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Allergies and Chinese Medicine

Chinese medicine does not consider the condition of ‘allergies’ to be a separate disease. Chinese medicine recognizes both the external causes of contagious and environmental diseases, as well as the role of each individual’s constitution in illness. The outer causes of disease are referred to as ‘EPIs’ or External Pathogenic Invasions. This concept evolved from the prehistoric shamanic theories of evil spirit invasion; this became evil qi (qi = energy, force), which in turn became EPI. The model of atmospheric ‘influence’ causing illness in European medicine is directly related to this idea. Indeed, the word influenza still remains in present day medicine. Allergic triggers in Western medicine, such as dust, pollen, chemicals, animal dander, etc., are all categorized as ‘pestilential evil.’  

Each person has circulating qi or energy, which has many physiological functions. Protective or wei qi maintains the integrity of the skin surface, and how well it wards off invasion. The nearest corresponding concept would be resistance to colds, flus, etc. Nutritive or ying qi circulates more deeply, and tries to remain in balance with wei qi.

Wei qi and Ying qi levels supply each other; if the Ying is preoccupied (e.g., immune deficiency, chronic disease, recovery from same, post-partum period, etc.), the wei shunts qi to the ying level to compensate, leaving itself open to EPI invasion.  When the wei is under strain of invasion, the ying sends qi to that level to assist in repelling the invaders.

WIND is the bearer of 1,000 diseases

If one’s internal constitution is cold, dry, warm, hot, or damp, the addition of wind through exposure will result in a combination of the internal factor with the wind. Wind may also combine with these same factors which are present as external climatic factors.

Western biomedicine acknowledges the pathogenic nature of some specialized winds, most notably the Santa Ana, Mistral, Sirocco, and the lesser-known Karaburan.  There are many more (several dozens) throughout the world, most of which have been recognized as capable of initiating or exacerbating disease states. Research from the Common Cold Unit in England indicates that wind strips electrons from air molecules, changing the electrical charge to positive.  Positively charged air molecules have been shown to diminish immune responses, decrease body temperature, and increase mucus production while decreasing mucus discharge.  Negatively charged air molecules conversely increase immune response, etc.  Negative ions are created by running water, rainstorms (especially those accompanied by lightning discharges) and artificially by electronic devices, such as negative-ion generators.

Air-conditioning and central heating both can create artificial external EPIs such as wind/cold and wind/heat, respectively.  Both also are considered dry.  In addition, persons who work in artificially intemperate environments such as walk-in freezers, commercial kitchens, in the proximity of large furnaces, etc. are adding these EPI factors to their particular mixes.

The Chinese also realized the existence of such EPI factors that Western medicine would consider contagious diseases.  To the sages of Chinese Medicine, these were called pestilential EPIs, and included allergic pathogens, as well as more severe diseases such as cholera and smallpox.

Proper dress is underrated in combating EPI invasion; so-called ‘undeveloped nations’ utilize, for the most part, common sense in dressing correctly (e.g., Berbers and other desert dwellers are well protected from wind and heat).  Western individuals, sadly, are often improperly attired for weather, preferring peer-influenced attire for fashion.  Nowhere is this more obvious than in Ithaca, NY.

The idea that the internal environment of each individual was a factor in disease was adopted by the French after colonizing Indo-China in the 17th century, and incorporating some principles of Asian medicine. It exists to the present in French biomedicine as the concept of the terrain (internal environment).

WESTERN:       single cause  →  internal effects → signs
EASTERN:         disease factors     ↔     external/internal changes

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