The "External Evil Winds" of Spring
By Lygia Angel
Treating allergies with Traditional Chinese Medicine
A strong wind blows over a field of ragweed. Suddenly, you sneeze and your eyes start to itch. In Chinese medicine this “sudden onset” (a.k.a., acute allergic reaction) means an “External Wind Evil” has attacked your lungs.
When environmental or seasonal allergens are present, the body is hit by an allergen filled “wind.” To ward them off, Chinese medicine first strengthens the lungs and the exterior of the body. When you strengthen the lung energy sufficiently, that strong gust of ragweed blowing past your nose will pass through your system with no unpleasant physical effects. If the lungs are not strong enough, the result is sneezing, accumulated phlegm and nasal discharge.
Lung Qi, Defender From Allergies
In traditional Chinese medicine the lungs are the most superficial organs, meaning they are the closest internal organs to the outside of your body. They act as the body’s defender from “external evils,” and are the first affected organs in allergic reactions.
The job of the lungs is to down-bear air and excess fluids through the body and moisten (diffuse) the skin. The lungs moisten the skin by sending fluids to the skin and opening and closing the pores with their energy. This is called the defense qi. Defense qi is the natural energy of the lungs, which protects the surface of the body. One benefit of strong Defense qi is the ability of the pores to close when the body is cold (protecting it from external pathogens) and open when hot to sweat (eliminating excess heat or disease). For example, a healthy person with good Defense qi has pores that close when needed, and can tolerate cold wind better than a person who is weak, as if he literally has tough skin. This ability to block unwanted pathogens from entering the body also applies to allergens.
When your body is hit by wind-blown pollen, strong lung qi should be able to pass what has entered the nose through your system and seal it from entering the skin. So the first treatment for allergies in Chinese medicine is to strengthen the lungs. This helps prevent an allergic reaction to airborne pathogens. One way to strengthen lung energy is with acupuncture points. These points are not necessarily near the lungs. In fact most points that strengthen lung energy are on or near your wrist.
Another method for building up lung energy is herbal decoctions. Chinese herbal decoctions or remedies contain nutritive properties, as well as energies specific to particular conditions. In Chinese herbal medicine, different herbs are appropriate for different organs, and so the herbal decoctions for the lungs contain specific nutrition for the lungs as well as vibrations of energy.
A Strong Army of Organs:protectors of the Lungs
In Chinese medicine, as in Western medicine, all organs interrelate and support each other in some way. When one organ is affected, so are others. This is as true with allergies, as with any disease.
For example, if the lungs have not brought down or transformed phlegm due to an allergic reaction, the spleen is also impaired. The spleen transforms and transports fluids in the body. So, in Chinese medicine, it is not only necessary to strengthen the lungs but also the spleen. And to take it a step further, the kidneys play a part as well in clearing fluids of the body. They are a root, or anchor, that help pull down fluids.
Chinese Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine
Practitioners study Chinese herbal medicine for many years before they can actually prescribe, and you need a prescription from a licensed Chinese medical practitioner to get Chinese herbal decoctions. Chinese medicine is unique in that no person is ever treated exactly the same way, even if they have the same disease.
In treating allergies, one person’s kidneys may be strong, indicating one avenue of treatment, whereas a person with weak kidneys has different needs. So treatments vary, as do people. The beauty is that Chinese medicine aims to correct what needs to be corrected and eliminate the imbalances in the body, which cause disease. The result, in the case of spring allergies, is that the body is strengthened and the allergic response dissipates. Best of all, there’s no drowsiness, dry mouth or other unpleasant side effects endemic to synthetic drugs that only mask the symptoms of springtime misery.
(Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor.)