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Wind In Chinese Medicine: Part 3

Wind in Chinese Medicine by Tom Bisio

Read Part 1 HERE
Read Part 2 HERE

Characteristics of Wind

1. Wind Prevails In The Spring

However, Wind can occur in any season.

2. Wind Can Be Understood as Any Sudden Climactic Change 

Wind often accompanies climactic changes.

 3. Wind Is Light And Yang

Wind tends to rise, disperse, and to move up and out.

4. Wind has the Ability to Penetrate the Skin

Wind can penetrate through the pores and lodge in the Cou Li – the interstices between the skin and flesh. Sweating opens the pores and makes it easier for the wind (with cold and damp) to penetrate.

5. Wind Affects the Superficial layers (Exterior) and Upper Parts of the Body

Wind commonly penetrates into the superficial layers of the body (muscles and skin) and the upper parts of the body (head and shoulders). This can creates symptoms like:

  • Head: Headache
  • Neck: Stiffness; Aching
  • Aching, Stiff Shoulders & Upper Back
  • Skin & Face: Bell’s Palsy, Numbness, Itching
  • Lungs: Congestion; Cough
  • Nose: Runny Nose; Nasal Obstruction
  • Muscles: Stiff; Aching

 6. Wind Can Penetrate at Specific Acupuncture Points

These points are, for the most part located in the upper back and neck area. These points are often used to expel wind pathogens. Some examples are:

  • GB 20 Feng Chi(“Wind Pond”)
  • DU 16 Feng Fu (“Wind Mansion”)
  • BL 12 Reng Men(“Wind Gate”)
  • GB 31 Feng Shi(“Wind Market”)

7. Wind Gusts & Is Characterized By Rapid Change

Wind diseases often have symptoms that migrate or come and go. For example, skin rashes that appear and disappear or migratory arthralgia (pain that moves from joint to joint). Wind’s moves rapidly and suddenly, so Wind Diseases are characterized by conditions that come on with great force and rapidity. Examples are dizziness, strokes (often called “wind-stroke”) or seizures.

8. Wind Is Characterized By Constant Movement

This manifests in the body with symptoms such as:

  • Itching Spasms
  • Vertigo
  • Convulsions
  • Tremors
  • Shaking

Wind may also block the normal movement of Qi and cause abnormal rigidity of the limbs, trunk or neck. It may also cause numbness or paresthesia. Conditions like Bell’s Palsy, in which one side of the face droops, are often caused by exposure to Wind, which penetrates the surface and inflames the facial nerve, causing one side of the face to droop and flatten.

9. Wind Is The Most Common Pathogen and Easily Combines With Other Pathogens

It is said that: “The Hundred Diseases Develop From Wind.” Wind’s kinetic energy allows it to penetrate the surface layers of the body bringing other pathogens in with it. Thus disease patterns are characterized as Wind-Heat; Wind-Cold; Wind-Damp; etc., illustrating that Wind easily combines with the other External Pathogens. External Pathogens are traditionally known as the Six Qi Or “Six Energies” (6 Devils; 6 Evils; 6 Pernicious Influences)

  1. Wind
  2. Cold
  3. Heat
  4. Dampness
  5. Dryness
  6. Summer Heat

 10. The Liver Loathes The Wind

The liver is responsible for the smooth orderly movement of Qi in the body. This makes it particularly vulnerable to the erratic, gusting movement of Wind. When Wind affects the viscera directly (usually the liver), it is referred to as “Internal Wind.”

 11. Internal Wind Is Often Associated with a Liver Qi Imbalance

Since the liver stores blood, a deficiency of blood affects the liver. Blood fails to contain Liver Yang, which then rises upward creating Heat and Wind. The sudden irregular movements of Wind tend to upset the smooth flow of Qi promoted by the Liver. This can occur due to a variety of factors. One example is extreme Heat (high fever) “Stirring Up Wind”,  in the same way that large fires create drafts of Wind. This is a type of Internal Wind, often referred to as “Liver Wind Stirring”. In severe cases it is characterized by high fever, convulsions, rigidity, and opisthotonus (arching back of head and/or neck) with delirium or coma.

Reflections on the Interrelationship of Wind, Heat & Cold

The interrelationship of natural phenomena (Wind, Cold, Heat) has been correlated for centuries. James Joule conducted many important experiments in the mid-nineteenth century that showed the inter conversion of kinetic energy, thermal energy, and gravitational energy. He understood that these natural forces that we perceive outside the body are also in it.

