Chinese Medicine – Philosophy and Diagnosis
How does Chinese Medicine work – what’s involved?
Chinese Medicine uses a system that is different from Western Medicine however they share parallels. Chinese Medicine uses metaphors (Yin, Yang, Five Phases, Qi) to reduce complex disease patterns (group of symptoms) into a simple diagnosis thus allowing the cause of the disease to be treated rather than just treating the symptom. Western Medicine treats individual symptoms separately and treats each symptom accordingly. However Chinese medicine does not regard this as “treating the cause ” but Western Medicine is more effective when acute symptoms need to be addressed in an urgent manner (asthma, anaphylaxis, sepsis, stroke, heart attack, etc).
A Chinese Medicine consultation will involve the practitioner looking at the patients tongue and also feeling the patients pulse as well as taking notes and making other clinical observations.
Generally speaking, Western Medicine is effective for treating acute illness while Chinese Medicine is used for treating chronic illness or general health. Western Medicine does work faster but there are sometimes severe side effects. This is referred to as the risk benefit ratio.
If diagnosed correctly Chinese Medicine can work quickly in some scenarios but it can also take up to 6-12 weeks before a person feels any benefit – depending upon variables such as the type of disease, persons physical condition, lifestyle, environmental influences, disease progression or duration of disease.
Pulse and Tongue Diagnosis
Your consultations with a Chinese Medicine practitioner will always result with the practitioner feeling your pulse on the wrist as this will give them clues about the functioning of your body and your health.
The practitioner will also look at your tongue as this also provides the practitioner with information relative to your health.
TCM philosophy – TCM philosophy is based on Five Phases theory and Yin-yang theory, which was later absorbed by the philosophical schools of Daoism.
The concepts of yin and yang – Yin and yang are ancient Chinese concepts. They represent two abstract and complementary aspects that every phenomenon in the universe can be divided into. The concept of yin and yang is also applicable to the human body; for example, the upper part of the body and the back are assigned to yang, while the lower part of the body are believed to have the yin character.
Yin and yang characterization also extends to the various body functions, and – more importantly – to disease symptoms (e.g., cold and heat sensations are assumed to be yin and yang symptoms, respectively). Thus, yin and yang of the body are seen as phenomena whose lack (or overabundance) comes with characteristic symptom combinations.
Five Phases theory
Five Phases (五行, pinyin: wǔ xíng), sometimes also translated as the “Five Elements” theory, presumes that all phenomena of the universe and nature can be broken down into five elemental qualities – represented by wood (木, pinyin: mù), fire (火pinyin: huǒ), earth (土, pinyin: tǔ), metal (金, pinyin: jīn), and water (水, pinyin: shuǐ). In this way, lines of correspondence can be drawn:
Fire (火) = Heart and Small Intestine;
Earth (土) = Spleen and Stomach;
Metal (金) = Lung and Large Intestine;
Water (水) = Kidney and Bladder
Wood (木) = Liver and Gallbladder
Qi and the body’s vital energy
TCM “explains that the body’s vital energy (chi or qi) circulates through channels, called meridians,
that have branches connected to bodily organs and functions.
TCM distinguishes many kinds of qi. In a general sense, qi is something that is defined by five cardinal functions.
The five “cardinal functions”
Actuation – of all physical processes in the body, especially the circulation of all body fluids such as blood in their vessels. This includes actuation of the functions of the zang-fu (organs) and meridians.
Warming – the body, especially the limbs.
Defence – against Exogenous Pathogenic Factors.
Containment – of body fluids, i.e., keeping blood, sweat, urine, semen, etc. from leakage or excessive emission.
Transformation – of food, drink, and breathe into qi, xue (blood), and jinye (“fluids”), and/or transformation of all of the latter into each other.