There are several ways that we can become hot. We may suddenly contract an acute feverish illness indicating that a “hot” pathogen has penetrated our defences. If we do not expel this invasion the heat may lodge deeper in our body causing inflammation and irritation. The initial stage of invasion is called wind-heat in chinese medicine.
Heat may also arise from prolonged overconsumption of heating foods or substances. It may arise from over-activity or prolonged strain on all or part of our system. It may also arise from prolonged exposure to a hot environment. At the emotional level it arises from feelings which cannot be resolved or expressed. Heat combines easily with dampness and is often a sequel to periods of stagnation.
The above descriptions all refer to the condition of “true heat”. It is vitally important to distinguish between this condition and that of “false heat”. False heat arises when over a period of time our yin becomes deficient. The cooling, lubricating function and the quality of our fuel becomes depleted. In this case we become hot because we cannot keep cool.
False heat needs tonification of Yin. True heat needs cooling or expelling.
In chronic conditions heat is simply treated by the avoidance of hot foods and the use of more cooling foods and methods of food preparation. Where there is a pathogenic invasion the pungent flavor is used to drive the hot invader to the surface of the body.