The motion of air that we call wind arises chiefly from the intense heat of the torrid zone compared with the temperature of the temperate and frigid zones. Here we have an instance of heat being converted into the living force of currents of air. These currents of air, in their progress across the sea, lift up its waves and propel the ships; whilst in passing across the land they shake the trees and disturb every blade of grass. The waves by their violent motion, the ships by their passage through the resisting medium, and the trees by their rubbing of their branches together and the friction of their leaves against themselves and the air, each and all of them generate heat equivalent to the diminution of the living force of the air which they occasion. The heat thus restored may again contribute to raise fresh currents of air; and thus the phenomena may be repeated in endless succession and variety.

When we consider our own animal frames, ‘fearfully and wonderfully made,’ we observe in the motion of our limbs a continual conversion of heat into living force which may either be converted back again into heat or employed in producing attraction through space as when a man ascends a mountain. Indeed the phenomena of nature, whether mechanical, chemical, or vital, consist almost entirely in a continual conversion of attraction through space [gravitational force], living force, and heat into one another. [1]

What Joules understood was that solar radiation is absorbed by the Earth’s surface. Areas that receive greater amounts of radiation (the equator) warm the air, causing molecules of warm air to expand (i.e.: to move more rapidly and pack less densely) and rise. Surrounding cooler air rushes in to take its place. Warm air eventually cools and sinks, because molecules of cool air move slower and pack more densely together. These convection currents create pressure differences on the Earth’s surface, giving rise to winds.

When viewing the body as a landscape that is a microcosm of the natural world around us, it is easy to apply Jules’ observations to the traditional Chinese idea of Wind, cold and heat in the body. It helps us to see how relatively warmer and colder areas inside the body might create pressure differentials that generate “Wind” inside the body. It is also easy to see that these pressures and winds could have interaction with the pressures, winds and temperature differentials in the outside world.

The Six Qi as both External and Internal Disease Manifestations

Wind diseases are generally thought to be caused by the meteorologic phenomenon of wind. However, the upward stirring of the Liver Yang Qi and Liver transform into wind and give also rise to wind-like symptoms. Extreme internal heat can also “stir up” Wind. These conditions are described as ‘internally generated Wind’. Similarly, Cold can be externally contracted, by exposure to extreme cold or sudden frost, but the presence of Cold may also be a result of weak Yang Qi. This dynamic is circular in nature. Damage to the body’s Yang Qi makes one susceptible to the penetration of external Cold, and the penetration of External Cold blocks the circulation of Yang Qi. Similarly, internal Dampness occurs when Spleen Yang fails to move and transform fluids. This makes the body susceptible to the penetration of external dampness. The penetration of external damp can in turn overload the Spleen Yang, creating even more dampness internally. Dryness also may be internally generated by depletion of Yin or externally contracted through exposure to a dry climate.

It is important to keep in mind the Six Qi are paradigms of pathologies that are the product of multiple factors, including the mind and the emotions. Wind, Cold, Damp and Dryness can all transform into Fire. Internal Fire can also be caused by the “Five Minds” – the emotions or mindsets – which can create Yin Yang imbalances. [2] Many complex etiologies can be understood through the paradigm of the Six Qi.

Latent Pathogens

It is possible for pathogens that have invaded the body to hide in a latent state, and then manifest when the right combination of circumstances (emotional upset; change of season; dietary indiscretion; etc.) occurs. This idea is advanced in the Huang Di Nei Jing Ling Shu:

The Yellow Emperor asks: sometimes people become sick all of a sudden without being aware of an attack by external vicious energies nor of any emotional disturbances; why is that? Is it because of any mysterious causes such as ghosts or gods?

Chi Po replies: This is caused by a vicious energy that is already residing in the body without making disturbances and also by the patient’s own emotional disturbances due to unfulfilled desires, both of which work together to give rise to an internal disorder of energy and blood resulting in a struggle between two forces. The hidden causes are so delicate that they are invisible and cannot be heard, and people are inclined to think that some mysterious factors such as ghosts or gods are at play. (Ling Shu Chapter 24)

This idea of a latent disease that incubates over period of time may help to explain the development of certain immune-deficiency diseases and the ability of pathogens to change when lodged in the body. Seasonal change can also play a role in bringing on latent energies, which penetrated into the body in an earlier season. For example a winter cold pathogen which remains in the body, may manifest in the Spring as a Heat Pathogen.

Bi Syndromes

Bi means “block” or “obstruction.” Most of what is termed arthritis in western medicine falls under Bi Syndrome in Chinese medicine. Bi Syndromes are musculo-skeletal problems caused by the invasion of the Six Qi, which can combine with internal phelgm and stagnant blood to create blockage and stagnation in the joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles, blocking the circulation of blood and Qi in those areas. This results in an arthralgia-like pain, manifesting as stiffness and spasm, numbness, or heaviness.

