My brief visit to Ireland reminds me of how lovely or problematic a blustery day can be. Nevermind doing your hair, it’s going to be ruffled as soon as you step outside and I saw signs of people with wind patterns all through the streets of Dublin. Ireland is definitely famous for wind, but it is certainly not the only place with a lot of wind. In Idaho, we have plenty as well, and where there is wind there will be people afflicted by the climatic condition.
Wind according to Chinese medicine
Each of the 5 Seasons in Asian medicine (Chinese medicine) has a climatic nature or condition that corresponds with that season. These climates are simply part of the nature of the season which can invade the body and manifest in patterns and complaints. Summer corresponds to heat, Autumn to dryness, Winter to cold, Late Summer (the transition of seasons) relates to dampness, and the blessed Spring corresponds to wind – from the gentlest of breeze to wicked gusts. Whether you get invaded depends on the severity of the pathogen, your body’s strength at the time of attack and whether or not you already have the pathology lurking in the interior.
As an Asian medicine practitioner and Amma Therapist, understanding these patterns helps me see how they 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. Wind corresponds to Spring season and the Liver and Gall Bladder channel. Other channels it affects include the Bladder channel, the Small Intestine, the Lungs, and San Jiao channels. Though springtime is famously windy, blustery conditions can happen in any season, especially September and October in Boise.
So what? What does it really matter? Let’s look at how the wind affects the body.
Wind can be an exterior or interior pattern
Exterior pathogens (wind, cold, heat, dry, damp, summer heat ) are acute in nature, arising quickly. These pathogens invade the body either because the pathogen is excessively strong compared to normal Wei Qi (immunity) – this would be something like a strong virus or plague. The other reason for our bodies to be invaded is because the person is overall very weak and can’t fend off even “normal” strength pathogens. 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. They are chronic or long term in nature, for example, eating too many hot foods can damage the Yin (cooling) of the body and lead to heat. They may also arise from exterior patterns that didn’t get treated properly and become latent like mono and post-viral syndromes. Although there may be a bit of overlap, the treatments will vary depending on whether we are addressing an exterior or interior pattern of disease. Back to wind….
Wind moves rapidly and ‘rustles the tops of the trees’ – meaning it attacks the head, neck and shoulders. It also looks for weak areas like knees, joints and the spine to slip into. It can come and go, moving from area to area and flittering over the skin causing itching, tingling and ticks. Channels and organ systems invaded by 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 and joint pain
- Bell’s Palsy
- blurry vision
- chills up and down the spine (it’s buzzing up the Bladder Channel)
- cold sores – yes, they are a virus and that’s wind in Asian medicine
- frozen neck or shoulder
- headaches – especially cluster, some frontal headaches and one sided
- heat rushing to the head
- Post-viral syndromes
- 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, heat or damp. What does this look like? Exterior wind is an acute attack – you were fine yesterday and suddenly you are sneezing or have a stiff next today. Then we look to the other symptoms to see if it coupled with another pathogen.
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. They will have frequent pale urination. This looks like acute allergies, the common cold or the sniffles after being out at the track meeting. You may get a dull headache as well.
Wind Heat – Nasal discharge is yellow or green, sore throat, fever, craves cold drinks, sneezing, itching and headaches. Urine will be scanty and dark. You may have a slight fever, or a fever that comes and goes.
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 and cloudy urination. There will be pressure in the head and heavy sensation, like you have a water balloon for a head. There is usually a muzziness and thick sticky coat on the tongue.
Ireland is particularly prone to wind cold and damp – even though they had a ‘hot’ summer.
Want to make interesting? Wind cold 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. Add to this that dampness can be either hot or cold too. Just overlay the symptoms to get your guidance for assessing wind/cold and damp or wind/heat and damp.
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, Parkinson’s and epilepsy.
Half Interior Half Exterior
Ah….the wicked wind can get stuck half way between the exterior and interior. These patterns include: mono, post viral pattern, Epstein Barr, hives, herpes and shingles. These are viruses or strong attacks on the immune system that never get full resolved and have patterns of flare ups. They may lay dormant for years at a time and then wait to flare up. These are gooey patterns that are stubborn and take time and diligence to treat and learn to manage.
For an Asian medicine (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 your vulnerabilities. If you are epileptic or have suffered strokes, have post viral conditions, hives, herpes or shingles you run a greater risk of wind attacks during windy seasons, when you are tired, run down or stress. 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, shoulder and upper back. In fact, several of the points on the neck and occiput have the word wind in their names, which reflects their vulnerability as well as their use in treatment of windy patterns. Beyond the scarves and hats, cover up any area that is at risk of wind or cold on you. I use my hands – a lot – and they are prone to get cold or ache in the wind if I’m not careful. For others, perhaps it is their back or spine or joints. Most arthritic conditions have an element of wind to them.
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.
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. Many patterns of stagnation is our society come from inappropriate and habituated relationships to our emotions. Check out the above blog to see if you are “free and easy” or perpetuation your stagnation.
Use pungent food to treat wind – Also called the spicy or aromatic foods these wonderful foods and spices come in a range of temperatures so you can treat wind, wind/cold or wind/heat if you start to learn them.
- Wind/Heat – use cool pungents like chamomile, catnip, echinacea, elderberry and flower, eucalyptus, mint, peppermint, spearmint and wintergreen.
- Wind/Cold – use warm or hot pungents like basil, black pepper, cayenne, chili, chive, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, leek, mustards, onions, rosemary, sage and thyme.
- Wind/Damp – use foods that also drain dampness like basil, cherry, citrus peels, juniper, mustartd, all the onions, peppermint, radish, roots, rosemary, thyme and tumeric
Use kudzu – One of my favorite single remedies, kudzu can be used for any windy condition and is brilliant for those who suffer from chronic neck and shoulder tightness. Try Kudzu ginger tea
Recognizing and addressing windy patterns early can go a long way in keeping you healthy and strong.
Have a wonderful, blustery day!