Thursday, January 24, 2008

Healing Help for Winter Hands

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


Anonymous said...

I made a lanolin and calendula nipple balm (and I learned it actually works on hormonally induced soreness too!), and I put some on my dry cracked lips the other day, and by the end of the day, my lips were soft and no longer sore- and that was after just one application in the morning! Thanks for all the info!


MaDonaVerde said...

Interesting that you mention not doing the chi builders/tonifiers until the liver stagnation is cleared. I'm very yin deficient, but liver stagnation is also HUGE for me. Except for during the summer, I find myself running very cool and dry - especially in the hands and feet as you note.


Curious about the coolers/drainers like burdock and dandelion. You don't find those too intense/drying for someone with a very dry/yin deficient (ie adrenal deficiency) pattern?

(and I do find this whole thing funny as dandy and burdock have been calling me lately and I recently ordered batches of both LOL)



Miss said...

very interesting! I just received a diagnosis of Stagnant liver chi. And, just yesterday my elbow got so dry and cracked it was painful, adding my favorite lotion only made it burn like heck! I wish I had some of that balm/oil you mentioned. I'm only learning about liver stagnation. what you wrote out really applies to me.

Shamana Flora said...

MVD, you definately dont want to tonify CHI when there is a chi blockage, but tonifying YIN is a different thing, and I think, can be done safely. Obviously blockages of chi need to be address, but stuck liver chi and lack of yin are different patterns. They can be concurrent in one person, but I think you can address yin deficiency with yin tonics without aggravating the stuck liver chi and heat signs. It might even help to cool off some of the heat in the core. I would definately consider using the yin rich nourishing tonics like marshmallow, aparagus, elm, etc. i'll probably do a post about yin tonics in the future. But I wouldn't reccommend dandelion or burdock ALONE to someone with coldness. They are great liver allies and can drain heat and stucky energy, but I would combine them with the diffusive, warming chi releasing herbs like turmeric, lavender, citrus, rosemary, wood betony, and possibly a moistening yin rich tonic herb for excess dryness of constitution or the herbs. Balancing the formula for the constitution is always important and appropriate. That's why you cant say "This herb for this condition" it is always individual and needs to be moderated with other herbs to address any constitutional issues. Simples are fabulous when you get the right herb, but situations are often much more complicated than one herb can address completely. They work synergistically and dynamically. It's another one of those points I disagree with susan on. Simples are good to get to know an herb well, but therapuetically they aren't always the best course of action.

Just my two cents.

Shamana Flora said...

That is interesting miss. Do you know why you have stuck liver chi? Just make sure you address the root cause with your other therapies. Are you working with a TCM practitioner or someone else?

I can certainly make some salve and send you some if you like.

Miss said...

No, I don't know why I have stuck liver chi. He is not a traditional TCM, he was trained in Taoist acupuncture. Not sure what I think of him just yet! Anyway, he says that's the root of everything going on with me, even though there are other issues.
You're such a sweetheart for offering to make the salve. I think I'll just live with it for now though, it's dry still, but it hasn't been bugging me as much.

"The mother of us all, the oldest of us all, Hard, splendid as rock, Let the beauty you love, be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth"~ Rumi ~