Chinese medicine is a complete medical system that has diagnosed, treated, and prevented illness for over twenty-three centuries. While it can remedy ailments and alter states of mind, Chinese medicine can also enhance recuperative power, immunity, and the capacity for pleasure, work, and creativity.
How It Thinks
Within Chinese Cosmology, all of creation is born from the marriage of two polar priciples, Yin and Yang: Earth and Heaven, winter and summer, night and day, cold and hot, wet and dry, inner and outer, body and mind. Harmony of this union means health, good weather, and good fortune, while disharmony leads to disease, disaster, and bad luck. The strategy of Chinese medicine is to restore harmony.
Each human is seen as a world in miniature, a garden in which doctor and patient together strive to cultivate health. Every person has a unique terrain to be mapped, a resilient yet sensitive ecology to be maintained. Like a gardener uses irrigation and compost to grow robust plants, the doctor uses acupuncture, herbs and food to recover and sustain health.
Body Constituents (Qi, Moisture, Blood, Spirit, Essence)
Just as Nature contains air, sea, and land, the human body is comprised of Qi, (pronounced chee), Moisture, and Blood. Qi is the animating force that gives us our capacity to move, think, feel, and work. Moisture is the liquid medium which protects, nurtures, and lubricates tissue. Blood is the material foundation out of which we create bones, nerves, skin, muscles, and organs.
Human beings intermingle psyche and soma, Spirit (Shen) and Essence (Jing). Shen is the immaterial expression of the individual; and Essence represents the body's reproductive and regenerative substance. Chinese medicine appreciates the impact of the unseen upon the visible. Even though it is impossible to touch or measure thoughts or emotions, they are acknowledged as inextricably linked to physiology.
Organ Networks (Liver, Heart, Spleen, Lung, Kidney)
As Nature is organized by five primal powers- Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water- so the body is divided into five functional systems known as Organ Networks. These Networks govern particular tissues, mental faculties, and physical ativities by regulating and preserving Qi, Moisture, Blood, Spirit, and Essence.
For example, the Kidney Network includes yet extends beyond the job of managing fluid metabolism which we in the West ordinarily associate with the kidneys. The Kidney stores the Essence responsible for reproduction, growth, and regeneration. It controls the treeth, bones, marrow, brain, inner ear, pupil of the eye, and lumbar region, and is associated with the emotion of fear, the will, and the capacity for sharp thinking and perception. So problems such as retarded growth, ringing in the ears, infertility, low back pain, paranoia, fuzzy thinking, weak vision, apathy, or dispair are veiwed as dysfunctions of the Kidney Network.
The Heart not only propels blood through the vessels, but harbors the Spirit and governs the mind. Symptoms as varied as anxiety, restless sleep, angina, and palpitations occur when the Heart is agitatied.
The Spleen is in charge of the assimliation of food and fluids, as well as ideas, so when this Network is disturbed, indigestion, bloating, fatigue, scattered thinking, and poor concentration ensue.
The Liver is responsible for the storage of Blood, flow of Qi, and eveness of temperament- so when the Liver is thwarted, tension in the neck and shoulders, high blood pressure, headaches, cramping, moodiness, and impulsive behavior may follow.
Through the breath, the Lung sets the body rhythm, defends its boundaries, and affords inspiration. A troubled Lung might trigger tightness in the chest, skin rashes, vulnerability to colds or flus, rigid thinking, or melancholy.
Body Climates (Wind, Dampness, Dryness, Heat, Cold)
In Nature, extreme wind, dampness, dryness, heat, and cold wreak havoc in the world. These same forces can derange balance within the human body, weakening or obstructing the movement of Qi in the organs. As winds shake the trees of the forest, dissasembling leaves and branches, internal Wind manifests as vertigo, unsteady movement, and trembling. As saturated earth generates swamps, so Dampness becomes phlegm and edema in the body. As aridity withers vegitation, so Dryness causes chapping or cracking of mucus membranes. Just as ice inhibits the rush of water in a stream, so internal Cold retards circulation and depresses metabolism. And just as fire scorches the earth, so internal Heat may inflame tissue.
Health and Illness
Qi, Moisture, and Blood circulate within a web of pathways called channels that link together all parts of the organism. Health exists when adequate Qi, Moisture, and Blood flow smoothly. Symptoms as varied as joint pain, headache, anxiety, fatigue, menstrual cramps, high blood pressure, asthma, indigestion, and the common cold occur when thier circulation is disrupted.
All illness is understood as a consequence of either a depletion or a congestion of Qi, Moisture, and Blood. Depletionleads to weakness, lethargy, frequent illness, poor digestion, and inadequate blood flow. Congestion results in aches, tension, tenderness, pain, a distended abdomen, irritability, and swelling.