Lifestyle and Diet for a Cold or Flu: An Asian Medicine View

In preventing a cold or flu, an important place to begin is to make sure to wear the appropriate clothing for your environment. There is a higher likelihood of catching a cold on a windy day, especially when there is a combination of wind, cold, and or damp weather. Be sure to have clothing layers on hand if you live in an environment where there are temperature fluctuations. A simple solution is to wear scarves to protect you against the wind. It is also important to sleep enough, in particular when feeling vulnerable to illness or if prone to sickness. Be sure to close all windows at night before sleeping to prevent dampness from entering your house and body. 

During the cold and flu season, it is essential to manage stress and not push yourself if already feeling vulnerable to catching a cold or flu. Treat any cold/ flu by staying home and resting until your sickness is completely gone. It is helpful to drink more water, warm teas, and to take warm baths. It will also speed up your recovery to take herbal remedies and appropriate foods. If prone to reoccurring colds/flu, consider taking lifestyle measures to assist in stopping the cycle of reoccurrence. Strengthen the body’s Qi (energy) is considered a sickness preventative. You can prevent reoccurring colds/flu by doing acupuncture and herbal medicine 1-2 months and or 1 season ahead of time. Also, acupuncture and herbal medicine can be utilized in all phases of a cold or flu to speed up the healing process. It is best to seek the help of a practitioner to receive the most appropriate treatment for a speedy recovery.

Consuming a healthy diet is essential in quickly resolving an illness. It is beneficial to sweat out a sickness, especially during its initial onset. Avoid dairy, wheat, and sugar, as well as cold/ raw/ and or frozen foods. If exposed to wind, rain, and or cold: consume hot spicy soup to help sweat out the potential sickness or during the initial onset of a cold. Another technique that can get rid of sickness right away is to drink a lot of warm to hot temperature water and then to go to sleep early during the initial onset.

Chicken soup is a European folk remedy for colds and flu. From the Chinese medicine perspective, chicken soup helps a person to sweat out sickness. Onions or garlic can be added to the soup to help release illness from the lungs. The chicken strengthens the qi, which means that it builds the body’s strength.

Garlic oil stimulates the immune system and is considered an herbal antibiotic. Add garlic oil to your already cooked meal. To preserve its healing properties, do not cook the garlic oil. Consuming garlic in an oil form helps it to have medicinal strength without being too hot for the digestive system. Rosemary, oregano, and or thyme can be added to the garlic oil to strengthen its healing properties & to enhance its flavor. The healing properties of the garlic will become infused into the oil.

To make garlic oil: 

-chop the garlic finely
-Fill a jar with the garlic (and rosemary, thyme, or oregano if you wish)- 1/2-3/4 full
-Cover the garlic with olive oil by 1-2 inches and leave some room at the top of the jar
-Let the garlic sit in the sun (a window sill also works fine) for 5-7 days.
-Shake the jar daily. The oil will bubble, which is normal.
-Strain out the garlic and throw it away.
-Add the oil to your already prepared meals 2x daily!

These are some preventative ways to strengthen the body: 

-Conjee: which is a rice soup, strengthens the body against sickness, post sickness, and supports a deficient person who has a cold/ flu.
-Eating root vegetables are considered immune strengthening.
-White foods (such as baked pears, onions, garlic) strengthen the lungs.
-Warm moist foods build digestive fire and immunity. A person who is cold bodied can benefit from taking a ginger tea bath and or drinking ginger tea as a preventative measure.


~Cheers to your health and wellness through this cold and flu season!



  • Haas, Elson M., “Staying Healthy with the Seasons,” Celestial Arts (Pub), 2003
  • Five Branches University education


Scroll to top