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  • Dr Samantha Law

Dampness in Chinese Medicine & How to Resolve It

Have you ever felt sluggish, physically lethargic and mentally foggy?

Do you have slow metabolism and easily gain weight?

Do you find yourself often getting puffy easily, have swollen limbs or get bloated often?

Do you have oily skin, weeping lesions or acne?

Do you have loose stools or a lot of discharge?

Do you get sore or heavy joints?

These are all symptoms of Dampness, a syndrome in Chinese medicine. Before I go more in depth about dampness and how to overcome it, I will briefly explain how diagnosis works in Chinese medicine so it all makes more sense to you.

Understanding Chinese Medicine Diagnosis

In Chinese medicine, we take a holistic approach when treating the condition/s of concern. This is because of the interrelationship between the body systems and the organ functions. Dysfunction of one aspect can cause a chain reaction of health issues in other areas or systems of the body.

With diagnosis, we are trying to identify the basic disharmony that underlies all clinical manifestations. Identification of patterns thus involves forming an overall picture of disharmony, taking all symptoms and signs into consideration. In identifying patterns, we follow the typical Chinese medical philosophy of looking for relationships rather than linear causes (1). This means that one person’s root cause for a certain condition may be different to another, thus every individual is treated according to their presentations, not under the label of their condition name.

What is Dampness?

Dampness is one of the Chinese medicine syndromes in the body that gives rise to the “heavy” and “turbid” nature of symptoms and signs of the body. I tend to liken dampness to the idea of mud. Think of your nutrients as water, and dirt as waste, when you mix them together it becomes this heavy, lethargic, turbid mud that we call dampness.

Damp is described as 'heavy' because the symptoms to which it gives rise usually include sinking, heavy and sore sensations, which often occur in the lower body, while 'turbid' refers to the murky unpurified state of the substances that accumulate to form damp, demonstrated in signs such as greasy tongue coat, cloudy urine, loose stool and leucorrhoea (2).

Illnesses caused by damp tend to be chronic because damp has a sticky, cloying nature which makes it difficult to completely eradicate. As damp is sticky in nature, it can obstruct the smooth flow of blood, fluids and other vital nutrients in the body. This leads to lethargy, heaviness and distension as the substances sit in the one area and other areas of the body aren’t optimally nourished.

How does Dampness form in the Body?

Dampness may arise from external or internal sources. External invasion of dampness can result from over-exposure to water, rain, or damp living or working conditions, when the dampness of the external environment is more than can be dealt with by the body (2).

Internal dampness may originate in irregular eating habits, such as over-consumption of cold, raw, greasy or sweet foods, or alcohol. Or simple over-consumption itself, as this impedes digestion. Impeded digestion means that accumulation of semi-transformed food and fluids occurs, which becomes dampness. Even without this over-consumption, accumulation can occur in the constitutionally weak spleen and stomach (2). The spleen and stomach in Chinese medicine play a main role in digestion, so when they are weak, the function of digestion and distribution is weak or slow.

How Can You Overcome Dampness?

Get Acupuncture and/or Take Chinese Herbal Medicine

As the Chinese medicine approach targets the imbalances that you present, your practitioner can tailor your treatment and herbal prescription to work on both:

  1. Clearing the dampness to alleviate the symptoms associated with it

  2. The root cause of what is causing the dampness if it is something due to an internal cause, which is the case most of the time.

Make Changes in your Dietary and Eating Habits

Eating slower and more mindfully will put less stress on your digestive systemLimit eating dairy products, cold/raw foods, and foods that are overly rich in oils, grease, fats and heavy spices to put less stress on the digestive and distributive function of your digestive system

Incorporating Physical Activity in Your Daily Routine

When you think of mud, it’s slow, stagnant and hard to get rid of. This is the same with dampness. When you do more physical activity, even if it just means going for a 5-10 minute walk, it helps with the circulation and the drainage of the dampness.

If you are interested in understanding how acupuncture or Chinese medicine can help with digestive issues, Women's health, pain, energy, weight loss, puffiness etc., feel free to send a message through the website or call 0435 526 178 to discuss how these modalities may benefit you.


(1) Maciocia Giovani, 2004, Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine - A Comprehensive Guide, Churchill Livingstone

(2) Clavey Steven, 2003, Fluid Physiology and Pathology in Chinese Medicine, Elsevier Limited.


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