use as medicine and food. The common name dandelion is a corruption of the French “dent de lion” meaning “tooth of the lion” which refers to the toothed or lacerate leaf margins. The younger tender leaves are tasty in salads, the flowers can be used to make wine and the whole plant is used in TCM where it is listed as a Clear Toxic Heat herb and is one of the five herbs that makes the formula Wu Wei Xiao Du Yin so effective.
Harvest this plant when it starts to flower but before it goes to seed and dig as much of the long root as you can get. Let it soak in tepid water to loosen dirt and then remove any additional dirt with running water. Dry the whole plant on drying screens in the sun. You can separate the leaves and flowers as they will dry faster than the root and don’t need as much cleaning.
2. Cyperus rotundus – Purple nutsedge rhizome – Xiang Fu
Hated is probably not too strong a word to describe how people feel about purple nutsedge. In fact, it is listed as one of the world’s worst weeds because it propagates vegetatively, is a perennial, and resists almost all control measures. It produces about inch long rhizomes, which is the part we want to use. The rhizomes can be separated from the roots and aerial portions of the plant, pressure washed and then put on a screen in the sun to dry. Xiang Fu is used in TCM as a qi-regulating herb mainly focused on liver qi stagnation.
3. Lonicera Japonica – Japanese Honeysuckle – Jin Yin Hua
Honeysuckle does very well in Texas. It can take the heat and is pretty drought tolerant. If you are out hiking around in a greenbelt in Austin and keep a sharp eye you are likely to come across some. The key way to identify the Japanese honeysuckle is contained in the Chinese name. Jin Yin Hua translates as “gold silver flower”. If it has coral colored flowers then it is L. sempervirens and not what you want although the nectar is just as sweet and there is something about sucking the nectar out of honeysuckle that just brings out the kid in you.
Harvest this flower right as it about to open. If it has already opened it is too late. Then, because this flower is delicate, you should dry it quickly. It would be hard to get any appreciable amount of product from a wild stand of L. japonica as you will work pretty hard just to get a couple of grams of dried flowers.
So let’s talk about some trees that are everywhere in central Texas.
4. Ligustrum luciduim – Glossy Privet – Nu Zhen Zi
This is so invasive that in just about any disturbed area near water you will find them, in fact unless controlled they can easily take over large stretches of mid-canopy trees in established forests. In the spring they have a very nice cluster of flowers that develops in late summer to a cluster of dark purple fruits. Each fruit contains one or two seeds and that is the portion used in TCM. Pick them when they are ripe, but you will have to beat the birds to them. Dry on a drying screen. You do not have to remove the seeds from the fruit to use as an herb.
In TCM Nu Zhen Zi is used as a Yin tonic and is frequently used in formulations for menopause.
5. Mimosa Julibrissin – Persian silk tree – He Huan Hua and He Huan Pi
This invasive is as likely to be found in disturbed park areas as it is to be in someone’s yard planted as a specimen tree because of its unusual and beautiful flowers. Both the flower and the bark are harvested but harvesting the flowers can be fiddly work. They are delicate and sticky and don’t all flower at the same time. They need to be cooled after harvest and then dried. According to Wilson Lau, president of NuHerbs, it takes 3 man-hours to properly clean half a kilo of He Huan Hua so that it looks like you are used to seeing it in clinic. Peg Schafer, author of The Chinese Medicinal Herb Farm harvests the flowers but recommends leaving them whole with the calyx and a bit of stem if need be, but to warn potential buyers that there are stems. The bark can also be harvested but, by in large, requires cutting down the tree or at least large branches.
Both the flower and bark of M. julibrissin are listed in the Calm Shen category of TCM herbs for constraint due to liver qi stagnation.
6. Morus alba – White Mulberry tree
Sang Ye Leaves
Sang Bai Pi Root Bark
Sang Zhi Twigs
Sang Shen Zi Fruit
You are probably more likely to find M. rubra (red mulberry) here in Central Texas, but if you look closely you will find the species, M. alba (white mulberry) that is indicated for so many uses in TCM. If you do find one, what you have found is a runaway. M. alba was imported from China in an attempt to start a silk industry that was floundering because M. rubra, a sort-of native, was not the silk worm’s preferred species. That industry floundered further when they could not compete with the low wages paid in China and Japan. (Sound familiar?) However large stands of M. alba still can be found in the panhandle of Texas where they were also planted as windbreaks. Some of our runaways come from those too.
