Do you every wonder where the time went? It’s now the end of October, fall is upon us and winter is knocking. It’s easy to get caught up in our daily lives, our activities, work and play, and forget about the most important thing – taking care of yourself. The stronger YOU are, the better mother, father, wife, husband, sister, brother, friend, co-worker, employee, employer you can be. You are more effective as a person in body, mind and spirit, when you feel balanced and strong. Fall is the time of Metal, which is connected to the Lung and Large Intestine meridians. Now is a good time to take a stop and take a breath.
In following with Red Tree Wellness’ philosophy of helping guide you on your pathway to health, we are beginning a new series of newsletters that will focus on educating you about an Allopathic/Western Medicine condition that relates to that season’s element from a Chinese Medicine perspective, and how to understand it better.
Autumn is in mid-season in the Chinese calender. Autumn’s element is Metal in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and is related to the Lung and Large Intestine meridians as mentioned above. The Metal elements and these meridians have a great deal to do with our awareness of the physical body and of our own aliveness, as the Lung is also said to be the residence of the corporeal soul, or Po, in Chinese Medicine. The corporeal soul is the most dense and tangible aspect of the soul which dies with the body at death. The Lung’s physical expression is the boundary between the organism and its environment. At a psychological level, it is a sense of one’s own personal boundary. Our breath, is a physical and psychological act of taking in our environment, and integrating it with our physical body.
One very common condition in Western medicine related to the function of our Lungs is Asthma. In Chinese medicine, asthma is called “Xiao Chuan“, which means wheezing and dyspnea, respectively. There are many factors that may trigger an asthma attack in Chinese Medicine. Examples include the invasion of the external pathogenic factors, diet, emotional disturbances, congenital weakness and chronic illnesses. External pathogenic factors, such as cold or heat, are the most common triggers that induce asthma attacks. This includes changes in weather, but also cigarette smoke, and allergens. However, the root cause of asthma is the presence of phlegm. In Chinese Medicine, the passage of ‘water’ is controlled by three organs, namely the Lung, Spleen and Kidney. Imbalances of Yin and Yang in any of these three organs may lead to poor water circulation, which then contributes to the production and storage of phlegm in the Lung. Congestion of phlegm in the Lung becomes the main cause for recurrent asthma attacks.
Typically with Asthma in Chinese medicine, we see an Asthma attack as the acute or excessive phase of the illness where urgency of treating the symptoms may outweigh that of the cause. There are generally 2 types of acute phases. One is Asthma due to Cold: The Cold factor tends to constrict the bronchii, leaving the patient feeling congested, hyperventilating, short of breath, etc. The Lung will also lose its function to regulate the water passages and as a result, phlegm formation occurs. Clinically, the phlegm manifests as audible wheezing in the throat and thin white foamy sputum that is difficult to expectorate. Chills, intolerance to cold (cold temperature, cold food and drinks), absence of perspiration, headache, body aches and pain, grayish and cyanotic complexion accompany this. The other acute phase is Asthma due to Heat: When heat attacks the Lung, it restricts the Lung’s ability to control Qi and respiration. Patients generally experience a choking sensation, coughing spells and intercostal distention. Patients will also have phlegm manifesting as wheezing with copious yellow sputum that is thick and difficult to expectorate. Fever, irritability, perspiration, headache, thirst with desire to drink, flushed face, possible fever with aversion to cold are some of the other symptoms. Lastly, Asthma can also be exercise-induced, which is more a manifestation of both the phlegm/congestion building up in conjunction with a weak supportive system – that of the Kidneys which help the Lungs grab Qi and bring it into the body for use, according to the Chinese Medicine system of the body. Exercise-induced asthma therefore, involves a more weakened/deficient-state reaction, rather than a pathogen or external factor affecting the Lungs.
What this shows is what is going on internally with the body, i.e. is the body low or high on Yin nourishment or Yang nourishment. Patients in the remission stage show no signs and symptoms of asthma such as wheezing or dyspnea, compared to when they are under attack. TCM treatments in remission focus on balancing and strengthening the underlying deficiencies of the related internal organs. Depending on severity, herbal treatments may be needed and continued at least 3-6 month for maximum effectiveness. As it sounds, Phlegm and Dampness has a sticky or heavy quality to it, which makes it hard to get rid of. Thus, consistent treatments are the keys to eliminate Asthma.
Want to learn more about how Chinese Medicine views the body and its interrelation with nature? Red Tree Wellness will be doing ongoing Health at Home seminars, to teach you home tips on a variety of conditions. Here’s what we having coming up:
~ Wednesday November 30: Using Acupressure at Home
~ Understanding Chinese Astrology and Health
~ Chinese Tongue and Face Reading Health Signs
~ Fighting Colds and Flus at Home
Visit our Continuing Education page regularly for updates on seminars being offered, and register online! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the most up-to-date information on our seminars. Please let us know what you would like to learn about!
To all our American friends, Happy Thanksgiving! To all of you, enjoy breathing in the rest of the crisp Autumn air.
Sonia F. Tan
BA, BA(H), DTCM, R.Ac, R.TCM.P.