The Yin and Yang Balance in Traditional Chinese Medicine and How It Can Help Your Cold and Flu Treatment

Sad ill asian girl staying on self quarantine during covid, catching flu and sitting at home with cup of tea near window, coughing in hand.

During the prolonged cold months, our bodies tend to be more vulnerable to catching colds or flu. Ailments such as runny nose, cough, sore throat and fever have become more prevalent, highlighting the need for alternative medicine and holistic approaches to support your body in recovering as fast as possible. Commonly, getting your flu shot can go a long way toward prevention. However, in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the fundamental concepts of Yin and Yang play a pivotal role in addressing colds and flu, emphasising the importance of maintaining their balance to support overall well-being. To explore the Yin and Yang principle further, this article will reveal the concept and its application in Chinese medicine for colds and flu. Read on to learn more.

Understanding Yin and Yang Balance in TCM

According to TCM, the principle of Yin and Yang is fundamental to understanding balance and harmony within the body. These beliefs are used in China to describe two opposing yet interconnected forces found in all things in nature. Within the body, Yin represents the cooler, slower and more substantial aspects, while Yang represents the warmer, faster and more energetic aspects. Health and vitality depend on the harmonious balance of these energies. When one aspect becomes exaggerated compared to the other, physical and emotional illness can occur. Therefore, a balanced Yin-Yang is important to support a robust immune response against pathogens when you encounter them.

Yin, Yang and the Immune System

The immune system serves as a vital component of our body’s defence mechanism, while TCM characterises this function as Wei Qi, often referred to as the body’s defensive energy. It circulates at the surface of the body and plays a crucial role in protecting against external pathogens, such as influenza viruses and bacteria. If there is an imbalance in the Yin and Yang energies, it’s believed that the Wei Qi may become weakened, making your body more susceptible to illnesses such as colds and the flu. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine for Cold and Flu

Image of Chinese medicinal herbs spread out on a wooden mat next to a wooden mortar and pestle and black notebook

TCM adopts a holistic approach to address imbalances in the body, especially to expel the common cold and flu in your body. Based on TCM theory, the equilibrium between Yin and Yang energies is vital for overall health. When confronted with flu and cold symptoms, practitioners believe that the body is in a state of imbalance, with either excessive Yin or Yang energies. Restoring this balance becomes crucial to enhance the body’s innate ability to heal and recover. By tailoring the treatment to each person’s unique needs, TCM aims to address the root cause of the illness rather than merely alleviating symptoms. Hence,  the first step in treating the common cold or flu is to identify the specific type of cold a person is experiencing.

Types of Cold in TCM

Cold in traditional Chinese medicine can manifest in different ways, including external factors. Wind-Cold and Wind-Heat are two different patterns from six external pathogenic factors that can cause common colds. These patterns are used to describe the nature of the invasion of the body by external factors, and they help guide the selection of appropriate treatments.

Wind-Cold Type

Wind-Cold reflects an invasion of the body by external pathogenic factors characterised by cold properties. This often occurs when you are exposed to dampness or chill weather. The symptoms of Wind-Cold are feeling cold, a runny or stuffy nose with clear and watery discharge, sneezing and the possibility of a throbbing headache. In the Yin-Yang framework, it’s associated with an excess of Yin, where the cold, considered a Yin pathogen, disrupts the delicate balance.

Wind-Heat Type

Conversely, Wind-Heat denotes an invasion of external pathogenic factors with a heat nature. This pattern is often observed in warmer environments or summer heat. Wind-Heat manifests with symptoms like fever, aversion to heat, a sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose with yellow phlegm, and possibly a persistent cough. Thirst and a rapid pulse may also accompany these symptoms. In terms of Yin-Yang dynamics, it’s associated with an excess of Yang. The heat, considered a Yang pathogen, disrupts the Yin-Yang balance by overwhelming the body’s Yin energy.

TCM Common Cold Remedies

Close up photo, of a sick Caucasian woman's hands squeezing lemon to her tea in her dining room.

Treating colds and flu with traditional Chinese medicine has been proven to be effective over centuries of practice. In TCM, a treasure trove of remedies awaits those seeking relief from the common cold. This holistic approach embraces a symphony of elements, seamlessly blending specific foods, potent herbs and therapeutic techniques like gua sha and acupuncture. Let’s delve deeper into how these components contribute to restoring the balance of Yin and Yang in the body. 

