It has been one week since Hurricane Irene passed through, and all of these strange weather patterns we've been having lately started me thinking about the effects of the weather on our qi and health. I wonder how many people will show up in my clinic complaining of "windy" issues over the next few weeks! If you are a regular reader, you may have noticed that I often capitalize words that refer to climate, such as Wind, Heat, Cold, and Damp. I do this to separate the TCM version of these terms from the regular use of the words. If I use the term "Heat", I am referring to the type of heat that resides within and affects the body. The type of heat that you experience on a summer's day may warm you up on the outside, but "Heat" would be the cause of your irritability, red eyes, headaches, and heartburn. On the other end of the spectrum, cold weather might lead to shivering and goosebumps, but internal "Cold" can lead to cramping pain, diarrhea, or symptoms of the common cold (aches, chills, runny nose, sore throat.)
I know, it gets confusing. Chinese medicine is both literal and metaphorical, and we are not used to this type of intermingled thinking in the world of medicine. We all know that our moods and emotions are affected by the weather. However, it is one thing to talk about the damp weather that is dragging you down; it is quite another to think of the Wind blowing around inside of you, causing all sorts of tics and tremors and dizziness. This is where the metaphorical part comes in. Of course, this internal Wind is not literal; there is not an actual tornado whipping around in your veins. However, I am constantly amazed at how closely the external and internal are interconnected. During spates of cold weather, people simply hurt more. The external cold enters the body and manifests in Cold symptoms. Damp weather leads to sluggish, unmotivated patients who complain of fatigue, headaches, and muddled thinking. Over the past few weeks, I have seen an obvious increase in the number of patients complaining of dizziness and tremors, symptoms of internal Wind. In fact, tomorrow I am heading out to treat a friend of mine who was recently afflicted with vertigo. Coincidence?