Causes of illness in Traditional Chinese Medicine

When talking about pathology of Organs we usually refer to the loss of balance in the cycles of Generation and Control among the five Organs (which have a correspondence to the Five Elements) or to a lack of Yin-Yang balance in an Organ. The imbalances can be triggered by external or internal factors. The treatment will be based on the restoration of the energy balance, treating the most affected Organ, the ones that caused the disease, and the others as prevention.


The Six Evils or Six Pernicious Influences are: WIND, COLD, DAMP, HEAT, SUMMER HEAT, DRYNESS. They have an external origin, but can penetrate deeply into the body and can combine.  

WIND –It is the most important evil as it can cause the highest number of diseases. It hits mainly the upper and outer parts of the body in early stage: head, sense organs and skin. Rapid onset and rapid changes (acute illnesses with rapid progression such as fever, infectious diseases). Creates abnormal or sudden movement (spasms, convulsions, twitches). It combines with other pathogens:

Wind and Cold – this combination can cause fever, occipital headache, stiff neck, sneezing, runny nose, body aches that move around.

Wind and Heat – this combination can cause fever, sore throat, cough, yellow mucous, thirst for cold drinks, frontal headache, redness or inflammation of eyes, sinusitis, red face.

Wind-Damp – sensitivity to wind, fever and chills with fever more pronounced in the afternoon, strong body aches, body and head feel heavy, copious phlegm – runny nose, congestion, sinusitis.

COLD – Damages the Yang. Impairs ability to maintain body temperature. Weakens and slows everyday life activities. Symptoms better with warmth. Causes Qi and Blood to contract and congeal, which creates stagnation, pain, stiffness. Easily affects the low back and knees, joints; also affects the Stomach, Intestines and Liver. Watery and pale discharges urine.

DAMP – Dampness is heavy, tenacious, difficult to treat, and lasts a long time. It tends to move downwards in the body. It can cause edema or swelling, arthritis with swollen joints, greasy hair and face (acne), bad body odor, bad breath, bad smelling diarrhea with mucous, copious nasal discharge. It worsens in cold and damp weather.

SUMMER HEAT – High fever, restlessness, strong thirst. Can go up and affect the head (dizziness, blurred vision, headache). Constipation, scant yellow urine, coma. Profuse sweating.

HEAT – It is a worsening of Summer Heat and can also have an internal origin. Damages Qi, Yin and dries fluids. It can cause delirium, madness and dehydration.

DRYNESS – Can be caused by dry climate or smoking. Easily damages body fluids. It dries skin, hair, eyes, lips, throat, and stools. Scarce urine, thirst. Easily damages lungs. Dry cough and dry phlegm (thick, hard to expel).

WIND, COLD, DAMP, HEAT, and DRYNESS can also have an internal origin due to different factors related to the Organs, according to the theories of Yin-Yang and Five Elements.