There are three main factors that can contribute to the development or progression of Bi Syndromes.

  1. A weak constitution with insufficient Qi and Blood and weakness of the Wei Qi, which allows pathogens to penetrate into the outer layers of the body and lodge there. The patient is too weak to expel the pathogen and gradually it penetrates deeper, settling into the Sinews and Bones and causing stagnation of the Blood. This gives rise to Painful Obstruction.
  2. Even in individuals with a strong constitution, if the pathogenic factor is strong enough or there are repeated exposures, a Bi Syndrome may develop. Living in a cold area with inadequate protection against cold, sleeping exposed to snow, wind, or fog, exposure to cold or dampness after physical exertion, or while sweating when the pores are open, living in damp areas, and getting caught in the wind and rain with inadequate protection are some examples of this. Often repeated exposure may be work related, such as working in a freezer or icehouse, working in cold water, or working in a boiler room. One unusual example is a patient who was a woodworker. He developed Hot Bi in his arms from using high heat and steam to bend wood.
  3. Phlegm and Stagnant Blood are considered Secondary Pathogens. This is because they are usually a result of dysfunctional processes set in motion by a primary disease agent. For example, traumatic injury often leads to Stagnant Blood and Body Fluids. If Fluids remain stagnant long enough they can congeal into phlegm and lodge in the Jing Luo (Channels & Collaterals) or the joints. Phlegm and Stagnant Blood can block the Jing Luo and penetrate into the bones causing swelling and joint deformation.

Zhong Feng (Wind Strike)

Zhong Feng refers to a sudden strike of external pathogenic wind combined with internal wind. Wind Strike can correspond to Western conditions like brain hemorrhage, cerebral thrombosis and vessel spasm. In Chinese medicine the pathogenesis of these kinds of conditions can stem from Bi-syndrome. External wind, damp heat and cold can combine with internal wind due to internal imbalances.

It is a common problem of old age because deficiencies of Yin naturally develop with aging, giving rise to liver Yang agitation, which can produce Interior Wind. Facial paralysis after a stroke is due to Internal Wind while Bell’s palsy is attributable to External Wind. Wind Strike can be summarized in four words: Wind-Phlegm-Fire-Stasis. All of these may or may not be present, but at least three of them must be present to produce Blowing Wind. They can also be present to different degrees of intensity, which can give rise to many various kinds of Wind Strikes. [3]

Wind Strike is a good example of multiple factors combining to create illness. Over work and unalleviated stress deplete Kidney Yin and Jing, which in turn leads to an elevation of Liver Yang, giving rise to heat and internal wind, which in turn may combine with external wind and heat, due to lowered resistance to external pathogens. External pathogens can lead to fever and internal heat. Liver Yang excess and Yin deficiency generating internal wind is often the result of anger and emotional frustration. This can combine with loss of blood or general blood deficiency. Since the liver stores blood, a deficiency of blood affects the liver. Blood fails to contain Liver Yang, which then rises upward crating heat and wind.

When wind enters the conduits and the network vessels, internal winds and the wind intruding from the outside excite each other until suddenly phlegm-fire emerges and causes obstructions. Irregular eating habits and a diet that is composed of fatty foods, fried foods and sugars with little nutritional value can compound the problem – this diet weakens the spleen and gives rise to phlegm production, which can in turn block circulation of the channels and collaterals. Drinking alcohol also creates internal heat, and ancient Chinese physicians noticed that if a person sat or lay facing the wind in order to cool the body after excessive drinking of alcohol and eating, wind could penetrate the body causing hemiplegia or facial paralysis. This is because excessive eating and drinking opens the pores and creates a temporary condition of internal heat and obstruction that easily allows wind to penetrate and to combine with the heat and obstruction.

Another complicating factor in Wind Stroke is the use of Western medications like painkillers, anti-acids and anti-depressants, which can deplete the body, affect digestion and interfere with the Qi Dynamic. Additional factors are excessive sexual activity in men combined with inadequate rest, and excessive physical activity or work which over-strains the body further exacerbating Qi and blood deficiency. These factors can  weakens the kidney and marrow essence, leading to a deficiency,


[1] On Matter, Living Force and Heat. J. P. Joules in Joules’ Only General Exposition of the Principle of Conservation of Energy. C. Watson, Pasadena CA: California Institute of Technology

[2] Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine. Nigel Wiseman and Andres Ellis (Brookline, MA: Paradigm Publications, 1996) p. 81.

[3] The Concept of Wind in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Mehrab Dashtdar, et als (Journal of Pharmaco-Puncture v.19(4); 2016) Dec