It can happen to anybody. One of us, Donn, while in the midst of busy acupuncture and herbal practice during the early spring cold and flu season, let the “unwanted guest” too far into the house. Usually, he is pretty good at seeing people with upper respiratory and other contagious conditions and keeping the guest from setting up housekeeping in the spare bedroom. There are many possible reasons why that didn’t happen this time.
- He didn’t lock the door soon enough. We try to make a habit of ingesting Cold Snap as soon as possible after seeing someone with these kinds of symptoms. Sometimes it’s necessary to have them already in your system when a sick person walks in the door. This time, in retrospect, Donn was too busy to responsibly carry out this task. Maybe a primary reason he was hit so hard. Moral: Pay attention during highly infectious times. Wash your hands often. Take Cold Snap and other supplements as soon as you know you are in the vicinity of a person who may be contagious.
- The unwanted guest knew the way to enter. In Oriental medicine, there are two very interrelated sets of internal systems. These are “Zang” and “fu” or organ and bowel. Each of these systems has both physical (organic) and non-physical (informational) attributes. Bowel contains those systems that have a direct opening and relationship with the outside, like Large Intestine and Bladder, and are subject to our control or at least somewhat in our control, such as the Small Intestine that only functions when we digest. The other set has been translated as organ and describes a function or system that is more internal, has no direct pathway to the outside, and is largely not voluntary. This would include the Heart and the Kidneys that function on their own, have their own unique rhythm and are involuntary.
However, the Body/Mind is not a linear system. It does not follow strict Boolean logic. Not all of the above is cut and dried when individuals are involved. Just a soon as we think we have patterns categorized and neatly placed into a system of our liking, we find exceptions. The Lungs are considered an organ but they break some of the organ rules. Unlike the other organs, the Lungs do indeed have a direct pathway to the outside. As a result, this system is more open to external pathogenic invasions and pernicious influences as discussed in last month’s article on the wind. The Lungs are also more controllable by us. We can hold our breath, influence our breathing patterns either by design or not as when we are stressed and tend to catch our breath or breathe more shallowly. Since it is more influenced by external influences, it is not a surprise that upper respiratory problems are a common sign of sickness during this time of year.
- Wind and dryness were rampant. Dryness, in this sense, is a pernicious influence in the Oriental medical paradigm. It directly affects the Lung function. The late fall and winter seasons were much drier than usual. The Lungs were more challenged and more prone to weakness and dysfunction. We should have known. It was all very predictable in hindsight. Add to that the lesson from last month’s article on the wind as an amplifier of vicious chi. Dryness and the strength of the seasonal invasion were exacerbated many times over by a very windy season. And a nasty cold and flu season it was.
What can we learn from this? We can watch for the approach of the unwanted guest and dose up with Cold Snap when it is appropriate. We can protect our organ systems with more care and awareness especially those that have an outside connection. We can notice our breath and its cycles and even guard against too much breathing in of bitterly cold air. We can also do our best to moisten the dryness. Fluid intake during this season is even more important than usual here in Colorado. We can follow the wind protection strategy by wearing a scarf or hoodie to protect the gateways of wind on the back of our necks and upper back. Utilizing these tools will get us through the tough transitional season.