My sweetie, a southern boy who is used to moist warm weather almost all year round has been really suffering in this cold, dry mountain winter. His hands are constantly cold, and so dry his skin is cracking and bleeding. I know the cause of cold and dry hands is a lack of circulation to the area, both blood and chi, and that is likely from stuck liver energy, probably from a food allergy, in this case. Stuck liver energy or chi is a rather commonly seen pattern. Characterized by heat in the core of the body, and cold extremities (hands and feet). But what does that look like in human terms? Heat in the core manifests as heat signs in the center of the body, there can be hot, excess digestive problems like heartburn, or loose stools; stagnant, painful and clotty mentstruation, acne on the face, back or chest, a red face (cheeks and nose) and signs of heat rising including explosive outbursts, either anger or hysterical/emotional, and hot, full throbbing headaches. Along with these signs, the hands and feet will be cold and dry, and in Colorado, compounded by frigid cold and dry weather, cracking or bleeding. Chillblains!
What causes a case of stuck liver chi? I'm sure there are lots of reasons that TCM explores in more detail, but what causes a blockage to form and not allow chi, blood and energy to flow freely through the body?
1)Trauma- I suspect any sort of trauma, both physical or emotional/spiritual that is internalized, supressed, and not dealt with appropriately can cause a blockage somewhere in the body's energy channels. These traumas must be healed through many means, flower essences can be helpful, counseling, shamanic journey or soul retrieval, journalling, psychotherapy, massage, accupressure or accupuncture or any number of other modalities.
2) food allergy- Many many people have subclincial food allergies that can cause a whole slew of symptoms including digestive trouble, mental/emotional disturbance, aches and pains, slow healing of wounds, to auto immune disease. Unaddressed food allergies not only wreack havoc on the immune system, but they often block the smooth flow of chi/energy because the body is constantly in immune overdrive, trying to put out a fire, rather than moving along smoothly maintaining equilibrium.
3) pharamcuetical drugs- hormonal birth control methods, and many other pharmacuetical drugs, nsaids and any other substance that the liver has to process and detoxify can clog up the energy channels.
There are herbs that can help release stuck energy in the core, but the underlying cause MUST be removed before the herbs will be of much help permanently. Some of my favorite chi moving herbs are turmeric, wood betony, rosemary, lavender, red peony, citrus, rose, combined with cooling and draining herbs like dandelion, burdock, oregon grape. You shouldn't ever use chi tonifying or building herbs with stuck liver energy, this means ginseng, ashwaganda, codonopsis, euluethero and many other adaptogens. This can actually create more energy, which gets blocked and stuck in the core, worsening the sypmtoms of heat and irritation.
But, this post was about what to do about those winter raw hands which lack circulation and blood and are cracking, bleeding and hurting. Along with removing the causes of stuck liver energy, and using herbs to move the energy back into a smooth flowing rhythm, we have found, after much trial and error a nice healing salve that actually helps heal those painful cracks. We've tried shea butter, skin food, chapparal salve and more. To no avail.
I finally came up with a salve that has acutally made a difference, both healing and antiinflamatory. Sweetie's hands are still cold ( wont give up that dairy!), but at least they aren't cracking and bleeding anymore.
2 pt Comfrey root in almond oil
1 pt plantain leaf in sesame oil
1 pt calendula flower in olive oil
1 pt Rose in jojoba oil