In our last newsletter we discussed acupuncture strategies for treating seasonal allergies as well as common types of cold, all of which in Chinese medicine are termed “Wind Invasions.” This sounds a bit dramatic, but as a functional metaphor it explains exactly what is going on in the body and the environment. “Wind” simply means any pathogen or allergen carried through the air. Allergens are especially problematic in spring and fall, whereas different types of bugs can be carried through the air during times like the flu season. “Invasion” is not dissimilar to the word infection, and has the same implications. Generally the Chinese think that if the immune system is weakened or imbalanced wind can invade, i.e. you get sick. Understanding what these two words mean, helps one understand how acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine seek to cure the problem. The approach with both is two pronged: 1) Expel the Pathogens (this is important since invasion or infection means they’ve already breached our defenses) 2) Boost the Wei Qi and Secure the Exterior (this is fancy metaphorical language for strengthening the immune system).
Acupuncture is not the only strategy we have for treating these types of allergies and symptoms. Traditional herbal medicine can also be a great ally in the fight to stay healthy. One elegant and effective formula for warding off wind, is the “Jade Wind Screen” (Yu Ping Feng San). This formula contains three herbs, all working in unison to accomplish the two pronged approach described above (to expel pathogens and also boost the immune system). As an accompaniment to this article, we are displaying the three herbs used in this formula in their raw form in our clinic lobby! We will rotate our herbal display seasonally in the hopes of sharing with the community some of our knowledge of herbal medicine.
The three herbs are as follows:
- Huang Qi:
Properties: sweet, slightly warm
Channels Entered: Spleen, Lung
Key Characteristics: raises Yang Qi, strengthens Spleen and Lung Qi, facilitates urination, generates flesh, strengthens the Wei Qi at the exterior and increases the body’s defense against foreign pathogenic factors.
What does all this mean? Huang Qi can be a great tonic herb for boosting the immune system and strengthening digestive function.
- Bai Zhu:
Properties: bitter, sweet, warm
Channels Entered: Spleen, Stomach
Key Characteristics: Strengthens the Spleen Qi: for Spleen or Stomach deficiency with such symptoms as diarrhea, fatigue, lack of appetite, and vomiting. Stabilizes the exterior and stops sweating.
What does this all mean? Bai Zhu is a great choice in formulas that are working to bolster the immune system or correct digestive function.
- Fang Feng
Properties: acrid, sweet, slightly warm
Channels Entered: Bladder, Liver, Spleen
Key Characteristics: Releases the exterior and expels wind: for headaches, chills and body aches to externally-contracted wind-cold. Also good for certain types of migraine headaches and chronic pain syndromes.
What does this all mean? In Chinese medicine, you constantly run across the term “wind.” To understand what this means, you have to think of it as a metaphor. Within this metaphor, the human body is like a tree. In nature when wind blows, the tops of the trees sway. Thus wind refers to all sorts of symptoms which affect the upper body and head (the top of the human tree).
Jade Wind Screen is only one of dozens of herbal formulas we carry at Minnesota Community Acupuncturist. If you’re interested in adding an herbal remedy to your treatment strategy, ask one of our acupuncturists today!