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Traditional Chinese Medicine Articles

An Overview of Chinese Medicine

By Paul Zabwodski


Far Eastern Oriental Medicine has produced traditionally several established branches of effective health promotional disciplines. Some are relatively simple exercises.

The main branches are :-

Herbology, (some non herbal components are used as well);

Acupuncture, (there are different styles and schools);

Moxibustion, (the burning of a special herb upon acu-points);

Cupping, (creating a suction effect to replace damaged tissues or regulate energy);

Breathing exercises (internal and external to regulate and strengthen vital energy (Chi or Qi) and blood. Breathing exercises also increase emotional stability and prolong health and life. Usually done with small amounts of self administered massage of particular acu-points or vital organ areas.(Zang Fu)

The plexiglass Acupuncture Model show the points and 14 channels (circuits meridians) used in by teaching colleges.

The Qi exercise of the Five Animals

Exercise based of natural movements and postures of five different animals introduced by Hua To 110-207 AD. They include the Tiger Deer Bear Monkey Crane.


Mistakenly, it is commonly thought the use of needles, and the burning of herbs on certain points (moxibustion) originate in Chinese folk healing. Curiously however in original Indian classic medical texts (Vedas) dating back to 7000 years ago we find descriptions of the use of needle treatment. These Vedas document Indian needle techniques completely. The Suchi Veda is one such volume and dates needle use on the ear at 3000 years. The Indian acupuncture systems include 180 body points known as Marma which may harm or cause injury. As with most classic medical systems both Indian and Chinese use cosmological schematics which are highly defined belief structures like Yin and Yang, Gods and Elements, the Spiritual and Substantial. The precepts of a system root the medical knowledge to be revised through evolution and experience. This is traditional knowledge, respected and proven. The Hindu (Indian) founding principles like the Chinese produce a comprehensive medical expertise typically rooted in experience. Medical determinates: for use in pathology, and aetiology where collated in group headings such as breathing, diet, weather seasons, birth, parents, past ills and treatment, emotions and desires, exercise and occupation. Treatments included herbalism, diet, acupuncture, moxibustion, massage, cupping, bone setting and adjustment and special techniques of energy manipulation. The Hindus use Ruling Planets, Jupiter, Venus etc. as prime movers the Chinese the Five Transformation of Energies or Elements, Fire Earth, Metal, Water and Wood all existing through energetic interplay. The Indian medical Vedas describe in detail and depth by blending Cosmology with an experienced doctrines of medical practise. Parts of the body / mind and qualities of energetic states are always the domain of some system, this is axiomatic for information must be organised.

Diagnostic Methodologies

The Five Transformations/Elements or Phases

The Five Phases and the Yin Yang Principle

The concepts of Yin and Yang and the Five Phases of Transformations provided some of the traditional framework for Chinese Medicine. The organs of the body were seen to be interrelated in the same sorts of ways as other natural phenomena, and best understood by looking for correlations and correspondences. Illness was seen as a disturbance in the balance of Yin and Yang. The relationships of Yin and Yang were typified by the Five Phases. Disease processes were caused by caused by emotions, seasonal effects, heat, cold, dampness, dryness, wind and and many other influences. Treatment method was related to accurate diagnosis through careful patterning of the sources of the imbalance.For example traditionally one might argue that if Yang is overly powerful, then Yin may be too weak. If Yin is particularly strong, then Yang is possibly defective. So if the male force is overwhelming, then there will be excessive heat. If the female force is overwhelming, then there will be excessive cold. Exposure is to be repeated then severe heat will induce chills. Cold injures the body while heat injures the spirit. When the spirit is hurt, severe pain will ensue. When the body is hurt, there will be swelling. Thus, when severe pain occurs first and swelling comes on later, one may infer that a disharmony in the spirit has done harm to the body. Likewise, when swelling appears first and severe pain is felt later on, one can say that a dysfunction in the body has injured the spirit. A picture through observation is developed.

This is a organic picture if interaction where nature has four seasons and five elements. To maintain vitality and prolong long life, these seasons and elements must store up the power of creation in cold, heat, dryness, moisture, and wind. The theory also states that Man has five viscera in which these five climates are transformed into joy, anger, sympathy, grief. and fear. The emotions of joy and anger are injurious to the spirit just as cold and heat are injurious to the body. Violent anger depletes Yin; violent joy depletes Yang. When rebellious emotions rise to Heaven the pulse expires and leaves the body When joy and anger are without moderation, then cold and heat exceed all measure, and life is no longer secure. Yin and Yang should be respected to an equal extent. Although the expression of health should lean towards the the Yang

When Yang is the stronger, the body is hot, the pores are closed, and people begin to pant; they become boisterous and coarse and do not perspire. They become feverish, their mouths are dry and sore, their stomachs feel tight, and they die of constipation. When Yang is the stronger, people can endure winter but not summer. When Yin is the stronger, the body is cold and covered with perspiration. People realize they are ill; they tremble and feel chilly. When they feel chilled, their spirits become rebellious. Their stomachs can no long digest food and they die. When Yin is stronger, people can endure summer but not winter. Thus Yin and Yang alternate. Their ebbs and surges vary, and so does the character of the diseases.

