Chinese Medicine

What exactly is Chinese Medicine? And no, it’s not just sticking something sharp in different areas of the body. But 4-5 thousands of years ago it was a system with multiple tools to help a person heal.

Initially, the senses were the primary tool. Listening, seeing, smelling, touching were their X-rays and MRI’s. Observing the patient, asking questions, feeling their pulse, looking at their tongue, did they have peculiar odors, were they pale or red, or blue, or black or yellow, or green (and no not envy). From observing nature and the environment, they created terminology to describe what they would find with their 4,000 year old cat scan.

As a farming society/peasant, terms were based on what their environment prevailed to them. Yin and yang was the driving force with nature. If there is hot it has to be balanced by cold. If there is an in, there has to be an out. If there’s an up, there has to be a down. If there’s a damp/wet, there has to be a dry. And one cannot exist without the other, so that means there has to be a balance. Just as they observed in nature, there had to be a balance for man in order to be healthy.

So was it a heat illness, or was it cold, is it superficial, is it deep in the body. What do the pulses feel like? Are they fast, are they slow, are they soft, are they hard (each arm has different organs assigned to the pulse). The tongue had different regions that also matched to organs and there had to be a healthy pink and a clear thin coat. But if too red, too pale, too rigid, too soft (oh and there’s way more), there is illness.

How was the blood and qi (chee). Blood nourishes qi and qi moves the blood (think circulation and nervous system). If you have too little qi or blood you’re tired, depressed, you don’t sleep well, you get sick often- and there’s a lot more. Too much qi or blood then you might have a sharp pain, a sharp headache, ADD/ADHD, or you could have auto immune problems- as just a few examples.

Like all ancient societies, the Chinese ate the plants around them and would pay attention to how those plants made them feel. They also observed what plants animals ate and would watch for how they were affected by what they ate. As an example, male goats would eat a particular plant and get way amorous and thus became a “horney goat” now that herb is commonly called “horney goat herb” and is very good for increasing testosterone. The Chinese would look at the surrounding area of a plant to see the impact on the area, if it was a swamp area but around the plant it was dry, they realized that plant could help with swelling and edema. It is a system of medicine that makes sense of what is observed. Some herbs were toxic (can’t imagine tasting those ugh!!!!) but if taken in small doses, it was balanced by other herbs. Some of those toxic herbs can help hard or soft masses shrink. Plants were the early chemo!!

Herbs became the primary source of treatment. You could do more with herbs because they could be taken several times a day to battle that imbalance.

But acupuncture was helpful in changing imbalances in qi and blood flow along the lines of energy called meridians. There could be blockage, or distortion, or injury to the body which would alter the meridians and this can add or contribute to an illness, irritation, or imbalance. Injuries, headaches, weakness, pain, chronic coughing, menstrual pain, constipation, could all come from these meridians being out of balance.

So how did acupuncture bring balance? Needles put in the acupuncture points along meridians would allow the qi and blood to flow smoothly again, changing the blockage, distortion and injury, resulting in less discomfort. Then? Send them home with bags of herbs and see what changes.

The Doctors were judged by how well they kept their village from being ill. Prevention was the primary way to treat. They tell a story that the best doctor had a village where his people only very rarely got sick. If the doctor was pretty good at his profession, a couple of folks got sick but the rest of the village was fine. The doctors who were not okay doctors couldn’t keep folks happy, but if they got sick he could get them well. The doctors who were bad, couldn’t keep his village healthy, so they became vets. Still can’t keep the pigs and ducks well? Now you’re pushed to the bottom of the medical system, they made you a surgeon!! Because I’m sure surgery during that time was not so skillful.

So in all, the point was to figure out WHY your village or people got sick and get to the source NOT treat the symptoms. Symptoms were your road map to the cause. If you treated just the symptoms you were sweeping away your breadcrumbs. And your map doesn’t work so well.

This is very basic about Chinese medicine. Each thing I wrote about in and of itself is a class. And I STILL left out alot. But, I’ll write in the next section on our muscle testing/ kinesiology segment how, with the help and influence of MM Vanbenschoten, OMD, we have brought traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) up to date.