Traditional Chinese Medicine (T.C.M.) mainly evolved through observation. In ancient China, doctors observed that certain diseases bore resemblances to the environment.
So naturally, terms that are descriptive of nature became ways to describe the disease process. Even in the West we use similar naturalistic descriptors. In the West, one might catch a "cold", in China one catches "wind." They are essentially the same disease. In the West we speak of "inflamation" or literally "the state of being in flames", in China they speak of "fire" or "heat." It seems that Western medicine may have had similar roots as Chinese Medicine. According to T.C.M., environmental factors are key in the transmission of disease. Some of these external influences are heat, cold, wind, dampness, dryness, and summer heat.
Here in Oregon we need to be especially cautious of wind, cold, and dampness. Wind, cold, and dampness in combination can be detrimental to health. When wind, cold, and dampness penetrate the Defensive Qi (immune system) they create a host of problems. Feelings of heaviness, chills, headaches, colds, the flu, joint pain, numbness, and atrophy can all be the result of a wind, cold, and damp invasion. Certain organ systems are particularly vulnerable as well. For example, if the Kidneys are attacked, this may result in low energy, menstrual disorders, sexual dysfunction, low back and knee pain, frequent urination, or cold and painful feet.
When it comes to battling wind, cold, and dampness, common sense is your greatest ally. We all know the basics of keeping warm: thermal undies, thick wool socks, dress in layers, heating pads, a cozy fire, apple cider, etc.
Some things you may have overlooked...
Protect the back and neck- This area is immensely important to keep out wind.
Consider a scarf when outdoors.
Protect the Feet- Never go barefoot on cold floors, it is said to damage the kidneys. Wear slippers around the house.
Protect the Joints- Those with cold related knee pain should wear support sleeves over the knees.
Protect the Abdomen- Use a belly warmer. This is a thermal sleeve for the abdominal area used to prevent cold related menstrual pain or low back pain.
Look for them in Asian markets or online.
Acclimatize- Avoid sudden climate changes such as going from a hot shower to a cold bedroom.
Keep your Defensive Qi healthy- Consume warming food and drink. Eat spices such as ginger, garlic, cinnamon, fennel, and clove. Avoid cold or raw food and drink during the cold season.
See your acupuncturist- Acupuncture, Moxabustion, and Cupping can be used to boost immune function and drive out cold when it invades. Certain herbal formulations can assist this process. Ask your acupuncturist about how Moxabustion can be used as an effective home remedy.
Oregonians may scoff when reading this because they are seasoned at dealing with the wind, cold, and dampness. But take a moment to get back in touch with yourself. Is there cold around your lower back or abdomen? Are your fingers and toes cold? Are your knees cold? Do feel the cold the against the back of your neck? Do you experience any of the aforementioned disorders? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then the cold has already started to penetrate, setting you up for problems down the road. The time to act is now. Diseases are easier to treat before they set in. Remember, preventative medicine is the best medicine.
Zachary Nelms L.Ac.