Rain in April

Just like the English-speaking world talks about “April showers”, the Chinese say, “The third month’s rain is like the fine silk that never stops.” Since the Chinese year starts around February in the Western calendar, the “third month” is equivalent to April. It is not surprising that people have similar expressions about nature, regardless where they live.

Some people enjoy the April rain, because they find it very calming. Others find the endless rain makes the climate very damp, affecting their physical condition. If the sky is cloudy and it rains continuously for two or three weeks, not only will everything be damp, but we also notice thick, green fungus on trees, rocks and walls, growing faster than anything else.

Suppose we want to get rid of the fungus. How would we do that?

One way is to try to remove the fungus physically (by scraping, for instance). This would require an enormous amount of work to finish a whole wall, a street, a city. Another way is to use chemicals to remove the fungus. This is at least more efficient than scraping; however, over time, the fungus may well adapt to the chemicals, so new products have to be developed to fight the fungus. The problem is not easily solved.

When we understand the laws of nature and the pattern of Yin and Yang, the root of the problem becomes clearly visible. The reason the fungus overgrows on rainy days is the dampness; without dampness, fungus is not likely to grow. Dryness is the opposite of dampness and thus balances it. If the environment is dry or the sun comes out, fungus cannot overgrow anymore. So the most efficient way to deal with the fungus is simply to wait until the dampness goes away.

The ancient Chinese discovered that the internal environment – the body – is also affected by dampness. When our living conditions are very damp, the body produces more mucus, which is called internal dampness in Chinese medicine. One notices a thick coating on the tongue, and phlegm and mucus in the throat, in bowel movements and in the vagina. This may lead to poor digestion, fungus and yeast infections, and heaviness of muscles and limbs.

Plants that thrive in spite of fungus have a natural defense mechanism against the fungus. Chinese medicine uses parts of such plants, as well as other foods and herbs with dry characteristics, to treat internal dampness.

This is in contrast to classical Western medicine. For example, a dentist may recommend brushing the coating off the tongue to prevent the yeast and fungus from overgrowing. No matter how diligently one brushes, the coating returns the next morning. A common treatment for yeast- and fungus infections is anti-fungal drugs and topical creams, but this strategy is not very effective for a recurrent condition. As we saw above, fungus cannot be killed.

–Dr. Thomas Zhang