If your body feels cold, warm it; feels hot, cool it.
On hot summer days, we wear fewer clothes and would love to go to the beach for a good swim. We would rather stay home and stay warm when it gets cold in winter. This is common sense.
You go to a party and eat a lot of meat today. To help with digestion, you also drink a lot of cold beer. When you eat meat, your body’s energy heats up, and you need to cool it down. Without the balance, you may feel ill the following day.
In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate.
Initially, the word “yin” refers to the shaded side of a mountain that is the back of the sunshine. The term “yang” is the other side that faces the sun. So in meaning, yin and yang are dark-bright or negative-positive.
From this philosophy, ancient Chinese easily differentiate the female as yin and the male as yang; the moon yin and the sun yang ….and the list goes on and on. So the world we live in must keep a balance, like harmony between the man and the woman. And this forms the primary guideline of Traditional Chinese medicine.
So everything has two sides, yin and yang, whether being or non-being. Even the distinctions between bad and good can be described as the yin and yang, cold and hot as the yin and yang, downwards and upwards as the yin and yang, the southern side of a river, and the northern side of a river, too.
Yinyang theory has four fundamental characteristics or relations as follows:
- Opposition: like heaven and earth, night and day, inside and outside. Right hand and left hand. Water is cold, and fire is hot.
- Interdependence: Yin and yang define aspects of a whole and depend on each other. Cold cannot be defined without heat; above is meaningless without below; exterior and interior mutually define each other.
- Inter-supporting & consuming: Like the left foot must support the right foot to walk in balance, the male and female harmony results from consuming relations.
- Inter-transforming: the dark moon can change to a full moon as time passes. The aging process is one of inter-transforming.
Particular catchphrases have been used to express yin and yang:
- The bigger the front, the bigger the back.
- Illness is the doorway to health.
- Tragedy turns to comedy.
- Disasters turn out to be blessings.
In traditional Chinese medicine, good health is directly related to the balance between yin and yang qualities within oneself. If yin and yang become unbalanced, one of the qualities is considered deficient.
In the study of herbology, we need to know which herb has a warm/heat nature and which has a cold/cool nature. In diagnosis and treatment, understanding how to apply warm herbs to cure cold-related diseases is very important for all practitioners, and the opposite.
When you catch a cold in winter, you shall know how to warm it. When your body feels too hot, you shall know how to cool it down.
These are the primary reasons to keep your body balanced and stay healthy. There is nothing like a mystery there.
And this yin and yang theory is one of the basics of TCM theories.
Your body is a miniature version of the universe.
The universe comprises four basic elements: soil, water, fire, and wind.
Recently, the Hawaii Kilauea volcano erupted, and people were evacuated. The lava destroys everything as it flows; many trees are burnt down. We see smoke rising above the forest.
The scene gives us an idea of how the earth evolves with the changes in the four basic elements.
A tree is also made up of four elements. Soil and water are easy to understand. When we say a tree bears the nature of fire, it’s a bit difficult to understand. Under solid sunshine, a dead, dry tree may start a fire that sounds easier to understand.
Photosynthesis is the “wind” element functioning within a tree. It is the process by which green plants and certain other organisms transform light energy into chemical energy. So wind is the form of energy flow or transformation.
When a tree is burnt, we see how the elements of soil, water, fire, and wind begin to change.
The human body is the same. Our bones and flesh are the soil; our blood, sweat, tear, and body liquid are all water. Over 70% of our body is made up of water. Our body temperature of about 36 degrees is the fire. Our body heat is fire. When the human body is cold or frozen, it is a dead body. Our breath is the wind. The energy or qi flow within our body is also the wind.
So our body is also made up of the four basic elements. It is part of the universe and a miniature universe in itself.
Similar to this Four-Element Theory, we come across the Five-Phase Theory: wood, fire, soil, metal, and water.
This also tells how the world around us is composed and changes (transformation and interaction of different phases).
In a materialistic sense, soil, fire, and water are the same. Wood and metal can be included in soil. Where is the wind? The transformation and interaction of each of them, how they assist, support each other, or generate/overcome each other, the process defines the wind.
So we do not take these five phases of wood, fire, soil, metal, and water as materialistic elements. They each represent a system, an array of phenomena that is part of a bigger system, like the universe.
We can also say that the Five-phase theory establishes a system of correspondences that groups phenomena in the universe into five categories. These categories represent tendencies of movement and transformation in the universe.
In terms of generation, water nourishes wood, wood engenders fire, fire engenders soil, soil engenders metal, and metal engenders water. This is a supporting or assisting cycle.
In opposite terms of overcoming, metal controls wood, wood controls soil, soil controls water, water controls fire, and fire controls metal. This is a destructive or conquering cycle.
The five phases can be defined in many other categories, like colors. Wood is green, fire is red, the soil is yellow, metal is white, and water is black.
