Traditional Chinese Medicine Causes of Illness

Wind in Traditional Chinese Medicine

The pernicious influence of wind is considered the major cause of illness in traditional Chinese patterns of disharmony. It combines readily with other pathogens, giving rise to syndromes known as wind cold, wind heat, and wind dampness. This pathogenic factor possesses the qualities of wind in nature, appearing without warning and constantly changing. Considered a yang form of evil qi (a pathogenic factor), it often attacks the upper body, head, throat, and eyes. Wind causes movement, so it is usually involved when there are symptoms of twitching, spasms, or shaking. The organ most often affected by external wind is the lung; internal wind most commonly is related to an imbalance in the liver.

Syndromes of Wind

Wind Cold: In this syndrome, the pernicious influence of wind combines with that of cold. The person experiences symptoms of chills, fever (which is less severe than the chills), no sweating, headache, nasal congestion, and stiffness and pain in the shoulders, upper back, neck, and occipital area (back of the head). Cold causes objects to contract, and its effects in the body are no different. It causes chills, and the shivering causes the muscles to become tight and stiff. Although actual shivering may not occur, the person has difficulty staying warm, even when dressed properly for the conditions. Wind cold is traditionally treated with warm, diaphoretic (sweat-inducing) herbs to disperse the cold and repel the wind.

Wind Heat: Caused by a combination of pathogens, this syndrome is seen typically in the common cold or flu. The person may have symptoms of red face, high fever, sore throat, red eyes, thirst, red tongue, and a rapid pulse. Treatment for wind heat syndrome includes herbs that clear heat and repel wind.

Wind Damp: Arthritis is a manifestation of this pattern. Like dampness in nature, which is persistent and requires time to eradicate, the dampness pathogenic influence is difficult to cure and takes some time to resolve. The influence of wind also causes the pain to migrate from joint to joint, sometimes disappearing for a while only to reappear without warning. Treatment for this syndrome includes herbs that drain dampness and improve circulation of qi and blood through the affected areas. Moxibustion therapy -- the application of heat -- is particularly helpful in this situation.

Wind Water: This is a sudden attack of edema (swelling due to severe fluid retention), usually from allergies, poisoning, or acute nephritis (inflammation of the kidney). Diaphoretic (sweat-inducing) or diuretic (urine-producing) herbs are used along with acupuncture and moxibustion to treat this condition. The herbs help the body eliminate fluid, moxibustion helps the body metabolize fluids and improves circulation, and acupuncture moves stagnant fluids and expels the pathogenic factor.

Wind Rash: This category includes any skin condition that appears suddenly. Since dampness often plays a role in this condition, it can be difficult to treat. Treatment can include herbs that "scatter wind, clear heat, and drain dampness." For example, if the rash is red and burns, herbs that clear heat are also used. Monitoring the diet is always an essential part of treatment. Coffee, in particular, should be avoided in skin conditions, since it heats up the blood, further increasing the wind.

Liver Wind Moving Internally: This is an internal condition of the liver that can result from a long-term imbalance; the usual chronic patterns are liver yin deficiency or blood deficiency. Signs of this condition are various abnormal body movements, such as twitching, shaking, convulsions, and spasms. The liver is in charge of the smooth movement of qi and blood in the body as well as harmonious movement within the body. An imbalance in the liver impairs this function, producing abnormal movement, and the influence of wind stirs this movement at unpredictable times.

Excessive Heat Producing Wind: If heat is too extreme, it can cause a sudden collapse, as in heatstroke. It can also cause sudden convulsions, such as those that occur in children with a high fever. Compare this internal process with what happens in nature when rising hot air causes gusts of high wind.

Blood Deficiency Leading to Wind: Since the liver stores blood, a deficiency of blood affects the liver, leading to wind. This condition can produce numbness and cramping. When the blood is tonified, these symptoms disappear.

Go to the next page to learn how the cold is a pernicious influence in traditional Chinese medicine.

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