Working with the interface between the organism and its emotions,
feelings, behaviour patterns and thoughts, Chinese medicine is one
of the most highly developed sciences of its kind. Traditionally,
Chinese medical practice does not separate physical pain and
disharmony from emotional and spiritual pain and disharmony. Nor
does it look for a single cause ... one creates the other and it the
relationship between these disharmonies that is treated. If illness
exists long enough at one level, it will also effect the other
levels. As an example, consider the chain of events that occurs in
the aftermath of a motor vehicle accident. There is trauma to the
physical body, say a broken bone. When the acute phase is over and
the bone has mended, many people experience continued pain even
though there is no longer a sign of organic trauma. Why does this
pain still exist even though an X-ray or MRI shows no sign of
damage? Chinese medicine theory would say that the physical body has
healed, but the healing has not been addressed at other important
levels. The flow of energy may still be blocked at the site of
trauma ... that is why acupuncture can help with pain that
allopathic medicine can't (and sometimes concludes must be 'in the
It is recognized that long term injuries become chronic sites of
weakness in the body, aggravated by anything that puts a strain on
the balance of the body. When energy doesn't move smoothly and
freely, it stagnates at weaker areas and causes pain. Furthermore,
since the energy movement of the body is highly susceptible to our
emotions and psychological defence patterns, old 'war' wounds can be
further aggravated in times of stress and emotional turmoil. Bring
into this mix environmental factors like weather, toxicities, lack
of exercise, poor diet, over-work ... and so on, and an old trauma
may be held in place long after it has ceased to be visible under a
Likewise, things can happen from the other end of the spectrum.
An external trauma need not be a factor in causing disease or pain.
Chinese medicine pathology has mapped other causes that can cause
the body to lose its balance and develop a myriad of syndromes and
disorders. The most important internal causes of disease are
emotional. Other causes affect the internal environment less
directly ... diet, poor living and working conditions, poor
lifestyle choices. In all these cases, internal conditions manifest
that eventually show signs and symptoms at an organic level. The
field of internal medicine theory from a TCM perspective is well
mapped and well experienced in clinical practice over the centuries
that it has been developed and practiced.
Therefore, whatever level of the human body is out of balance,
and whether it is from external events or resulting from internal
disorders, Chinese medicine has tools and knowledge to help.
Sometimes in conjunction with allopathic medicine and sometimes as
stand alone treatment.
The development of TCM can be traced back to the New Stone Age
over 10,000 years ago. TCM practices developed in an empirical
manner through the observation of the effects they produced on
certain parts of the body and on specific ailments. Early
acupuncture was carried out using sharpened bone fragments prior to
the development of other tools. The first and most important classic
text of TCM had been completed in about 200 BC. This book, known as
the Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine , discussed the
theory and philosophy of TCM as well as the therapeutic benefits of
acupuncture, herbs, diet and exercise. By the Han dynasty (206 B.C.
- 220 A.D.), another valuable classic, the Treatise on Diseases
Caused by Cold Factors (Shang Han Lun) had been written by Chang
Chung-ching. This classic is an authoritative practical guide to the
treatment of illness even to the present day. Another well-known
Chinese medical works is the Materia Medica (Pen Tshao Kang Mu),
compiled in the Ming dynasty (1368- 1644 A.D.) by Li Shih-chen. This
encyclopaedic work includes descriptions of almost 2,000 different
kinds of medicines and forms an important framework for TCM
Yin and Yang is an important and fundamental concept in TCM.
The Chinese character for Yin translates literally as the 'dark
side of the mountain' and represents such qualities as cold,
stillness, passive, dark, interior, below, front and so on.
The Chinese character for Yang translates literally as the
'bright side of the mountain' and represents such qualities as
warmth, activity, light, exterior, above, back and so on.
TCM views the body in terms of Yin and Yang aspects. The healthy
state is characterized by a dynamic balance between the Yin and Yang
aspects of the body and, by implication, an unhealthy state is
characterized by some imbalance between the Yin and Yang of the
Excess of Yin - will be characterized by extreme cold symptoms
Excess of Yang - will be characterized by very full heat symptoms
Relative Deficiency of Yin - will be characterized by internal
heat and lethargy symptoms
Relative Deficiency of Yang - will be characterized by general
coldness and lethargy symptoms.
Yin and Yang in dynamic equilibrium - ideal balance state of
Each Element is seen as having a series of correspondences
relating both to the natural world and also the human body. Each is
linked with a season, a climate, a taste, a color, a sound, an
emotion, an odor, an movement, a sense organ, a body part, a Yang
organ and a Yin organ.
TCM uses a system of inter-relationships between the Five
Elements in order to understand how the various processes of the
body support and control each other. Because of these
inter-relationships, when one of the organs and its associated
Element is out of balance, the other elements are also affected.
This imbalance will manifest in the individual with many different
signs and symptoms. It may show in the facial color, the sound of
the voice, a change in the emotional state as well as disharmony in
the functioning of the connected organs.
