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The Origin of Chinese Medicine

It began in China over four thousand years ago. But its methods have no geographic bounds. Today, it's practiced the world over. Chinese herbs don't only come from China, they come from everywhere,. Cinnamon from Vietnam, cardamom from India, and even American ginseng from Wisconsin are now Chinese herbs.

The oldest known book about Chinese Medicine is The Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic. It was compiled before 200 BC. It's a summary of medical ideas and techniques that were in use long before the second century BC.

Today, Chinese Medicine has expanded far beyond the Inner Classic. Countless variations and innovations have appeared. But some principles are unchanging. These root principles, such as yin and yang, describe natural laws, the laws your body must ultimately obey. These root principles endow Chinese Medicine with a unique knowledge making it, in some ways, far more evolved than modern technological medicine.

Early History of TCM Through Books

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is more than 2,000 years old. The earliest medical text, The Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic also was known as Plain Questions and the Canon of Acupuncture . The book, summarizes and systematizes the previous millenia of medical experience and deals with the anatomy and physiology of the human body. This work lays the foundation for TCM.

Later important books also represent milestones in the history of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). They include:

The Herbal is the earliest classic on herbs. This materia medica was handed down from the Qin and Han dynasties (221 B.C--220 A.D.). It is the summary of pharmaceutical knowledge known before the Han. It discuss 365 kinds of drugs and offers the pharmacological theory of "jun, chen, zuo and shi " (monarch, minister, assistant and guide) indicating the actions of drugs in a prescription,"

Treatise on Febrile Diseases and Miscellaneous Diseases Zhang Zhongjing, (300 A.D) Differentiates febrile diseases according to the theory of six channels, miscellaneous diseases according to pathological changes of viscera and. Establishes diagnosis based on overall analysis of signs and symptoms. Its 269 prescriptions make up the basis for modern clinical practice.

Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion Huang Fumi (215--282 A.D.), 12 volumes, 128 chapters. The earliest classic specific to acupuncture and moxibustion in China. It summarizes information on the channels and collaterals, acupuncture points, needle manipulation, and contraindication. It lists the total number of the acupoints as 349, and discusses the therapeutic properties of each point.

General Treatise on the Causes and Symptoms of Disease 610 A.D., Chao Yuanfang, together with others. The earliest classic on etiology and syndrome. 50 volumes, divided into 67 categories, and list 1,700 syndromes. It expounds on the pathology, signs and symptoms of various diseases, surgery, gynecology, and pediatrics .

Prescriptions Worth a Thousand Gold for Emergencies Sun Simiao 581--682 A.D 30 volumes and 5,300 prescriptions. Also deals with acupuncture, moxibustion, diet therapy, prevention, and health preservation. Outstanding treatment of deficiency diseases.

The Medical Secrets of An Official Wang Tao 752 A.D. 40 volumes, introduces 6,000 prescriptions. A master's compendium of prescriptions available before the Tang dynasty.

Chi is the source of all movement. Chi is the source of all heat

Chinese medicine is about Chi. We study where it comes from, where it goes, and how it flows. Your body is nourished by, cleansed by, and dependent on flows. Think of your Chi as all your body's energies, electrical, chemical, magnetic, and radiant.

Matter and energy, (flesh and Chi),
are governed by natural law. Natural forces such as gravity, time, inertia, friction, yin, and yang, all affect us, inside and out.

Chi must flow. Movement shows that Chi exists. Warmth shows that Chi is present.

There are many kinds of Chi. There's Chi of the channels and Chi of the collateral channels, protective Chi, digestive Chi, central Chi, and original Chi. There's normal Chi and perverse Chi, kidney Chi and lung Chi and liver Chi (every organ has its own Chi).

Chi and blood nourish the body. Chi moves the blood, and blood is mother of the Chi.

Normal flows of Chi and blood are the basics of good health. When they are abundant and flowing, we are well.
When blood or Chi is weak or stuck, we become ill.

  Theory of Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang refer to the sides of a mountain.
In the morning, one side is in shade, the other in sunlight.
Later in the day, the sides have reversed.
Dark becomes light and light becomes dark.

Nature is like this, forever changing, undulating. In time, Yang turns to Yin. Yin predictably becomes Yang.

Change is certain, a basic law of nature you can count on, like gravity.

Yang and Yin support one another as they oppose each other. There is always yin within yang and yang within yin. You simply can' t have one without the other.

We see the body and its disharmonies in changing shades of Yin and Yang. This helps to understand where events come from and where they are going to.

This helps to understand the disease and the patient .

The Channels and the Acupoints

Where There's Flow, There's No Pain

Much of our Chi energy flows along fourteen major channels and numerous minor channels. These flows influence the flow of all our fluids and energies.

Each one of these flows passes through and influences an internal organ. Typically, these rivers of energy are named according to the internal organs which they nourish. Thus we have the Liver Channel, Stomach Channel, Heart channel, etc.. To the acupuncturist, these channels provide access to the internal organs. Most of the 500 or so acupuncture points lie on major channels.

Acupuncture points are used to regulate flow along these channels. The most powerful points on these channels lie on the extremities - below the elbows and knees. Five powerful points on the extremity of each channel are known as the five Shu points. They are likened to the flow of water and named the source points, well points, stream points, river points, and sea points.     

