Three Tips for Avoiding Colds and Flu

The Metal element is often the most puzzling to those being introduced to Five Element theory and medicine. However, it has practical applications to many aspects of health, including immunity. Metal governs an aspect of qi called wei qi (pronounced “way chee” or “way kee”). Wei qi circulates through the skin and is a protective layer of energy that safeguards us against wind and cold. The pores of our skin act like doorways through which these “external pathogens” are able to enter the body, making our muscles stiff and sore, and possibly making us more vulnerable to colds and flu.

The lungs and large intestines are organs associated most directly with the Metal element, as is the skin. Skin acts like a lung for the entire body, absorbing and perspiring nutrients and toxins, just like the lungs do. The health of the skin is a reflection of the health of your Metal element. Keeping the skin warm and protected during windy and cold weather is wise. The lungs are the most exterior organ of the body, the organ that is first contacted by the body’s external environment through the breath, so excessive exposure to cold is likely to compromise the lungs before other organs.



Three ways to protect or enhance your wei qi so that you have a robust defense against pathogens:



1)  Savory herbs and spices, the flavors associated with Metal, are foods that support the health of the lungs. Western herbalism and Chinese herbalism alike regard garlic and onion as healthful for the immune system, protecting it against pathogens. Use of  these foods is another way to keep your wei qi robust.


2)  As wei qi circulates, keeping the skin warm and protected with warm clothing is a good idea. On especially cold days, add a hat and scarf.


3)  Cardiovascular exercise also promotes the circulation of blood and lymph and, more superficially, wei qi. While it is not wise to over-exert oneself when undernourished or under-rested, it is good to avoid being a couch potato!