Yin Yang in Traditional Chinese Medicine
⚕️ The Medical system has always been a very integral part of human society. As there is an illness, there is a cure. In today's world, almost every civilized society follows the western medication system. Anything other than the predominant western medication is known as 'alternate medication system'
However, the situation was different earlier. When the world was not properly connected, every civilization had its own medication system. And although They did address the same problem, the basis of their systems were all different.
One of the most profound ancient medicine systems was the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) system. While western medicines are only based on the rationale of cause and effect, TCM looks at life in its entirety and considers aspects beyond material convections.
In this article, we are going to explore various aspects of TCM and will dive into the depths of its understanding of human life.
1) What is Traditional Chinese Medicine ?
TCM looks at life as more than just bones and flesh. In this system of medicine, analyzing the cause of the illness is much more important than the remedy. In traditional Chinese philosophy, there are many building blocks of the universe that are also the foundation of life. Imbalance in these elements causes illness to the human body according to TCM.
TCM is a very ancient science. It has been practiced in China for thousands of years 🇨🇳. It is based on the philosophy of great Chinese philosophers such as Lao Tzu and Confucius. TCM derives from a rich heritage of great beings, and it contains the essence of their understanding.
We are going to talk about these aspects at great length in the latter part of this article. Let's first understand the different practices under TCM.
Acupuncture is one of the most popular TCM. In this system, needles are inserted into different parts of the body 🦶🏻 to treat different diseases. However, there is a great blend of science and philosophy behind the medical system.
Ancient Chinese philosophy believes that there is an energy that works as the very foundation of the universe. This energy is known as 'qi'. It is the reason for all that is in the universe. This energy flows in the human body through fixed channels of meridian.
If there is any kind of distortion in the flow of this energy, then disease takes place in the body. Acupuncture identifies the area of distortion and also finds out the reason for the same. Then, it fixes the flow by inserting the acupuncture pins.
There is a complete science behind acupuncture. The energy channels or meridians have been properly mapped.
🤔 Although acupuncture is not a miracle like treatment, there are still many proven benefits to it. Many people think that acupuncture is primarily used for pain relief, but that's not true.
Acupuncture is used to treat a wide range of ailments.
It has been proven effective for migraine, neck pain, labor pain, back pain, anxiety, hypertension, and even insomnia. The biggest benefit is that one does not need to intake any kind of chemicals that have many side-effects. All that one needs to do is to find a good and experienced acupuncturist.
Acupressure finds its roots in acupuncture. It works on the same principle of energy flowing in the body through meridians. Unlike acupuncture, acupressure doesn't insert pins in acupuncture points. Rather it applies physical pressure on them. The pressure could be applied by hand, elbow, or various other devices.
It clears any blockage in the flow of the energy and restores the balance in the system ⚖️. Acupressure has even been proven effective by Western scientists for certain ailments. It is one of those TCM that is still widely practiced today.
C. Tai Chi
The Eastern concept of health is quite different from the western concept. While in the west, health means just the absence of ailment, in the East, health is an absolute concept. That's why western medicine focuses only on cure, while the eastern approach puts equal emphasis on prevention as well.
Tai Chi (or Tai Chi Chuan, Taijiquan) is one of those TCM, where maintaining health is prescribed as the cure for ailments. Traditionally, 🥋 Tai Chi is a martial arts form based on the concept of Yin and Yang. It involves practicing various physical as well as mental disciplines.
The central philosophy of Tai Chi Chuan is that if force is defended with force, then both sides will face some damage. That is why, the central philosophy of Tai Chi is to meet hardness, with softness and to follow the motion until the force is totally exhausted. This establishes an ideal balance of Yin and Yang.
Tai Chi is concerned mainly with health, meditation, and martial art. Health is both a prerequisite and a benefit of practicing Tai Chi. Those who practice Tai Chi, enjoy a prolonged and healthy life. That's also the reason, Tai Chi is being widely practiced throughout the world only for its health benefits.
🧘♀️ Meditation is another important aspect of Tai Chi. Mental peace is necessary for a healthy body. That's why Tai Chi practitioners also practice meditation. It is said that while practicing Tai Chi, if one focuses on the form of movement, then the mind can be brought to a certain level of calmness and clarity.
