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Empty heat and smoking


Hi everyone–

I’ve commented / asked questions before about ‘empty heat’ – eight months ago I started have ‘false’ heat radiate from my palms/soles (felt hot but skin temp is normal). I went to acupuncturists and they thought it was underlying yin deficiency. I’ve been taking Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan for the past three months and the symptoms have gone down (mostly in intensity), though I still feel them every day.

I have a specific question. About a month or so ago I resumed smoking, mostly due to the stress of having a new baby & overload at work. I really do not like smoking and would like to stop again. Strangely enough, the empty heat dissipates for a while after I smoke. I’m pretty sure that this is not helping my chronic condition in the long run, but the ‘psychological’ aspect is making it more difficult than usual to quit. Normally I’d just quit, as my overall stress level has gone down, but the relief in itself is addictive. I’m still taking the herbs.

I guess my question is… why is the smoking reducing the feelings of empty heat? Is there something about tobacco that can sooth internal irritation? I went for a couple days without last week and the pattern was mostly the same (irritation, it fades, it eventually comes back, fades, comes back). Any advice would be welcome.

(Obviously, not smoking is the best advice, and what I want… it’s just easier to function at work/family without the empty heat distraction) – Note: I smoke at this point 3-4 times a day, from a pipe - no cigarettes. I was a smoker for 12 years prior to this January, when I quite cold turkey and lasted 8 months.


One of the effects of smoking is that several neurotransmitters are released in the brain which have a short lived action to reduce stress and promote relaxation. I would suggest the temporary release of these chemicals inhibits the feedback of your discomfort, which is why you notice an ‘improvement’ for a short while. You’re very unlikely experiencing a true relief and much more likely simply being blocked from noticing the symptoms.

From a TCM perspective tobacco smoke is hot and toxic (and has no beneficial effect whatsoever), which in turn damages the blood and yin. In effect, long term smoking will worsen the condition of empty heat (which is another term for yin deficiency).


Ok, that makes sense. I’ve been gearing myself up to stop cold turkey again, so these words of wisdom help.


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