The Eight Principles
The eight principles are
- Excess (Full)
- Deficiency (Empty)
- External (Exterior)
- Internal (Interior)
So what does this all mean?
When we consult with TCM practitioners, they will use either the eight principles or a mix of these eight principles and the five elements, in order to assess the energetic imbalance.
The eight principles are much easier to understand than the five element model, so let’s take a quick look.
Ying/Yang Patterns: If a person has a ying imbalance, they will have a lack of ying energy, which in turn will result in anxiety, night sweats, a feeling of heat, even in cold weather, a dry burnt out desperate feeling. Ying imbalance is a bit like water boiling in a saucepan, until eventually only drops of water remain and dance intermittently. Ying deficiency is a kind of burning up from within.
Yang deficiency, on the other hand, results in coldness, listlessness, lack of energy and a tendency to feel cold all the time, regardless of how hot it is. So we can see that it is the polar opposite of ying deficiency.
It is natural for ying and yang to gently drain of over the course of a lifetime, but a sudden drop in yang and ying levels is quite traumatic. Menopause, for example, represents a sudden drop off in ying and yang energy and the intensity of this drop explains why one woman feels only minor symptoms, whereas another suffers greatly, during menopause. Also, with menopause the ying/yang levels will tend to fluctuate, which again can explain why some ladies undergo a wide variety of symptoms within a short time frame. Hot flushes, for example, demonstrate a sudden drop in ying levels, with the sudden onset followed by sudden dissipation, demonstrating the variability in ying levels.
In Chinese medicine, there is a wide range of possible ying/yang patterns. It is not possible to go into detail here, nor is it necessary, just remember that symptoms tend to follow either a yang or ying pattern, but in some cases as in menopause for example, there can be a complicated mixed presentation of ying/yang patterns.
Excess/deficiency: Excess indicates an over pouring of energy in a particular channel, whereas deficiency results in a lack of energy in a particular channel. Blazing red yes, for example, represent excess in the liver channel, whereas floaters (little spots of dead blood in the eyes) comes from liver deficiency.
Internal/External: External refers to external influences. For example external damp conditions can result in dampness invading the body. For example, damp air can result in a respiratory infection. Whereas interior refers to an internal imbalance such as an imbalance in one of the internal organs causing a problem. Burning eyes,for example, would also be an example of interior.
Hot/Cold: Heat refers to the energetic imbalance where the body becomes hot. Eczema, for example, presents as heat in the blood which results in hot painful skin, whereas cold refers to an imbalance whereby either external or internal imbalances result in a cold state. A frozen shoulder, for example, represents an external invasion which results in stagnation of Qi, in the shoulder, and a cold dull feeling therein. This is external, whereas a dull back ache, which can result internally from a kidney yang deficiency, for instance, which is internal.
So much for the Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory, what can we do in Everyday Life?
Ok Chinese medicine is really complicated, so what can ypu do in your regular life so as to heal yourself?
Understanding Chinese medicine is certainly difficult, but we can gain a big picture overview of our health issues and this is not as difficult as you may think. Let’s look a little deeper:
Traditional Chinese Medicine for Idiots
Ultimately Chinese medicine can be reduced down to several simple principles, which are:
1). Everything is energy (Qi).
2). Energy can be subdivided into yang (active) energy and ying (Nurturing) energy.
3). These energies are modulated by ying and yang organs on a macro level and by acupuncture/acupressure points on a micro level.
4). Energy imbalances can be divided into
5). Deficiency/stagnation/excess throws the ying/yang balance out of kilter.
6). Health will recover once ying and yang have been rebalanced!
If we keep our eye on these six pointers above, it becomes a little easier to gain a handle on Chinese medicine.
Simply put, energy tends to become either deficent (whereby there is not enough ying or yang) or it stops moving freely, or it is in excess. To make things even simpler, Qi energy will only become excessive, if there is a deficiency in the first place. So really we only have to think about stagnation and deficiency.
So wheat creates deficiency or stagnation?
When TCM practitioners focus upon the causes of Qi stagnation and deficiency, they note that deficiency comes from a channel not receiving enough ying or yang energy. So the cure, in this case, is to tonify (boost) this channel and that in the case of stagnation, there is an emotional element, involved whereby the energy becomes stuck because of emotional repression.
