April Crowell, Dipl. ABT. NCCAOM CI & CP, CHN
It’s a blustery day!
Each of the 5 Seasons in Chinese medicine has a climatic nature that it corresponds to. Summer relates to Heat, Autumn to Dryness, Winter to Cold, Late Summer (the transition of seasons) relates to Dampness, and Spring corresponds to Wind. These climates are simply part of the nature of the season, and people may be more vulnerable to these climatic conditions, and each can manifest as a series of patterns in the body. What I pay attention to, as Chinese medicine practitioner and Amma Therapist, is how these may manifest in the body. Ah…here comes the Wind. Whipping through the tops of the trees, windy patterns may arise in our bodies as colds, allergies, ticks, stiff necks and more. In Chinese medicine, Wind corresponds to Spring season and the Liver and Gall Bladder channel, and most Springs are windy. But Wind can invade in any season, and Wind often picks up again in the Autumn.
Wind can be an exterior or interior pattern
Exterior pathogens (Wind, Hot, Cold, Dry, Damp, Summer Heat ) invade our bodies either because the pathogen is excessively strong compared to normal Wei Qi (immunity), think of plagues and virulent viruses–OR–the body is too week to fend off the invasion. This is the pattern that appears in people who seem to get sick at the drop of a hat.
Interior patterns are generated by disharmonies within the body. Eating too many hot foods can damage the Yin (cooling) of the body and lead to heat. Although there may be a bit of overlap, the treatment focus of interior vs exterior will be different. Read more on exterior and interior patterns here.
Wind moves rapidly and ‘rustles the tops of the trees’–meaning it attacks the head, neck and shoulders. It can come and go, moving from area to area, and flitter over the skin causing itching, tingling and ticks. It easily invades the Bladder and Lung, Liver, Gall bladder, Small Intestines and Triple Warmer channels. Liver loathes the Wind and those with Liver patterns often find themselves very irritable, angry or grouchy when the Wind kicks up.
But we are jumping ahead.
A few windy patterns
- aching in muscles and joints
- anger, irritability and frustration issues
- arthritic conditions
- Bell’s Palsy
- blurry vision
- chills up and down the spine (it’s buzzing up the Bladder Channel)
- frozen neck or shoulder
- headaches–especially cluster, some frontal headaches and one sided
- heat rushing to the head
- tight throat
- trigeminal neuralgia
Have a few on the list? Don’t panic just yet. There is a lot we can do with Wind even though it can be a little tricky.
Exterior patterns come on quickly, from an environmental invasion. They usually clear quickly, but may move to the interior and become chronic if not treated. Wind often combines with Cold, Hot or Damp. What does this look like? Exterior Wind is an acute attack–you were fine yesterday….suddenly you are sneezing or have a stiff next today.
Wind Cold–Nasal discharge that is clear, sensation of cold, chills, craves warm liquids, watering eyes, sneezing, stiff neck, achy joints that improve with warmth.
Wind Heat–Nasal discharge is yellow or green, sore throat, fever, craves cold drinks, sneezing, itching and headaches.
Wind Damp–Excessive nasal discharge (color will vary depending on if there is heat or cold), aches when the storm systems move in or it rains, yeasty conditions on the skin, allergies, asthma.
Remember how I said wind can move rapidly? A wind cold invasion can rapidly shift to Wind Heat in the body. Meaning you go from a scratching throat and a little sneezing to a very sore throat and yellow sinus congestion and fever…hot, hot, hot.
Interior Wind conditions can manifest from an exterior pattern that isn’t properly released to the exterior or from internal disharmonies that be me constitutional or a result of life habits. Interior Wind conditions can be as minor as little tick or as complex as cluster headaches, tremors, ticks, trigeminal neuralgia, epilepsy.
For Chinese medicine practitioners– It is important use tongue, pulse and other assessment tools to identify the root cause of the interior pattern. Just using treatment to release Wind might quell the symptoms, but it may not reach the root cause of why they are happening–which means they will continue to evolve until something worse happens. Here’s a list of the most common interior patterns of wind.
