We are in cold and flu season, which especially hits during the summer-to-fall and winter-to-spring months. How do you prevent catching a cold or flu and if you do get it, what do you do?

Thankfully some powerful herbs you can take right now to protect yourself.

Herbal Prevention

Herbal approaches for staying well include boosting the immune system and rebalancing the body. Take a daily immune booster plus a formula for either coldness or heat, whichever best fits your needs. The following herbs and formulas may be found at local herb stores or online.

General immune boosters:

Take reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum; ling zhi; ganoderma). With a neutral energy and sweet flavor, this powerful immune booster is great for most everyone. Its lore states that it’s considered it worth its weight in gold because it was long sought after to promote longevity, intelligence, health, and ultimately, immortality. As well, it treats cough, wheezing, deficiency consumption, and shortness of breath. Its adaptogenic and spirit-calming properties are also great for insomnia, palpitations, forgetfulness, poor digestion, mania, and cancer.

Take cordyceps (Ophiocordyceps sinensis, dong chong xia cao; also Tolypocladium inflatum; avoid Cordyceps militaris as it’s not as effective). This tonic adaptogen is one of the best for regulating the immune system. It tonifies both Yin and Yang, transforms phlegm and stops bleeding while specifically treating wheezing, chronic or dry cough, and a weakened immune system.

Jade Screen (Yu Ping Feng): This formula replenishes energy, stops sweating and boosts immunity, especially in those who get frequent colds and flu or who have symptoms of coldness, clear or white discharges, frequent urination, or loose stools. It is especially effective for lowered immunity, poor energy, intolerance to wind and cold, and spontaneous sweats. Follow dosage on the bottle. Full ingredient list below.

General antiviral herbs:

Take elderberry (Sambucus canadensis). This great antiviral has a cool energy and sweet flavor and so tastes good to most children (as well as adults!). The fresh berries may be juiced and made into a tea or added to water as a drink while the dried berries may be reconstituted and then substituted for raisins in cooking. They are also easily found in syrup form, although watch the sugar content.

Take oregano oil capsules. It is antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and antiparasitic. It has a warm energy and pungent flavor, treating colds, flu, fever, sore throat, cough, sinusitis, bronchitis, asthma, and allergies, all from coldness. Take 1 capsule, two or three times a day.

Lomatium root (Lomatiun dissectum): Antiviral, antibacterial, and antiseptic, this herb was used during the 1918 flu pandemic.[1] It is usually found in tincture form. Take a dropperful, 3 times/day.

[1] Abascal K. Herbs & Influenza: How Herbs Used in the 1918 Flu Pandemic Can Be Effective Today


Do You Have Hot or Cold Symptoms?

Herbalists  recommend herbs based on the presentation of the illness. Broadly, symptoms are grouped into hot or cold categories first.

                           HEAT SIGNS                            COLD SIGNS
Thirst No thirst
Dark yellow/red scanty urination Clear, copious and frequent urination
Craving for cold; dislike of heat Craving for heat, dislike of cold
Yellow, sticky, thick and hot-feeling discharges, excretions & secretions Clear, runny, copious discharges, excretions and secretions
Blood in any discharges Poor circulation, Cold extremities
Burning sensations Dull achy pains
Infections, inflammations Low blood pressure
Dryness Internally or Externally Dampness Internally or Externally
Red face, eyes Pale face, lips, nails
Sweats easily No sweating
Constipation Diarrhea, loose stools
Irritability, hyperactive, aggressive Depressed, hypoactive, quiet
Fever Chills
Insomnia, restless, dream-filled sleep Slow, sleeps a lot
Strong appetite Poor appetite
Red tongue body; yellow coated Pale tongue body; moist or white coated
Fast pulse Slow, deep pulse


For symptoms of heat:

If you feel hot or have an aversion to heat, have thirst, red face, restlessness, irritability, burning sensations, red eyes, scanty dark urine, yellow discharges, strong odors, or high fevers, add:

  • Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum) tea (warning – it’s very bitter) or 10 to 20 drops of the tincture two times a day. This antiviral powerfully lowers fevers and treats colds and flu with fever, severe sore throat, sweating, and thirst. It also treats bronchitis, acute bronchial pneumonia and dyspnea, all with yellow phlegm.

Excess heat: If this applies to you, you’ll experience heat with adequate energy and such possible symptoms as high fever, thirst, red face, aversion to heat, restlessness, irritability, burning sensations, red eyes, scanty dark urine, yellow discharges and strong odors.

Take Yin Qiao formula (Honeysuckle and Forsythia Combination). It contains:

  • Honeysuckle (Lonicera) flower. • Jin Yin Hua (17%)
  • Forsythia fruit • Lian Qiao (17%)
  • Platycodon root • Jie Geng (10.1%)
  • Burdock seed • Niu Bang Zi (10.2%)
  • Soybean prepared • Dan Dou Chi (8.5%)
  • Phragmitis rhizome • Xian Lu Gen (8.5%)
  • Licorice raw root • Gan Cao (8.5%)
  • Bamboo leaf • Dan Zhu Ye (6.7%)
  • Schizonepeta herb • Jing Jie (6.7%)
  • Mint herb • Bo He (6.7%)

Take 1 cup 1-2 times daily, or follow the patent dosage.