Thus, Tai Chi is yet another effective TCM. It works better as a way of prevention rather than cure. Tai Chi practitioners are living examples of the effectiveness of the system.
D. Herbal Treatment
🌿 Herbal treatments have always been a part of ancient medicines in almost every culture. TCM was no different in this regard. Herbal remedies were very common among Chinese people. However, the term herbal is a little misleading.
This is because, unlike many other herbal treatment systems, TCM also made use of some animal compounds ranging from a tiger's eyes to dried seahorses. There are thousands of elements that are used in medicines and over 1,00,000 recipes.
Interestingly, Chinese herbal treatment even made use of around 35 human body elements. But, that practice is mostly outdated now. In TCM, herbs are categorized based on their characteristics.
Based on the four nature, herbs are segregated as hot, warm, cool, and cold. The nature of an herb is the effect it is going to have on the body. That's the reason, warm and hot herbs are used to treat cold diseases while cold and cool herbs are used to treat heat diseases 🍵.
Herbs are also segregated into 5 flavors which are pungent, sweet, bitter, sour, and salty. These flavors have nothing much to do with the taste of the herb. Instead, All these 5 flavors correspond to one of the 5 Zang organs. These organs, in turn, are connected to the five phases found in traditional Chinese philosophy.
Thus, herbal Chinese medicine is a very deep science that explores the nature and effect of thousands of herbs on the human body.
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2) Yin Yang and Traditional Chinese Medicine
A. Eight principles
Traditional Chinese medicine follows an elaborated pattern of treatment. The very first step is to diagnose the disease. We have already discussed that in TCM, the cause of ailments in the body is believed to be caused by the imbalance of Yin and Yang ☯.
To identify this imbalance, TCM evaluates a disease based on eight principles. These principles identify the basic characteristics of a disease and help in finding a suitable cure. These eight principles are divided into pairs of mutual opposites. These are as follows:
- Yin: Yin and Yang are the most general classification of any They help in finding the relationship between the other three pairs of opposites. In general, Yin could be described as connected to cold.
- Yang: Same as Yin, Yang also helps in finding the relationship between the other three pairs of mutual opposites. Yang could be generally described as connected to
- Interior: Interior is the classification of the diseases that manifest deep inside the body, such as in zang-fu organs and even in qi, blood, or bone
- Exterior: Exterior are those diseases that manifest on external parts of the body, such as skin, hair, nail Example of exterior diseases include aversion to cold temperature, headache, fever, body chills,
- Heat: In TCM, the characteristic heat is described as the absence of aversion to cold. If paired with exterior classification, the disease related to heat includes body chills, dehydration, fever, etc. If paired with an internal pattern, diseases related to heat include clear urine, preference for cold drinks.
- Cold: Aversion to cold has been described as cold in TCM. If combined with exterior classification, the disease related to cold include body ache, tense pulse, If combined with interior classification, the disease includes vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, etc.
- Deficiency: This classification is used to signify the deficiency of qi, blood, or other body fluids in the body. Depending on other classifications, the disease related to deficiency might include small appetite, dizziness, slow pulse.
- Excess: Any disease that can't be classified as a deficiency is usually classified as an excess. Depending on its association with other clarifications, the diseases related to excess include quick pulse, sweaty palms,
Eight principles are just a basic classification of the disease. Based on its results, the disease is further diagnosed according to the symptoms. Eight principles diagnosis provides a strong foundation for disease recognition and treatment 💊.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Zhang fu is a set of organs that manages the production and regulation of the vital energy 'qi' in the body. While the Western medicine system identifies these organs based on their anatomical structure, TCM identifies organs primarily based on their function 🧠.Zhang organs: There are a total of 5 Zhang organs in the body and these are associated with Yin. Their job is to produce and store qi, blood, and other bodily elements. The Zhang organs include:
- Small intestine
- Large intestine
- Urinary bladders
Each of the Zhang Fu organs has a corresponding Yin Yang pair which completes the system. These organs follow the five phases mentioned in ancient Chinese philosophy.
They emphasize the cyclical nature of the universe and how the human body is also a part of it.
C. Qi Energy
In this article, we have mentioned the qi energy quite a few times. However, it's time that we understand qi in its full depths. Because understanding qi is very vital for an overall understanding of traditional Chinese medicine.
