External and Internal Pathogenic Influences

TCM theory is a system of healthcare based on 2000+ years of observations about how the environment affects our health.

It recognizes that diseases can be caused by environmental and seasonal factors (i.e., pathogenic influences such as Heat or Fire, Cold, Dryness, and Damp, which are known as External pathogenic influences or EPIs) that can enter through the skin and are usually manifest as physical or bodily syndromes. They may, however, affect the mind or spirit, if left untreated for a long time.

In TCM theory, the Lung is the organ network which governs the skin and the movement of Qi and fluids.  People who are prone to frequent coughs, colds, and fevers are considered to have diminished capacity in the functions of the Lung.

The common cold, cough, hay fever/allergies, fever, sweating and chills, are other examples of the TCM Exterior pattern or type of pathology. Here, in the Pacific Northwest, our cold and damp winters are hard on people with arthritic syndromes (called Bi syndromes in TCM). Bi syndromes represent a complex pattern which is often the result of both External and Internal pathogenic factors.

Internal pathogenic factors are related to patterns of emotional  disturbances or to imbalances in the organ networks.  Since they are ofetn the cause of chronic and resistant illnesses, they are a part of the constitutional pattern defining the individual.  Emotions — either repressed or over-expressed— are significant with regard to poor health and, when left untreated, can result in organ level pathologies.

Emotional imbalances affect the proper functioning of their corresponding TCM organs — i.e., repressed or uncontrolled anger damages the Liver network, just as excessive grief damages the Lung.