Planetary Herbals has two Yin Qiao formulas: Yin Chiao Classic, which is the traditional formula above, and Yin Chiao-Echinacea Complex, which adds to the classic formula notopterygium, echinacea, horehound, boneset, elecampane, and isatis. As well, there’s Liver Defense, based on the traditional Minor Bupleurum Combination (Xiao Chai Hu tang) with astragalus, milk thistle and schizandra added.

Combination of heat and deficiency: If this applies to you, you’ll experience heat and weakness with such possible symptoms as night sweats, malar flush (redness and burning heat along the cheeks and nose), burning sensation in the palms of the hands, soles of the feet and in the chest, afternoon fever or feelings of heat, restless sleep, dry throat or thirst at night, agitation, mental restlessness, dry cough, dry stools, and scanty dark urine.

Take: Jade Screen but add either ophiopogon (mai men dong) or marshmallow root.

For symptoms of cold:

If you have feelings of coldness, copious clear urination or night-time urination, white, copious or runny discharges, pale, frigid appearance, cold limbs, lassitude, fatigue, edema, loose stools or diarrhea, faint odors, impotence, low libido, or undigested food in the stool, add holy basil, oregano, and any the herbs listed below:

  • Fresh garlic: Garlic is antiviral but must be eaten fresh rather than cooked to keep its volatile oil properties intact. It is a specific for the lungs treating colds, coughs and bronchitis with white phlegm. You can eat fresh garlic in olive oil or with honey added, or else drink garlic juice, 1 tsp. every several hours.
  • Fresh ginger tea: Steep an inch of sliced ginger root in very hot water 20 minutes covered and drink warm, 1 C 1-3 times/day. It is a specific for colds, flu, fever, cough, bronchitis, sore throat, and headache, all with white phlegm.

Deficient, cold: If this applies to you, you’ll experience coldness and weakness with such possible symptoms as copious, clear urination; white, copious or runny discharges; pale, frigid appearance; cold limbs; lassitude; fatigue; edema; loose stools or diarrhea; night-time urination; infertility; faint odors; impotence; low libido; and undigested food in the stools.

If this fits you, take Jade Screen (Yu Ping Feng). This formula consists of astragalus (huang qi), ledebouriella (fang feng) and white atractylodes (bai zhu). In Chinese patent form, take 8 pills 1-2 times daily. To read more about the powerful protective uses of this formula and its variations, read Subhuti Dharmananda’s article on it.[5]

Michael’s variation of Jade Screen: Lomatium was used in the 1918 flu pandemic. Use it in place of ledebouriella. Add some black atractylodes (cang zhu) along with the white bai zhu. Keep astragalus. Add mugwort (ai ye) (Hme Chi Yeung says to use black atractylodes and mugwort for flu and bronchitis and the carminative citrus peel (chen pi) to support the spleen.

Hot and Cold Together?

Sometimes it’s possible to experience both heat and cold together, such as a simultaneous 104° temperature and severe chills. In this case, combine herbs that treat both heat and cold. Use a cooling formula such as the Chuan Xin Lian (see below) plus eat some fresh ginger or drink strong ginger tea.

Chuan Xin Lian

A highly effective formula anti-viral formula I recommend is Chuan Xin Lian comprised of andrographis, dandelion and isatis. This formula clears heat, expels toxic-heat and cools the blood. Planetary Herbals has this formula called, Echinacea-Goldenseal with Olive Leaf, which is Chuan Xin Lian with those three western herbs added. Echinacea is anti-toxin, goldenseal clears dampness and heat, and olive leaf is anti-viral. Another formula to take is Andrographis Respiratory wellness.

Gan Mao Ling is a much stronger antiviral than Yin Qiao. It also specifically treats head cold symptoms and fever.

Another option is Shuang Huang Lian, a combination of honeysuckle, Chinese skullcap and forsythia. Although sold out in China, you can make your own from the raw herbs:

  • 22.5g honeysuckle flowers (Flos Lonicerae – jin yin hua)
  • 22.5g Chinese skullcap root (Radix Scutellariae – huang qin)
  • 4.5g forsythia fruit (Fructus Forsythiae – lian qiao)

Simmer the skullcap and forsythia covered for 20 minutes in 5 cups water. Turn off the heat, add the honeysuckle flowers and cover again. Let steep for 20 more minutes. Strain and drink 1 cup three or four times a day. If you can find it in capsules, take 5 3-4 times/day.

Finally, don’t be afraid of taking a dose every two waking hours. While herbs have the ability to kill bacteria and viruses their greatest strength lies in their ability to activate the body’s innate defenses to fight off these pathogens.

DISCLAIMER: This blog is a reference work and not intended to diagnose, treat, or prescribe. The information contained herein is in no way to be considered a substitute for consultation with a licensed health care professional.

Leave a Reply