An Introduction to TCM
Chinese Medicine would go so far as to say you are the world. What
does that mean? Let's put things into perspective with a brief overview
of health, according to TCM.
In Chinese Medicine,
as in all forms of holistic healing, the emphasis is on the individual
themself. However, unlike some other forms of healing, TCM also views
the individual as a miniature representation of nature.
It begins with
the principle that all matter in the universe comes from one direct
source, called tao. Tao contains two opposing forces called yin and
yang. Yin, directly translated means "the dark side of the mountain",
and possesses the qualities of cold, dark, passive, and female. On
the other hand, Yang represents the "sunny side of the mountain",
and is seen as hot, light, active, and male.
and Yang are complete opposites, one cannot exist without the other.
Hence, when you look at the traditional Yin/Yang symbol, you will
note a small black circle, representing yin, within the white yang,
as well as a small circle of white, representing yang, within the
black yin. As well, you will notice how yin seems to flow into yang,
and yang into yin.
This is a very
important concept, as the balance of yin and yang is considered fundamental
in the Chinese Medicine view of health. Though yin and yang are constantly
changing, and merging with each other, the two must share an equilibrium,
or illness and disease will result.
to nature, one of the best examples would be light. Light is always
followed by darkness, which then returns to light, and so the cycle
continues. As the cycle continues, one does not try to dominate the
other, they co-exist in harmony.
movement between yin and yang creates energy. Known as chi, or qi
(pronounced chee), this energy is said to be the lifeforce which
animates all things.
In Chinese Medicine,
qi is believed to flow through twelve major energetic pathways called
meridians. Each meridian is associated with an organ in the body.
If yin and yang become unbalanced, the flow of chi is disrupted,
which can lead to blockages of energy, and result in illness and
diseases. Imbalances of yin and yang are caused by a variety of factors,
including lifestyle, diet, exercise, work, and the environment.
to the principles of yin, yang, and qi, Chinese Medicine also applies
the law of the five elements. For westerners, this is one of the
most difficult concepts to grasp. It is important to remember that
Chinese Medicine views the body as a mini ecosystem, and that therefore,
everything present in nature also dwells within us.
The five elements
consist of wood, fire, earth, metal, and water, and are also representative
of a cycle. The cycle is:
- wood feeds
- fire creates
ashes, which form earth
- inside the
earth, metal which is heated liquifies, producing water vapor
- the water
generated then nourishes the trees, or wood
is also said to be relative to both a yin and yang based organ within
the body. For example, wood is tied to the yin liver, and the yang
gall bladder. Fire to the yin heart, and the yang small intestine.
By using the
theories of yin and yang, and the five elements, other diagnostic
tools have been developed. For example, if you consult a TCM practitioner,
and an imbalance is detected within your system, the practitioner
may tell you that your symptoms are the result of excess heat, fire,
cold, or damp, in one or more of your organs.
As an illustration,
excess fire is said to result in skin eruptions, inflammation, and
ulcers, whereas cold can bring on pain that is frozen in one place,
or manifests as physical coldness in body temperature.
Much as it is
in the world of nature, where a subtle balance is vital for the maintenance
of life, good health is dependant on keeping all of these elements
in harmony. Chinese Medicine is one of the oldest, and most respected
forms of medicine to give consideration to all aspects of the human
concepts associated with this form of treatment can seem foreign,
or simply confusing to the uninitiated, its application by a professional
practitioner can have a profound effect on one's overall state of