When the reasons apply to our body, wood represents our liver, fire heart, soil spleen, metal lung, and water kidney.
For example, wood engenders fire. The liver stores blood and supplements the blood to be regulated by the heart. Wood controls the earth. The liver’s dredging effect prevents spleen qi (energy flow from the spleen) from becoming stagnant.
In our body, the fire goes up, and water flows down. When we feel the heat in our hearts, the fire goes up towards the head, we shall have a sleep problem. Instead of finding trouble with the heart, we might look into the kidney for a solution. The heart problem can be solved when the kidney (water) is balanced. This way, we treat the problem of fire with water.
The Five-phase theory is another basic theory on which TCM is based.
I will talk to you further next time.
Six External Factors That Cause Diseases
The six factors refer to wind, cold, summer heat, humidity, dryness, and fire. TCM calls them the “six evils” because they are the main causes of all diseases. It is the excess of these factors that causes the human organs to malfunction. Under normal conditions, they are just six manifestations of nature due to weather changes. As the seasons change, our human body functions adjudge themselves to adapt to those changes. When our body is not strong enough to defend itself from the intervention of these forces, we become ill. Thus these six factors are called the devils.
From this reasoning, we can see seasonal diseases caused by the six factors. In summer, we may become ill because of heat; in winter, we may become ill by feeling cold. Because the weather changes a lot, even during one season, our bodies are exposed to various factors that cause different symptoms. If a person is weak and likes cold drinks in the hot summer, he may also suffer from cold disease.
Winter is a dry season and people easily get sick from dryness with the heat on warmer days or dryness with cold on cooler days.
Diseases caused by the six factors can be by a single factor or multiple factors. In most cases, they are caused by multiple factors: wind, cold, and humidity working together to cause joint pain or paralysis.
After the six evils enter the human body, they transform under certain conditions. Cold can be transformed into heat when it confronts the inner defense; heat can also be transformed into dryness when it causes the body’s liquid to evaporate.
In diagnosis, we must look into different symptoms and how they have been affected by the six factors. We talk about them one by one.
The wind is the worst of all six evils, as it is around all four seasons. The wind is generally the number one force when our body is attacked. Other evils follow the wind in its attack and often cause colds, fever, flu, or arthritis. Attack by wind is generally the starting point of a disease.
The wind is light and flows upwards. It usually attacks our skin and the upper part of the body; clinical symptoms are headache, cold, measles, etc.
Wind moves about and makes quick shifts. Thus it often carries the symptom of pain up and down the muscle and joints. Therefore a patient may have cramps of the limbs, pain in the shoulders, or joint pain.
1, Cold with wind
Symptoms: feeling cold, fever, no sweat, running nose, cough, little phlegm. The coating on the tongue looks white but wet. The pulse feels tight.
Pathology: Exterior body parts are under attack by the cod wind; lung defense is not strong enough to confront the attack.
2, Heat with wind
Symptoms: Fever, feeling a bit cold, little sweat or no sweat, headache, cough, sticky or yellow phlegm, running nose with sticky liquid, sore throat, thirst. A thin coating of tongue, red at the edge. The pulse feels floating.
Pathology: Skin is attacked by the wind with heat; The lungs feel difficult to clear the waste gas.
3, Wind attacks the main and collateral channels
Symptoms: Pain moving about the joints; joints stretching with difficulty; pain in shoulders, deforming mouth and eyes; cramps of limbs; teeth tightened. Thin and white coating of tongue; Pulse feeling floating and slippery.
Pathology: The wind evil enters the energy channels and blocks the energy flow.
Cold is the primary air of winter and the cause of many diseases in that season.
Cold is an evil force, a negative factor that can easily damage the positive energy flow. If it attacks the skin or exterior parts of the body, it causes typhoid fever. If it affects the interior organs, the problem will get more serious.
Cold confines and causes things stuck. When it enters the energy channels, it causes the muscles to cramp or veins to be stagnant. Thus the body parts shall have difficulty in stretching. Joint pain or paralysis is a result of that. Our blood flows at warm temperatures. When attacked by cold, the blood condenses, thus causing a blockage. Pain is often the result of an energy block.
1, Cold attacks the exterior
Symptoms: feeling cold, fever, no sweat, headache, pain in the shoulder, muscle pain or joint pain, moving pain (relief when warm), difficulty in stretching. Thin and white coating of tongue, pulse feeling shallow but tight.
Pathology: Cold damages the exterior, and lung respiration is confined.
2, Cold attacks the interior
Symptoms: feeling extremely cold and shivering, partly paralyzed, stomach pain. The face looks pale white; difficult to move about; it feels like fainted; breathing slows; air from the mouth and nose becomes cold. White and smoothie coating of tongue; pulse weak.
