4 min read

The Dog Days and San Fu Patch Therapy

If you suffer from asthma, allergies, catching frequent colds or flus, chronic runny nose, aches and pains that are worse when it’s cold, persistent low back achiness, or cold hands and feet, the dog days of summer are here to the rescue!

Ever wonder where the saying “The dog days of summer” came from?  I did.  Here’s what I found out.  It’s rooted in Greeks and Romans astrology.  The “dog days” occurred around the time of year when the star Sirius appeared to rise from the horizon, just before the sun, in late July.  In Greek and Roman astrology Sirius was connected with heat, drought, sudden thunderstorms, lethargy, fever, mad dogs, and bad luck.  They referred to these days as the hottest time of the year when volatility is high.  While the dog days seem wrought with looming danger in the Greek and Roman mythology, Chinese medicine found a way to channel some silver lining around this powerful time of year…In the Chinese Lunar Calendar, these “dog days” are called San fu, referring to the three 10-day periods that are predicted to be the hottest days of the year running from mid July to mid August.  This special period in the lunar calendar is when yang is the strongest in both the human body and outside environment (hence, the volatility….).

Heat and especially fire can be very hard to control but when harnessed correctly, can be used for incredible things like cooking nourishing food or staying warm during the winter.  Chinese medicine pioneered a way to utilize the hottest days of the years as a super charge to the Yang energy of the body, which subsequently helps treat diseases of a chronic and cold nature, often occurring in the winter.  San Fu Patch Therapy or Dong xia bing zhiis a medicinal practice referred to in the classic Huang Di Neijing, written over 2,000 years ago, but really gained popularity and further innovation during the Qing Dynasty of China (1644-1912).   


San Fu Patch Therapy combines:

1) the time of year/environment (external and internal YANG power)

2) the function of herbs (hot, invigorating herbs to help absorb the external yang environment energy and activate the internal yang energy)

3) the stimulation of specific acupuncture points (warming organ systems that don’t like the Cold and could use an overall yang boost)  


Warm and pungent herbs like aconite, cinnamon, ginger, and are used to disperse cold and transform phlegm, warm the lungs, boost the kidney, and secure the root of qiDong xia bing zhi is the preventative treatment of winter diseases in the summer.  The use of warming herbs at these special times allow us to treat the root of Cold diseases (not enough Yang power in the system) rather than the branch (symptoms that are worse in Winter).  This tradition of preventative medicine is most often used for disorders of the respiratory system (asthma, COPD) and allergic rhinitis but is also utilized in conditions like chronic diarrhea, arthritis that is worse with cold, and frequent colds in the fall/winter months.  


The patches consist of powdered dry herbs mixed with ginger juice to create a paste.  Dime sized dollops of this paste are placed on to bandaids and then applied to different acupuncture points on the body, mostly on the upper and lower back.  Within a few minutes after application, there is a warming sensation throughout the areas with the patches which can stay in place for 2-6 hours.  It is very important to keep an eye and check on the skin under the bandages after about 30 minutes to make sure the skin isn’t too irritated.  Redness is normal, it’s part of the treatment but sensitive or reactive skin requires first, a small patch test to make sure the skin can handle, and a shorter duration with the patches on (30-120 minutes).  One round of treatment consists of 3 patch application days during the hottest month of the year.  The typical treatment protocol consists of 2-3 rounds (aka 2-3 years).  Most research shows positive changes to symptoms within the first year and substantial improvement by the second.      


In China, large crowds of people gather in the hospital lobbies for Dong Xia Bing Zhi during the San Fu time of the year.  I had the honor of visiting Guangzhou Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital (which was actually a fully integrated hospital using both Chinese and Western medicine, seamlessly, in my humble opinion) which specialized in acupoint herbal patching throughout the year as treatment for a whole gamut of health disorders spanning from infertility to insomnia (not confined to the San Fu period). In terms of learning, this was the most intriguing aspect and my favorite highlight of the trip. 


If you are interested in receiving San Fu Patch Therapy or Dong xia bing zhi,the first day (July 16th*) is fast approaching and we’ve already got the herbs blended and waiting to activate your Yang Qi, so make an appointment for a quick 15 min patch application.  If you have questions, shoot us an email or give us a call.


*Flexible 30-45 day window for 3 treatments with 7-10 days in between each