According to National Weather forecasts, this winter in the Northeast promises to be the coldest in a decade.  Along with the frigid temperatures comes a host of immune-deficiency-related issues, such as the common cold, flu, and allergies.

One of the most important axioms of Traditional Chinese Medicine is to heed prevention, and with this mantra in mind, acupuncturists and practitioners of Traditional Chinese medicine prescribe herbs, acupuncture and exercises to help boost the body’s immune system and prevent seasonal afflictions. 

A time-proven remedy for the effects of cold weather are Herbal Tonics, which help fortify the body’s innate defenses, thereby curbing illness during long winters. Today, I am sharing information with you about 2 tonics that I prescribe to my clients around this time of the year (October/November), as we transition between seasons.  


This formula comes in pill form, tincture, or as a tea.  The formula is composed of three herbs, the main one being Astragalus, known for strenthening the immune system.  It’s also an adaptogen, a type of non-toxic, natural susbstance that helps the body maintain its normal balance of health.  The other two herbs, atractylodes and ledebourellia root, help support the overall immune buildup of the body’s defenses. 

I normally advise my clients to start taking this in pill form, 2-3 times per day, for 1-2 months before the onset of winter.  This formula is safe for clients of all ages, and is especially effective for those who find themselves getting sick often at this time of year. 

This is a commercially available, classical Chinese formula, sold at most vitamin supplement outlets or at Chinese herbal clinics.  It is also available online from various distributors; two brands I use and recommend are Plum Blossom and Gloden Flowers. 

This formula should NOT be used at the early or acute stages of colds or the flu; it is for preventative purposes only. Please be sure to always consult with a licensed acupuncturist or  Chinese Herbalist to make sure there are no contraindications for pre-existing medical conditions.


For lack of a better name, the second formula I am recommending for sickness prevention at this time of year is called “Health Tonic.”  It is a tradition for most Chinese Herbal Clinics to have their own version of it.  This formula is comprised of anywhere between 40-60 different herbs soaked in rice wine for about 6 months, and then drained into bottles.  Some of the herbs in this formula with which you might be familiar include ginseng, echinacea, astragalus, and ginger.

At SHL Acupuncture Clinic in SoHo/Chinatown, where I practice acupuncture, there is a family recipe of this health tonic that shows to improve circulation, boost the immune system, and increase overall energy.  Besides preventing colds and sickness, I have also found this formula helpful for those suffering from chronic joint pain, fatigue, and decreased libido. 

For treatment with this tonic, one should take a shot per day for about a month, or until the bottle is exhausted. 

Those who have a history of high blood pressure and those on a strict vegetarian or vegan diet are not advised to take this formula.  Please be sure to always consult with a licensed acupuncturist or  Chinese Herbalist to make sure there are no contraindications for pre-existing medical conditions. 

As I write this, I am about to take a shot of my daily Health Tonic… so, to your health!