The Six Evils to Dis-ease in TCM

According to Chinese Medicine, practitioners believe that when referring to damages of the body they can either be internal or external. Internal causes are related to our mental state and are classified as the 'Seven emotions' which are joy, anger, anxiety, brooding, sorrow, fear and fright (more on these in a later post). The external causes are related to the six excesses or 'Six Evils' as known to TCM practitioners are climactic changes that can harbor within our bodies causing pain and suffering. The six evils are dangerous because they can penetrate deep within the body to cause dis-ease.

According to TCM they are: 

  • Wind

  • Cold

  • Dampness

  • Heat

  • Summer Heat

  • Dryness

Of course there are many other factors to consider when discussing dis-ease, diet and lifestyle being a few but those are topics for discussion on a different post. The Six Evils originated thousands of years ago and although they sound a little primitive they describe dis-ease very intricately. For example; in nature wind is stirred up quickly, coming and going without warning. Similar is that of wind dis-ease in the body. Have you ever had a sudden onset headache that left as mysteriously as it showed up? This is an example of a "wind attack". Now if you had the same headache with red flushed cheeks this is an example of wind-heat penetrating the body

Wind: (Associated with the Liver, Wood, Spring & Yang evil.) Wind refers to motion and activity with the ability to carry evil Qi with it. It is one of the most important to remember out of the six as it is said to be the cause of “100 dis-eases.” The wind evil can cause Qi to disperse upward and out causing dis-eases on the neck and shoulders, head, and the skin. It can cause sweating   causing the pores to open, releasing Qi & yin (fluid). Wind can create abnormal or sudden movement int he form of twitches, spasms or convulsions. Some examples of wind symptoms are sneezing, headaches and congestion. 

Cold: (Associated with the Kidney, Winter, Water & Yin evil.) In excess it damages the yang, impairs ability to maintain body temperature and weakens and slows life activities. Cold can cause Qi and blood to contract and congeal creating stagnation, pain and stiffness. It is known for affecting the knees, lower back and joints rather easily and it can wreck havoc on our stomach, intestines and liver. Some examples of cold symptoms are chills, shivering, cold limbs, pallor and/or painful cramps or spasms.  

Dampness: (Associated with the Spleen, late summer, Earth elements, Yin evil.) Dampness is heavy making its way to our lower body, tenacious and very difficult to treat. Those effected by dampness in the body can have one or more of the following symptoms; greasy hair and face, greasy skin (in the form of acne or pus), bad breathe & body odors, thick or foul smelling vaginal discharge, copious nasal discharge, edema, arthritis with swollen joints, candida, fungus or yeast. Dampness can damage the body’s Yang energy which can create stagnation. 

Heat: (Associated with the Heart, Summer, Fire element, Yang evil.) In excess heat can damage our body’s yin (body fluids), rise heat to the face, eyes and nose as well as easily producing wind in when excess heat affects the liver (think a night binge drinking). This heat can manifest on the skin as red rashes and itchiness. Some other examples of heat in the body are irritability, sweating, thirst, fever or darker excretions (dark yellow urine). 

Summer Heat: (Associated with the Heart, Summer, Fire element, Yang evil.) Can cause high fever, restlessness, excessive thirst, vertigo, migraine, blurred vision and constipation. Summer heat is just an external pathogen that only occur when you are exposed to extreme or prolonged heat. Summer heat symptoms are excessive sweating, shortness of breath, dizziness and nausea (similar to sun stroke symptoms). 

Dryness: (Associated with the Lung, Autumn, Metal element, Yang evil.) Exterior in origin. Can damage body fluids. Manifests as dry skin, hair, eyes, lips, throat, stool & thirst. It is also easy damaging to the lungs caused from dryness in climate or smoking, and creating dry cough & phlegm. Similar to heat symptoms, dryness can also cause dry cough, dry skin, chapped lips and constipation. 

The different symptoms you may be feeling will determine what herbs and what acupuncture treatment your practitioner will choose for you. If you have heat symptoms herbs with cooling effects will help; while if you had dampness in the body herbs with a more drying effect will be appropriate.