Empty Heat and Cold

Empty Heat and Cold: a concept in Traditional Chinese medicine explaining many modern illnesses.
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The concept of Empty Heat and Cold explains many modern health conditions arising from internal weakness.

It’s a variation on the idea of Empty, or Deficient, Yin or Yang. To read more about this, click on Yin deficiency.

Usually, it’s not appropriate to treat Empty Heat and Cold conditions with medications classified as being ‘anti-something’. That’s because these may further weaken the body.

Empty Heat occurs because of deficient Yin

 

Suppose you have an old car. And suppose you live in a very hot country. Let’s also suppose you’re driving through the desert on a hot day in the early afternoon.

If the radiator leaks, your coolant, probably water, will evaporate or leak way. You’ll have to keep re-filling it.

If you ignore this deficiency, this emptiness in the radiator, what will happen?

Your car’s engine will over-heat. Without a coolant to pick up the engine’s heat and radiate it away, your engine will rapidly deteriorate. Either it will burn out, or you’ll have to rest it very frequently or run it very much more slowly.

Meantime, you’ll find the air-conditioning will either stop or be less efficient. You’ll get even hotter, not because you’re ill, but because the car can’t keep you cool.

Now you know what it feels like to be a car and driver with symptoms of Empty Heat, caused by deficient Yin.

Empty Cold occurs because of deficient Yang

Suppose you have an old house. It’s winter and very cold outside.

Your house leaks heat through many cracks round doors and windows, and through the poorly insulated ceilings, floors and windows.

You have a central heating boiler. It’s old too. It does what it can to push heat round the house through the radiators, but on a cold day, it’s not enough.

So you’re cold. Perhaps like French peasants several hundred years ago you go to bed as winter approaches and hardly get up until Spring?

Or perhaps you wear more, and eat more warming food to make up for the central heating’s deficiency.

At any rate, you’re cold and this is because of deficient or ‘Empty’ Yang energy. Either your central heating, your insulation, or your body’s ability to keep you warm is deficient.

Empty Heat and Cold Symptoms

Here is a list of the basic symptoms, though they may be accompanied by other symptoms specific to your particular constitution and health.

By the way, for the reasons why we get like this, see the table further on down the page.

 

Empty-Heat: common symptoms Empty-Cold: common symptoms
Deficient Yin Deficient Yang
You may have pink skin over your malar bonesComplexionPale or dull
 PainYou like pressure and warmth on painful areas
Sensation of heat, or warmth, in the afternoon or evening Sensation of cold, cold limbs, cold back
Dryness in the mouth: you desire frequent small sips of fluidThirstNo thirst
Dry throat at nightThroat at nightNo throat discomfort at night
You sweat at night in your sleep, but not because of ambient heatPerspirationEven when feeling cold you may sweat in daytime
Sensation of heat in the palms, soles and centre chest You feel cold most of the time
DryStoolsLoose stools
No changeAfter bowel motion?You often feel weaker
Scanty and darkUrineCopious and clear
Restless, perhaps a little ‘hyper’MentallyListless
RedTongue BodyPale
NoneTongue CoatingThin, white
Empty, floating, rapidPulse qualityWeak, or deep and slow
Empty Heat and Cold Video

The Reasons for Empty Heat and Cold

The following explains the usual reasons for why we develop these Empty Heat and Cold syndromes.

Some of them are similar to the reasons why we get other syndromes like Deficient Yin and Deficient Yang.

 

Usual Causes of Empty HeatCauses of Empty Heat and ColdUsual Causes of Empty Cold
Too many hours workingWorkToo much physical work eg heavy lifting, or too frequent or long exposure to cold when younger
Poor eating habitsDietNot eating enough ‘warm’-type foods
Frequent, heavy blood loss Internal cold has injured Yang
Excess sex (drains Kidney Jing)SexExcess sex drains Kidney Yang

Combined Patterns

You might think that Empty Heat and Cold symptoms would only occur on their own. However, your body, in its effort to get and stay well, can carry several different conditions at the same time.

For example, you can carry External Heat at the same time as having Internal Empty-Cold (and vice versa).

This could happen when someone who is normally a cold person (ie lacking Yang), catches a bug, or is invaded by an external pathogenic factor, that produces External Heat symptoms. So he would have some symptoms of each.

What might be the symptoms in this case? The External Heat signs experienced might be a stiff neck and sore head, fever, red eyes and sore throat, with Internal Empty Cold symptoms such as feeling cold, with copious pale urine and runny stools. (Yes, you can feel cold in yourself even if you have fever and anyone touching you finds your skin hot!)

 

Skill needed to understand this

It can take skill and experience to understand and diagnose a condition correctly. It’s important to get it right, because getting it wrong could lead to the incorrect treatment, after which you might feel worse, or suffer your problem for longer. Read more at Suppression.

The recommended treatment is nearly always to clear the external factor before treating the internal condition.

Empty Heat and Cold symptoms are increasingly frequent in young people nowadays whereas they used to occur mainly as people grew older. The reasons for this can be seen, from the Chinese medical perspective, in the table above.

Here are other syndromes you might find interesting:

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