The Yellow Emperor is said to have asked, -Can anything be done to harmonize and adjust these two principles of nature?

If one has the ability to know the seven injuries and the eight advantages, one can bring the two principles into harmony. If one does not know how to use this knowledge, his life will be doomed to early decay. By the age of forty the Yin force in the body has been reduced to one-half of its natural vigor and an individual's youthful prowess has deteriorated. By the age of fifty the body has grown heavy. The ears no longer hear well. The eyes no longer see clearly By the age of sixty the life producing power of Yin has declined to a very low level. Impotence sets in The nine orifices no longer benefit each other....(ears, eyes, nose etc)

Those who seek wisdom beyond the natural limits will retain good hearing and clear vision. Their bodies will remain light and strong. Although they grow old in years, they will stay able-bodied and vigorous and be capable of governing to great advantage. For this reason the ancient sages did not rush into the affairs of the world. In their pleasures and joys they were dignified and tranquil. They did what they thought best and did not bend their will or ambition to the achievement of empty ends Thus their allotted span of life was without limit, like that of Heaven and earth. This is the way the ancient sages controlled and conducted themselves...........

So the early methods of diagnosis rested on self and patient examination. The photograph opposite shows the Bronze cast Acupuncture model first made in 1443. The point number is less than the modern models. The Yellow Emperor declares the "By observing myself I learn about others, and their diseases become apparent to me. By observing the external symptoms, I gather knowledge about the internal diseases One should watch for things out of the ordinary One should observe minute and trifling things and treat them as if the were big and important. When they are treated the danger they pose will be dissipated. Experts in examining patients judge their general appearance; they feel their pulse and determine whether it is Yin or Yang that causes the disease.... To determine whether Yin or Yang predominates, one must be able to distinguish a light pulse of low tension from a hard. pounding one With a disease of Yang, Yin predominates With a disease of Yin, Yang predominates When one is filled with vigor and strength, Yin and Yang are in proper harmony ."............

Why is Acupuncture so Popular?

Oriental medicine and in particular Acupuncture has distinct advantages over some treatment methods in Western styled medicine. Western medicine is often administered anti-symptomatically in terms of its drug treatments. The drugs given for instance in Migraine attacks reduce the symptoms only while taking the medication. They are not in themselves curative. However with correct Acupuncture treatment a long term cure or semipermanent relief obtained. It is simply a question of accessibility to the process of disharmony which makes treatment a valuable alternative for a whole variety of complaints. Remarkably the treatment results for many common complaints are effected within a very short time span - minutes to within the week for major symptoms. Acupuncture or simple finger pressure can be used for emergency treatments for asthma, gastro intestinal complaints, trengthening body system - blood conditions and pain in a variety of conditions. Emotional distress, shock and local injuries are all easily remedied within a short time in most circumstances.


The Value of the Three Treasures(San Bao) of Shen, Jing and Qi.

Most people value their health however it is usually prioritised by life style. Our cultural values and perspectives are blended with doctrines conscious or unconscious to shape our health expectancies.Consequently the question we may ask is how do we value our lives? Ultimately we may refer to some God, Buddha, Science, Materialism, Philosophy, etc. We order the sense of health through our beliefs in whatever form be it doctrinaire, pragmatic, realistic and so on. Self belief enables us to recognise and appreciate our human balance.Traditional Chinese Medicine has developed a pragmatic perspective to ensure that health is established through sound practises. Qi Gong was and still is the popular method to develop the nurturing of health through the Three Treasures. The earliest form of Qi Gong was known as the Tortoise breathing method. While the most well known was the Five Animal Frolics developed by Hua Tuo of the Han Dynasty. The Five Animals, Tiger -Deer -Beer -Monkey -Bird were described as "Moving Qi Gong" in order to prevent degeneration of the Three Treasures and prevent and cure Illness.

The classics tell us that we cannot attain harmony without a thorough going understanding of the nature of all things, i.e., in the ways of Heaven, Earth and Man. If wisdom is not developed then respect and human dignity is not ensured. Traditionally to be successful "is to be centered", through the practise of the thoroughgoing health values. The Nei Ching Ling Shu Cannon of Internal Medicine - Acupuncture reputedly by the emperor HuangTi refers to life span, physical constitution and spirit as paramount
Lao Tzu said
"To be prepared and strengthened is to be ever successful". Tao Te Ching

Past masters of Qi Gong have a traditional saying to reinforce the importance of the Three treasures. "Heaven has Three Treasures, the Sun and Moon and Stars. Earth has Three Treasures, Water, Fire and Wind. Man has Three Treasures, Jing, Qi and Shen."

Health is demonstrated to the practitioner of TCM by an estimation of what is known as the Three Treasures (San Bao) of Shen, Jing and Qi. It is said that the treasures are interdependent. When Jing is sufficient the Qi will be full and only when the Qi is full and strong will the Shen then flourish. This is at the very root of vital health of body and Mind. The reverse is also said. If the Jing is deficient the the Qi will be weak, then the Shen will be frail.

