While targeted treatment of specific health conditions requires a differential diagnostic approach to recommending herbal remedies for individual, there are several gentle, general-use Chinese herbal formulas that can be “on-hand” in your herbal medicine cabinet and safely used by you and your family.
Below are some of our favorite formulas that we recommend to keep “on-hand” in your herbal medicine cabinet and a description of how / when to use them. As a disclaimer, while each of these formulas is recommended by evidenced-based research into the therapeutic use of herbs, no guarantees of curative properties can be made. Given the variety of unique factors that make you, you … health care is not, never has been, and can never be a one-size-fits-all, guaranteed treatment approach.
Immune Strength and Preventative Health Support
Yu Ping Feng San (Jade Windscreen Formula) – This blend of adaptogenic herbs including astragalus, atractylodes, and siler root strengthens our defensive “wei” qi to prevent initial illness by harmonizing our immune and autoimmune systems. It is appropriate for those with chronic weak immunity and history of recurrent infection. In addition to warding off respiratory infections, Jade Windscreen is also effective during spring and fall for those who suffer from allergies because its ingredients strengthen the body’s ability to mount a successful immune response to any “foreign invaders” – be that a virus or allergen.
Onset of Initial Respiratory Symptoms
Yin Qiao San, or Honeysuckle and Forsythia Formula, is your the go-to formula for the onset of viral colds. You will recognize many of its ingredients as the same as those in over the counter supplements such as “Airborne”, but Yin Qiao’s ingredients are at clinically tested therapeutic dosage. This formula combats what we call “Wind Heat” invasions that include symptoms of a common cold such as sore, hot, or painful throat, fever, dry cough, aching neck and shoulders, headache, swollen glands, sweating, and itchy skin. This formula is good to have on hand in your winter herbal medicine cabinet because it is most effective when taken at the onset of any “hot” viral infection such as the common cold and flu, tonsillitis, and ear infections. Clinical trials have also shown Yin Qiao San to be effective in reducing the length and severity of symptoms in chicken pox, rubella, measles, and hives. The herbs in Yin Qiao have the ability to prevent a virus protein structure from attaching to your own cell wall, and therefore Yin Qiao may also be used as a prophylactic treatment when you may be exposed to others with illness (like on a long airplane ride or a trip to a crowded grocery store). Take Yin Qiao up to 30 minutes before heading out, and then a second dosage upon returning from the place of possible exposure.
Gan Mao Ling, or Common Cold Effective Remedy Pills, is another great herbal remedy to have on hand in your herbal medicine cabinet. With 75% of the five herbs in this formula having strong anti-viral effect, it’s no wonder this is the number one best selling patent herb formula in China. Gan Mao Ling is used for “Wind Cold” invasions, which are more commonly encountered in the colder times of year. Take this formula at the first sign of illness when your symptoms include chills, throbbing-achy joints and dull headache, and a tickling-itchy throat. Wind Cold invasions have all the same common cold symptoms of Wind Heat, but there may be additional fluid build in the lungs and sinuses. Wind Cold may have more pronounced body aches and an itchy sensation in the throat. Gan Mao Ling can be taken on its own or in conjunction with Yin Qiao San at the onset of symptoms.
Full Force Respiratory Conditions
Ban Xia Hou Po Tang (Augmented Plum Pit Qi Formula): This wonderful formula of Magnolia and Pinella Bark is used in lower dosages for mood disorders that include feelings of depression and frustration by opening the oppressive feeling in the chest and uplifting the Heart’s spirit. At it’s full dosage, this formula breaks up mucus congestion in the lungs and decreases spasmodic coughing. It is frequently used when cold symptoms have progressed to bronchitis or pneumonia. Ban Xia Hou Po Tang is indicated when there is damp, sticky, and accumulating phlegm.
Xiao Chai Hu Tang (Minor Bupleurum Formula): Similar to BXHP, this formula is used as pathogens begin to drive themselves further into the lungs and respiratory system. This formula is indicated when fever is prolonged or milder symptoms begin to alternate between fever and chills. Xiao Chai Hu Tang is the go-to formula when these heat syptoms are most prevalent, and there is only minor accumulation of phlegm in the lungs or the cough remains dry.
Recovering After Illness
Many patients find that even once the contagious stage of an illness has cleared, their respiratory system feels weak for many weeks or months following. You may still experience a chronic cough, especially at night or while lying down. You are fatigued, and it seems you keep “catching” a new illness because you are also more susceptible to illness during this time that your immune system has not fully recovered. Using the analogy of a medieval castle – you have successfully fought off the Viking invaders, but now your defensive wall is weak and therefore you are vulnerable to even a small group of wandering barbarians. It’s time to strengthen your defenses and rebuild your castle “wall”. We call this wall the “Wei Qi“.
Our favorite formulas for rebuilding the Wei Qi all involve the use of medicinal mushrooms. We really love the effectiveness of Mycoherb’s line of medicinal mushrooms through Kan. This brand harvests their herbs to capture the strongest therapeutic constituents of each plant. Our favorite formula for recovery is Mycoherb’s Tri-forte, a blend of three adaptogenic medical mushrooms that are supportive and appropriate for all individuals. Tri-forte includes Reishi – a powerful adaptogenic mushroom used in China for recovery after long illness and draining treatments such as chemotherapy. Tri-forte also includes Cordycep – another great adaptogen that specifically targets and supports the healing of lung tissue that is damaged due to asthma, allergies, and respiratory illness.