Spring 2016 – Wind

Anyone who has spent significant time with me over the past several years knows that I have a healthy respect for the wind. Prior to my training in Chinese medicine, it would rarely affect my behavior. Things have changed. Now I’ll either stay indoors or dress much more appropriately on a windy day, particularly in the Spring.

One of the oldest and most revered texts on Chinese medicine, the Ling Shu, states that the adverse influence of wind is so great that “the sages avoided the winds like avoiding arrows and stones.” The more I study and practice this medicine, the more I protect myself from the wind.

Wind is most strongly correlated with the Spring season. It is also present whenever there is any sort of changing weather pattern. “Wind” in Chinese medicine has multiple meanings. The wind that moves the air and keeps you cool on a hot day is one kind of wind. In Chinese Medicine, “wind” is also a diagnosis. In Chinese theory, the the former can create the latter, and too much external wind can create “internal wind” under the right circumstances.

Chinese theory states that we are most vulnerable to wind in the areas of the base of skull, back of the neck, and upper back. The point Fengfu (DU16) is located at the external occipital protuberance (EOP) at the base of the skull. The English translation of this point is “Palace of Wind,” and it is used to treat various forms of “wind” disease: aversion to cold, aversion to wind, fever, nasal obstruction and discharge, discomfort and pain in the head, occiput, shoulder and back; and can be utilized for treatment of convulsion and epilepsy induced by “internal wind,” with the symptoms of aphasia from stroke, dizziness, tremor, and ocular and auditory disorders.

Sudden onset of a cramp, spasm, or stiff neck, and symptoms that move around the body – aches, pains, or rashes – are said to be “wind” related. Most externally-generated wind-related illness is characterized by rapid onset and quickly changing symptoms that affect areas above the waist and the surface (skin or muscle layers) of the body. Just as wind most strongly affects the surface area of the water and tops of the trees, it also affects the upper and surface regions of the body.

We are most susceptible to wind-related illness when we have a “deficiency” of blood and fluid. There is a great deal of focus in this medicine on balancing Qi and fluids. If we consider the body at a more micro level, we see that we consist of cells that make up bone, muscle, connective tissue (fascia, tendons, cartilage), nerves, organs (including skin), and fluids (blood, spinal fluid, lymph, etc).

Check out this video. It is a great illustration of ‘Qi’ as the energy *in between* the organized matrix of cells that makes us whole (and it is just a crazy cool video of nature in action). Each cell moves separately but together as one intelligent being. Qi is what holds us together and keeps everything moving. Western medicine hasn’t been able to see or quantify it (yet), but that certainly doesn’t mean it isn’t there…. So we say that if someone presents with a Qi, blood, or fluid deficiency, then they are more susceptible to “wind.” Again, using the video as the illustration, when everything is tightly held (like the group of reindeer), then there is more protection from external forces.

Free flow of blood and fluids is of utmost importance for sustaining good health. Without balance, blood and fluids can become thick and clotted (excess) or thin and sticky (deficiency), and vessels, nerves, and connective tissue can become brittle. Herbal medicine, proper nutrition, and lifestyle (sleep and exercise) keeps everything flowing correctly. It is said that when the body is replete with blood and Qi, it is impervious to the wind.

Acupuncture helps everything circulate, which is why it works so well for all forms of pain, digestive issues, hormonal disharmony, anxiety, and stress. Acupuncture moves, but it does not nourish. Food and herbal medicine nourish the body and supplement that which is deficient. Cupping and gua sha are also great for increasing circulation, as well as expelling wind, heat, and cold at the surface, which is why they work well for colds and upper respiratory issues.

This season, in addition to keeping your neck, shoulders, and upper back properly covered on a windy day, here are a few other things to think about as the temperature begins to rise:

Move your body: Walk, run, bike, swim, practice yoga, or do whatever form of exercise makes you happy. This is the season of the Liver. The Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi and movement of blood, it stores and regulates the blood, and it governs the sinews (cartilage, tendons, and nerves).

“When the Liver has enough blood… the feet can walk, the hands can hold, and the fingers can grasp.”
– Chapter 10, Su Wen

The Liver has a natural tendency to stagnate. It loves movement. Again, we strive for balance, so although we are all happier and less stressed when we exercise, people who tend to get angry or frustrated without daily exercise, or those who exercise excessively likely have an imbalance in this organ.

Express yourself: Anger and frustration are the emotions associated with this season, and repressed emotions can stagnate the liver just as much as a lack of exercise or poor diet. Express how you feel, but do your best to keep your temper in check!

Eat your greens: Green is the color associated with Spring. Go for the green in the produce section: asparagus, broccoli, cilantro, dill, basil, scallions, all leafy greens, green apples, etc. Or head over to Lake Forest Juice and treat yourself to a green juice! Cut back on the alcohol for the next couple of months as it is particularly hard on the liver this time of year….