So what is the difference? Well, you can’t really tell from the fruit or the bark but you can see the difference in the leaves. Both M. alba and M. rubra have leaves that are anywhere from simple ovate leaves to ones that are deeply lobed but there are two distinguishing characteristics. M. alba has leaves that are really shiny on the topside and the leaf margins have teeth, but think molars (slightly rounded) and M. alba has duller topsides and its leaf margins have teeth but think incisors (much sharper) You are also much more likely to find M. alba in full sun and M. rubra is more shade tolerant.
This tree’s uses in TCM are varied, from dispelling wind heat, helping with cough, directing herbs to the shoulders and yin tonic. The most likely plant part you will be harvesting will be the leaves, which are frequently used. Pick them then wash in warm water and leave out on screens to dry. It’s just that easy. The twigs should be harvested from the higher parts of the tree, which can be dangerous over a certain height and will require some cutting and drying. If you want to prepare them the way the are prepared for use in China you will need some heavy duty cutting gear.
This is not a simple preparation and will require specialized equipment. However, the fruit doesn’t require anything but beating the birds, raccoons, and possums to it. Everybody loves mulberry.
So get out to the parks around central Texas and see if you can find all six of these Chinese herbs and if you do, think about processing them for personal use. Some things to think about when you are wild crafting is pollution, both air and water. If you are harvesting along Shoal Creek, say in Pease Park, think about where the water came from. It is largely rain runoff and it washes down oil, herbicides, and fertilizers just to name a few. Lamar Blvd. is a pretty well traveled street and every car that goes up and down it, is leaving behind combustion residue. The good news is that most of this stuff will make it into the soil where it often gets mechanically filtered and then bacteria and fungi in the soil go to work on many of the toxic substances. Of course, some of these chemicals are filtered out by the plants and not taken up in the roots and rarely make it to the leaves and fruits. As far as airborne pollutants go, washing the part of the plant you are going to use is a pretty good way to remove most of them.
About the author:
David Jones L.Ac., a graduate of AOMA, is one of the founders of The Third Coast Herb Co. where he is chairman of the board and the vice president of new product development, which is quite a mouthful so he prefers Chief Herb Nerd.
Illustration notes and credits
T. Official – Medicinal Plants – An illustrative and descriptive guide Charles F Millspaugh M.D. 1892
C. Rotundus – Flora of China
L. Japonica – Fleur de Jardiner 1836
L. Lucidium – Curtis’s Botanical Magazine vol. 52 1825
A. Julbrissin – Missouri Botanical Society
M. Alba – Saint Hilaire Arb. Pl. 44 1824
It is important to have plenty of energy when returning to school and in the fall season. There are herbs and foods that can help you maintain and gain/store energy.
Choose herbs and foods that help us maintain energy. For example, why do we eat chicken soup when we are sick? It is very nourishing. (Nature has provided us with foods & herbs to stay healthy and energized.)
There are herbs that I highly recommend for maintaining energy:
Da zao (Chinese date) is a herb that augments energy (Qi), weakness, and treats reduced appetite.
Shan yao (Wild yam) treats fatigue, lack of appetite and spontaneous sweating, treats shortness of breath and dry cough.
Huang qi (Poor man’s ginseng) is another favorite that treats fatigue, weakness, excessive sweating, low appetite, blood loss recovery, cough, asthma, frequent colds, and shortness of breath.
I have combined these herbs for my Maintaining energy formula. It is simple to prepare: soak for 20 min, bring to boil, simmer 20 min and drink. I HIGHLY recommend adding this formula to chicken soup with other foods that nourish your energy.
