Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Swine Flu and Traditional Chinese Medicine: Part 2: Recovery

Welcome to Part 2 of our 4-part series on Swine Flu. Yesterday we discussed ways to prevent the flu and keep our immune system strong and healthy. Today, we are going to discuss what to do if you happen to find yourself with the flu.

Symptoms of flu include sore throat, fever, chills, fatigue, body aches, headache, and digestive upset. In terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine, these are symptoms of an "external pathogen invading the body." The symptoms you feel are signs of your body fighting to expel it.

Steps you can take to help yourself get better, faster include:.

  • Rest, but allow yourself fresh air, consider opening windows to air out a room

  • Miso soup with ginger, garlic, onions/scallions (recipe below)

  • Acupuncture: to help the body release the external invasion.

    There are excellent points such as TW 5 (on the forearm) and LI 4 (on the hand) which can help the body expel the pathogen. We also typically include points such as Sp 6 and St 36 (both on the legs), which strengthen the immune system and settle digestion. At the Birch Center we also include local points and manual treatments such as moxabustion (heating of an herb on or above the skin or on acupuncture needles), cupping, gwa sha and massage to help your body expel the pathogen, symptoms diminish and energy increase.

    To schedule an acupuncture appointment, or come in for a free 20-minute consultation (with no obligation) please call (412)381-0116, or email

  • Chinese Herbal Formulas such as Yin Qiao and Gan Mao Ling (both available at the Birch Center).

    Yin Qiao is often taken at first signs of the flu, especially when a sore throat is present, and Gan Mao can be taken if the flu has settled in, causing cough, stuffiness, and eye symptoms. We can help you choose depending on symptoms and how long you've had the flu.

Recipe for Miso Soup

Soup is always comforting when we are sick. Miso soup is beneficial on many levels, including the addition of unpasteurized miso (can be picked up at Health Food Stores), which contain live cultures full of beneficial bacteria which help strengthen our body's immune systems. It's important not to boil the miso, as this will kill the bacteria.

In addition to the miso:

  • sea vegetables such as wakame (purchased at Asian food stores or natural food stores) are also extremely strengthening to the system
  • onions, garlic and ginger all help expel external pathogens


Heat 4 cups of water in a pot to just above body temperature: from 105 to 115 degrees. It should feel hot to you, but you should not burn your finger when testing the water.

To this heated water, add:

  • 3 Tbsp chopped scallions
  • 1 clove crushed or chopped garlic
  • 2 tsp dried wakame seaweed (if not already in small pieces, cut the dried seaweed into tiny pieces with a scissors before adding it to the water. It will expand greatly and soften once it's in the water)

In a bowl, take a heaping Tbsp of miso and mix with some of the warmed water until it's a thin paste, then add it into the pot of soup. Taste and season with dried ginger and sea salt, if necessary.


Tune in tomorrow when we discuss in more detail the herbal remedies and supplements that can help you prevent and recover from colds and the flu.

If you have any questions or would like to set up an appointment, please call The Birch Center at (412) 381-0116, or email

Thank you!

~ Melissa and David Sokulski, L.Acs
The Birch Center for Health
(412) 381-0116