What is SHEN?

Arriving at the doorstep of your TCM practitioner the chances are that what you will both encounter on first impression is each others Shen. One's Shen is the guiding purpose of one's totality sometimes referred to as Spirit; a body is full of Shen when it is alive and daring to transcend to live!! - with brilliance and vitality. A kind of live life to the Max idea! Shen is an attribute that is intimately connected with the condition of the Mind and Heart. Such adages that express heartfelt reactions point to the universality of such ideas - as, "Home is where the Heart is" or "A man is but his ideas", or more intellectually poignant, "Life must be lived forwards but can only be understood backwards".

If a body is lacking in Shen then it is general condition is often dull, lacking in lustre, lifeless and wooden. Eyes which show a glittering quality indicate a abundance of Shen which ordinarily is considered to be an indication of good health. Shen can mostly easily be seen in children whose vitality is able to withstand any difficulty. Knocked down, they arise, cry, forget and move on. To be dispirited by lifes adversities can lead to many forms of illness.

Long term emotions that dominate one's being are considered a major source of ill health. Classically, the major emotional states of anger, happiness, anxiety, grief/sadness/hurt, fear/inadequacy, all produce a complex of possibilities that one's Shen has to overcome or suffer. Long term repressed or hyper emotional states produce many complexes of an energetically depleting nature, compulsive and obsessive behaviour being common examples we need only look to our social history to see examples of this. The relative interactions of interpersonal emotional states are too problematic to outline easily though there are many typical forms that are easily recognisable(see Games People Play by E. Berne or similar). Consequently, the maintenance of a healthy Shen is vital to well being, which is why it is the first of the Three Treasures. The second is Jing.


You have JING, well don't we all! Jing is the fundamental substance which forms and maintains life. Jing can be viewed as the material foundation of Shen, if coupled with proper nutrition and a sanguine outlook on life. Jing can be badly likened to the strength of one's constitution and like Shen is an energetic description of what western science might call the workings of our energetic constitution. There are two forms of Jing, the Jing of reproduction, growth and development and the Jing of nutrition which is derived from foods as well as water. The type of energy that Jing regulates is said to cause the blood to form, blood is the materialisation of Jing. Jing can be stored in "excess" in the kidneys, similarly "excess" blood can be stored in the liver. When you or your loved one's Jing starts to fail you will certainly know of it. Typical signs include a lowering of basal energetic capability, which feeds/supplies all the functional activities of the "channels"/acupuncture "circuits." Such signs as poor circulation, poor memory, sore low weak back, fear/nervousness, ringing in the ears, night sweats/often too hot etc., can point to a lowering of Jing. One might say one's Jing is demonstrated by youthfulness.

"Better to rumble like rocks than tinkle like jade!"

But it is the third treasure that we must look to can buffer us from the improprieties of life, we need not be statistics of our age.


Qi or Chi is a highly abused concept that appears awash with ambiguity. It broadly relates to the notion that there is a vital form of energy (Qi) which manifests itself in many different forms according to its place of distribution and function. The power of Qi lies in its function and is described as occurring in a definite form. So there are many forms of Qi. There is Zheng Qi which is nourishing energetic form that is created from the interaction of the Stomach and Spleen/Pancreas the transformation of such energy contributes (with many other factors) to the production of high quality blood. There is Wei Qi, -Protective or Defensive energy that which is described as being aggressive and slippery. It circulates between the skin and flesh, it protects the body from harmful climatic influences opening and closing pores and moistens the skin, muscles and hair. These two examples are motivated by Ancestral Qi which is formed by proper union of the essence in food and well inhaled quality air.

There are thirty two forms of Qi described in TCM. I would suggest that this is a functionally complete model The significance of The Three Treasures lies in its portrayal of health, as occurring through mental stability via a complex yet wise interaction of Shen, Jing and Qi.
In ancient Chinese medicine it is the interaction of Jing and Qi that leads to a vital Shen. Jing-Shen means "Mind", consciousness, vigour all attributes that require the wisdom of prevention through good habits. This is why both Confucianism and Taoism stress that we should nourish and cherish our Qi by being of good will, generous, not overworking, one cannot retire easily to good health, not talking or thinking too much (the disease of restlessness) and by healthy eating/digestion and breathing. So when we find reasons for our own flagging of Shen, Jing or Qi let us be watchful of the pressures of modern life that removes us from the substance of humanised thinking/feeling,- “that which is wise is often furthest from our hearts”

It is often that pride does not easily wish to owe, that which vanity is not willing to pay.(Lin Yutang's The Importance of Living)

Live Long and prosper!

Sources: THE JOURNAL OF CHINESE MEDICINE (JAN 84) MODERN GUIDE TO EAR ACUPUNCTURE Mario Wexu EAR ACUPUNCTURE IN INDIA - Dr Chandrashekhar Thakkur (Astract from interview)

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