Ancient Chinese Medicine in the Modern World
Chinese Medicine is a system of medicine that has been practiced for thousands of years, there are many stories as to how it was developed but no one is certain what the true story actually is... it probably doesn’t matter much anyway as it is always evolving yet always staying the same. The medicine came from observing: observing nature, the change of seasons, the passage of time, and the human body, how we move, how we grow and change, and how everything is connected. The way that the seasons of weather change, our bodies also change throughout the year. There are patterns and cycles to the changes that occur in nature and in ourselves, we are not separate from nature.
The Chinese observed that everything in nature has to be balanced by its counterpart, darkness and light or yin and yang. When things are in balance there is harmony and everything flows freely. When there is an imbalance, the system starts to break down resulting in disharmony or a disruption in the flow. So the goal of Chinese Medicine, whether you are using Herbs, Acupuncture, Body Work, Exercise, or Diet, is always to restore the balance of yin and yang to create harmony in the body.
According to the Chinese all life contains 3 treasures: Shen, Jing, and Qi. Though none of the treasures have a direct translation the most blunt translations would be: Shen the spirit one exudes, Jing is the essence or genetic history one has and passes on, and Qi is the vital force that fills and flows through all living things. One way to perceive the 3 treasures is to imagine a candle. The substance that is the candle (the wax and wick) represent the Jing, the flame that burns is the Qi and the light that it illuminates this the Shen.
In the body there are 12 organ systems that regulate all the functions of the body. There are 6 yin (Lung, Spleen, Heart, Pericardium, Kidney, Liver) and 6 yang organs (Large Intestine, Stomach, Small Intestine, Triple Burner, Gallbladder, Bladder). The qi of the body flows through the organ systems via Meridians making one big loop throughout the body. The Meridian system is broken up into 12 primary channels named for each organ, and 8 extraordinary vessels (Ren Mai or Conception Vessel, Du Mai or Governing Vessel, Chong Mai or Penetrating Vessel, Dai Mai or Belt Channel, Yin Chao Mai, Yang Chai Mai, Yin Wei Mai, and Yang Wei Mai). Acu Points are found along these channels where qi pools and act as port holes to access the qi of the channels to elicit change in the qi flow.
There are five elements in Chinese medicine which generate and control one another to keep balance. They are: Wood, Fire, Earth, Water, and Metal. Each of the elements is tied to a yin-yang or zang-fu pair of organs in the body. Lung and Large Intestine are Metal, Stomach and Spleen are Earth, Heart/ Pericardium and Small Intestine /Triple Burner are Fire, Bladder and Kidney are Water, Liver and Gallbladder are Wood. Each of the seasons are also given an element: Winter is Water, Spring is Wood, Summer is Fire, and Fall is Metal, with the transitional times between seasons belongs to the Earth element.
Since this system came about by observing nature the terms used to describe illness reflect those found in nature. The etiology of disease include 6 exogenous factors or pernicious influences, the seven emotions, improper diet, over strain or lack of physical exercise, traumatic injuries, bites by insects or animals, as well as the stagnation of blood and phlegm fluid. The pernicious influences that can invade the body causing disharmony include wind, cold, dampness, dryness, summer heat and fire. The seven emotions are: joy, anger, melancholy, worry, grief, fear and fright. Disease can be defined by deficiencies or excesses in yin, yang, qi, or blood, stagnation of fluids, counter-flow of qi, or disharmony between yin and yang.
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