Neutral Illness or Thermal Nature

Neutral people get a mixture of cold and heat conditions.

Heat or Cold as Temporary Conditions

If your problem is acute, short-lived and intense, heat and cold can produce varied symptoms depending on where it is. When the heat is located superficially, it can look exactly like a flu. Heat=fever. A superficial attack of cold can cause the common cold. Cold=cold. That’s easy, right?

Discharge colors tell us whether you’ve got heat or cold too. Secretions that are yellow (to green) or dark suggest heat. Clear or white discharges suggest cold. This would include visible secretions and excretions such as nasal discharge, phlegm, vaginal discharges and the color of one’s urine.

Heat and cold can also be located internally. There, heat can cause restlessness and irritability if it is found in the (Chinese concept of the) Heart. In fact, heat coming from anywhere in the body can end up in the Heart. Liver heat for instance can manifest as impatience or frustration. Heat in the blood can cause excessive menstrual bleeding in women and nosebleeds in children. Heat in the Kidneys cause nocturnal emissions in young men and hot flashes in menopausal women. Heat in the Lungs looks like an upper respiratory infection. Heat in the Stomach causes heartburn. Heat in the Large Intestine causes yellow, burning, explosive, foul smelling diarrhea. Not something you’ll want to travel with, that’s for sure.

Internal cold can give rise to really severe gripping pains in the abdomen, testicles, or uterus. As an example, menstrual cramps that benefit from a warm bath are generally considered cold in nature.

Neutral as a Thermal Nature

In English, we can talk about a person being hot, warm, neutral, cool, or cold. These have widely varied meanings, none of which apply to one’s thermal nature in Chinese medicine. So if you’re warm or hot, it doesn’t mean that you’re especially friendly or sexy.

However having a neutral nature means that hot or cold weather don’t aggravate your problems, as a rule. Of course if it does, that still provides us hints as to what you’ll need, but as a rule, this isn’t the situation for those who are neutral in their thermal nature.

When it comes to choosing an herbal formula, people with a hot or warm thermal nature can benefit from cold and cool herbs such as gypsum (shi gao) or rhubarb root (da huang). On the other hand, hot herbs such as baked ginger (gan jiang) or aconite root (zhi fu zi) can cause a hot person’s problems to get worse. However those with a neutral body temperature are quite flexible and able to handle most any formula, provided the signs and symptoms align with the therapeutic focus of a given formula.

So, if you’re looking for an herbal formula to address long-standing chronic conditions that run in your family (thermal natures can be somewhat hereditary) then you’ll want to pay special attention to the recommended body temperatures.

However, if you’re hoping to address something more acute that hasn’t been around for long such as the common cold or other cold condition, it is okay to take warm formulas, but not for any longer than is absolutely needed to address the health concern.