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Which symptoms you get will depend not just on your constitutional susceptibility but on which of the two, Wind or Cold, predominates.
There are lots of possible developments here as the disease works its way inwards past your defences, so this page is not a straightforward 'quick' read.
In general this introduces you to how Cold forces its way in to your body. It describes what is called the Greater or Tai Yang stage, the first of the Six Stages of disease as Cold enters.
If you are strong, ie your defensive energy is strong (probably much the same as having a good immune system and a healthy, fit and not exhausted body) then the very first symptoms will be at the top and back of your body, these being the strongly Yang areas that are the first to be deployed by your body in its defence:
These are mainly Wind symptoms, in Chinese medicine.
If your defensive energy is weak, no matter how strong the invading Wind-Cold, your reaction will be weak, with some at least of the following:
What is happening here is that the invading pathogenic ‘evil’ - "Wind-Cold" - has obstructed the flow of your defensive energy (causing muscle aches and stiffness) and is disrupting the normal dispersive function of the Lungs (hence the runny nose, sneezing, lack of sweat and sore throat). That means it is already edging inwards.
Your body holds the invader in its Greater Yang, or Tai Yang areas. These are the most Yang parts of the two acupuncture channels (meridians) that include the words Tai Yang in their descriptions, being the
The invader is therefore held in the upper parts of these channels, especially on your upper back and neck and head - Yang areas.
What your friendly neighbourhood acupuncturist will try to do when you have signs of Wind-Cold is, in Chinese medical jargon,
If Cold prevails, also use moxa.
S/he will probably use cupping on your back. You could do this too, by showing someone at home what to do. It's often highly effective.
Lots! Preferably don't stop your body's healthy reactions by taking painkillers or antibiotics. These have a suppressive action and if you can recover without them you will almost certainly be healthier, and less prone to disease, than before.
What's the downside to that? A day or two of feeling wretched!
The main thing to realise is that you don't have, in this situation, what is called a 'cold', which would produce signs of Wind-Heat, with yellow mucus, sore throat, and all the rest of it.
Here you almost certainly simply have an invasion of cold, with wind: wind-cold. In effect, you caught a 'chill', but not necessarily a virus.
If your defence is weak or the Wind-Cold invader too strong, then the invader will march inwards past your body's first resistance level.
This means that you may not get many Wind-Cold symptoms, or not for long. Instead, you'll quickly get problems at a deeper level.
What happens then? There are lots of possibilities, and Chinese medicine has two huge lumps of theory devoted to this question of the invasion of disease into the body:
Acupuncturists can spend ages learning about this. It's a theory with plenty of experience, first set out by a famous practitioner called Zhang Zhong Jing in his book Shang Han Lun around AD 220.
Why bother with a book written 1800 years ago?
The considered opinion reached after a lifetime of treating a condition by a real expert probably still has a good deal to teach modern medicine! - even if he lived 1800 years ago.
Modern medicine sees disease from a very different perspective. It has a huge armament to ease symptoms and prevent death. Death was a real possibility for many people when they got sick 2000 years ago.
Zhang Zhong Jing in his seminal work ascribes levels of seriousness to some of the paths a disease takes as it marches inwards.
Not important? Actually yes!
Why? If the disease is forced out and retreats along a recognisable path, it may be reassuring to understand that someone 1800 years ago made sense of it and could tell you what was comparatively beneficial and, well, what was not!
So important was what Zhang Zhong Jing wrote that the next big book on the subject was not written until AD 1746, 1500 years later. That later book, on the Four Levels, deals with what happens when Wind-Heat invades.
Modern practitioners of Chinese medicine still use the formulas suggested in the original book. They are really effective!
The Six Stages describe how Cold disease penetrates. Briefly, there are six stages - listed below - but there are all sorts of paths in the undergrowth and few insist that progress through them is straightforward.
For example, many people don't have sufficient physical resources to mount a defence at the next stage, called the Bright Yang stage: the invader skips straight over it from this Wind-Cold syndrome to the Lesser Yang stage.
You may think that all acute illness-conditions (excluding eg trauma and poison) come from viruses or bacteria. In our nice, warm, central-heated houses, Wind-Cold as a disease entity may seem remote.
Who gets COLD nowadays?
Well, I do for a start! I'm not talking here about the infectious virus-caused disease we commonly call a 'cold'. I'm talking about actually being made ill by getting COLD.
Here's what happened to me, last year. As far as I remember I felt well when the day began. I didn't hear the weather forecast and dressed normally for the kind of weather I expected. So off I went to my clinic.
I saw patients through the morning, as usual. By noon, they were complaining of the cold weather. My room had no outside window and when I went to reception I didn't look out of the windows much. But I did feel a bit colder, as the central-heating tried to resist the rapidly-cooling air.
I should explain that where I worked at that time was in a basement. Very near my room was an outside door, an emergency Fire exit. Emerging from my room about 12.30pm, having left a patient there to rest while the acupuncture needles did their work, I noticed the Fire door had been removed, the temperature in the building was near freezing, and snow was coming in through the doorway. Hammering from outside revealed repairs being done to the door.
