Nature ElementsThree major causes of disease in TCM include: External (Six Climates); Internal (Seven Emotions); and, Five Miscellaneous (e.g., lifestyle choices). In this article we will briefly go through the external six climates so as to give you an understanding of disease creation under this Eastern lens.

External Cause of Disease:

Here we have six climates that cause disease, such as: wind, cold, heat, summer-heat, damp and dryness. When in harmony these are the elements of nature, by contrast when excessive they are pathogenic. They can affect the body when the climate change is extreme or sudden and when the body’s defensive qi is weak. Below are general characteristics and symptoms of these elements.

A. Wind: Sudden onset; combines with other pathogens; characterized by simultaneous chills and fever, aversion to heat/cold, headache, sore throat, cough, sneezing, moving of symptoms from one place to another, akin to “catching a cold.”

i) Wind-Cold: Aversion to cold, chills, sneezing, cough, runny nose, slight fever, occipital headache and stiffness, no sweat, no thirst.

ii) Wind-heat: Aversion to cold, chills, fever, cough, sneezing, runny nose with slightly yellow discharge, occipital headache, stiffness, ache, slight sweat, sore throat, thirst.

iii) Wind-Damp: Symptoms: Skin rash, itching, appearing suddenly and moving from place to place; fever, aversion to cold, sweating, occipital headache, body aches, feeling of heaviness, swollen joints.

iv) Wind-Water:  Symptoms: edema, especially face, swollen face and eyes, cough with profuse white and watery sputum, aversion to cold, sweat, no thirst.

B. Cold (yin pathogen): Occurs during the cold season, exposure to cold after sweating, wearing wet clothes, exposure to air conditioning and from swimming. Symptoms can include: cold limbs, diarrhea with undigested food, increased clear urination, contraction, stagnation, spasms of tendons, sharp pain, aversion to cold, limited range of motion of limbs, cold pain in epigastric and abdominal regions. Stagnation of qi and blood closes pores resulting in no sweat. Kidneys and lungs are the most vulnerable to cold. Characterized by contraction and slowing energy, thin secretions, pain or symptoms are ameliorated by warmth and aggravated by cold.

C. Heat (yang pathogen): Symptoms include: high fever, restlessness, thirst, sweat, insomnia, mania, mouth and tongue ulcers, swollen and painful gums, coma, delirium.  Consumes yin fluids resulting in thirst, dry lips and throat, constipation as well as deep yellow, scanty urine. Heat makes the blood move recklessly resulting in epistaxis (nose), hemoptysis (cough), hematuria (urine), menorrhagia (excessive uterine bleeding), metorrhagia  (break through bleeding), hematemesis (vomiting), bloody stools, carbuncles, furuncles, boils, and ulcers. Characterized by rapid movement, excitation, agitation, delerium, mania and redness. Causes thickening of secretions and putrification. Symptoms are ameliorated by cold, aggravated by heat.

D. Summer-Heat (yang and yin pathogen): Combined pathogen of Heat and Damp. Generally a yang pathogen, but more mild, because of the presence of yin. Heat leads to the deficiency of body fluids. Dampness leads to the stagnation of body fluids. Occurs from high temperatures, over exposure to excessive sun and high humidity. Characterized by consumption of body fluids, dizziness, blurred vision, excessive sweating, thirst, fever, dry mouth and tongue, heaviness of the head, suffocating  sensation in the chest, general lassitude, scanty, deep yellow urination, high temperature, restlessness and reluctance to speak.

E. Damp (yin pathogen): Hot, rainy season with excessive dampness and humidity. Characterized by heaviness and turbidity. The energy of this element is long standing, complex and slow to respond. Always involves deficiency (hypo-function) of the spleen. Yin pathogen causes damage to spleen, kidney and lung.  Symptoms can include: heaviness, turbidity, dizziness, feeling like the head is wrapped in a cloth, discharges, pus, eczema, leukorrhea, turbid urine, mucus in stools, cough and phlegm. Dampness can lead to distension and fullness of the epigastrium and abdomen, poor appetite, loose stools, reduced urination and edema.

F. Dryness (yang pathogen that reflects a stage of yin deficiency): Dryness mostly affects the lung, kidney and stomach. Dryness consumes body fluids. Symptoms can include: dry nose and throat, thirst, chapped skin, dry hair, constipation, reduced urination, scanty and sticky bloody sputum. Dryness invades the lung through the nose or mouth and damages blood and yin.