In Chinese medicine there is no division between the physical body, the mental thought, the emotions and the spiritual life. So our emotions can stall the free flow of our energetics. Also, by the same note TCM practitioners can observe that energetic blockages can also inhibit the free expression of our emotions. So our mind can effect our body and vice versa.
Looking now at excess. Excess in Chinese medicine is always seen as the bodies attempt to make up for a deficiency.
If we take a look at our earlier example of liver rising, resulting in maybe sore eyes or possible a headache, in the top of our head, it presents as excessive symptom which has deficiency at its base. There is a deficiency in the liver ying, which forces the liver yang to rise in an effort to bring about homeostasis!
I know this all sounds complicated but let’s try to simplify this Chinese medicine a little further, so that it will become possible to heal yourself with this knowledge.
If we have a health problem, it has to be due to a deficiency or a stagnation and it will result in a deficiency, a stagnation or an excess symptom, or symptoms.
How we can Diagnose Ourselves with Traditional Chinese Medicine
Ok we can’t really diagnose ourselves with Traditional Chinese medicine, in the way that a TCM practitioner might diagnose us, but we can gain an overview about the energetic balance within us, which in turn will help you heal yourself.
Let’s go back to the ying and yang organs. Remember each possesses some health functions, so when we know the functions we can compare them to our symptoms, in an effort to gain some understanding about wherever we have an imbalance.
Let’s take a quick look again at this:
|Ying Organs and their Role in Balancing our health|
|LIVER||Sinews||Eyes and Sight||Anger/Frustration||Ethereal Soul||Wind||Nails|
|Heart||Blood Vessels||Tongue and Taste||Joy||Mind||Heat||Complexion|
|Spleen||Muscles||Mouth and Taste||Worry/Pensiveness||Intellect||Dampness||Lips|
|Lung||Skin||Nose and Smell||Sadness/Grief||Corporeal Soul||Dryness||Body Hair|
|Kidney||Bones||Ears and Hearing||Fear||Will Power||Cold||Head Hair|
Please note that this list is far from comprehensive. Also remember that a TCM practitioner will go into far more detail. So this list is simply to provide you with a few hints, which may help to bring about a TCM diagnosis and in turn you can then select a strategy to heal yourself..
So what can we learn from these Chinese medicine hints?
Well let’s go back to the eight principles and apply them a little bit to our symptoms and see what they reveal.
Let’s take an example of migraine headaches. Let’s take two individuals and take a look at their symptoms.
Mr A: Has a distending pain in his head, blurred vision, dizziness, ringing in the ears, he feels irritable, he cannot sleep, his mouth is dry.
Ms B: Has a throbbing pain down one side of her head, she has feels depressed, belches some of the time and feels stuffiness in her chest, difficulty in swallowing and a bitter taste in her mouth.
Ok what does Chinese medicine say about these symptoms?
In the case of Mr A. he is demonstrating liver yang hyperactivity. With headaches liver is usually involved, and also he is demonstrating liver in excess, when we take into account his blurred vision, insomnia, irritability and dry mouth.
Whereas Ms B. is demonstrating liver Qi stagnation as seen by a bitter taste in her mouth, difficulty in swallowing and emotional depression.
I know it’s not easy to diagnose to this degree. But if we observe ourselves carefully we can register broad patterns which in turn will help you to heal yourself.
Liver often relates to energy in the body, frustration and painful aches. The gall bladder is connected to the liver and often demonstrates in the form of dizziness, tinnitus and hypochondrial pain.
When we look at Chinese medicine and consider heart and kidneys, often we see very severe insomnia relating to an imbalance between these two organs. Also palpitations often come into play with heart imbalances and lower back and knee coldness and back ache relate to the kidneys.
Stomach and spleen are another pair of organs, which in Chinese medicine relate to each other. The stomach, when out of balance, often results in nausea and lack of appetite, while the spleen often relates back to diarrhoea and weakness in the limbs. Furthermore, the spleen energy is required to pull things upwards, whereas the stomach energy is required to pull things downward. In Chines medicine diarrhoea is a failure in spleen Qi, while vomiting is a failure in stomach Qi.
We can also enhance our findings by comparing these broad findings against the eight principles in Chinese medicine.
