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A preliminary understanding of Dampness

Updated: Jul 22, 2023

In Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM), dampness is one of the six pathology factors(wind, cold, heat, fire, dryness, dampness). Generally, humidity is a normal weather phenomenon. But if the weather is too wet and it rains most of the time, humidity could become a pathogen, which is called dampness in Chinese medicine, and can cause many diseases.

How does the dampness come from then?

In TCM, dampness is grouped into two categories according to the origins. The outside dampness is induced by wet environment, such as getting wet by the rain or living in a humid place. In China, diseases caused by dampness are quite common in mid summer because it is the most humid season. The other kind of dampness is internal dampness, which is caused by the body's own dysfunction. For example, patients with weak digestive system, can easily get internal dampness in their body, because they are unable to metabolize water from food and drinks.

What are the pathological characteristics of dampness?

First, dampness is heavy and turbid, and can affect muscles easily. Once affected by dampness, you might have heavy feelings all around the body and soreness in the joints of both arms and legs. Soreness caused by dampness could be localized and a heavy head makes you feel that you were wearing a big hat. The turbid reflects the poor circulation of dampness. That causes blood stasis and can become the carrier of other pathological factors. It sometimes combines with cold and sometimes combines with heat. One way to distinguish those two is to detect tongue image. For heat dampness, the tongue should be red, and the coating should be greasy and yellow; for cold dampness, the tongue is not so red, often very light pink color or white pale, and the coating is greasy and white.

The second characteristic of dampness is viscous,which mainly manifests in two aspects. On the one hand, it refers to the symptoms of dampness disease. The patient affected by dampness could have symptoms of chest tightness, short urination, loose and sticky stools. On the other hand, it refers to the course of disease. Dampness disease usually needs longer time to treat and is more difficult to heal.

Third, according to TCM, dampness is a kind of negative pathological factors(Yin evil), which can damage Yang energy of human body. Yang energy is very important in managing moisture of human body. When dampness stays in the viscera and meridians, it often obstruct circulation of blood and incapacitate the function of internal organs. People who are affected by dampness usually have got very low level of Yang energy,which makes them tired, lazy and downhearted.

What should we do to remove the dampness?

In fact, there are so many ways. Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine select the methods to clear dampness according to the location of dampness and other pathogens combined with dampness. These methods need further study to be well applied.

For people who do not know much about Chinese Medicine, there are some simple ways to get rid of dampness.

First, when you are cooking, you can add proper dosage of spices, such as white cardamon, green pepper,etc. These things have the function of encouraging Yang energy,which can fight against Yin evil( dampness). For example, the climate is very humid in Sichuan province in China. So the spicy food is very popular there.

Second, you can eat some dehumidifying food, such as white gourd, red bean, semen coicis,etc. When you feel that your body is blocked by heavy humidity, you can eat these foods more frequently to alleviate the situation.

Third, increasing your exercise frequency and doing more physical activities can expel the body dampness out with sweat.

Fourth, making good use of the electrical appliances around, such as hair dryer, dehumidifier, air conditioner, will play a preventive role from dampness.

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