Traditional Theory

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a reflection of ancient China's understanding of how humans function and operate, and how our environment influences our Body, Mind, & Spirit.  Multi-faceted and kaleidoscopic in its complexity, the key theories of diagnosis and treatment are those of Yin & Yang, the Five Elements, Qi/ Blood/ Body Fluids, and the 6 Pathogens.  Below is a very brief explanation of a few of these key theories.  Click on the red highlighted titles to link to external websites which will explore these topics in more detail.

Yang (陽) & Yin (陰)- the primary dichotomous universal principle of Chinese philosophy and medicine. All elements of the body and of nature itself are viewed in relationship to Yang & Yin. This dual, yet complementary, phenomena describes a constant ebb and flow between these mutually engendering and interdependent realities. Yang, literally meaning the bright side of the mountain and Yin, the dark side, convey the reality of nature observed since antiquity, and recognizes and endorses balance and harmony in every aspect of our lives. The concepts of Yang & Yin also provide us with powerful diagnostic tools to help us understand disease processes and make choices that will restore and maintain health and vitality. Hot/cold, dry/damp, day/night, up/down, exterior/interior, excessive/deficient, fast/slow - We can't know one without the other.  Put simply, Chinese medicine attempts to balance and bring into harmony, Yang & Yin.

Five Elements(五行/ "Wu Xing") - Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, & Water: a more sophisticated version of Yang & Yin theory, viewing universal principles as 5 instead of 2.  Sprouting, Growing, Blossoming, Decaying, & Dying, all of Life adheres to these universal principles.

Qi (氣) - Energy, Vitality, Life Force, Breath... “Qi is the creative, formative principle associated with life and all processes that characterize living entities. Qi is an invisible substance as well as an immaterial force that has palpable and observable manifestations.” Qi is what warms, moves, protects, and allows us to think & feel & interact with our environment... Qi is the communicator  of biological information among systems in our body mind... Qi is the vibrational flowing "substance" of Life which flows through our body in a river like system of channels much like blood flows through blood vessels or the branchings of the nervous system...Qi is the sum total of happenings that separate the Living from the Dead... Qi is Physiology... Qi is clearly difficult to define! 

Three Treasures (三寶/"San Bao") - Refers to Essence (精"Jing"), Energy (氣"Qi"), & Spirit (神"Shen") - Our 3 most vital substances.  Essence relates to sperm and egg, reproductive cycles, genetics, chromosomal influences, and our inherited constitution - this is our deepest level of being.  Energy is "Qi" - see above.  Spirit relates to our most subtle energetics, including mind/ cognition, mental/ emotional, and sensory organ resonances.

Six Pathogens (六氣 "Six Qi") - Wind, Cold, Dampness, Dryness, Summer Heat, and Fire.  In the environment these are know as the "Six Qi" and are not seen as pathology, however when we are invaded by one or more of these weather related influences, they can become out of balance in us, and injure Qi, Blood, Body Fluids, Spirit, or Essence and create disease and disharmony.

Four Pillars of Diagnosis - Looking, Listening, Asking, & Touching.  In clinic, this practically translates to the medical interview, palpation (touching) of radial arterial pulse (and occasionally other palpable pulse sites such as neck, temples, and feet), and the visual inspection of face, body, eyes, and tongue.  The information gathered will reveal the "Pattern(s) of Disharmony" to be treated.

Eight Parameters - Yin/ Yang, Deficiency/ Excess, Cold/ Hot, and Interior/ Exterior are the 8 principles which guide diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, & evaluation of disease.

Causes of Disease:  Internal - referring to imbalances brought about by one or more of the "7 Emotions" - anger, joy, pensiveness, grief, fear, shock, and sadness.  External - referring to attack by one or more of the "Six Pathogens" (see above).  Neither Internal nor External - referring to Dietary excesses or deficiencies, excessive or inappropriate sexual activity, trauma, insufficient rest or sleep, and injuries by animals or insects.  The Huang Di Nei Jing (黃帝內經), one of our most revered foundational texts, was the first to expound that emotional and psychological excesses are factors that disturb the internal organs and contribute to illness.  It advises “Not (to) be weighed down by perplexing thoughts.  Strive to be calm, optimistic and complacent in the face of situations that cause upset.  Keep sound in body and mind so in this way one can live to the age of 100.”

“Medicine is not only a science, it is an deals with the very processes of Life, which must be understood before they may be guided.” - Paracelsus

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