Nourishing Energy (Qi) Foods
Fruit should be eaten warm &/or grilled/cooked/baked – Cherry, Dates, Figs, and Grapes (these are ok – if eaten raw) and Goji berries
Asparagus, Sweet Potato, Potato, Carrots, Parsnips, Pumpkin, Yam, Onions, Winter Squash – acorn, butternut, spaghetti, etc., Mushrooms, Peas
Beef, Chicken/Chicken Liver, Lamb, Mutton, Almonds, Black sesame seeds, Coconut (meat), Chicken Egg,
Grains & Legumes
Oats, Rice, Quinoa
Author: Adrianne Ortega, LAc is a graduate of AOMA practicing in El Paso, Texas. You can contact Adrianne at 915.201.9303, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.almaacupuncture-ep.com
At the 2013 commencement ceremony on September 15th, AOMA student Leila Plummer was recipient of the Michael Garcia Prendes Herbal Excellence Award. Since 2006 this honor has been bestowed upon a student who excels in the study of herbal medicine. The recipient is chosen by the previous year’s beneficiary, as someone who strives for superior herbal knowledge and shares the love of learning herbs with fellow students.
In 2012, the award went to Vivian Linden, who chose Leila as this year’s recipient. Vivian shares, “I believe that our most rewarding relationship with herbal medicine will be achieved through fostering a mutually beneficial relationship with our herbal allies –making them friends instead of just servants. Leila exemplifies this and it is what makes her truly excellent!”
It is clear to her fellow classmates that Leila holds a great respect for the study of herbal medicine as an academic, clinical, and extracurricular pursuit. But what is most notable about Leila is her reverence for the plants themselves.
Leila’s extracurricular herbal studies have included:
Serving and training in Nicaragua in 2012 with master herbalists providing free natural medicine to the underserved
Certified Community Herbalist and Herbal Apprentice from the Wildflower School of Botanical Medicine (Western herbalism)
Member of the American Herbalist Guild (student member) and United Plant Savers
Working as a wellness consultant, helping people with herbs and nutrition at herb stores and health food stores
“I am humbled and grateful to the AOMA community for thinking of me for this award. AOMA has a strong herbal program, which is why I chose this school; it is an honor to get to learn from such knowledgeable and caring faculty. The kindness of the student body has also always impressed me -- here, learners look after each other and help each other out,” said Leila.
Michael Garcia Prendes (1964-2007)
The award is named in honor of Michael Garcia Prendes (1964-2007). Michael graduated from the University of Kentucky Phi Beta Kappa with distinction from the Honor's Program with degrees in Political Science and Sociology.
In 1990, Michael moved to Austin, Texas where he eventually continued his education at AOMA. He was a loved and cherished classmate, tutor, mentor and friend. While at AOMA, Michael was instrumental in the development of the Herbal Outreach Program. Because of Michael's generosity, many patients have been able to receive necessary herbs.
One of Michael's greatest passions and loves was tennis. Michael founded the Austin Tennis Club, a local tennis organization that has grown to over 100 members and has raised thousands of dollars for local charities. Michael loved being on the tennis court as a player, teacher and coach, and he used his talents and eye for the game to teach many tennis camps.
Michael Garcia Prendes contracted a terminal illness and died before he could graduate. AOMA framed a beautiful print that Michael painted of a tennis player (with acupuncture meridians) about to serve a ball. Michael painted the piece for Pam Ferguson’s shiatsu class. The print hangs in the student lounge with the sentiment that suits Michael’s character: “Be present and focus, Lift up and Serve.”
Michael's generosity, compassion, sincerity, selflessness, and kind heart will always be an inspiration to his family and friends. Michael lived his life with integrity, honesty, and courage. Michael was a true gift to all who were lucky to know him and who were blessed by his humor, love and kindness.
How Michael helped students learn Chinese herbs
One of many students who benefited from Michael’s herbal tutoring was Consuelo Gonzalez, class of 2009.
“Michael had very special teaching qualities. He would explain with patience and humor the terminology of the herbs. Michael made it easy for us to identify the herbs. He would use pneumonic words to relate the herbs with funny stories or events to get them connected all at one category. We always had a blast each time we get together with him. It is hard to find someone like him, but before he left he gave us the guidelines to imitate him.”