⚡ A very simple translation of qi in English would be "vital life force". But that gives the word a very shallow explanation. In reality, qi is much beyond that. It could be thought of as the force that is the very foundation of this universe. This is the force that binds the universe together.
Understanding Yin and Yang will provide more clarity to our understanding of qi. Yin is the dark, cold, solid, and passive side of qi. While Yang is hot, aggressive, dry, and rising portion of qi.
Yin and Yang are polar opposites, yet they can't exist without each other. Yin and Yang signify the duality of the universe and shows how everything's existence depends upon the opposites.
In TCM, qi has been classified into two main branches. The first one is the nourishment or physical portion of qi. It is the air, food, and water that we take in to sustain ourselves. The other branch of qi is much subtler. It is the vital energy and other vital fluids of the body 🩸.
The first branch of the qi are things that we take in and make them a part of us. The second branch works on what is already part of us and also releases the waste from the body. This completes a cycle. Any imbalance in this cycle leads to ailments in the body.
There are two types of qi imbalance that happens in the body. These are:
➖ Qi deficiency: qi deficiency in the body may happen due to various reasons. This includes lack of sleep, food, or fresh air. It can also also be caused due to loneliness, lack of social interaction, love, etc.
➕ Qi excess: Excess of qi may happen due to toxins, polluted water, and air. It is also a consequence of excessive physical stress on the body, overeating, oversleeping, and extreme emotions.
Qi is the universal energy. It manifests in different forms differently. In the human body, qi has manifested in four forms, which are:
Parental Qi: It is the qi that a child receives from his parents at the time of conception. This qi is stored in the kidney and it provides a basic foundation to life.
Pectoral Qi: Breathing is the source of pectoral qi. This key is stored in the chest area of the body.
Nutritional Qi: It is the qi generated by eating food. This qi is also responsible for the circulation of the nutrients throughout the body.
Defensive Qi: As the name itself suggests, this qi works as a protection for the body against ailments. Even though this qi is also derived from eating food, the purpose it serves is completely different.
In TCM, every vital substance has five cardinal functions to perform. Qi is responsible for very important cardinal functions in the body. These are:
- Qi maintains and regulates the vital life force that is very important for proper growth and development of body and
- It protects the body against various kinds of
- Qi is also responsible for producing body heat and maintaining a normal
- Qi is responsible for turning food, air, or water into nutrients and other vital
- Qi also manages the important organs and other body
Now, you must have understood what is qi, and why it is very important in traditional Chinese medicine. Qi is the very foundation of ancient Chinese philosophy, based on which TCM is established.
D. The Five Vital Substances
According to TCM, there are five substances in the human body that perform different functions in the body. These substances maintain health and sustain life in the body. These are as follows,
- Qi: In the previous section, we have already talked about qi at great In a nutshell, it is the vital life energy that is the very reason for sustenance of life
- Jing: It could be translated as the 'essence'. It refers to both material and immaterial essence in the Jing shares a strong relationship with qi. And they together provide the basis for the next element, shen.
- Shen: The general translation of Shen would mean 'spirit'. This substance is responsible for the maintenance and regulation of emotions. Any imbalance in Shen leads to various mental ailments such as depression, anxiety,
- Xue: Often termed as the liquid life force, Xue means blood. It is responsible for supplying nutrients and other vital substances to every part of the Deficiency is Xue also hinders the functions of other vital substances.
- Jin ye: Jin ye means body fluids. It is not one but two words. Jin means thin and clear body fluids such as sweat, teardrops, While Ye means thick body fluids such as the brain and spinal cord fluids
It is independent to understand that none of these substances are independent. They work in coordination with other substances. Together, they work to sustain a healthy body and a vibrant life 👍.
3. Final Words on TCM
In this article, we talked at great lengths about Traditional Chinese Medicine. By now, you know more about TCM than most other people. TCM is a vast science that somehow perished away with time. However, it is still alive in many forms and practiced as an alternative form of medicine worldwide.
Western science will never be able to approve it because their very foundations are different. The vision of western medicines is because they are just concerned with cause and effect.
However, TCM is a system that works on the very philosophy of the universe. Rather than just ailments treatment, TCM provides a great insight into the working and mechanisms of human life.
It not only finds the cure but provides a complete mechanism of maintaining a healthy body and a joyful mind 😄.
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