In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are six factors from the environment that contribute to illness and cause imbalances in our body. They are:
pathogenic wind 风
pathogenic cold 寒
pathogenic summer-heat 暑
pathogenic dampness 湿
pathogenic dryness 燥
pathogenic heat (fire) 火
We, as part of nature, constantly contact with these natural factors. Under normal condition, our body can adapt to the environmental changes, however, if the harmonious relationship between human beings and nature is broken, an imbalanced body will become unable to adapt itself to the changes, leading to the occurrence of disease. Under such condition, the six natural climatic factors become pathogenic factors. These factors can be either external (exogenous) or internal (endogenous) and both are interrelated. External factors are often the cause or triggers of internal factors.
Associated with autumn, Lung, and Metal element, dryness is predominant in autumn. It is an easy concept to understand, as it is quite universal. In TCM, the nature and characteristics of dryness in causing disease are:
1. Dryness impairs fluids: When invading the body, dryness results in symptoms such as dry mouth, nose and throat or even chaps, lusterless hair, dry stools and scanty urine and so on.
2. Dryness injures the lungs: As a tender viscus, the lung governs qi and respiration. It opens into the nose and is externally connected with skin and hair. The lungs are fond of clarity and moist and averse to dryness. Dryness frequently invades the human body through the mouth and nose and attacks the lungs, causing dry cough, scanty or sticky phlegm, gasping pain in the chest, and bloody sputum. Since the lung and large intestine are closely related in TCM, the failure of lung qi to disperse and descend will result in lack of moistening of the large, leading to dry stools.
Endogenous dryness results from insufficiency of body fluid and is related to yin-deficiency. Since body fluid and blood can transform into each other, the deficiency of blood also causes dryness. The manifestations of endogenous dryness are often related to the intestines, the stomach, the lung and other orifices, such as dry nose, dry throat, dry eyes, scanty urine and retention of dry feces, etc.
To recover from dryness invasion, we need yin-nourishing, blood-replenishing, hydrating foods and herbs.