What is Chinese Medicine? Chinese medicine is a (w)holistic health care system used throughout Asia for several thousands of years. Its aim is to treat and prevent illnesses. It is based on the observation of nature, its climates, its cycles and its interactions with the human body. The human body is considered to be a microcosm of our environment and of the universe that surrounds us. In Chinese philosophy, every single aspect of life can be described in function of the fluctuations of the Yin and Yang energies, as is the physiology of our body. We consider that a person afflicted of symptoms to be in disharmony of the fundamental energies Yin and Yang. Thus, the role of a Chinese medicine practitioner is to bring back the body & mind to its own harmony.
What is Yin and Yang? Yin and Yang energies are opposite but yet complementary energies found in all things in the universe. Yin energy tends towards being more still and cooler and it is perceived as feminine while Yang energy tends towards being more dynamic, warmer, and is perceived as masculine. Neither are to be confused with woman and man as we all have both. In the universe, Yin and Yang energies are always in movements, opposing, interchanging, transforming into each others. Everything in the universe can be indefinitely divided into Yin and Yang. However, keep in mind that these energies are not absolutes in the sense that Yin does not exist without Yang and vice-versa, nothing is just Yin and nothing is just Yang. Also in Yin there is the seed for Yang and in Yang the seed of Yin.
What is the concept of health in Chinese Medicine? Chinese medicine talks about three treasures to preserve and cultivate in order to achieve good health
- Jïng, 精 - Jing corresponds to the essence received from our ancestors from the day of our conception to our death somewhat akin to our ‘genetical make-up’, jing is consumed and can be replenished with diet, exercise, herbal therapy, etc…
- Qì, 氣 - also called Energy, is considered to be the vital force that makes possible all physiological functions of the human body. These functions include Transporting, Warming, Protecting, Holding, Transforming and Rising. Qì can be increased and harmonized with Acupuncture, Herbal therapy, Moxa, Diet, Life style and Exercises such as Qi Gong and internal Martial Arts.
- Shén, 神 – also called Spirit or Mind, is considered to be the most subtle of the three treasures. Shén include the emotional, mental and spiritual aspect of a human being.
The main theories of Chinese medicine that allows us to understand the human physiology and pathophysiology comprises the theory of Yin and Yang, the 5 elements theory, Qi Blood and Body fluids theory, without forgetting the 6-evils and the 7 pernicious emotions. The 5 elements theory allows the practioner to understand the model of the patient’s landscape in terms of 5 forces acting in the human body, in the physiology and in the pathophysiology. Each is associated with its corresponding internal organs (Heart, Spleen, Lungs, Kidneys, Liver), color, season, food, sound, smell and emotion to name a few. The 5 elements are Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood.
What are the origins of imbalance? Chinese medicine in contrast with Western medicine looks at the person as a whole including the emotional and body & mind interconnection. Physical imbalances are not seen to be purely of physical origin but partly of spiritual and emotional origin as well. Certain emotions called pernicious emotions affect certain organs. For example, Anger affects the Liver and brings your blood to your face, Joy affects the Heart and relaxes both body and mind. Another aspect of imbalances arises from the 6-evils. The 6-evils theory comes from the observation of nature and our environment were Heat, Cold, Dampness, Dryness, Summer-heat, and Wind can invade our body and create disturbances and diseases. For example, a common cold can be due to the invasion of a wind, we commonly talk about being in a draft or of head cold.
What are the diagnostic methods of Traditional Chinese Medicine? Traditional Chinese Medicine uses four different diagnostic methods of gathering information:
- Inspection general observations of the patient, including facial expression; skin color and texture; general appearance, and the shape, color, and distinctive markings of the tongue and the nature of its coating; and smelling (noting any unusual smell of the body, mouth, or urine).
- Listening to the quality of the speech (including responsiveness to questions, rapidity of talking, volume of the voice); to the respiration; and to sounds of illness, such as coughing, gurgling from the intestines, rattling in the throat, sounds in the lungs, etc…
- Inquiring to obtain information about the patient’s medical history and their symptoms and signs, such as chills/fever, perspiration, appetite and dietary habits, urine & stool, perspiration, sleep, and any pains; also, for women inquiring about menstruation, pregnancy, leukorrhea and other gynocological and obstetric concerns.
- Palpation pulse diagnosis is one of the original set of four diagnostic methods that are described as an essential part of traditional Chinese medical practice.
All of these diagnostic methods yield information that helps the practitioner to determine the pattern and constitution to be treated.