What Is Chinese Medicine

What Is Chinese Medicine

Chinese herbs on a shelfChinese medicine is a complex mode of curative medicine developed over the last 3,500 years and originating from China. Chinese medicine takes into consideration the whole being of an individual, which includes their physical, mental and emotional states as well as their lifestyle and diet. Therefore, Chinese medicine is a very natural and holistic approach to health.

Typically, Chinese medicine includes using Chinese herbs, acupuncture, acupressure, cupping, gua sha and moxibustion in order to restore a person back to good health. Some practitioners of Chinese medicine will be trained in all these aspects of healing. However, it is also common for a practitioner to primarily and solely practice Chinese herbalism or acupuncture for example.

Chinese Medical Theory

Since Chinese medicine was developed over time, through trial and error over thousands of years, its roots have somewhat esoteric origins. This does not mean that it is hocus locus or any less relevant in today’s society. We need to understand that the people who lived 3,500 years ago saw life in a very different way than we do now and related to their external environment in a different way as well. Even though the skills and traditions of Chinese medicine are still just as relevant today as they were thousands of years ago, most of the terminology such as Qi, yin-yang, five elements and so forth, are still used to describe pathology in Chinese medicine. This can sound rather esoteric to a Westerner. However, they have direct correlations to anatomy and pathology as it is commonly now understood in the West.

The Microcosm and the Macrocosm

One big principle of Chinese medicine is the concept of the microcosm and the macrocosm. What this means is that the ancient Chinese observed that our external environment (macrocosm) is a direct reflection of the internal environment of our bodies (microcosm). Therefore, the observed that during the changes of the seasons or with the prevalence of certain weather conditions in the external environment our bodies could be affected by these changes and result in ill health. This is just one cause of disease from the perspective of Chinese medicine. Others include lifestyle and dietary imbalances, emotional disturbances (which can relate to conditions of stress, depression and anxiety) and physical trauma are a few more causes of ill health.

Channel Theory

Over the early centuries of the evolution of Chinese medicine, the channel theory also took root as a principle concept of Chinese medicine. Used in both Chinese herbalism and acupuncture treatment, the theory of the channel system says that there are twelve primary channels, which correspond to one of the twelve main organs of the body.

acupuncture meridians of the headThese channels are primarily known by their related organ names;

  • Lung
  • Colon
  • Stomach
  • Spleen
  • Heart
  • Small Intestine
  • Bladder
  • Kidney
  • Pericardium
  • Three Heater (Triple Burner)
  • Gallbladder
  • Liver

Each of the twelve primary channels listed above traverses a particular region of the body and can correspond and affect ailments and afflictions associated with the related body part as well as its pertaining organ.

Five Element Theory

The theory of Five Elements is also a central concept in Chinese medicine. Also known as Five Phases, this theory originates from the perception of the movement and changes in the bodies energy, blood and fluids in relation to the seasons and the climatic factors, which can influence and affect health.

As such, Chinese medicine categorises different illnesses, symptoms, organs and body parts into the five elements. Therefore, using this principle can help the physician to understand the patient’s symptoms on an energetic level related to the movement of the energetics associated with the related element.