Classmates remember Michael
Michael has touched me deeply and will always be a part of who I am no matter if I'm playing tennis or treating a patient. I feel so lucky to have been on the receiving end of so much love and generosity which he shared with everyone, and for which he will always be remembered. - Adrienne Kam, class of 2009
I have never met a more selfless, loving, giving man than Michael Garcia Prendes. His concern for his fellow students overrode everything else, and up to his last days, he put others welfare before his own. - Kathy Kerr, class of 2008
Michael helped so many people, including myself, to see the true potential in themselves and build confidence in their learning capabilities. - Sarah Wilson, class of 2008
I knew Michael to be a compassionate and wise soul. He was always kind and offered me valuable comfort when I was going through a sad time. His donations and support of Herbal Outreach were unsolicited and showed him to be thoughtful and generous with his time and efforts. I am grateful to have known him. - Jessica Fritz, class of 2005
Previous Recipients of the Herbal Excellence Award
Erin Taliaferro, 2006
Rebecca Benson, 2007
Marc Smith, 2008
Alison Beard, 2009
Cat Calhoun, 2010
Joshua Shain, 2011
Vivian Linden, 2012
Goji berries have been used for 6,000 years in Chinese herbalism to protect the liver, help eyesight, boost immune function, improve circulation, and promote longevity. Goji berries, also known as Lycium barbarum, wolfberry, gou qi zi, and Fructus lycii are usually found dried. They are shriveled orange-red berries that look like red raisins.
Goji berries have been eaten in Asia for ages to promote longevity and currently are used to help treat diabetes, women’s health, high blood pressure, and age-related eye problems. Goji berries can be eaten raw or cooked and are becoming more prevalent in juices, herbal teas, and medicines. Since they have short shelf life it is a good idea to store them in a cool place or even in the refrigerator.
What are the health benefits of goji berries?
Goji berries are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, particularly carotenoids such as beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. One of zeaxanthin's key roles is to protect the retina of the eye by absorbing blue light and acting as an antioxidant. In fact, increased intake of foods containing zeathanthin may decrease the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).
Some studies using goji berry juice found benefits in mental well-being and calmness, athletic performance, happiness, quality of sleep, and feelings of good health. Significant animal research has demonstrated anticancer, antidiabetes, antihypertensive, anti-infertility, anti-myelosuppressive, antioxidant, hypolipidemic, immune-stimulating, and radiosensitizing properties.
Goji berries are a member of the nighshade family, so if you are sensitive to nightshades, it may be a good idea to avoid or limit your intake of goji berries.
Goji Berry Congee Recipe
Traditionally known as “rice water”, congee is eaten throughout China as a breakfast food. It is a thin porridge, usually made from rice, although other grains may be used. 
1 cup rice, millet, or quinoa
6 cups water
1/4 cup goji berries
1 pear, cut in half (optional)
2-3 dates (optional)
Cook in a covered pot four to six hours on warm, or use the lowest flame possible; a crockpot works well for congees and can run on low overnight. It is better to use too much water than too little, and it is said that the longer congee cooks, the more “powerful” it becomes.
Five more ways to eat Goji Berries
Put them in your cold cereal or oatmeal like raisins.
Make a cold or hot tea infusion.
Bake them in cookies or muffins
Combine them with your favorite nuts and dried fruit in a trail mix.
Cover them in chocolate!
Herbalists are trained in the healing properties of medicinal plants and consult with their clients about how to improve their health with these natural preparations. The two most recognized ways to become a professional herbalist is by either becoming a Naturopathic physician or Chinese medicine practitioner.
Herbal Medicine Careers
Herbal medicine can be practiced and integrated into other professions in a variety of ways:
- As a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist (in most states)
- As a naturopathic physician (in some states)
- As herbal educators in institutions/schools, industry/retail or community settings
- Medicinal plant research (may include phytochemistry, pharmacognosy, agriculture/horticulture, botanical authentication, etc.)
