We’re revisiting candidiasis in the context of the individual. Our purpose is to demonstrate how Chinese medicine differs from common approaches to this common condition. The crux of this approach is in reading each patient’s symptoms. Symptoms are not just a matter of the obvious complaint, but also in terms of the less obvious revealing by knowing how to interpret the pulse and tongue. Let’s begin by discussing the language that Chinese medicine uses in describing candida and then go into a bit about how pulse and tongue can guide treatment.
What is Dampness?
Chinese medicine classifies candida as “dampness.” Even though at first blush it sounds weird, if you think about the problems that arise from damp environments, it makes much more sense. Consider a damp bathroom or a damp towel. How about a towel in a damp bathroom? How about a damp towel in a damp bathroom in warm weather or a perpetually cool damp place? The body is just another environment that may fall prey to the effects of dampness.
The individual has a preexisting environment which might be on the hot or cold side. Other factors like medications affect the environment as well. The tongue and pulse provide information about the bodily environment in light of these factors. In order to forego the risk of getting overly conceptual, let’s look at an on-going case where the principle candida expression is dandruff “for as long as [the patient] can remember.”
Dampness: A Real Human Example
Willisa (fictional name) is in her late 20s and has had tried everything for her dandruff, including coconut oil, which only made it worse. She’s a food server and has a fondness for fruit, beer, and sweet junk food disguised as “healthy” or “natural.” A ping was initiated to her system with a customized raw formula, which she was to brew and take for two weeks. Additionally, she was to wash her hair with borax, which she mixed with her shampoo. She decided on her own to restrict consumption of fruits and grain, including beer.
Although dampness is a slowly resolved condition, positive results should be observed quickly. On the following visit, Willisa shared that she had marked improvement in the reduction of dandruff, until eating some tortilla chips. Additionally, she noted easier bowel movements and curiously greater sensation in her legs. She also felt pain at the bottom of both feet, at a point corresponding to the kidney. The increase of sensation in her legs, which was not unpleasant or uncomfortable, may have been attributable to the reduction of pathological water that had been muffling sensitivity that she didn’t know she should have. This same reduction of pathological water in the feet may have rendered the feet at the kidney spot more sensitive as she already walks in a particular fashion that has manifest through calluses across the frontal aspect of the foot, possibly a mild form of a condition called equinis.
Since at its root dampness is a digestive condition, the ease of bowel movements indicates that progress in being made in the gut by clearing the candida that inhibited peristalsis and other metabolic processes. This is often a cause for constipation. The response to tortilla chips may be a corn allergy but may also be an inflammatory response to grains in general.
Reading the Signs, Writing a Formula
The initial formulation proved effective and could be given again, but the objective is to get beneath the mere symptomatic expression by determining how the current imbalance should be addressed more specifically. For this the tongue and pulse are most useful. Willisa’s tongue is swollen indicating dampness. The pulse was deep, confirming dampness again, but was also thin and rapid, indicating that long-term candida has led to stagnation that has not only transformed into heat but also consumed vital nutrients. This is a critical point. Even though dampness is something that needs to be expelled from the body, it can create deficiencies that could be considered a kind of dryness. There are numerous herbs that have anti-fungal and anti-microbial properties. Each herb also has properties that are either hot, cold, drying, or moistening. Prescribing herbs that are uniformly drying in this case will only exacerbate an underlying deficiency heat exhibited in the pulse. As a result a prescription was given that addressed both excess in terms of the candida pathogen itself and deficiency in terms of the nutrients consumed by its presence.
In the passage above we took a closer look at the Chinese medicinal concept of dampness as it relates to candida. We next looked at how the Chinese medicine approach to candida is applied in the individual case of Willisa. What we learned is how the pulse and tongue guide herb selection, since even though there are many herbs that can treat candida, the specific properties of each herb must balance with the pre-existing environment of the patient.