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Article: Fire in the Chimney

Fire in the Chimney

Heat rises. Fire goes up. Here in the mountains, we are pretty well aware of that. The upper parts of multistoried houses get most of the warmth; the lower stories are harder to keep warm. Sometimes the upper stories are too warm. They hold the heat. The air becomes stagnant and just sits there.


Even when it is so cold outside, peoples’ conditions still tend to get Hot. This is due to our reaction to the cold and our attempts to counter its intensity. The wood fire is burning, the heater is constantly on, the air is being heated and, as a result, dried out. This happens to such a degree that we actually hit our bodies with too much heat. The result, of course, is a Hot disease.


That makes sense. Right? Hot pathogen should equal a Hot disease manifestation. Well, a strange thing happens with this logical, Boolean, linear theory. The primary infectious disease process during this season is a Cold invasion. The invasive factors from an Oriental medical point of view are Wind and Cold. It appears that the Western/American person transforms the Cold pathogen immediately into Heat. This is largely a function of our Hot life-style. We eat hot types of food such as red meats, hot peppers, garlic, and sugars. High stress levels are considered normal in our lives. Then we throw a little alcohol into the mix. The Heat appears post haste. What does the Heat tend to do? It rises. It moves to the upper regions of the body. Headaches, fevers, ear infections, sinus disease, they all bear the fruits of this upsurging Heat.


As far as Oriental medical philosophy is concerned, until this mechanism is dealt with, the disease symptoms will remain intact. Chronic conditions and recalcitrant disease symptoms just don’t go away, or if they do, it’s only temporarily.


How does one deal with this upsurging Heat? We have all had uprising infections of various kinds, usually described as ranging from upper respiratory ailments to ear infections in kids to headaches and sinus abnormalities. The Oriental doctor sees all of these as various branches on a tree that result from a single root.


The apparently obvious thing to do is to attack the Heat itself. Usually, in herbology, this is attempted by the use of Bitter Cold herbs. According to the old traditions of dealing with Heat disease (wen bing), utilizing this approach too aggressively or too often may have problematic effects. It tends to congeal the Heat and preserve it. This means that the initial short-term symptoms are at least partially ameliorated or eliminated, but with time, the symptoms return. There is the feeling that the disease symptoms are still hiding beneath the surface waiting for the next high-stress time or a period of relative fatigue in order to come out and wreak havoc once more. An equivalent treatment process in the West is the over-use of antibiotics. Antibiotics seem to have a similar effect as Bitter Cold herbs. They attack the illness head on and with great force. This goes against the aforementioned wen-bing principles. Basic to the correct strategy is allowing the Heat to dissipate or give it a valve that the Heat can use to leave the body instead of hiding there.


The specific process of “resolving the exterior” just described is a little technical and complex, but its results can be effective. Cold Snap is a Chinese herbal self-help tool that can resolve the surface invasion. You may have to increase the frequency of doses or take it a bit longer to fully restore your righteous chi. When the process is complete, the body is often stronger for having been challenged.



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