- Herbal medicine can create a niche market or clientele for landscapers, medicinal herb growers or plant nurseries
- Massage therapists with herbal training, often include/utilize topical herbal preparations
- Small scale herbal manufacturing with emphasis on tonic teas, medicated honeys and topical preparations (food-like preparations or topical preparations are the least invasive and least problematic legally)
Herbal Medicine Programs
The American Herbalist Guild
(AHG), a non-profit, educational organization that works to promote a high level of professionalism and education in the study and practice of therapeutic herbalism, recommends that a program of herbal education includes courses in botany, therapeutic herbalism and pharmacognosy (the study of drugs derived from plants and other natural sources). Classes in basic human sciences, including anatomy, pathology, physiology and nutrition are also a fundamentally important part of the curriculum. In addition, the AHG recommends students get training in counseling, physical assessments, dosing strategies and other clinical skills.
The study of Chinese herbalism usually occurs within an accredited acupuncture and Oriental medicine program. The herbal curriculum within most Chinese medicine programs will include an in-depth study of the Chinese Materia Medica
, theoretical principles and practical application of traditional Chinese dietetics, individual herbs and their functions, hands-on herbal labs, preparation of herbal formulations, and modification of classical formulas.
Apprenticeships are incredibly helpful in integrating the “knowing and the doing”. Apprenticeships are not a typical component of most western herbalism programs but are often sought after by herb students looking for a supervised introduction to working with clients and gaining valuable clinical experience.
The American Herbalist Guild has a mentoring program that supports student practitioners (or mentees), to develop their clinical skills by linking student practitioners with those who have significant clinical herbal experience.
Students who study herbal medicine within an accredited Chinese medicine degree program students practice herbal formulation with modifications as well as prescribe Chinese patent herbs under supervision. A minimum of 72 hours of herbal clinic internship hours are required in AOMA’s herbal program.
Currently, the US healthcare system does not recognize western herbal practitioners as healthcare providers in and of themselves. There are currently no federal or state agencies that regulate western herbal practice. Naturopathic doctors are licensed to use this therapeutic modality in the 17 states that recognize ND’s as primary care providers.
While some countries have minimum education standards to be an herbalist, standards are not the same between or even within countries. Medical herbalists are licensed by The National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH), the UK’s leading professional body representing herbal practitioners. Members are required to have professional indemnity, public liability and medical malpractice insurance.
To practice Chinese herbal medicine in most states, one must also hold an acupuncture license, although states vary in their requirement of other TCM components like herbal medicine. Almost all licensing states require completion of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine’s(NCCAOM) national written exam which offers distinct certification programs in acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and Asian bodywork.
About the author:
Jenny Perez has been working to re-connect plants and people for more than 15 years by sharing her passion and practices of urban horticulture, kitchen medicine and therapeutic nutrition. She managed the Bastyr University medicinal herb garden for 7 years, was adjunct faculty for their Botanical Medicine Department for 5 years and created and directed the Holistic Landscape Design certificate program. Currently, she works as the Education Coordinator for the American Botanical Council. Founded in 1988, the American Botanical Council is a leading international nonprofit organization using science-based and traditional information to promote responsible use of herbs, teas, medicinal plants, essential oils, and other beneficial plant-derived materials.
Fu Fang Ban Lan Gen Chong Ji (granule of Isatis root formula) contains Nan ban lan gen (Southern Isatis Root), Pu gong ying (Dandelion), Zi hua di ding (Herba Violae), and cane sugar. It’s primary function is to clear toxic heat, or in lay terms flu symptoms like fever, sore throat, yellow phlegm, etc.
We often have patients come in with fever and sore throat who see quick improvement after taking this formula. It can also be used preventatively. This formula was used in China when they experienced the SARS outbreak and has become a staple in many household medicine cabinets.
For acute symptoms you should take the formula 3-4 times daily for 1-2 weeks. For prevention, it is best if you can start 1-2 weeks ahead, but definitely as soon as you notice those around you displaying symptoms. Herbal treatment for children can start as young as 3 months old, but they would need to see a licensed practitioner and get a prescription based on age and body weight.
Some brands of Fu Fang Ban Lan Gen Chong Ji are packaged in easy-open, one dosage packets. All you need to do is dissolve the granules in hot water and drink up. Some patients may experience loose stools or poor appetite after taking it.
Dr. Violet Song offers acupuncture and herbal treatments for female disorders, stress, insomnia, digestive disorders, the common cold, cough, as well as pediatric herbal consultations.