Wind Water Invades Lungs

Photo by Yash Prajapati on Unsplash

Wind-Water invades Lungs? This is a syndrome in Chinese medicine. That means it describes a set of symptoms that is understood and can be treated by this 3000+ year old system of medicine.


However, it has to be said that if you develop this syndrome you probably won’t be thinking of visiting your friendly neighbourhood acupuncturist. You’ll be heading for the nearest Accident and Emergency department. Your family will be worried, rightly.

I therefore think this page won’t be read much by patients, except perhaps after the event. If you are a patient reading it, and not a student or practitioner of Chinese medicine, I apologise if it therefore seems a bit heavy on terminology, yin, yang and such.


Symptoms of Wind-Water invades Lungs

These can develop fast.

  • Oedema – swelling – round your eyes and over your face
  • Makes you look as if you’ve been on high dose steroids ie moon-faced, but without the hair growth and acne
  • Face goes shiny and bright as the skin stretches
  • Oedema swelling spreads down over your whole body
  • You stop peeing: any urine is minimal, though pale
  • You become very sensitive to air movement, wind, drafts
  • Fever
  • Cough – more a kind of catching your breath, as if blocked by fluids (which is what is happening)
  • Short of breath. Can’t catch your breath. Breathless on exertion.
  • Pulse: described in Chinese medicine as floating and slippery/rolling. That is felt as being floating indicates this is an exterior syndrome ie the attack has come from outside your body and is not due to a chronic internal problem. Rolling or slippery pulses indicate Phlegm or Damp.
  • Tongue: either normal, in the very early stages, but usually develops a white coating that looks sticky. This supports the pulse diagnosis of Phlegm or Damp. 

Cause of Wind-Water invades Lungs

From the perspective of Chinese medicine, Wind-Water invades Lungs occurs because of an invasion by Wind-Cold, with Dampness.

These are diagnosed as having invaded your Lungs, which is different from how Western medicine would diagnose it. Western medicine probably sees this as due to kidney insufficiency, and looks for a bug (virus or bacteria) to blame.

According to Chinese medicine, if there is any bug in the system, its importance is minimal, because Wind-Cold syndromes aren’t usually caused by bugs.

But if/when medics test your urine, they’ll find a bug, trust me! We’ve all got a few bugs down there, but if you’re healthy, the ‘bad’ bugs are held in check by good bugs.

Or perhaps the ‘bad’ bugs are holding the ‘good’ bugs in check! But according to Chinese medicine, bugs don’t constitute the main cause, although they could follow later as a secondary effect.

To make more sense of this, you need to read a bit about the Lungs in Chinese medicine, and what their functions are. An important part of what they do is to order the movement of fluids in your body, and to be in charge of the first line of defence against attack from outside, including your skin – like the walls of a castle.

Castle walls, the first line of defence vs wind water invades lungs
Tower surrounded by outer walls – Photo by Jacek Pobłocki on Unsplash

When Wind-Cold with Dampness invades, it blocks the normal movements of the Lungs, and their control of the ‘water passages’. Consequently your skin accumulates water and you find it hard to breathe properly, causing breathlessness and a cough. 

Why is your face affected?

You may wonder why your face is the first place to accumulate swelling: that’s because another of the Lungs’ functions is to send things downwards. (You use this property of your lungs when, if stressed, you use deep breathing to calm yourself down.) When that fails, your face blocks up. You see this in another way when your nose blocks up during a cold and you get sinusitis, though this comes more with an invasion of Wind-Heat.


You ask, why did I get it?

Had you been

  • perfectly fit, and 
  • had kept yourself rested, 
  • warm and dry, 
  • well-fed and 
  • not tired out, 
  • the theory says you wouldn’t have got it.


So ask yourself, where did you go wrong?!

What treatments help

Wind-water invades Lungs is a syndrome in Chinese medicine, so Chinese medicine has ways to treat it. So does your Western medicine doctor, but I suggest you don’t try both paths at the same time. One might muddy the waters for the other.

However, do not delay in seeking whichever treatment you choose.

Why? – because if this syndrome Wind-Water Invades Lungs gets worse, it could start to adversely affect your kidneys, blocking them up too.


Man Running in Wind

Containing water and Damp, Wind-Water invades Lungs is a very Yin pathogenic factor, and quickly exhausts your Yang resources, meaning your Kidney Yang and your Spleen Yang energies.

The ‘wind‘ part of the syndrome makes if fast-acting. Hence you need quick treatment.

Having your Lungs blocked up is one thing. Having your Kidneys blocked up too is bad news. The right treatment, early, prevents this.

Your acupuncturist will aim to …

  1. release the Exterior part of your defence system which has unfortunately contained, or trapped, the invading external pathogenic force inside, 
  2. then get rid of the Cold
  3. then set about dispersing the Damp
  4. re-set your Lung energy to start descending again, and 
  5. open up the Water passages, which basically means getting you to urinate properly again, to pee away all the moisture which has created the oedema. A measure of his success will be how much you manage to pee!


In Chinese medicine, there are several powerful ways to do this:

  • Acupuncture uses points on acupuncture channels that mainly affect your Lung and Yang energies. None of them stimulate your kidneys or bladder as a priority because, as explained, 3000 years of experience has shown that’s not the best way to treat this.


Choose Chinese Herbs eg vs wind water invades lungs
Chinese herbs


What can YOU do to help?

If Wind-Water Invades Lungs develops fast, as it usually does, there won’t be time for you to do much except seek help.

However, reasoning from the fact that Wind-Water Invades Lungs is an invasion by strong mostly Yin forces, you may be able to help yourself by 

  • reducing the influence of Yin and 
  • increasing the influence of Yang


Here are some ways to reduce Yin:

Finding balance in life, yin and yang
Balancing yin and yang
  • avoid cold, iced or raw foods and drinks
  • avoid sweet foods
  • Take no dairy foods (which tend to produce Phlegm, which you certainly don’t need on top of Damp)
  • see details of foods with cold energy
  • avoid getting cold
  • avoid drafts and wind, especially cold  – this keeps you away from the Wind part of Wind-Water Invades Lungs
  • don’t sit still for long periods: fluids collect if you remain still
  • avoid lying down

To increase Yang:

Ginger root tea
Ginger tea
  • add ginger slices to hot water and sip it
  • keep warm
  • keep moving, even a little
  • remain upright
  • ask someone to massage your upper back, as vigorously as you can stand it and for a few minutes, though not if it’s very painful or exhausts you. If this helps, get it done hourly. (This stimulates your Lung energy to descend.)
  • Apply warmth to your upper back and your lumbar area eg a warm bean-bag, heated in a microwave. Warmth on your lumbar back (the small of your back) helps nourish Kidney Yang which can assist Lung Yang.
  • Apply warmth to your feet, to make sure the blood circulates well down there (this helps to ‘descend’ yang)
  • What about hot baths? Here the theory goes in two ways. Water is yin, heat is yang. I’m inclined to suggest that you don’t have a hot bath (because it means lying down). 
  • Instead, have a hot shower (ie standing or sitting upright). But even then, it’s a lot of water and moist air, from which your Lung Yang (already weak) may not benefit. Try it once perhaps, and decide for yourself.

Read more about syndromes affecting your Lungs:

Deficiency syndromes:


Full or Excess syndromes:


Interior syndromes of the Lungs


Shared syndromes


Click to read about acupuncture points along the Lung channel.

Jonathan Brand colours

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