The tricky part about defining Chinese medicine to those who are unfamiliar is that Chinese medicine is actually just one thing. It’s a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to total-body health care that combines the practices of therapeutic touch, herbology, nutrition, acupuncture and other things into one. In many cases, patients will see both a Chinese medicine practitioner and a Western doctor, and undergo a treatment healthy living protocol that combines both methodologies, while other patients prefer to choose one discipline over the other.
The common thread that runs throughout all aspects of Chinese medicine is the desire to restore the body to a state of balance. When the body is out of balance, that is when ailments and illness occur. When the body is restored to equilibrium, optimal health can be restored. In contrast to Western medicine, which focuses on treating symptoms, Chinese medicine focuses on the root cause of the symptoms. At the heart of this investigation are the concepts of Yin and Yang. Basically, Yin is a negative force and Yang is a positive force. These two forces work in opposition to each other, and when they are in equal measure, balance is present in the body. The core of Chinese medicine is learning how to balance these two forces.
Another important tenet of Traditional Chinese Medicine is the concept of qi, or life force. Chinese medicine practitioners believe that all living things in the universe contain qi, including humans. In humans, the qi runs through us along invisible channels, or meridians, that govern every mental, emotional, and physical process. When the Yin and Yang in the body are out of balance, evil qi takes over, which can cause the body harm. What causes this imbalance? It could be a variety of things, including lifestyle stresses, your diet, and exercise.
Finally, Traditional Chinese Medicine operates on the belief that there are five organ systems in the body, each one being represented by a different element. For example:
Winter, or water: This governs the urinary system of the kidneys and the bladder. In this system, the kidneys are the yin and the bladder is the yang.
Spring, or wood: This system governs the liver (yin) and the gall bladder, which is the yang/
Summer, or fire: This system governs the heart and the small intestine.
Each person is made up of a blend of these elements that is unique to them. The overall health of each person, then, is determined by the overall balance or imbalance of these elements.
Chinese medicine, then, is a holistic approach to health. When a patient isn’t feeling well, it is the job of the practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine at a wellness center to determine which of the above systems is out of balance, and take the necessary steps to put that system back into equilibrium.