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HoloSapiens - the TCM "Food as Medicine" Project


Introduction to the disharmony


Major symptoms:

  • fever
  • sore throat
  • stuffed nose with yellow phlegm
  • thirst
  • swollen tonsils


In traditional Chinese medicine the first stage "wind-attack" is referred to as “wind-cold”. It is called “wind” - because in TCM the climatic factor wind is the external pathogenic factor that is responsible for the development of the common cold-like and flu-like symptoms. “Cold” – because the symptoms that manifest in this stage have “cold quality” – chills (sensation of feeling cold), body pain (caused by the obstructive nature of cold), etc.


The other stage "wind-attack" is called “wind–heat” in traditional Chinese medicine. Here the pathogenic factor “wind” has furthermore invaded the body and the “cold” symptoms have transformed into “hot”. Now there is fever, and the throat is red and painful (red color is sign of heat), the nose is stuffy with yellow phlegm (the heat has condensed the clear nasal discharge from the wind-cold stage), the chills are reduced.


In both stages the wind is still at the superficial layer of the body and "hides in the skin". Therefore the treatment plan for both stages is to chase the wind out of the skin by promoting sweating. In both cases diaphoretic herbs are used, which with their spicy, acrid nature have the property to induce sweating. The difference in the treatment of “wind-cold” and “wind-heat” is that the former is treated with spicy-hot herbs, to relieve the “cold” symptoms, while the latter is treated with spicy-cold herbs to relieve the “hot” symptoms. 


Major Chinese herbs


The most famous herb for the treatment of wind-heat is field mint - Bo He (Herba Menthae Haplocalycis). Acrid, aromatic and cooling this herb reduces fever, headache and cough, clears red eyes and relieves sore throat. Bo He is also largely used in herbal formulas to move stagnant, blocked Qi. (3)


A very interesting Chinese herb, used in the cases of wind-heat is cicada skin - Chan Tui (Cryptotympana atrata). Cicada is a large bug with long transparent wings, found predominantly in warm countries. It makes a loud, sharp, vibrating noise after dark. Chinese believe in the “like cures like” doctrine and recognize Chan Tui as an herb that benefits the throat (for the loud noise the cicada makes). Thus cicada moulting is predominantly prescribed for patterns of wind-heat that cause loss of voice and swollen sore throat. (3)


Cicada Illu


A major herb to relieve muscle pain, due to wind-heat,  especially stiff or tight upper back and neck, is kudzu root or Ge Gen (Pueraria lobata).(3) There is a story that the name of the herb is the family name of a child, whose family members were all killed.  Ge was adopted by an old herbalist and together they would often go to the mountains to collect herbs. There was an herb that they collected the most, which was especially good for neck pain. As the herb had no name the people from the village decided to call it "Ge Gen" - "Ge’s root” after the young boy, as he was the root, the only survivor, of the family Ge. (2)


Beside its other properties Ge Gen is also known for treating symptoms caused by hypertension (without lowering the blood pressure itself). (2) Recent studies have also shown that Ge Gen may treat alcoholism and curb binge drinking. (4) 


The famous aromatic chrysanthemum flower – Ju Hua (Chrisanthemum morifolium) is another herb with cooling property, used in the cases of wind-heat. As it enters the Liver channel it also treats Liver disharmonies and is especially beneficial for the eyes as the Liver governs the eyes. It treats red and painful eyes, excessive tearing, spots in front of the eyes, and blurry vision.


Other major herbs that treat wind-heat are Niu Bang Zi (Arctium lappa) – another “thorat herb”, Man Jing Zi (Vitex rotundifolia) – another “eye herb”, Dan Dou Chi (Glycine max) – good for irritability caused by wind-heat, Chai Hu (Bupleurum chinese) – an herb that also benefits organ prolapse, etc.


Healing foods


Foods, herbs and spices that are acrid and have cooling nature are used to address this disharmony. 


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(1) Pitchford, Paul (2002). Healing with Whole Foods. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books

(2) Lu, Henry (2005). Chinese Natural Cures. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc.

(3) Benski, Dan & Gamble, Andrew (1993). Materia Medica, Revised Edition. Seatle: Eastland Press, Incorporated

(4) Medical News. Kudzu root components may treat alcoholism and curb binge drinking. Retrieved on 03/03/2014 from

(5) Holmes, Peter (1998). The Energetics of Western Herbs. Boulder: Snow Lotus Press, Inc.


Related Articles:

Herbs for Wind-Cold

How the Climatic Factor Wind Affects Health

Wind Invasion and the Lung

Spring (Element Wood)

Herbs That Dispel Wind - Dampness



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