With Frank and Imogen and their numerous stormy friends battering the country, temperatures struggling to reach double figures and not a leaf to be seen on the trees, it may seem a bit strange to be thinking about hayfever. After all, the pollen count is nonexistent in the depths of February and the incidence of hayfever is, frankly, zero.
However, hayfever nicely illustrates a central tenet of Chinese Medicine; the symptom is a manifestation of an underlying imbalance and treating that imbalance reduces or eliminates the symptom.
You are driving along in your car and the oil warning light comes on (symptom!). Now this is because you have not enough oil in your engine (immediate cause of symptom). However this lack of oil could be a result of : a leak in the sump; a broken piston ring; a hole in a hose; or maybe you’ve just neglected things and not checked the oil level for five years or so (all possible underlying causes).
So, we could just treat the symptom by putting some tape over the light – hey presto, symptom gone (but there will be further trouble up the line… after all, we’ve still got no oil). Or, we could deal with the underlying cause, fix the leak in the sump and fill up with oil and, as if by magic, the light goes out and the symptom is no longer needed.
The symptoms of hayfever; the itchy, burning eyes and runny nose, are the manifestation of the problem and just dealing with those mean that the problem remains (still no oil!) even if we can dampen down those symptoms. Ideally, we want to address the underlying cause so that the symptom is not needed in the first place. And, of course, the best time to do this is before the symptoms start and your system is not being overwhelmed trying to deal with them.
Which is why we should be thinking ‘Hayfever? February? You bet. Best time to get it dealt with.’