I was still wearing just a shirt and trousers. I had a full day ahead. I felt increasingly cold as the hours proceeded and started shivering, at times uncontrollably, with my hands feeling very cold. I felt stiff and tense. Increasingly I craved heat from the radiators.
The door stayed off for almost five hours. I managed to cancel the last patient and went home. My symptoms were a
Please take my word for it, if you are sick you tend to take sick decisions. Get someone else to observe and advise you if possible!
I know what I should have done, but I didn't do it. Instead I tried to do some work at my computer! Eventually I gave in and decided to light a fire and watch television. But I still felt increasinly cold as the hours went by. So I went to bed with a hot water bottle...
The hot water bottle made no difference. I still felt freezing, even with several extra duvets and much clothing over and on me. This was now about midnight. (My wife was abroad, on business: otherwise I expect she'd have taken me in hand!)
Eventually, lying there and thinking, as you do, I worked out what what was going on. At that late stage - about 2am - I got into a hot bath, my aim being to get warm and to develop a sweat. I just managed it, after a longish time. I then returned to bed.
Later I took herbs and made sure I ate warm food, as advised on this page. But it took me several days to recover!
The symptoms I suffered were mainly wind-COLD: in other words, Cold prevailed. I did have some shivering (Wind) but I had no perspiration and was much more affected by cold than wind. I do not remember feeling any fever alongside the chill but I certainly had plenty of general aching.
So, I had some wind, but mainly Cold of this Wind-Cold syndrome.
Why did it take me so long to recover? Probably because my body spent so long holding the disease at the outer level that it got exhausted. I'm 69 and take longer to recover than I once did.
Probably I should have leapt into the hot bath and taken the herbs immediately on returning home. In fact, probably I should have cancelled all the patients that day as soon as I realised what was happening to me.
But as I said, when ill, you don't necessarily take sensible decisions.
Long before modern medicine, ancient medical theories like Chinese medicine had to grapple with illnesses.
They had no microscopes, no chemical identifiers, no spectroscopes, no X-ray machines! So they paid great attention to what actually happened as you got ill.
They had to develop ways to describe this and in China, where their written language used pictograms, they used words like 'wind' and 'cold', 'heat' and 'dryness', to describe what they saw - there's a list below.
They also had to elaborate on what they thought the organs of the body did.
For example, you might, as Wind-Cold invaded, go on to get Lung-Heat, which has symptoms quite like acute bronchitis, or Spleen-Yang deficiency with Cold, with symptoms of diarrhoea, no appetite, lassitude and a sense of fullness in your abdomen.
The Six Stages have some similarities to what are called the Four Levels, written about 1500 years later, which describe what happens when Wind-Heat type diseases invade your body. Wind-Heat covers what modern medicine recognises as invasion by bacteria and virus.
However, the Four Levels has some stages which are basically the same as some of the Six Stages, so there is some cross-correspondence. The thing to remember (I hope you're remembering all this, there'll be a test, later!) is that the Six Stages start with Wind-Cold, the Four Levels start with Wind-Heat.
This is the initial stage, mentioned above. I've described the invasion of Wind-Cold in its two forms, one with Wind prevailing, the other with Cold prevailing.
Unfortunately that's not the end of it. One path this stage can go down is when Water accumulates inside. Here you can't pee and may find yourself vomiting fluids just after you've swallowed them.
The other is more serious. It causes swelling in your lower abdomen with a sense of explosive fullness, with blood in your urine and extreme anxiety and mental restlessness amounting to mania.
Fortunately this is rare, at least as far as most acupuncturists are concerned, because if you are like this you usually get taken to hospital as an emergency. There is however an 1800 year old way of treating it, which works probably as effectively as modern medical treatments but you need to see a professional acupuncturist or practitioner of Chinese herbal medicine for this.
The next stage occurs when the invading Wind-Cold prevails over your Greater Yang Tai Yang defences.
The next level, in my experience, is usually the Lesser Yang Shao Yang level, where the battle alternates between 'inside and outside', between Heat and Chills.
Sometimes the invader gets past this quickly and moves straight to the Bright Yang Yang Ming stage which feels hot.
What are The Six Stages as Cold penetrates?
Note that this is not the order mostly used since antiquity, but makes more sense to me. For nerds, I'm with Giovanni Maciocia on this one.
To read more about the external causes of disease click:
If you live in the Edinburgh area of Scotland, where the author of this site (and of the books described below) works, click on Edinburgh Acupuncturist.
If you live elsewhere, click on BAcC.
Please note! The Kindle editions are less easy to read! Although the paper editions cost more, they are much easier to read and to refer back and forth to the contents and index.
Here are some of the books Jonathan has written:
Still only one comment, though personally I think this is my best book so far.
Published 1986 and, amazingly, still selling. Was apparently used back then by at least one acupuncture college to help students understand Chinese medicine!
No comments yet: just published. (Despite the lurid cover, it explains the five main types of phlegm and what works best for each type. I hope it's easy to read and will be much more useful than all the websites on the subject.)
3000 years of Chinese being stressed, and at last, here's a book showing how all that experience can help you!
By the author of this website, it explains in simple English how to use stress to improve and enhance your life.
NB You can also order 'Qi Stagnation - Signs of Stress' from your bookseller.
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