Ying/Yang Patterns: Is there a lack of nurture accompanied by feelings of restlessness, slight paranoia and desperation, then ying is involved. If you lack energy and confidence and feel cold yang is involved.
Excess/deficiency: Hot, excessive conditions such as blood shot eyes and sharp acute pain suggests excess, whereas dull pain, vague discomfort and weakness suggest deficiency.
Internal/External: External relates to cold and damp invasion and pathogenic attack, whereas internal arises from an inner disharmony. So, for example, vomiting after eating a meal might suggest food positioning, which is external, whereas vomiting for no apparent reason intermittently, probably suggests an internal imbalance.
Hot/Cold: Hot symptoms suggest heat, for example acute skin conditions, versus coolness, as in a frozen shoulder, or feeling cold and having a dull ache in one’s lower back and knees suggests coldness.
Healing Yourself with Chinese Medicine – A Perspective
In this article we have covered a vast range of topics from Chinese medicine, in very little detail. Hopefully by now you will have some appreciation for the TCM practitioner and how difficult their job is in diagnosing the patient.
If you are interested in healing yourself, with Chinese medicine, then it is not possible to go into the same detail which the TCM practitioner does, however, general patterns can be picked up upon.
You might not be a hundred present accurate, but you will probably gain at the very least an overview.
So how does this overview tie in with healing yourself?
Say, fas a hypothetical example, you conclude that there is a kidney and heart imbalance and that both ying and yang appear to be lacking. Yes both ying and yang can be deficient at the same time! In reality symptoms are never quite like the diagnosis, which books suggest in Chinese medicine. In reality we are all far more complicated and dynamic in our presentation of symptoms!
So let’s say you find such an imbalance, after studying yourself via Chinese medicine and its principles, so what then?
Well as long as heart lacks nurture there will be emotional pain, so acupuncture/acupressure can help the heart as to can some Chinese herbal remedies. You can also work on nurturing yourself. Kidneys can be boosted in the same manner, plus when we work on ironing out kidney/heart imbalances sleep and overall emotional happiness, as well as willpower, will drastically increase. Finally ying and yang can be worked upon via Chinese medicine, plus other areas such as Tai Chi, Qi Gong and Taoist Yoga as well as Hatha yoga and of course via changes in lifestyle and diet will help you to heal yourself.
Now this might not be a perfect diagnosis, but once you know that it’s the heart and kidneys, in this hypothetical example which tend to be getting hit, at least you have a focus which can be used so that you can heal yourself.
A big failing, which I see in allopathic health care today, is a complete lack of interest in seeing the bigger picture. Also even with complimentary therapies such as Chinese medicine, there is a tendency to send the patient to the TCM practitioner, yet the patient has no self-awareness. Because one thing is for sure, if you have an imbalance in one organ today, chances are that you have a disposition towards imbalances in this organ, so knowledge equals power, if you know about this tendency at least you can do something about it.
Patient expectations with Complimentary Therapies and Chinese Medicine – A Final Consideration
We are living in a fast paced world and have become adapted to a pill based health model, however, pills don’t solve everything and often they have nasty side effects, which is why more people than ever are going to TCM practitioners, aryuvedic doctors, homeopaths etc.
However, the complimentary therapist can only do so much. I know from my own clinical experience that most patents just want to be healed, without any self-effort, and this is really difficult. Even if the TCM practitioner or complimentary therapist succeeds, a certain implicit tendency towards certain states of energetic imbalance, continue to exist. In layman’s terms, if you get sick because of a stomach spleen imbalance today, for example, chances are that in the future some similar condition will arise again, as the stomach/spleen organs area a weak link in your health defences.
Guidelines to Heal Yourself
I have written this lengthy article in a hope to help you heal yourself!
It’s not about a perfect diagnosis and of course you will still need to see the doctor, TCM practitioner and other complimentary therapists, from time to time, but ultimately your life is in your hands.
We have to move away from a static model of health and realise that our bodies are in a constant state of flux, which needs to be rebalanced on a regular basis.
Healing yourself should be a natural part of life, like brushing your teeth in the morning. Try to learn about yourself and how you work, try to do some detective work, not just with Chinese medicine, but with many different therapies and healing approaches. Work towards a better balance, this is what healing yourself is all about. It will extend your life and minimise your ill health.
Give it a try and best if luck with your efforts!