Cold Disease in Chinese Medicine
Note: This is an edited version of a blog post titled "The Trouble with Cold" originally published on August 3, 2016 by Dr. David White, owner of Classical Acupuncture Sydney.
The classical Chinese Medicine approach to the body is very unique and unlike any other medical system in the world. It always takes into account the body's relationship with the external environment and climate. In the early medical texts, disease names were often attributed to natural phenomena, such as "wind," "heat," "cold," etc. Cold is considered to be the most harmful, but what exactly does a cold disease look like in the human body?
A cold-natured illness in Chinese Medicine does not always mean that real, palpable cold is present, but of course this can be the case. Rather, an illness may simply have characteristics of cold -- tissues which are in a state of contraction or constraint, impeded movement, etc. In Chinese Medicine this is called Bi 痺 (pronounced "Bee"). Bi is often translated as "pain", "numbness," or "paralysis" in modern Chinese, but it is much more than that in the classical sense of the word. If we look at what happens to us when we are exposed to the cold of winter, or whenever we consume large amounts of cold food and drink, we can get a sense of what the old texts are referring to when they use the term Bi -- we shiver, our muscles tighten, our energy level drops, etc.
Cold illness can include what is often referred to as the "common cold," with symptoms such as chills, fever, pain, sweating, thirst, nasal congestion, sore throat, etc. These exterior disease patterns may be seen at anytime of the year, not only in winter, and many patients are chronically stuck within an acute-type of presentation where they feel better for a while and then their symptoms return again. The period of time when they are not dealing with their symptoms and seem to be cured is actually another manifestation of a cold, damaged body that must be repaired before the situation worsens.
Cold can damage any part of the body, including the internal organs themselves. Pain and tightness may be still be a part of the symptom picture in this case, but other specific signs will manifest as well. These may include copious, clear urination; diarrhea; rumbling sounds in the abdomen; a lack of desire to drink water; shortness of breath; etc.
How do we treat cold or Bi presentations? This is not a simple task. Warming the area may help, which can be done in a variety of ways, but what is most important is that we address the proper level(s) within the body in which the disease is found. Our treatment principles change according to how and where illness is occurring. We must thoroughly investigate the acupuncture channel terrain -- which includes the skin, bones, organs, and so forth -- in order to choose the proper methods for treating the person at that particular time, and on that particular day.
For more information on this topic, or to schedule an appointment with Great Nature Oriental Medicine, please contact Clint at (618) 694-5189. Thanks for reading!
In Good Health,
Clint Cain, L.Ac.
This page is intended to serve as a source for links to blogs and articles about acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine that both new and returning patients may find informative and/or entertaining. It is also where I will share information about the history, principles, and benefits of this awesome medicine.