Why antibiotics are NOT the answer to viral infections

Every illness starts with a cold, a common cold, runny nose, sore throat, head ache, chills, fever, body aches. There are generally two kinds of colds: one that creates sore throat (wind heat) another that creates runny nose (wind cold). If the cold is not properly treated, it will go further into the body. Proper treatment in Chinese medicine differs greatly from that in Western medicine. In my experience, Chinese medicine allows the pathogen to exit, in Western medicine, antibiotics drive the pathogen further in, creating a more severe and chronic illness as well as a harder pathogen to fight off. This leads to the problem of over-medicating and creating super-bugs. There are better solutions. The only things you need are an open mind and some new vocab words…here we go 🙂

Prevention is the best medicine so, wear a scarf and cover the base of the skull and tops of the shoulders on those cool windy days or days you will be near the beach with open air. These areas are where wind enters: the base of the skull is Fengchi (wind pool) and the top of the shoulders is Fengmen (wind gate).

Early remedy: If you do get sick there are easy over-the-counter and home remedies. If you have a sore throat it’s wind heat, so ward it off with some Yin Qiao (you can buy at a natural food store for $10) and mint tea and sweat it out. You can also apply some mint essential oil to the back of your neck. If you have a runny nose, headache and body ache it’s wind cold, so make a tea of fresh ginger, green onion bulb, and brown sugar. Also, make a ginger foot soak and sweat it out. Take a whole big handful of ginger and boil it for about 10 minutes in a big pot of water. Put the water into a container and dip your feet in. Dr Scholl’s makes a nice foot soaker that keeps the water warm. Soak your footsies until you feel the heat come up your spine to the middle of your shoulders (it’s a lung point called Feishu).


When someone suffers an invasion of Wind (a common cold), there are two possible outcomes: either the Wind is expelled at the Wei level and the person recovers completely, or the pathogenic factor progresses to the Qi level and becomes internal (usually in the form of Heat, Phlegm-Heat or Damp-Heat). After this progression, there are two possible outcomes: either the pathogenic factor is cleared and the patient recovers without any residual effect, or the patient appears to recover but there is left-over Heat, Phlegm-Heat or Damp-Heat, all of which are examples of residual pathogenic factors.

Why does a residual pathogenic factor develop? It is due to three possible factors: a weak constitution, overwork during an acute illness, or improper use of antibiotics. Antibiotics are the most common cause of residual pathogenic factor because, although they kill bacteria, they do not expel Wind, clear Heat or resolve Phlegm or Dampness; moreover, they are not effective against viruses and, in spite of this, they are frequently (and improperly) used in viral infections. Thus if a patient has an acute, febrile illness from a bacterial infection, the antibiotics will eliminate the fever by killing the bacteria, but he or she may be left with Heat, Phlegm-Heat or Damp-Heat. The patient appears to recover and goes back to work, but overwork and irregular diet continue and the residual pathogenic factor will predispose the patient to a further infection. The patient falls ill again with a fever, more antibiotics are administered and the residual pathogenic factor is only strengthened: thus, a vicious circle is installed and the patient becomes chronically unwell. ;(

A residual pathogenic factor may manifest with any of the following conditions:

Chronic cough
Chronic ear infections
Chronic sinusitis
Chronic tonsillitis
Chronic lymphatic congestion
Recurrent mouth ulcers
Chronic diarrhea
Apart from the above symptoms and signs, the tongue and the pulse may also show the presence of a residual pathogenic factor. When there is Lung-Heat, the tongue may be red on the front; if there is Lung Phlegm-Heat, it may have a thin-yellow coating in the area between the tip and the center. In the presence of Heat, the pulse may be slightly rapid and if there is also Phlegm or Dampness it may be slippery.

The main patterns appearing as residual pathogenic factors are as follows:

Irritability, dry cough, slight thirst, restless sleep, red cheeks or only the right cheek red, “floating” red on white complexion, tongue red in front part.

Lung Phlegm-Heat
Cough with sticky-yellow sputum, tightness or feeling of oppression of the chest, irritability, restless sleep, catarrh, slight wheezing, thin-yellow tongue coating in Lung area, pulse Slippery.

Spleen Damp-Heat
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, epigastric pain/fullness, smelly stools, bad breath, lassitude, night-sweating, pulse Slippery, sticky-yellow tongue coating.

Damp-Heat in Head
Sinusitis, blocked nose or constantly runny nose, swollen adenoids, prone to ear infections, irritability, restless sleep, dull frontal headache, catarrh, swollen glands in neck, prone to colds, sticky-yellow tongue coating.

ShaoYang (half in/half out) Pattern
Chills and fever, feeling hot and cold in alternation, earache, irritability, restless sleep, pulse Wiry.

Resource: Dr Lillian Chang (WMI) and Giovanni Maciocia.