HOT, HOT Summer Days and Strange Skin Rashes

Oh my goodness, talk about crazy heat in the Northwest. We don’t do over 80 degrees! What is going on with 100+ degree temperatures? I thought we lived in a rainforest, not a desert.

The dry temperatures are bringing with it a whole slew of concerns that we usually don’t deal with in the Northwest. Summer colds have been on fire this year. Starting with the end of school, kids started coming down with a strange hacking cough that was extremely contagious. One week, I had one person in for a hacking cough and within three weeks 30% of my patients were coming in with hacking coughs.

For older women experiencing peri-menopause or menopause, the blistering hot days have set your “yin deficient fire” on fire. What does that mean? Well, the short answer is you’re sporting a “new” strange rash that is incredibly itchy, red with dry, scaly skin and skin swelling. It could happen anywhere. The truly blessed are getting a full body rash. The second most common is the eye and face rash.

What is yin deficient fire in Chinese medicine and how do you deal with it? Most of you who have this have already gone to all your Western Medical Providers and found that there wasn’t much to be done for it. You can get rid of this with Chinese Medicine…it just takes a long time…most times months of commitment.

In Chinese medicine everything is either yin or yang. Most of us have heard that women are more yin and men are more yang. That is true all the way up until our 50’s when we start seeing a role reversal in hormones for men and women. Suddenly, men are picking up more estrogen, and women are picking up more testosterone.

From a yin/yang perspective, a little more happens for both men and women. But, let us just look at women for now. Women start out with more yin. I always think of yin as a rich, moist, fertile soil that anything can grow in. That is the yin of life – the foundation where we grow.

In the Midwest where I grew up the soil was so deep and so black. You could throw any seed into the soil and walk away and it would grow. Now, it has been 25 years since I have been back there and every year the soil is tilled and crops are grown while the farmers try to keep the soil as healthy as possible.

Age and use always take a toll, and things just don’t last forever. A couple years ago my husband and I went back to Minnesota in early spring before planting season. All the fields were still barren. What surprised me was the top soil was only a foot deep and there were some fields that were grey. Growing up, I had never seen grey soil in Minnesota. I can remember digging in the soil and never getting past the incredible, rich, black soil of Minnesota.

That is what happens for women. We start out with a rich black soil and life and many adventures taxes the soil. Some of us have been better than others at maintaining the health of our soil. For all of us, life happens and we use what we came into this world with us.

As the soil gets depleted, the organic nutrients are slowly removed from the ground and sand is left. No longer able to grow new life, the canopy of foliage that keeps the ground moist and healthy disappears allowing the radiant rays of the sun to beat down upon it. The ground dries out and heats up, the temperature rises and what had once been a fertile forest is now a hot desert. The Egyptian Sahara is a perfect example of change from a lush forest to a desert landscape. The point is that this type of change is natural. The problem is, nobody likes being a sweaty, hot mess because our internal milieu is turning into a raging inferno.

For us in the Northwest, we may have an internal fire brewing, but the hot weather has created an external fire. That external fire just feeds our internal fire. Let’s look at the example of dry skin. The rich, moisture has been drying out over the years and now the skin is thinning. Just like removing organic nutrients from soil thins the soil, our skin becomes thin and less resilient.

This thin skin is more susceptible to temperature changes. The high temperatures easily open up the pores of the skin exposing the dermis to external pathogens like pollen, dust, pollution. Lacking the resilience the skin once had, the skin cannot easily fight off these pathogens. Suddenly, out of nowhere, you have a rash either localized or canvassing your whole body. In fact, every time the heat starts to soar, your skin opens up and is exposed to these pathogen.

Dealing with the outbreak is never fun. This type of rash is chronic and appears to be progressive which means you’ll have it forever, and it can get worse with each outbreak. It can get to the point where the skin starts to thicken. Not in a natural, fun, healthy way. In an unpleasant, unnatural, unhealthy way that feels like hardening of the skin.

When a flare-up starts to happen, if you don’t stop everything you are doing and deal with the flare up at its origin, it becomes its own little entity creating a raging desert on your skin that is barely manageable.

The topicals that seem to be effective are colloidal oatmeal, cortisone cream, and cool herbal presses. Colloidal oatmeal and herbal presses can provide effective relief of the redness and itching in a day. Electro-acupuncture can aid in moving the phlegm that congeals in the body blocking the heat on the surface. Anti-histamine herbal formulas can provide effective relief within a day.

If you didn’t address the flare-up right when it happened, you probably have about 5 to 7 days of aggressively treating the rash before it subsides. If you get it right when it starts to flare up, you probably have 2-3 days and it won’t get to the red, scaly, snake skin peeling, burning, and itchy stage.

After the flare-up, the goal is to not get another flare-up. In Chinese Medicine, that means rebuilding the skin in a natural, fun healthy way. The focus will be on yin building formulas.

When dealing with perimenopause or menopause, your practitioner will probably not be able to give you a yin formula all by itself. The reason is that yin herbs are very heavy herbs and can cause annoying side effects when other organs are also tired.

Side effects in herbal medicine are nothing like side effects in Western Medicine. Side effects are not like: may cause cancer or has caused kidney failure in some patients, or warn your medical provider if you have heart disease as this may cause high blood pressure and life threatening tachycardia. The side effects from yin herbs will be more like: slight nausea, mild headache, feeling bloated.

The goal would be to select the base yin building formula and identify the key secondary organ channel weakness. The secondary organ channel is usually the obvious organ channel based on history. By using the two formulas, treatment will be fairly flawless.

Usually, the first two weeks the patient doesn’t really notice anything. Starting in the third week, the patient will start to notice changes. In about six weeks, the patient will start seeing a reduction in their skin reaction to the heat and elements. Then the patient just keeps on taking the formulas for another three to six months and that should give them a significant difference.