Causes of Illness
According to Traditional Chinese Medical Theory, there are two causes of sickness. There are those that originate in the body, and there are those that originate outside the body. The ancient Chinese knew that there were many pathogens, although they did not call them "bacteria". Instead, they referred to these pathogens, or microorganisms, as "evil chi". They knew that Ai Ye (Mugwort leaves), when burned in a new house or temple, would rid the place of evil chi; but they did not know, until modern times, that the mugwort leaves contain a volatile oil that when burned can kill any disease-producing bacteria in the room. This herb is the main herb used in moxabustion, or heat cauterization therapy, by Chinese doctors. They also used Che Chian Tsao, or Plantain leaves, to heal diseases that were caused by evil chi. Modern medicine now knows that the herb can kill microorganisms in the body. Isn't it interesting that the ancient Chinese had this knowledge?
According to the Chinese, the causes of illnesses are: the six chi (wind, cold, heat, dryness, and fire); and the seven emotions (joy, anger, worry, thinking, sadness, fear, and fright). Also, overeating (bad foods), and overexertion can cause illness. We know from the five elements that our external enemies are the previously mentioned climatic or dangerous conditions, while our internal enemies are the emotions, that can and will cause sickness and diseases.
The Six Chi (Liu Chi)
The six chi are the natural chi forces which are: wind, cold, damp heat, dry, and fire. When these forces are relatively normal there is no harm to the body. However, when these chi are too strong they will affect the balance of the life force, or chi, in the body and create disharmony and sickness. If a person does not protect himself against these six chi by wearing proper clothing, eating the right foods, getting enough rest, etc. the normal six chi can invade his body and make him/her sick. The six chi often go together with wind (such as wind dampness, wind coldness, etc.). The wind force is the "beginning of hundreds of diseases". In the beginning, the attack of wind force is at the skin or flesh level. It may go into the meridians and internal organs, into the head causing headaches, or down to the knees and ankles causing paralysis. It may also cause indigestion, stomachache, diarrhea, and other similar conditions. Cold is a Yin force, and it can harm a person's Yang. When coldness invades from outside (fighting with the protective chi) the yang cannot get out and fever appears. It may also cause pain and other problems such as fever, heartburn, edema, cold, night sweat, and other related conditions. Heat and fire are almost the same, as they are summer forces, but vary in degree. Heat is a yang force, which rises in the body and expands. When heat attacks a body, it causes a high fever and perspiration. Over-perspiration not only hurts the energy, but depletes the body fluids and can cause dehydration, shortness of breath, coughing etc. Dampness is another yin force. It will block a person's energy flow and hurt the yang. Dampness invades a person because of over-exposure to fog and rain, wearing damp clothing too long, or living in a damp place. The start of damp chi is the ground, so it invades the feet, ankles, and legs, then up to the low back...causing pain. If one is out in damp, rainy weather too long, it can cause a heavy, dizzy, sleepy feeling. Dryness is the chi of fall. The clinical symptoms of dryness are cracked lips, dryness in the nose and throat, coughing, and constipation. Dryness disease may also affect the liver and cause pain around the ribs, lower belly, red eyes, and canthus pain.
The Seven Emotions (Chi Ching Gan)
The energy flow is the cause of hundreds of diseases. The heart is the master of the five tsang (solid) organs, and the six fu (hollow) organs. Sadness and worry shake the heart (mind) and when the heart (mind) is shaking, the five tsang and six fu are all shaking. The five tsang and the five emotions are closely related, as anger hurts the liver, joy hurts the heart, worry (thinking) and over-concentration hurts the spleen the same as too much standing hurts the bones. Sadness also hurts the lungs and fright hurts the kidneys. Normal anger soothes the liver, but if it is allowed to go on for too long, the liver functions will be hurt and cause a red face, shortness of breath, spitting of blood, and even fainting. Too much wood makes a big fire. Joy usually relaxes the emotions and stress, soothing the functions of the heart; but if one is over-excited with joy then it will disturb the function of the heart and cause mental problems, or even madness. Too much sadness will hurt the functions of the lungs and make a person weak and sick. Too much worry (or thinking) will hurt the spleen and causes a bloated stomach, indigestion, and diarrhea. Sudden, strong, fright hurts the functions of the kidneys and can cause impotence and deafness. Anger makes the energy go up and joy makes the energy go down, while fright makes the energy go out of order, and worry (thinking) makes the energy block. As emotions can cause dysfunctions of the five tsang, the dysfunction of the five tsang can also cause abnormal emotions. It is important to have the functions of the five tsang well balanced.
Food and Nutrition (Shi Pin)
Eating too much food, and improper eating, can cause disease. Also, not eating for too long, or foods that are too hot or too cold can hurt the body. Foods that are too sour, bitter, salty, spicy, or sweet can injure the five tsang. Food should not be too hot or too cold as it injures the organs, causing indigestion and other health problems. A balanced diet is important, according to the Chinese. A balanced diet helps to insure good health. Too much salt makes the pulse sluggish. Too much bitter and the skin will be dry and the hair will fall. Too much sour makes the liver produce excess saliva and will suffocate the function of the spleen. If salt exceeds the other tastes, then the bones become weak, the muscles and flesh will wither, and the functions of the heart will be suppressed. If sweet exceeds the other tastes, the functions of the heart will cause asthma, fullness, and a black color will be shown, and the function of the kidneys will be out of balance. If bitter exceeds the other tastes, then the functions of the spleen will not be able to transfer fluids, and the functions of the stomach will be tense. If spice exceeds the other tastes, then the muscles and the pulse will become slack, and the spirit will be injured.
Labor and Physical Activity
According to the "Nei Jing" Classic, the five excessive labors that hurt the health are: seeing too long hurts the blood, lying too long hurts the chi, sitting too long hurts the flesh, standing too long hurts the bones, and walking too long hurts the muscles and tendons. The relationship between the five labors and the five elements (tsang) are closely related. Anything that exceeds normal use is harmful. The heart is the master of the blood, so seeing too long hurts the blood and the heart is sick. The lungs are the masters of the chi, so lying too long hurts the chi and the lungs are sick. The spleen is the master of the flesh, so sitting too long hurts the flesh and the spleen is sick. The kidneys are the masters of the bones, so standing too long hurts the muscles and tendons and the kidneys are sick. The liver is the master of the muscles and tendons, so walking too long hurts the muscles and tendons and the liver is sick.