Managing the Invasion of Cold and Dampness

As winter comes to an end, the accumulation of cold within the body becomes a concern. Despite the increasing warmth of spring, it is often accompanied by continuous damp and rainy days. During the Qingming season, dampness tends to prevail, and if the accumulated cold and dampness within the body is not expelled in a timely manner, it can lead to various health issues.


When the body is affected by cold and dampness, symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, heaviness, body aches, reduced appetite, and constipation may occur. In traditional Chinese medicine, cold and dampness are not only uncomfortable bodily conditions but also the root cause of illnesses. They can hinder the smooth flow of vital energy and damage the body’s yang energy, thereby affecting overall health.


Based on the severity of symptoms, cold and dampness can be categorized into five levels, each requiring targeted adjustments based on individual constitution.


Level 1 Cold and Dampness:

This level predominantly affects the skin, with symptoms like itching and eczema worsening upon exposure to cold or dampness. The skin may become watery and inflamed when scratched. To address this, under the guidance of a doctor, one can take herbal medicines like Er Miao Wan or use external remedies like calamine lotion.


Level 1 Cold and Dampness is relatively easy to manage by paying attention to daily diet and lifestyle. Consumption of seaweed, coix seed, and winter melon soup is recommended as it helps clear heat, expel toxins, and improve spleen function, alleviating skin itching. Furthermore, maintaining a suitable living environment is necessary. If the air humidity indoors is high, it is advisable to use fans or air conditioning to ensure proper ventilation.


Level 2 Cold and Dampness:

This level primarily affects the muscles, resulting in symptoms such as fatigue, lower back pain, and joint stiffness. According to Chinese medicine, the spleen governs the muscles. When the spleen is weak and unable to transform water and dampness, muscle discomfort and weakness may occur. Additionally, spleen deficiency can lead to symptoms like sallow complexion, mental exhaustion, general fatigue, poor appetite, bloating after meals, limb coldness, shortness of breath, and obesity. Therefore, the key focus in managing level 2 cold and dampness is to strengthen the spleen.


In daily life, it is recommended to avoid consuming raw, cold, and greasy foods, and to avoid overeating. Including foods like Chinese yam, millet, lotus seed, dried tangerine peel, coix seed, and white hyacinth bean in the diet can help tonify the spleen. Herbal medications like Shen Ling Bai Zhu San can also be taken to invigorate yang energy, strengthen the spleen, dispel cold, and resolve dampness.


Level 3 Cold and Dampness:

This level primarily affects the bones and joints, resulting in conditions such as frozen shoulder, cervical spondylosis, lower back pain, and arthritis. Cold tends to contract, and the accumulation of dampness can easily affect the joints and bones, causing pain and discomfort, which worsens during cold and damp weather or seasonal transitions.


Individuals with neck and shoulder pain should reduce outdoor activities during rainy days and change clothes promptly if inadvertently caught in the rain to prevent further accumulation of dampness in the body. Additionally, it is important to thoroughly dry the body and hair after bathing and maintain a dry living environment with regular ventilation. Various external treatments like warm compresses, moxibustion, and cupping therapy can be applied to acupuncture points such as Zusanli, Yinlingquan, Fenglong, Piyu, and Shenyu, depending on individual needs.


Level 4 Cold and Dampness:

This level primarily affects the internal organs, leading to symptoms such as aversion to cold, cold limbs, abdominal pain, diarrhea, generalized edema, menstrual irregularities, and abnormal vaginal discharge. At this stage, cold and dampness are deeply ingrained within the body, impairing the spleen and kidney yang energy. Therefore, treatment focuses on invigorating the spleen and supplementing the kidney. Herbal formulas like Shen Ling Bai Zhu San combined with Jin Kui Shen Qi Wan can be used for management.


In daily diet, consuming a porridge made from stir-fried Chinese yam (50g), coix seed (30g), poria mushroom (30g), and polished rice (150g) is helpful for tonifying the spleen, replenishing qi, dispelling dampness, and promoting yang energy. If the symptoms are severe, it is advisable to seek medical advice promptly and consider taking Chinese herbal formulas for treatment.


Level 5 Cold and Dampness:

At this most severe level, cold and dampness have been internalized to the extent that phlegm and stasis are formed. These individuals are prone to developing nodules, cysts, fibroids, and polyps. Such conditions are attributed to the accumulation of cold and dampness, which can persist and even recur.


For level 5 cold and dampness, a comprehensive treatment approach combining traditional Chinese and Western medicine is recommended to address the root cause. Individuals with this condition usually have a weakened immune system, therefore, it is essential to protect the body’s yang energy by avoiding cold and chilled foods and beverages, as spleen yang can easily be impaired. Vigorous exercise should also be avoided to prevent exacerbation of dampness. Drinking a concoction made from mushroom and summer cypress (100g each) with honey can aid in eliminating dampness and toxins from the body for daily health maintenance.


In dealing with the invasion of cold and dampness, it is essential to tailor the treatment according to individual constitution. Through appropriate diet, lifestyle adjustments, and traditional Chinese medicine practices, it is possible to effectively eliminate cold and dampness from the body, thus maintaining overall health.


(Note: Part of the content in this article is based on the research of Associate Professor Zhao Yan from the School of Traditional Chinese Medicine at Beijing University of Chinese Medicine.)


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