Theory of the Organs, the Zhang / Fu

The organs are more than flesh and blood. They also perform tasks involving the Chi.

Since we are, in part, about energy  we obviously must have ways of using or managing it.  In TCM, we attribute the creation, storage and circulation of qi to some of the internal organs. 

Chinese medical theory groups the organs into pairs. The Yin organs - (the heart, spleen, lungs, kidneys, and liver) are called the Zang are considered the most important.  They are structurally solid, and responsible for the creation and storage of Chi and Blood.

The Yang organs, (large intestine, small intestine, stomach, gall bladder, and urinary bladder) are called the Fu and are considered less important. They are hollow organs, responsible mainly for the transportation of food and for elimination.

There is sixth pair of organs known as the Pericardium and Triple-Heater.  These are conceptual organs. They have protective and energetic attributes, but no actual mass.

Functions of the Organs
Yang functions
Yin functions
Small Intestine
Circulates Blood
Transports food and fluids
Home to the Shen (spirit).
Governs the blood, speech, and the vessels
Extracts energy from food.
Regulates the muscles.
Governs tranportation and transformation. 
Root of construction and the blood
Large Intestine
Circulates qi
Regulates the Surface
Regulates conveyance
Protects the Interior
Governs and is the root of the qi
Governs skin and hair
Stores the Po (aspect of spirit)
Urinary Bladder
Regulates urination and reproduction. Nourishes the brain and Marrow. 
Controls the fire at the Gate of Life.
Stores the original qi (yuan qi)
Stores the essence (jing)
Rules the bones, brain and marrow
Gall Bladder

Smoothes the flow of Chi

Regulates Menstrual Flow
Cleans Toxins

Governs coursing, discharge and movement.
Stores the Blood.

The Five Elements -
Relationships of the organs to one another and the theory of corespondances

A Storm in the Mountains and the Valley is Flooded

It is obvious that the organx are dependent on one another. The Five Elements is a theory that helps us to understand these relationships. According to this principle, there exist five elemental types. These elements are known as Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. Each element relates to the other according to two cycles of influence. Disharmony in one element will thus create disharmony in others according to these cycles.

1- The generating cycle (clockwise effecting the next element)) For example, the Liver, overheated by anger, can attack the heart,

2- The checking cycle (counter clockwise, skipping over the preceding element).  For example, Insomnia from Heart Fire can  be caused by Kidneys, weakend by overwork.

Each type also corresponds to a major organ system. Each type also has corresponding tastes, colors, odors, and emotions. Some of these correspondences are:

1 - Fire/ Red/ Heart/ Joy/ Bitter/ Scorched (acrid)
2 - Earth/ Yellow/ stomach/ Spleen/ Worry/ Sweet/ Fragrant
3 - Metal/ White/ Lungs/ Grief/ Hot/ Fleshy
4 - Water/ Black/ Kidneys/ Fear/ Salty/ Putrid
5 - Wood/ Green/ Liver/ Anger/ Sour/ Rancid


8 Principles

The 8 Principles: Locatinig the disease and its nature

The Eight Principles are four Yin/Yan conditions that assess the location and nature of the illness. Once this is known, the treatment plan is simple - Balance the body. Strengthen the weak, cool the hot, moisten the dry, etc. These pairs are:

EXCESS/ DEFICIENT Too much or too little. These terms describe both the disease and the patient. Sudden illness is excess. Chronic illness suggests deficiency. Symptoms of excess are stronger or more pronounced than those caused by deficiency. A severe sore throat suggests wind-heat excess (viral), while a persistent scratchy throat implies heat cause by a deficiency of coolness (yin).

INSIDE/ OUTSIDE  Where does the disharmony originate? Is it invading from the exterior, or is it caused by deficiency, emotion, or stagnation in the interior. Airborn viruses, bacterial infections, or other pestilential diseases are Exterior. Exterior diseases can penetrate the body and become Interior disease.

HOT/ COLD Heat suggests an oversupply of qi or an inadequacy in the body's cooling system. Cold suggests the opposite, qi deficiency or weak metabolic function.  Just as it can be hot in Miami and cold in Siberia, bodies can be hot and cold at the same time.  the Liver can be hot while the Kidney is cold. Diseases can also have hot or cold natures, depending on the way they affect us.

DAMP/ DRY Life loves water, and excessive dampness inside the body helps breed microscopic life such as bacteria, virus, fungus. Swollen tissue, excess phlegm or other fluids are signs of dampness. Dryness indicates a scarcity of fluids. Causes of dryness are Blood or Yin deficiency. Excessive heat can also scorch the fluids and leads to dryness. Prolonged exposure to dry weather will cause dryness inside the body as well.

The Five Emotions

Events in our minds effect our chemistry. We sense the state of our body's inner chemistry. We call this sense our feelings.  We project these feelings to others as emotions.  When emotions are intense, they change our body in profound ways. This changing inner chemistry affects the flow and rhythm of our organism by influencing the gi and the organs.

The emotions correspond to the organs and the five elements. For example,

Joy the Heart
Sadness the Spleen
Grief the Lungs
Fear the Kidneys
Anger the Liver

Excessively strong emotions pervert the qi to create disease. Fear or anger lead to constraint of qi, which results in depression, stagnation, and a multitude of physical ailments.