Pathology: Cold evil prevails and damages the positive energy flow.
The air of summer is hot as a result of heat from the sunshine. Summer heat as evil as it also makes people ill. Summer heat is characteristic of high temperatures easy to spread away. It causes an excess of the positive factors within the body and harms exterior and internal organs by sweating or drying up the body’s liquids.
The air of summer is easy to reach the heart, and when attacked by summer heat, our heart is disturbed, causing symptoms like high fever, faintness, or unconsciousness.
Summer heat is usually mixed with humidity. On hot summer days, sunshine is strong, the earth is wet, and air evaporates upwards. The transpiration of heat and humidity causes people sick.
Symptoms: headache and dizziness, chest distress, feeling like vomiting, feeling hot and thirsty, shortness of breath, weakness, red and dry skin, little sweat, a short and small amount of urine in yellow, cramps, etc. Dry tongue, pulse weak.
Pathology: Summer heat attacks the heart; the negative factor of energy flow is damaged.
2, Summer heat
Symptoms: fever, hot skin, little sweat or feeling hotter in the afternoon, thirst, bad appetite, weakness. Reddish tongue, pulse weak.
Pathology: Summer heat does harm to body liquids.
3, Summer humidity
Symptoms: Body feels minor hot, aversion to wind, little sweat, chest distress, floating abdomen, feeling like vomiting, mouth feeling bitter or mild, limbs feeling sour and tired, stool thin or water-like. Sticky coating of tongue, pulse feeling slippery.
Pathology: Summer heat with humidity; skin, and muscle confined.
Air with humidity is the main character of the time of late summer and early autumn. We are easy to get sick because of humidity from wet weather, rain, smog, or working long hours in water.
Humidity is an evil factor as it is sticky and not easy to get rid of. Diseases caused by humidity usually last long and are hard to cure.
Humidity is heavy, going downwards. When it attacks our body, it blocks our energy flow. At the top, we feel the weight in the head; in the middle, we feel chest distressed and bad appetite; at the lower part, we feel weak with our hands and feet. The evil of humidity harms our positive factors, causing an imbalance in evaporation. Our face will look dirty, stool sticky with uneasiness, urine not clear, virginal discharge sticky, coating of tongue dirty, feet smelling bad.
As humidity is easy to go with wind, it confines our external defense, thus causing pain or heaviness of limbs. When it attacks our skin, it causes various skin diseases.
1, Humidity confines the external defense
Symptoms: body feeling a bit hot, aversion to cold, some sweat and sticky, headache with weight, sore, and pain in limbs. Possible chest distressed uneasiness of abdomen, sticky mouth, water-like stool, pale face. White coating of tongue, pulse slippery.
Pathology: Humidity attacks the skin; exterior defense collapses.
2, Humidity affects the main and collateral channels
Symptoms: sore and pain in joints, moving pain, or swollen knee joint, difficulty in stretching, swelling in feet. White coating of tongue, pulse slow.
3, Humidity spread all over
Symptoms: Scabies, herpes， the wet smell on feet, scratchiness, yellow water running, urine not clear, smelly virginal discharge. Yellow sticky coating of tongue, pulse slippery.
Pathology: The evil of humidity spreads all over the body’s skin
Autumn air is dry, with lower humidity. The infection may be warm or cool in nature. In early autumn, some summer heat still remains, and dryness is coupled with heat; in deep autumn, cold air is coming, so dryness is coupled with cold. Symptoms are different under different weather conditions.
1, Dryness with heat
Symptoms: headache, fever, slight aversion to wind and cold, cough with little phlegm or coughing with blood, thirst, dry tongue, sore throat, upset, dry stool. Red tongue with thin coating, pulse weak.
Pathology: Evil of dryness attacks the lungs; body liquids are damaged.
2, Dryness with cold
Symptoms: headache, nasal congestion, aversion to cold, fever, no sweat, dry tongue and lip, thin phlegm. Dry tongue with thin coating, Pulse shallow, and floating.
Pathology: Cold dryness confines the exterior, affecting the respiration of the lungs.
Fire-infected diseases are caused directly by an excess of warmth or heat. Fire is stronger than warmth and heat but with the same qualities. Wind, cold, summer heat, humidity, and dryness can all be transformed into “fire.”
Fire is evil of the positive factor. When it attacks, disease comes quickly. It develops or changes fast. Thus, the disease condition is often quite severe. Heat and concrete symptoms are apparent. A patient feels a high fever, reddish face, thirst, fretfulness, and sleep difficulty.
Fire burns the liver and is easy to cause liquid damage there. When the liver wind is motivated, it is hot and moving about. Symptoms like high temperature, cramps, and shoulder pain can be seen.
Fire burns the blood channels and is easy to cause bleeding.
When fire attacks the heart, it causes mental problems and mania.
