Chinese medicine categorizes colds according to layers of penetration in the body. Like the famous book “The Art of War” Chinese medicine pictures the body under attack by enemy forces. When a patient sufferers from severe muscle ache and can not get warm, this is seen as the body's defenses fighting the enemy on the perimeter and any herbs would need to be directed to this cause. Someone taking Echinacea or olive leaf extract would have seen to have directed their troops from the boundary to the center and then letting the invader in.
Aches with sweating would need herbs like cinnamon which would regulate the exterior or in a war footing it would be the same as plugging holes in the perimeter defenses. When someone has alternating chills and fever [or feels hot] then the battle is ebbing and flowing so herbs to vent the enemy toward the perimeter are employed. At other times there may be no pain on the exterior but the patient presents with sweating, in this case the defenses are too weak to confront the enemy and the body defenses are marsaled to the center which means the earth element or the digestive capacity is strengthened and regulated to build the “qi” to fight back. In cases like this if one was to use diaphoretics to disperse the exterior this would be the same as to send troops to the exterior when they are insufficient to hold the line.
It is said that we change seasons on the strength of the stomach and spleen and during weather changes the exterior of the body is obstructed which leads to bloating on the inside if the “qi” of the stomach is not strong and here we would use herb or acupuncture to strengthen the stomach and spleen, move the interior so as to thrust the surface invader outward.
Who are the enemy? Well in Chinese medicine this includes all the weather elements: wind, damp, dry, heat and fire. Coming into winter we have had wind, cold and damp caused colds but then we need to see at what stage of penetration that they are at each individual. After a cold of a few days people can start to feel hot inside and this is seen as a consequent heating up of the cold influence due to stagnation internally.
How effective Chinese medicine will be determined by ascertaining correctly the above stages and effects.