Several years ago I received an e-mail from a young man in British Columbia, stating that he was an émigré from Thailand who had been living in Canada for about a year. Shortly after arriving in Canada, he developed all of the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue. These included being extraordinarily and easily fatigued, such that it was impossible for him to function. He also had multiple other symptoms: headaches and poor sleep; problems with memory, concentration and attention; muscle pain; migrating joint pain unrelated to weather, diet or stress; sore throats with no signs of infection; and lymph node swelling unremarkable on biopsy.

After a year of every diagnostic exam and available allopathic and alternative therapy (including acupuncture), he had no relief from his symptoms, and somehow found my name. I replied that at such a distance, I could not be of much help.

I cannot explain what then made me ask if he had these symptoms in his home country, Thailand. He answered that he never had, and that no one in his family in Canada suffered a similar condition.

A thought crossed my mind for no explainable reason that made me ask if he could safely return to his homeland for a few months. He said that he could, and I suggested that he go home for three months, return and contact me.

Several months later I heard from him saying that in Thailand all of his symptoms disappeared and on returning to Canada they resumed, however in a somewhat reduced fashion. I asked him if he could return to Thailand every few months for a month at a time, and then come back to Canada. He said that he could.

Over the course of the next year, he flew back to his homeland for shorter and shorter periods, and stayed in Canada for longer periods. After each journey to Thailand his symptoms diminished, and at the end of a year they disappeared completely.

About a year later I heard in a similar fashion from a young woman from Iran with the same complaints and medical history. The thought occurred to me that she might try going back and forth to Iran as the young man had done to Thailand. The results after about a year were the same.

I call this illness ‘homesickness’ and conceive it as a condition of the Heart in which the Spirit (shen) has retreated, perhaps into the Pericardium. This may be associated with ‘Fear of the Unknown’ and ‘Heart shock’. While I never took the pulses of these two people and did not meet them, I would guess that their Left Distal Positions would be either Flat or Muffled, signs that the Heart is ‘closed’ and Qi severely stagnant. It has been my clinical experience that almost any medical condition is possible when the Heart cannot adequately nourish every cell of the body, and have found that conditions as unlikely as sinusitis respond favorably to treatment of the Heart and Circulation. Migrating joint pain is one of the important symptoms of Heart Qi deficiency (from stagnation as well as depletion).

Later I learned from a colleague that a Native American shaman had instructed her that, when she moved far from her native place, she should take with her some soil from her homeland and while away, dip her wet finger into it and put the soil in her mouth once a day. Another cure for ‘homesickness’, an identifiable illness that, in my experience, is as real as any other.