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The Six Evils

Understanding how nature influences Chinese Medicine diagnosis

Ok, so this does sound a bit ominous, but in Chinese Medicine (CM), one of the causes of disease relates to external pathogenic factors that enter our bodies. These are heat, cold, wind, damp, dry and summer heat. These pernicious influences can also be caused by chronic internal imbalances. As a Chinese Medicine practitioner, it helps to inform us why certain symptoms are showing up in your body. These patterns emerge in certain ways in the body and affect the physiology of different organs in different ways.

These “evils” cannot harm the body alone, unless there is already an imbalance or deficiency. Our ability to fend off wind, cold etc means that the body’s upright qi (think immune system) is strong enough to withstand these “evils” entering the body and disrupting our internal balance. Understanding how these “Evils” effect the body, helps a Chinese Medicine practitioner direct their treatment, to effect change in the body and bring it back to balance. Of course there are other factors that will influence our diagnosis and treatment, such as trauma, emotions, diet and lifestyle, but I will talk about those at another time.


According to CM, the nature of cold is to slow things down, causing stagnation, contraction, tightness and impaired circulation. It is yin and water in nature and it can affect the skin, muscles and lungs and impair the function of the Kidney, Stomach and Spleen.

The signs and symptoms that a Chinese Medicine practitioner would be looking for would be as follows:

  • chills, lack of sweating, occipital headache (pain at the base of the skull), upper body aches, tight shoulders and neck, and a congested nose, cough with thin or clear/white sputum
  • joint or body pain that is better for warmth, the joint may be cold to touch. This usually associated with a western diagnosis of arthritis
  • abdominal pain, clear vomit, watery diarrhoea. This can be from and virus or bacteria but may also be caused by eating too much cold foods e.g. ice-cream.
  • Impairment of digestion causing watery/loose stools, undigested food, edema, cold extremities and slow pulse.
  • Cold affecting the function of the Kidney, impairing the bodies ability to stay warm, cold extremities, low sex drive, frequent urination, edema and pain in the lower back.

So how does a CM practitioner correct this imbalance. The most important point is to expel the cold, increase circulation, warm the channels and correct the Kidney/Spleen yang therefore increasing metabolic fire.

CM medicine uses acupuncture, fire cupping, moxibustion and warming herbs to effectively correct this imbalance.

Tips for self care:

  • Rug up in cold weather, but also be mindful during change of season.
  • Do not sit around in wet bathers or clothes.
  • Never drink cold water, always drink water at room temperature or better still drink warm water. Drink warm teas such as ginger tea, chai tea or jasmine tea.
  • Do not eat cold or raw foods, they damage the Stomach.
  • Eat warming foods such as:


Quinoa, sweet (glutinous) rice, wheat germ


Leek, mustard greens, onion, radish, scallion, squash, sweet potato, turnip, watercress


Cherry, litchi, logan, peach, raspberry, strawberry), Nuts and seeds (Chestnuts, pinenuts, pistachio nuts, walnuts


Anchovy, lobster, mussel, prawn, shrimp, trout


Chicken, lamb, venison, kidneys (both beef and lamb

Herbs and spices

Basil, black pepper, caper, cayenne, chive seed, cinnamon bark, clove, dill seed, fennel seed, fennugreek seed, garlic, ginger, horseradish, nutmeg, peppermint, rosemary, sage, savory, spearmint, star anise, tumeric, thyme, white pepper

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