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The 6 External Pathogens (causes of disease)


Ancient Chinese Medicine does not talk about viruses or bacteria as triggers of disease or disorders. Instead, it talks about influences, which cause disharmony inyin/yang,the Essential Substances, the Organ Systems, and the Channels.


There are several categories of influences that produce disharmony and causes of disease : The Six External Pathogens and Seven Emotions.


The six external energies are wind, cold summer heat, dampness, dryness and fire, which stand for changes in climate during the four seasons. When these six external energies attack the human body through the mouth, nose, or skin to cause superficial disease, they are called the six external pathogenic energies, or the six external pathogens.


Wind    As one of the six external pathogens, wind can cause disease along with another external pathogen. Wind animates the body, stirring it from repose into motion just as wind moves the leaves of a tree. When wind enters the body, it is usually joined to another influence such as wind-cold, wind-heat, wind-dampness, or wind-dryness. Wind is a yang pathogenic energy, if the body is infiltrated by wind, the first symptoms usually appear on the skin, in the lungs, or on the face. Tics, twitches, fear of drafts, headaches and stuffy nose are symptoms. Wind can refer to external wind and internal wind. When external wind invades the body more deeply, it can cause seizures, ringing in the ears and dizziness.


Cold    Cold is one of the yin external pathogenic energies that can easily cause harm to yang energy. When it invades the body it chills all or part of it. When a person’s yang energy is in deficiency, defense energy will fail to guard the body against foreign invasion. Fever, headache, pain in the body, pain in the bones and joints and abdominal pain with diarrhea are the symptoms. Like wind, cold can be divided into external and internal types. External cold refers to the cold energy that attacks the body from the outside and Internal cold refers to a weakening of yang energy, with a decline in organ functions that may give rise to disturbances of water transformation.


Heat    Heat is one of the yang external pathogenic energies. When heat attacks the body, it will give rise to such symptoms as headache, fever, thirst, mental depression, confused speech , excessive perspiration and rapid pulse. Summer heat can also cause great harm to body fluids, which in turn leads to such symptoms as fatigue, weak limbs and dry mouth.


Dampness    Think about what happens to your backyard when it rains for two days---it becomes soggy and water collects in the pools. That is how dampness affects the body. Dampness is one of the yin eternal pathogenic energies. It has a turbid, heavy and sticky nature and it can obstruct the activities of energy transformation performed by the spleen.

There are internal dampness and external dampness and they cause different symptoms.

Dampness blocks the flow of life energy and causes a stuffy chest and abdomen. When external dampness invades, it enters the Channels and causes stiff joints and heavy limbs. When dampness invades the spleen, it can cause upset stomach, nausea, alack of appetite, a swollen abdomen and diarrhea.


Dryness    Dryness is frequent partner with Heat. Heat creates redness and warmth, Dryness creates evaporation and dehydration. External dryness invading the body may Creates respiratory problems such as asthmatic breath and dry cough.


Fire (Summer heat)   Fire, the sixth external pathogen, can cause the diseases called warm heat and summer heat. Fire is also one of the life forces transformed by yang energy into what is called physiological fire. Feels like the humid, oppressive weather that creates the Dog Days of August. It attacks the body after exposure to extreme heat and causes a sudden high fever, excessive perspiration, thirst, insanity, pink eyes, red complexion, nosebleed and rapid and forceful pulse.    


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