There are many differences between Chinese and Western medicine. One of the ways they are different is in how they describe illness. What Western medicine would describe in concrete, scientific terms, Chinese medicine would describe in highly poetic language. Terms such as wind, dampness, interior or exterior disorder, excess heat or fire, water, etc., are frequently used by an acupuncturist or Chinese herbalist to describe the patient who is sitting in front of them.
Although these terms sound very esoteric, they are in fact quite practical. Chinese medicine has been around for thousands of years, in fact, before writing was even invented. Before the advent of modern medicine, doctors did not have a laboratory to analyze their results in order to help with the diagnosis. But what they did have was a keen attunement to their surroundings and the natural world. They knew that a human being was not separate from nature, but was an integral part of this natural world, and to live in health was to live in harmony with nature. In this sense, Chinese medicine is holistic medicine. A human being is not separate from nature. Additionally, each part of the person – body, mind and spirit – is connected to every other part, as well as to the natural environment.
In Chinese medicine, the six external causes of disease (a.k.a. the six evils) are wind, cold, heat, dampness, dryness, summer heat (exposure to damp, humid environments in the summertime). When there is an imbalance in the body, often it is because of an invasion of one or more pathogenic factors. (There are also internal pathogenic factors as well) The most significant external pathogenic factor that can invade the body is wind. It is the most significant, because it can bring other pathogenic factors with it to invade the body.
Wind has many different qualities as it invades the body, similar to how it behaves in nature. Envision how wind will move the leaves of a tree when it blows. You can’t see the wind itself, but you are certainly able to see its effects. Wind moves from place to place, such as a skin rash that may appear in one spot, and it may disappear there and reappear somewhere else on the body. Here it affects the surface of the body. Wind may describe the invasion of the common cold or the flu. It comes on suddenly and brings with it other factors, such as cold, heat or dampness. Wind also causes movement deep in the body, such as with epilepsy or Parkinson’s disease.
In the case of a skin rash, wind will be the cause of itching, which is a form of movement on the body’s surface. Many of the products from Merry Clinic alleviate the wind on the skin surface. There are also herbs in the herbal formulas that address the heat or dampness that will accompany the wind as it invades the body.
Hopefully this has helped you to understand Chinese medicine a bit more.