The Six Excesses in Chinese Medicine

Dr. Bret Mosher refers to the six excesses in Chinese Medicine at his natural health practice in Poway, CA, to help diagnose patients’ symptoms. Borrowing from words describing environmental phenomena—wind, cold, heat, dryness, dampness, and summer heat—Dr. Mosher describes the processes of many diseases and disorders.

The idea behind this theory is that these excesses are external in nature, but can invade and influence the body.

image of symbol of the four seasons

Understanding the effect of external factors on patient health is a vital component of Dr. Mosher's treatment program.

Climate as an Analogy to Illness

In Western medicine, only viruses and bacteria are recognized as external pathogens. However, Chinese Medicine observes that certain climatic conditions mirror the way that pathogens may affect the body.

For example, “wind” symptoms reflect the nature of wind: they arise without warning and they come and go. “Cold” symptoms cause contraction and slow bodily functions down, while “heat” symptoms cause expansion and increased activity.

Dr. Mosher will work with you to develop a personalized holistic health plan, in order to resolve the cause of your symptoms and enhance your health.

It is important to understand that these climate-related terms may not always correspond with the current weather: a patient may have symptoms of heat in the winter, and symptoms of cold when it is hot. In some cases, influences can arise from within the body, usually because of a chronic internal imbalance. Below is a brief outline of the six excesses:


The influence of wind involves the upper body, affecting the head and throat, with symptoms including sneezing, congestion, and headache. The presence of wind makes it easier for other illnesses to invade the body:

  • The quality of wind is movement and transience, so symptoms appear without warning and constantly change.
  • Lungs are the organ most affected by wind.
  • Internal wind is often associated with liver imbalance.


Excess cold causes slowed movement, contraction, stagnation, and circulation impairment. Symptoms may include:

  • Shivering and chills
  • Muscle cramps and spasms
  • Cold hands and feet

Cold usually affects the skin, muscles, and lungs. Internally, cold influences the function of the spleen, kidneys, and stomach.


Heat causes proliferation and expansion. Too much heat can lead to fever, itching, irritability, and inflammatory conditions. Common symptoms include:

  • A reddened face and eyes
  • Sore throat
  • Dehydration, thirst, and dizziness
  • Constipation
  • Yellow phlegm
  • Dark urine


Dryness is associated with autumn due to the lack of humidity in most regions during that season. Dryness exists along the heat continuum. Symptoms of this balance include:

  • Depletion of the body’s fluids, resulting in constipation
  • Dry cough and thirst
  • Dry skin
  • Concentrated urine

Dryness usually enters the body through the nose and mouth and affects the lungs.


Dampness is associated with heaviness and persistence, as when the ground becomes wet and everything that comes into contact with it stagnates.

Excessive dampness is often the result of spending a lot of time in the rain, or living in a damp environment. Symptoms may include:

  • Sluggishness
  • Edema
  • Sticky phlegm
  • Cloudy urine

Summer Heat

This excess type of heat arises only from the external influences of extreme or prolonged heat. Its symptoms include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive sweating
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness

In severe cases, such as heatstroke, too much heat can lead to coma.

Learn More

The six excesses are just one concept that TCM practitioners use to guide patient treatment. Other factors can contribute to illness, including diet, injury, and lifestyle choices.

Dr. Mosher will work with you to develop a personalized holistic health plan, in order to resolve the cause of your symptoms and enhance your health. Contact us today to schedule your consultation and learn more about the causes and treatments of the six excesses.

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