What Does "Evil Qi" Mean in Chinese Medicine - and How to Get Rid of It
In traditional Chinese medicine, we say there are 6 pathogenic factors, or "Evil Qi."
These Evil Qi "invade your body" and cause health problems.
In the Shanhan Lun, a book written in 300 BC by Zhang Zhongjing, he details how illnesses progress. Most sicknesses start with Wind, especially if you didn't wear a jacket when Mom said to. Yes, the thinking is very old-fashioned, but maybe they were right all along?
The Wind typically is accompanied by either Cold or Damp, and then those combinations can progress to become Heat, and if that isn't resolved with herbs or acupuncture, it can get really hot (Fire Toxin). Different seasons, habits, and body constitutions lend themselves to different Evil Qi.
Cold Evil... Even If It's Hot Outside?
In central Texas, you wouldn't think we would have much of a problem with cold, right? Iced drinks (iced water, iced tea, margaritas, smoothies), air conditioning (which I find in Texas is much more frigid than in the northern states), and ice packs for injuries can lead to Cold Evil Qi problems. This includes arthritis pain (you may notice your pain worsening in cold weather), poor digestion (loose stools and bloating), and weight gain (low metabolism like with hypothyroid).
Even most head colds are quite literally "Cold Qi" and should be treated as such for a quick recovery. According to the Shanghan Lun, the doctor would use herbs like Cinnamon, Ginger, and Dates to expel the Cold Qi from acute illness.
For an injury, we don't recommend using ice, and experts are starting to realize that Chinese medicine was on track with this 3000 years ago! The ice may help with the pain NOW, but 10 years down the road, that injury is now a spot of chronic pain and swelling, otherwise known as arthritis.
Why? Ice causes contraction. Contraction causes pain. Contraction reduces blood circulation, and that slows the healing process. Especially after giving birth or after a traumatic injury, your body is open and vulnerable to Cold damage. In Chinese medicine, we recommend a woman who just gave birth to stay at home for one month (30 days minimum) before going out so that she doesn't succumb to Cold or Wind damage.
What are the signs of Cold damage?
- Pain. Especially arthritic pain; pain that moves around; and pain that feels cool to the touch or that gets worse in cold or damp weather.
- Hormone imbalance. A history of infertility (male or female); hypothyroid; or frequent miscarriage.
- Allergies, cough, or illness, especially if you feel chills or if the nape of your neck is cool to the touch. Wear a scarf when it's windy or chilly out! Wear a scarf inside if you work in a place where the AC is cranked up.
- Cardiac irregularities (not the only cause of heart problems, but a major one that shouldn't be ignored).
- Metabolic weakness: fluid retention, weight gain.
- Digestive problems: abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation.
How does Cold cause these problems? Your Yang Qi is your body's heat and energy. If it's too busy warming you up from the ice and wind, it's not able to fully do its other functions which are supplying hormones and circulating blood.
Here are some things we can do:
- Avoid iced drinks
- Limit the amount of raw food you consume (eat more soup than salad, for example)
- Sip warm herbal tea (Ginger or Cinnamon are good) through the day or with meals
- For pain areas: use warm packs, moxa or a hot water bottle, NOT ICE
- Have your acupuncturist check you and do cupping or moxa (or even better, both) on your abdomen especially if it feels cold to the touch
If your acupuncturist treats you for "Cold Evil," do yourself a favor and don't put it back into your body with ice!
Wind Evil can be the source of headaches, seizures, and rashes.
Another type of Evil Qi includes Wind, which is the most common way for any Evil Qi to enter your body. Depending on the season, Wind Evil Qi carries the other Evils into your body: summer -- Heat, winter -- Cold, and fall -- Dryness. The Wind itself relates to the springtime, but it can occur any time of the year. Dampness is year-round, but more at the end of a season, especially at the end of summer.
To prevent Wind Qi from invading your body, keep the base of your neck warm (blowdry your hair before going to bed or going outside in cold or windy weather; wear a scarf when it's cold outside).
You can use herbs and acupuncture to protect your Defensive Qi. These herbs can include Echinacea, Licorice, Ginseng, Eleuthero, and Astragalus. Talk to your herbalist about which ones are right for you.
Damp Evil Qi is related to body constitution, environment and dietary habits.
People who tend to have more Dampness usually eat too much sugar, conventional dairy, and refined carbohydrates.
Dampness is found in damp environments as well. If you exercise and don't quickly change out of your sweaty workout clothes soon afterward, you risk having the Damp Qi invade your body.
If you live in a humid part of the world, like the tropics or Houston, you could have more of a tendency toward Damp problems.
Damp accompanies actual fluid retention, and sometimes phlegm (like in the case of allergies or asthma) as well. Damp pain problems get worse when it's raining and can have the same symptoms (I believe they're connected) as mold allergies. Most cases of eczema and other allergic rashes are a form of Damp Qi.
COVID-19 is a combination of Wind (where it starts), Fire, and Dampness.
In most serious cases of COVID-19, the patient has a thick tongue coating, which is the tell-tale sign of Damp. The people who get the serious, phlegmy, suffocating respiratory signs of the illness have problems with Damp.
Detoxifying the intestines of excess mucous with herbs, Garlic, and probiotics is a good place to start when addressing chronic Damp.
Dry Evil Qi can affect your skin, intestines, stomach, or lungs.
I've seen it as a cough or sometimes a dry rash or dry skin, which usually shows up in the fall. It's treated with herbs like Marshmallow (the plant, not the white, fluffy confections!) leaf and root, Chrysanthemum, Mai Men Dong (Ophiopogon), or Apricot Seed in pill or tea form.
Also, optimizing your essential fatty acid (nuts, raw fish and their oils) consumption is beneficial.
Fire Toxin Evil Qi can be very serious.
These symptoms can include severe fever, swelling, or infection. Sudden, unexpected bleeding from the nose, mouth, uterus, bladder, or colon may occur in severe cases.
According to Zhang Zhongjing, from over 2000 years ago, if you properly handle the initial signs of Evil Qi, you won't likely have to deal with Fire Toxin.
The modern version of improperly handling Evil Qi is taking Antibiotics too early, or when there's not even a bacterial infection.
What you need to do in the early stages of illness is support your immune health with warm, healthy food and good old fashioned rest and relaxation. Unless it's a life-or-death situation of a verified BACTERIAL infection, please don't take antibiotics.
Herbs can treat Fire Toxin Evil - Arteminsinin, Myrrh, Andrographis, and Berberine, depending on the situation. Consult with a licensed herbalist for best results.
Chinese medicine is weird to our modern minds, but it works!
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