Other symptoms include rough breaths, bad smell in the mouth, constipation or red spots， difficulty with vision, and yellow tongue with thorns. The Pulse feels fast and slippery.
These are the six external factors of wind, cold, heat, humidity, dryness, and fire.
These six factors can also start from the inside.
Inner wind relates to the liver, and it’s called “liver wind is activated from within the liver.” The result is an excess of positive factors in the liver.
Inner cold relates directly to the kidney as it results from a deficiency of the kidney’s yang (positive) factors.
Inner heat or fire relates to the heart and stomach. When the heart has an excess of heat, it results from depression (or seven emotions of joy, anger, worry, sorrow, sadness, and hatred); uneasiness of mind and sleep problems are common. Heat in the stomach is often the result of eating too many fats or non-clean food.
Inner humidity relates closely to the spleen. It’s also the result of food and drinks.
Inner dryness relates to body liquids; lack of nourishment by liquids brings about problems to mainly the liver, kidney, lungs, and stomach.
Thus, diagnosis shall consider evil attacks from interior and exterior factors.
We have better options, you should know…
Tonight I watched the SBS TV program “INSIGHT,” and people were talking about “Joint Operations.”
After that, I checked out the SBS website and found this article.
How do you know when surgery is the best option and who makes the call?
By age 31, Rhys Donnan had undergone 11 operations on his knees.
He started having problems with his knees as a junior footballer at 13, and had his first operation at 18. From there, he underwent many more procedures – and revisions of those procedures – at one point having operations every 18 months.
“To be honest, I’ve become fairly blasé about [surgery] in the end,” he tells Jenny Brockie on this week’s episode of Insight. “I’d had so many … it just seemed the natural course of action.”
About a million orthopaedic surgeries are done each year in Australia. Many of these are joint replacements or spinal surgeries to treat osteoarthritis. Hip and knee replacements alone cost the health system more than any other hospital procedure – over $2 billion a year.
And some of these surgeries are on the rise. A Victorian study found that between 1994 to 2014, the number of hip replacements done went up 175 per cent, while knee replacements went up 285 per cent.
But the evidence for many commonly performed operations is far from clear cut.
Research suggests that about half of orthopaedic procedures have no scientific evidence to prove they work better than non-surgical treatments, and another quarter are no more effective than alternatives such as physiotherapy, exercise and weight loss.
Orthopaedic surgeon, Professor Ian Harris, says that some operations, such as spinal fusions, are more controversial.
“The best evidence we have is that it is not better than a structured non-operative alternative, such as physiotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy,” he says.
After suffering debilitating back pain for several years, Simone Smith felt surgery was her only option.
“I had done everything, imaging, traction, physios, chiros, osteos … I remember having to sit in the bottom of the shower because I couldn’t stand,” she tells Jenny. She says her surgery worked well and helped ease her pain.
Jessica King also underwent spinal surgery. She says she wasn’t given any other options after hurting her lower back while pregnant.
“I feel like it was probably the most drastic sort of step, and I went there too soon,” she says. Jess still has ongoing nerve pain and numbness.
(By Nicola McCaskill)
When I watched the patients talk about their experiences undergoing those procedures, I saw the pain and fear still in their eyes.
I felt deeply sorry for these patients. I think there are much better options for most of these “victims.” Most of them did not have to endure all those long days of pain and suffering.
I felt sorry too for the doctors. I could see the embarrassment in the faces of some specialists there among the audience.
If these doctors knew TCM…if they had not been so narrow-minded…if they had been able to offer a different view, another option, the stories could surely be different.
Osteoarthritis is a common disease not only in Australia but in many countries. It is an illness that needs a long recovery process, but it is not that difficult to deal with. Surgery and joint replacement might be a quick fix, but it is never the best solution.
There are many reasons for osteoarthritis, mainly due to extended exposure to a cold, moist environment that causes inflammation of the joints. For the elderly, the aging process plus living under humid conditions is a crucial factor. For the young, a sports injury is often the direct cause.
For joint pain by inflammation, it’s pretty easy to ease pain using typical herbs. For the elderly, herbal plaster is a better solution with acupuncture and moxibustion. Surgery might be necessary for the youth with bone damage to set the joints right, but the recovery process shall rely on other means. On most occasions, plastic replacements shall be avoided.
Especially young people or people under 40, they still have a long way to go in life. They will get married, have children, and have more dreams in life. Please don’t ruin their dreams.
The causes may be more complicated, and treatments vary. Today I am not going into detail; we will have many more hours to discuss this in the future.
Here I just want to stress that as a doctor or specialists, we must be open-minded, and open to all other options and solutions. Don’t be a frog watching at the bottom of the well.
Treat the patients as if they are your family members, your wife, or your kids. Feel their pain, have mercy for their sufferings, and always give the best solution.