Friday, July 17, 2009

An Introduction to "Latent Heat"

By David Trevino, L.Ac.

Latent Heat is an ancient concept used to describe the manifestation of an External or Internal Pathogenic Factor that does not create immediate symptoms, but remains latent in the body.

In other words, when an external pathogenic factor such as Cold or Heat invades, and an individual's vital (Kidney) energy is weak, the pathogenic factor moves inward instead of being pushed out.

Ancient Chinese medical texts such as the book of Simple Questions, Chapter 3, describes latency in the following manner, "If Cold enters the body in winter-time; it comes out as Heat in springtime."

In reality, this can occur at any season, not just springtime. The process of latency is the body's attempt to hold on to something, when it does not have the energy to immediately dispel it, and may contribute to chronic conditions such as autoimmune disorders, chronic fatigue, digestive disorders, joint problems, AIDS, and cancer.

According to Giovanni Maciocia, the underlying reason for latent heat syndromes is usually a deficiency of the Kidney energy. He goes on to state that if the body condition is relatively good, a person will develop symptoms at the time when the external pathogenic factor invades. This is a healthy reaction.

On the other hand, if the body's energy is weakened by overtaxing the body with overwork, maintaining an unhealthy diet or lifestyle habits, this will make the person more vulnerable to acquiring a latent heat condition. Once the pathogen enters the interior of the body, it incubates, turns into Heat and will become evident some months later.

Latent Heat conditions are also described as originating from pestilent factors. In other words, latent heat can occur when a strong pestilent factor such as an epidemic febrile disease from a virus, bacteria or fungus invades our body.

Even if a person's vital energy is strong and has healthy lifestyle habits, the invasion of a pestilent pathogenic factor can overwhelm the body's defensive system and lead to a latent heat condition. When the pestilent factor moves inward, it usually lodges at the nutritive level called Ying Qi. This is often defined as the level of the blood vessels and the flesh.

On other occasions, pestilent pathogenic factors can travel to the (Jing), which is stored in the kidneys and is the densest physical matter within the body. The Jing is said to be the material basis for the physical body and fuels and cools the body and is the carrier of our heritage. For this reason, patients who suffer from latent heat conditions often experience signs as sudden fatigue, slight feeling of heat, swelling, insomnia, slight thirst, and others.

The treatment of latent heat conditions has been a part of Classical Chinese Medicine for several centuries. As a result, Chinese Medicine has developed a number of strategies to help people who suffer from latent conditions become asymptomatic.

The most obvious strategy is to help the body dispel the latent pathogenic factor by utilizing Chinese herbs and acupuncture. In other instances, it may be more appropriate to encourage latency and help the body keep the pathogenic factor from creating uncomfortable symptoms in order to not overwhelm the person's vital energy.

In summary, latent heat is a physiological manifestation resulting from the body's inability to expel a pathogenic factor from the exterior. These conditions are often a result of a weakened energy system due to overwork and unhealthy lifestyle habits. Latent heat conditions can appear months after the invasion of an external pathogenic factor such as a virus, bacteria or fungus that was not dispelled completely. The ensuing, often complex conditions are best treated by skilled practitioners of Chinese medicine, who are welled versed in latency conditions.

For more information of latent heat conditions call the Chinese Acupuncture Clinic at 828-258-9016.

1. The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine-Simple Questions, 1979, People's Health Publishing House, Beijing, first published c. 100 BC, p. 21.
2. Maciocia, Giovanni. The Three Treasures Newsletter. Summer, 2006.
3. Kaptchuck, Ted J., The Web That Has No Weaver, Congdon & Weed; ISBN 0-8092-2933-1.