Chinese medicine is an ancient medical system based on the Daoist view of a universe in which everything is interrelated. Through thousands of years of observation and practice, the Chinese have developed a unique method of understanding the structure of the internal organs and the body's physiological processes. This method is called Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Chinese medicine is designed to promote and maintain health through diet and exercise. If illness occurs, it is treated with acupuncture, herbs, and Qigong. Chinese medicine practitioners diagnose and treat all types of illness and disease. TCM is undeniably a valid and effective form of medicine.
Chinese medicine is very complex and intricate. Practitioners study for many years to grasp its concepts, which differ from Western medicine.
It is important to have a basic knowledge of these concepts to understand how Chinese medicine practitioners diagnose and treat illness. Many of the concepts can be difficult to understand because they have no counterpart in Western medicine. Chinese medicine practitioners view the mind and body as an energetic system that cannot be separated from one another or the universe. Organs are not separate structures, but are interconnected organ systems that work together to keep the body functioning well. Chinese medicine practitioners treat the patient, not the disease.
The most fundamental concept of Chinese medicine is Yin and Yang. All things in the Universe are either Yin or Yang. However, nothing is ever all Yin or all Yang, but a balance between the two that is ever changing. They are opposites, yet complementary. They are not independent of each other but change into each other. For example, the day (Yang) turns into night (Yin) and winter (Yin) turns into spring (Yang.) Illness is caused by an imbalance of Yin and Yang in the body. In Chinese Medicine, treating illness is the process of rebalancing Yin and Yang. This is done through acupuncture, herbs, and Qigong.
The Yin-Yang symbol is a representation of Chinese medicine philosophy. The symbol is a circle divided by a curved line into a black (Yin) side and white (Yang) side. The curve represents the constantly changing balance between Yin and Yang. Each side contains a small circle of the opposite color which symbolizes that there is some of Yin in Yang and some of Yang in Yin.
Vital Substances interact with each other to nourish and sustain the body. Together they form the mind and body. The Vital Substances — Qi (pronounced chee), Blood, Body Fluids, Jing, and Shen — are described below.
Qi—The body has an energy force (also referred to as life force or vital force) running through it known as Qi. Qi travels through the body along channels or meridians. It is both energy and substance. The Chinese say, "When Qi gathers, so the physical body is formed; when Qi disperses, so the body dies." Qi nourishes, protects, and supports all systems and functions of the body. The other Vital Substances are manifestations of Qi. Health is affected by the flow of Qi through the body. If the flow of Qi along channels (pathways that connect all parts of the body) is disrupted, insufficient, or stagnant, then Yin and Yang become unbalanced, which may result in illness.
Blood—Blood has a different meaning in Chinese medicine than it does in Western medicine. Blood not only transports nourishment, but also vitality. Blood is a material form of Qi. The Zang Fu organs form blood from food and drink. Blood is the basis for the formation of our skin, bones, muscles, and organs. Illness may be caused by Deficient Blood, Stagnant Blood, or Heat in the Blood.
Body Fluids—Bodily Fluids, also known as Jin Ye, are formed from food and drink and serve to moisten, lubricate, and nourish the body. Jin fluids are light and watery fluids that lubricate the skin and muscles and exterior of body (sweat, tears). Ye fluids are heavy and thick fluids that lubricate the joints and brain and interior of body. Illness can be caused by Deficient Body Fluids or Accumulation of Body Fluids.
Jing—Jing gives the body vitality and health. It is the Essence or vital force. If the Jing is strong, the person's constitution is strong. If the Jing is weak, the person's constitution is weak and more susceptible to illness. Jing is the root of existence and reproduction. Jing is also responsible for growth and development. Illness presents as constitutional or developmental problems.