Foods To Incorporate in Your Diet

Like Western medicine, TCM also advises getting adequate nutrients to support immune function. Warming foods are often recommended to counter cold conditions. Common suggestions include scallion and ginger, which are known for their ability to alleviate flu symptoms such as nasal congestion and body aches. Besides that, they can cause your body to sweat to make you warm. In contrast, when you experience symptoms like high fever, TCM advises consuming Yin foods like oranges and other citrus fruits.  These fruits are considered neutral or have cooling properties to help nourish Yin and clear excess heat from your body.

Recommended Herbal Medicine

TCM has a long history of using Chinese herbal medicine to treat various health issues, including remedies for colds.  Traditional Chinese herbal formulas to treat the common cold typically combine multiple herbs that are believed to work together to relieve symptoms. However, before you consume any herbs, it’s important to consult with certified TCM practitioners to get an accurate prescription or advice. Here is an overview of some common types of Chinese herbs in TCM for combating colds:

Astragalus root (Huang Qi)

Astragalus root, known as “Huang Qi”, is a famous TCM cold remedy. It contains various bioactive compounds, including polysaccharides and saponins, which are thought to contribute to its immune-boosting properties. Regular consumption of Astragalus is believed to enhance your body’s resistance to external pathogens, making it a valuable ally during the cold and flu season. Moreover, it’s often incorporated into herbal formulations like Yu Ping Feng San, also known as Jade Windscreen Powder. This blend is designed to fortify the immune system as a protective barrier against illnesses. 

Mint (Bo He)

Mint, referred to as “Bo He” in Chinese, possesses a cool and pungent quality in TCM. Its primary function is to disperse wind-heat, making it a valuable addition to formulas addressing sore throat, fever, and a mild aversion to wind – common symptoms associated with the initial stages of a cold. The cooling properties of mint help alleviate discomfort related to heat and contribute to the overall balance of TCM remedies for respiratory conditions. Additionally, it also makes for a nourishing and easy to digest ingredient in soups or teas that can help provide relief when you’re feeling under the weather.

Forsythia Fruit (Lian Qiao)

Forsythia Fruit, derived from the Forsythia suspense plant, is a valuable herb in TCM for flu. Known as “Lian Qiao” in Chinese, this herb is characterised by its bitter taste and cold nature. Forsythia Fruit is renowned for its ability to clear heat and resolve toxins. In TCM, it is commonly employed to address conditions associated with pathogenic heat, such as fevers, sore throat, and skin eruptions.

Lonicera (Honeysuckle)

Lonicera, commonly known as honeysuckle or “Jin Yin Hua” in TCM, is a flowering plant renowned for its medicinal properties, particularly in the treatment of an upper respiratory tract infection.  This traditional medicine predominantly focuses on addressing issues such as coughing up yellow mucus, asthma, and various respiratory ailments. Additionally, it is believed to possess antiviral properties, further enhancing its significance in the realm of natural remedies for respiratory health.

Gua Sha

Gua sha is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) technique that involves scraping the skin with a smooth-edged instrument to promote blood circulation and relieve various health issues. The term “gua sha” translates to “scraping sand” in Mandarin. While it is often used for pain relief and muscle tension, it’s also often used to treat flu and cold symptoms in the context of TCM. Gua sha is believed to help rebalance these forces by promoting the movement of Qi (energy) and blood, removing excess heat, and facilitating the restoration of Yin. Gua sha is believed to help rebalance these forces by promoting the movement of Qi (energy) and blood, removing excess heat, and facilitating the restoration of Yin.


Acupuncture is a key component of TCM that involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points of the body. TCM views health as a balance of the vital forces Yin and Yang, and disruptions in this balance are believed to lead to illnesses, including colds. According to acupuncturists, disruptions in the balance of Qi and the interplay of Yin and Yang can leave the body susceptible to external pathogens, such as viruses causing colds and flu. It’s thought to stimulate the immune system, helping the body fight off these pathogens more effectively. 


In conclusion, the Yin and Yang balance in Chinese Medicine offers a profound and comprehensive approach to cold and flu treatment. By understanding and harmonising these opposing forces, you can enhance your overall well-being and boost your immune system against seasonal challenges. TCM emphasises that Gua sha, lifestyle adjustments, incorporating herbs, and acupuncture are some of the prevention and treatment methods for the common cold or flu. However, make sure you’re taking herbs or practices mentioned by consulting a practitioner.

If you are seeking Chinese medicine for flu or cold in Singapore, Tong Jum Chew stands out as a trustworthy option. Our herbal formulations are crafted with precision and expertise, aiming to alleviate current symptoms and support your body’s natural ability to fend off seasonal challenges.