Traditional Chinese Medicine has become increasingly popular, over the last few decades. However, the benefits of Chinese medicine are largely ignored, because of the vague and confusing nature of the theory of Chinese medicine. In this series of articles, we will be taking a brief over view of Traditional Chinese Medicine, in an effort to explain Chinese medical theory in simple layman’s terms. Furthermore, the purpose of this article series, is not simply to spread understanding of the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, but rather the intention is that you can take away some useful insights and diagnosing techniques, which in turn will help you to heal yourself.
When we say heal yourself, we do not mean to replace the requirement of visiting a TCM practitioner or complimentary therapist, but rather by observation you will be able to get an overview of your own health condition and make some efforts at healing yourself, by applying these principles.
This article series consists of three articles, which are:
Heal Yourself with Traditional Chinese Medicine – Part One
Heal Yourself with Traditional Chinese Medicine – Part Two
Traditional Chinese Medicine Bio – Energetics
Heal Yourself with Traditional Chinese Medicine – Part Three
Diagnosis – Heal Yourself with Chinese Medicine
Heal Yourself with Traditional Chinese Medicine –
Part One Basic Principles
When we understand the why behind our health issues it
becomes a far easier task to treat or even cure them.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), originated in China approximately 4500 years ago. Although widely popularized, in the modern era, as acupuncture (whereby needles are placed into strategic points in the body), Traditional Chinese Medicine is actually an entire system of medicine and covers a diverse range of topics including acupuncture, herbal treatments, lifestyle changes and life philosophy. In particular the most useful aspect of Traditional Chinese Medical philosophy is its ability to provide the practitioner (and the patient if they have a little bit of know how) with an insight into the causes of our health problems. When we understand the why behind our health issues it becomes a far easier task to treat or even cure them.
The problem with Traditional Chinese Medicine for the layman is that it’s really confusing, and unless you have a few years at your disposal, it is difficult to get a really deep understanding of this subject. However, just because a subject is difficult does not mean that it cannot be understood, and in particular mastery of the principles behind oriental medicine is not necessary. A little bit of reading and research can go some way towards providing an overview of Chinese medicine which will in turn result in you been able to take some decisive action regarding your health issues.
However, before we can talk about treatment, we have to talk about diagnosis and before we talk about diagnosis we have to understand the fundamental principles behind Traditional Chinese Medicine. Some of the concepts which we shall touch upon, in this article, will be a little vague and difficult to understand, and in some cases supplementary reading is advised, but this article should in and of itself provide you with enough background to be able to at least comprehend the general gist of Traditional Chinese Medicine and how it can help you to heal yourself.
So let’s begin with a brief overview of the principles behind Chinese medicine:
La Tzu – The Father of Taoism – Statue in Quanzhou, China
Qi Energy and Taoism:
We must first begin our journey with Qi energy and the oriental philosophy of Taoism (pronounced Daoism). The Taoist philosophy, like Asian philosophy in general, focuses upon a broad spectrum, rather than a dichotomy. In the west Philosophers like Immanuel Kant, for instance, where busy trying to divide the universe up into neatly packed concepts, which were quite distinct from each other, meanwhile the oriental philosophers where interested in the big picture, an endless spectrum with no division, or rather infinite shades of grey, as it were.
Qi energy fits in really well with this concept of no division, no right no wrong, simply a variation in vibration. Qi is the basic energy of the universe and from an oriental medicine point of view, there is no difference between the chair you are sitting on, you (as in your body) and even your mind. All are simply QI, but different densities of Qi as the level of vibration will vary. The chair for example is a really dense form of QI, your body is a lighter form and your mind is a very light form of QI.
So the basic constituent element, which is ever present is Qi.
Now I know this sounds a lot like the atom, but Qi is more of a concept than an actual physical reality. For instance Qi is energy rather than a thing. Qi can be a chair but it can also be your mind, whereas an atom cannot be your mind, now can it?
The difficulty which we have today when looking at a concept like Qi, is in our efforts to understand this vague energetic viewpoint of the universe. But from the perspective of Chinese medicine, all we need to know is that Qi is everywhere and that the varying levels of QI determine how healthy we are.
Ying and Yang:
Ying and yang are really famous; I think it is fair to say that everyone has seen the ying and yang symbol, at least one in their lifetime!
The Traditional Chinese Medicine Ying/Yang Symbol
A More Esoteric Variation of Ying/Yang based upon the Sun and the Moon
(Needless to say the Moon is ying and the sun is Yang)
But ying and yang are a fundamental aspect of Chinese medical thought. Yang represents male energy, active energy, the ability to get things done. Whereas ying represents the feminine energy, the submissive, gentle nurturing energy.
Now TCM practitioners understand this topic in great detail, mainly because there is a need to balance off the ying and yang energy. If we see energy as a 100% of something, then it needs to be represented by a mixture of these two energies, as in 50% yang and 50% ying. However, usually a deficiency of either ying or yang energy will result in an imbalance and the body in an attempt at homeostasis will attempt to re-balance itself.
So again looking at our example above, if ying drops from 50%, in this hypothetical example, down to 30% then yang has to go from 50% up to 70%, and just like over revving the engine in your car, this results in health symptoms. The energetic meridian (channel of energy) is now balanced, but the physical health is impaired because the ratio between ying and yang is now out of kilter.
In each diagram we see 100% energy is balanced, but in the lower
figure it results in an imbalance between yang and ying ratios.
Atypically there will be a deficiency of ying energy, in one of the body’s meridians or energy channels as they are also known and consequently some yang energy will raise up in an effort to fill the space. Nature abhors a vacuum and so an imbalance occurs. So for example, a headache may result because of a deficiency in liver ying, which results in an overabundance of liver yang, which in turn results in a liver headache (an ache in the top of the head).
This subject can be explored deeply, but for now just remember that we need a balance between yang and ying, in our energetic channels, and that these can be seen as a balance between active energy (yang) and nurturing every (ying).
Yang deficiency tends to result in fatigue, coldness and an inability to act, whereas ying define tends to result in a lack of inner nurturing, too much heat and a lot of anxiety.
Finally when we think about ying and yang it must be remembered, when we look back at oriental medicine and the philosophy behind it that there is no division between physical objects, the human mind, emotional feelings and even spiritual experiences.
Taoism and oriental medical philosophy are very similar, in their approaches, to today’s quantum physics in that they see the big picture and the inter-relatedness between the physical, mental and spiritual dimensions.
This is a really important concept, because in Chinese medicine the same imbalance which is giving you a sore toe, could also be making you depressed!
Traditional Chinese Medicine is all about etiology and seeing the big picture, behind the imbalances which cause our ill-health in the first place. This is the primary reason why Chinese Medicine is so useful to us in our everyday, lives!
In the next installment of our “Heal Yourself with Traditional Chinese Medicine” series, we shall explore, in greater detail, the role of bio-energetics in balancing our health and also we shall see how obvious some of the signs are which indicate what is wrong with us and why!