In Zang Fu–Kidney Yin Xu, Liver Yin Xu, Liver Yang Rising, Liver Fire Blazing, Blood heat, Blood deficiency and any form extreme Stagnation.
In Six Jiao–watch for interior wind to whip up the Lesser Yang Channels, and 1/2 Interior 1/2 Exterior patterns. It isn’t just limited to Gall Bladder and Triple Warmer, but it has a nasty habit of landing there and it can be a gooey pattern to treat.
In 5 Elements–look to the Wood organs of Gall Bladder and Liver, and their relationships in the Sheng and Ko cycles.
Here are few tips that you can use to help avoid Windy patterns.
Know your pattern–Half of the battle is won by knowing what your vulnerabilities are. If you are epileptic or have suffered strokes, you run a greater risk of wind attacks during windy seasons. If you don’t know your patterns, get in for Amma or acupuncture to glean an understanding of your patterns.
Wear fabulous scarves and hats–Wind loves to drop in through the points on the back of the neck in the Bladder. In fact, several of the points on the neck and in occiput have the word wind in their names, which reflects their vulnerability as well as their use in treatment of windy patterns.
Treat the acute first-– Treat the exterior pattern first (if there is one) then move to the interior. If you have a cold, we need to address that before we can move to the chronic arthritis pattern. Allergies are an excellent example of acute and chronic Wind. During the off season we work to make the immune system stronger so that the system isn’t overwhelmed by an invasion of ‘seasonal’ allergies.
Avoid foods that aggravate Wind— Greasy, fried foods, dairy, sugar, refined carbohydrates, yeast, and alcohol. With interior Wind, avoid excess hot and spicy foods, also. In an acute exterior invasion, use of warm and hot pungents like ginger and cinnamon can be helpful if the pattern is Cold–use mints for Heat.
Use foods to treat Wind— What treats exterior wind? The pungents. Fortunately these guys come in a spectrum from cool pungents like mint and spearmint to hot pungents like ginger and garlic. Click here for more details on pungents.
Dress for the weather–Spring weather is a dance between Winter’s cold and Summer’s warmth, as Summer releases to Autumn the weather can change rapidly again. We may be out in the weather– playing sports, gardening–you know, living. Be aware. If you get caught at a track meet in a sudden icy snow storm take measures to warm up. Try a hot onion soup or have some ginger tea. Give your system a little boost to help it adapt.
Get appropriate rest–Weak system, means the likelihood of invasion increases.
Check your moods–Hot tempered? Fire stirs up Wind…and Wind can stir up Fire–oh, what an evil circle. If you are prone to Liver Yang Rising (anger, outbursts, frustration, high blood pressure) take measures like practicing meditation to chillax.
Seek help for interior Wind patterns— Interior wind can easily be aggravated by exterior windy conditions and interior Wind patterns tend to more complex requiring a more focused treatment. One client may need their Liver Yang settled, while another needs their blood built. I often recommend my clients with epilepsy to take more caution during windy seasons. Depending on your pattern, we might recommend an herbal formula with kudzu or gastrodia in it–but get in to find out which formula is appropriate for your pattern.
Get out of the Wind–Sounds obvious, right? Not always, and most often people are fine and can handle a little Wind. However, I ask my clients with interior Wind to be doubly cautious during the Spring and Autumn seasons as they might be more vulnerable. Image someone with epilepsy caused by Blood deficiency (anemia) partying hard for St. Paddy’s day then running outside in the Wind–I’ve seen this lead to a disaster so take caution in severe wind patterns.
Watch out for Stagnation–Chronic stagnation patterns are an invitation for both interior or exterior patterns of Wind to grab a hold of you.
Use foods and herbs that counter Wind including:
Recognizing and addressing windy patterns early can go a long way in keeping you healthy and strong.
Have a wonderful, blustery day!