Yesterday, there was a particularly strong and chilly wind. I was out in it for about half an hour, and later that evening, I realized the wind was “lodged” within me. I could feel a general discomfort beneath my skin, on the tops of my legs, and a general feeling of unease, and also an aching in my back. From experience, I knew that all these symptoms were due to the wind having penetrated my defences (my Wei Qi, in Chinese medicine, the “energy field” that flows just beneath our skin and protects us from this sort of “invasion” of an external pathogen, and also warms the skin). If the invasion takes hold, it will develop into a common cold, in contemporary terms, or Wind Invasion, in Chinese medicine.
Not all people would be able to accept the above Chinese medicine explanation, but there is no doubt in my mind that the symptoms I was experiencing had been due to me being exposed to that chilly wind.
Here, the question that occurs to me is: does the “wind” literally penetrate into my body and remain within my body? This is certainly what the sensations felt like. And this is the traditional Chinese medicine understanding of the mechanism. But can we add some more detail to this understanding, to make it easier for Westerners to accept the validity of this ancient explanation?
Elsewhere, I have speculated that any “pathogens” within us probably exist in the form of energy (see: In Chinese Medicine, is “energy” the pathogen?). So, could this be what is happening: the energy of the wind excites the energy beneath our skin (the outer layer of our energy that was exposed to the wind) and this excitation was transferred to the part of our energy that lies beneath the skin?
In Western thinking, all matter is pure energy. Our whole body is energy, and each part of the body can be visualized as an energy system. Immediately beneath the skin is the outer surface of our muscle layer. All these bodily parts can be visualized as networks of energy. This explanation is supported by the current understanding of Western science. Nothing new here.
My speculation is this. The layer of energy beneath our skin and at the surface of our muscles is “agitated” by being exposed to the energy of the cold wind, and this agitation is thereby simply transferred to the energy layer beneath our skin. This is how the pathogen comes to be lodged within us, under our skin. And it is this agitation in the energy beneath our skin that accounts for the symptoms, the aching in my back, the uncomfortable feeling on the tops of my legs, and the general feeling of discomfort and unease.
In Chinese medicine, this was a Wind Cold Invasion, or the very early stages of one. If I hadn’t cleared the pathogen from within me, it would have developed into a Wind Cold Invasion (a common cold). The standard cure in this situation is to “release the exterior” to let the pathogen out. There are various ways you can do this. On this occasion, I needled LI-4, took a hot bath for around twenty minutes, hot enough to induce a sweat, and then afterwards I did some cupping on BL-12 (just to make sure). The next morning, I was symptom free and felt good, if slightly weakened, probably due to some of my already-low energy also being released along with the pathogen. Taking a hot bath will always release a certain amount of your energy through your skin as your pores open and you sweat.
I am prone to this type of invasion, since there is a weakness in my Yang energy (the energy of my pancreas and lungs—probably caused by all this thinking that I can not stop doing) and my defensive energy (my Wei Qi) is usually weak as a result. This weakness has its positive sides. It makes me a very sensitive healer, since I can readily connect with a patient’s energy, and often feel their symptoms when I am near to them, and certainly when I read a person’s pulses. But all this is another story. The point is, not all people will experience the above problems when exposed to a cold wind. If a person has strong defensive energy, they will probably not even notice the wind, and it would certainly not be strong enough to penetrate into their body.
23 June 2008
[FK July 2016. The above represents some of my early thoughts on these matters. However, all the thinking is very much updated and transformed in my book Chinese Acupuncture for Today, which discusses the translation of the Chinese medicine concepts of “wind” and “heat”, the parallels with viruses and bacteria, and describes how acupuncture treats viral and bacterial infections. The above thinking is very much in line with the ancient Chinese thoughts on these matters, but the approach my book takes is now quite different, uses contemporary concepts and explains every aspect of Chinese medicine in terms that can be easily understood by all readers.
On the above topic, the book explains that such pathogens do not literally penetrate us, and provides an alternative explanation; as well as an explanation of how the acupuncture treatment works—all using contemporary terms and concepts.]
If you’ve found this article helpful or interesting, do please leave some feedback by emailing me. Many thanks, Fletcher.