Cold and flu season are upon us. Recent news shows a sharp rise in reported cases of influenza and its complications. While immunizations are available, they are not always effective, particularly among seniors.Over-the-counter medications for the symptoms of sneezing, runny noses and cough are the usual method to manage a cold and flu attack. However, these only treat the symptoms and do not address the virus attack behind the illness. Antibiotics also are useless against the flu virus and only effective when a bacterial-based illness develops from the initial influenza virus attack.There is another method to treat colds and flu - Chinese medicine. Traditional Chinese Medicine is the oldest, continuously practiced, peer-reviewed medicine in the world. Its roots go back several thousand years. Today in this country, this medicine is considered by some to be primitive and substandard to "real" Western medicine. Long before Western missionaries first carried Western medicine to the East, Chinese physicians were treating childhood diseases, colds and flu, menstrual disorders, arthritis, metabolic disorders and other illnesses. A few years ago, there was a great worldwide concern about a global epidemic involving several strains of influenza, bird flu and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Antibiotics were ineffective, as were other antiviral medicines like Tamiflu. One of the few successful treatment strategies was Traditional Chinese herbal formulas, usually administered as a brewed tea infusion.Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicines use a combination of herbs to treat a condition like a cold or flu. This is similar to the principles behind the recent AIDS "cocktail" which employs three separate antiviral medicines to attack the HIV virus. This combining of medicinal agents has been a guiding principle of Chinese medicine for thousands of years and is just now being tried in Western medicine. Medicinal herbs are combined either in a brewed tea, as a tincture, ground into a powder or pressed into pills. Licensed acupuncturists (L.Ac.) are trained in the selection of herbs and herbal formulas as well as trained in drug/herb interactions.Acupuncture is useful to rebuild and restore immune function and improve blood circulation in and around eyes, sinuses and lungs. This improved blood circulation helps the immune system begin to heal the affected tissue. Specific acupuncture points are selected to customize a treatment for each patient, depending on his or her symptoms, condition and constitution.In my clinic I am frequently contacted by a patient who calls to reschedule an appointment because they are coming down with a cold. I advise them to come in for a treatment anyway. They are almost universally impressed when they discover, following their treatment, that they feel much better with less sinus congestion, reduced headache and body aches and pains. Such early intervention can really speed up recovery and shorten the severity of the cold or flu.Thomas Lynch is a licensed acupuncturist who graduated summa cum laude from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, one of the top acupuncture medical schools in the U.S. He is also a graduate of the University of Colorado School of Law. He maintains a practice, Acupuncture for Accelerated Healing, 2472 Patterson Road #7. Contact him at 971-263-4000 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.