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Does the World Revolve Around You?

An Introduction to TCM

Traditional 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.

Although Yin 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.

In relation 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.

The constant 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.

In addition 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
  • 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

Each element 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 condition.

Although the 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 health.



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Information provided on this site is for educational use only, and is not intended as medical advice. If you have any serious health concerns, you should always check with your health care practitioner before self-administering remedies.

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