Internal Cold Syndromes in Chinese Medicine

Happy New Year one and all.  I hope you had a relaxing and restful time and that you have some life-enhancing resolutions up your sleeves.

Personally, I am doing a dry, sugar free Veganuary with my fiancée, which I almost failed on the first day by nearly having coleslaw… oops!  I hope you fare better.

Presumably, many of us are thinking about exercise and diets.  According to The Sun, these are among the top 10 New Years resolutions… which must be right… (new resolution, never quote The Sun again).  I digress.  It is becoming more important that we think about these things.  In a world full of fake food and easy entertainment, what we eat and where it comes from can have a huge impact on us and our planet.  But I’ll deal with these subjects in more detail in another blog.  Today I’ll focus on the effects of ‘cold’, as defined by Chinese medicine, on the body.

Internal Cold

According to Chinese medicine, internal cold can result from external invasions getting into the deeper levels of our system and embedding themselves.  This process is often enabled by a weakness within the system, typically of qi and/or yang.  Qi and yang are concepts in Chinese medicine that relate to the functions of movement and warming within the body.  When they are weak, stagnation and cooling commonly occur.


Internal cold, just like external cold, makes you constrict, paralyse, feel cold and turn purple or blue.  These problems, defined as stagnations in Chinese medicine, cause acute pain.  Cold also slows the movement of water and fluids which can collect in various areas, such as in oedema, where fluid collects in bodily tissues and cavities.  If we suffer more discomfort when the environment is cold, and this improves when we are warm, this indicates a cold-related illness or imbalance in our system.  For a more complete list of cold symptoms in Chinese medicine, please visit Sacred Lotus, which is a well-spring of information on all things Chinese medicine.

Common areas affected

The most common areas affected by interior cold are the stomach, intestines, uterus, muscles and sinews. In these cases the cause can be an invasion of external cold penetrating to the various locations.  Cold, particularly in the stomach and intestines, can be related to diet, when an excess of cold and/or damp foods is eaten.  These can be cold in temperature, such as cold drinks.  They can also be cold in nature, such as salads and seafood, according to Chinese medicine.  Damp foods tend to be sweet or oily such as sugar, dairy, fried foods and various snacks.

Common conditions that could be a result of interior cold include sudden epigastric pain with vomiting, sudden abdominal pain with diarrhoea, dysmenorrhoea and arthritis.  It is often hard to translate Chinese medical terms into terms that we use in Western medicine, though.  Sometimes they correlate with a term we recognise from Western medicine, but often there is no direct equivalent.

Treatment for internal cold syndromes

As with external cold, the treatment strategy for internal cold syndromes is to warm and move the cold.  However this is not as quick or easy as clearing external cold.  Consider the ease of clearing a common cold compared to arthritis or dysmenorrhoea, for instance.  And the herbs and acupoints I use differ for each individual case.  I therefore prefer not to give the details of common herbs used for these conditions in an article.  A full diagnosis is really needed, firstly to determine whether your symptoms actually are a result of cold, and then to decide whether herbs or acupuncture would be the most useful treatment.

Again, please feel free to call me for a chat if you have any questions about this subject and about whether Chinese medicine might be appropriate for you.

Happy New Year!  Here’s a swan walking on water.  You earned it!