TCM views the human body as an energy system in which various
substances interact with each other to create the physical organism.
These basic substances are Qi, Jing, Blood and Body Fluids.
usually translated as 'energy' or 'vital energy', is the
energy that underlies everything in the universe. The Qi
inside our bodies is created from the combination of the
food we eat and digest via our Stomach and Spleen and the
air we breathe into our Lungs. It is the source of body
activity and movement, protects us from illness and keeps
our bodies warm. If the Qi becomes deficient or blocked,
this will result in an inability to transform and transport
our food and drink, an inability to keep warm, and a lack of
resistance to diseases and depleted energy.
usually translated as 'essence', is crucial to the
development of the individual through life. It is inherited
at birth and is stored in the kidneys and allows us to
develop from childhood to adulthood and then into old age.
It governs growth, reproduction and development, promotes
kidney Qi and works with Qi to help protect the body from
external factors. Any developmental disorder such as
learning difficulties and physical disabilities in children
may be due to a deficiency of Jing. Other disorders such as
infertility, poor memory and chronic tendency to external
disease and allergies may also be due to deficient Jing.
in TCM is not the same substance that is recognized in
Western medicine. In TCM, Blood means the fluid that
nourishes and moisturizes the body. It also houses the Shen
(or spirit) and aids in the development of clear and stable
thought processes. Disharmonies of Blood include deficient
Blood, which typically lead to pale complexion, dry skin and
dizziness; stagnant Blood causing sharp and intense pain or
even the development of tumor; and heat in the Blood causing
bleeding symptoms such as uterine hemorrhage or nosebleeds.
called Jin Ye in Chinese, are considered to be the
organic liquids that moisten and lubricate the body in
addition to Blood. These fluids moisten and nourish the
skin, muscles, hair, joints, brain, spine and bone marrow.
Deficiency in body fluids can lead to various forms of
dehydration such as dry skin and constipation. If fluids
accumulate and get stuck, this can lead to problems of
dampness and phlegm in TCM and may manifest as symptoms like
lethargy and a feeling of heaviness in the body
Meridians or channels form a distribution system that carries Qi,
Jing, Blood and Body Fluids around the body. There are 12 main meridians. Branching from them is a network of
other smaller channels. Each main meridian is connected to one of
the twelve organs and travels along its own route within the body.
For example, the Heart meridian travels in a pathway from the heart
itself to the armpit and down the inside of the arm to the little
finger. This explains why someone with a heart problem often has a
tingling feeling running down the arm to the little finger.
The term Zangfu is a collective name for the various Yin and Yang
organs identified in TCM. A Yin organ is called a Zang and a Yang
organ is called a Fu. Each organ is considered to have its own
functions, but these functions have a far wider scope than the
purely physiological function described in Western medicine.
The Zang consists of the five solid (Yin) organs. They are:
A sixth organ called the Pericardium, unknown in Western
physiology, is also considered as a Yin Zang. In general, TCM
considers the Zang to be deeper in the body and to be concerned with
the manufacture, storage and regulation of the fundamental
substances. For example, the Heart makes blood, the Lung governs Qi
and the Kidney stores Jing or Essence. Each Zang also connects to a
sense organ and have an associated spiritual aspect. For example,
the liver connects to the eye and is associated with anger.
The Fu consists of the six hollow (Yang) organs. They are:
San Jiao or Triple Burner (also unknown to Western
In general, Fu organs are closer to the surface of the body and
have the functions of receiving, separating, distributing and
excreting body substances.
TCM divides the causes of disharmony into three main areas:
which are illnesses caused by emotions. This include
anger, sadness, worry, fear, joy, grief, pensiveness and
shock and are usually termed as the seven emotions. While
these emotions are normal and healthy responses to the many
situations we encounter in daily life, they can cause
disease when they are intense or prolonged, or are not
expressed or acknowledged over a long period of time.
which are causes of disharmony that relate to climatic
conditions. There are six of these conditions, usually known
as the six pathogenic factors or the six outside evils. They
are: wind, cold, damp, fire and heat, dryness and summer
heat. Different climatic conditions are appropriate during
each season and we usually adapt to them as they come and
go. However, extremes of weather such as a very cold winter
or unseasonal weather such as a warm spell in winter make us
more vulnerable to the effects of that climatic condition
and consequently to becoming ill. Also, people whose
underlying energy is weak are more vulnerable to the effects
of climatic conditions than those who have a strong
include work, exercise, diet, sexual activity and
physical trauma. TCM thinks that these factors can have a
profound influence on our bodies. For example, too much
physical work can impair Qi, too much mental activity can
damage the Spleen, someone who works outdoors is more liable
to be at risk from the six outside evils, excessive sexual
activity is considered to be damaging to the Kidney and
injuries would make the injured body part more vulnerable to
the outside evils.