Philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) philosophy has developed over thousands of years through meticulous and careful observation of nature, disease and the human condition. Much of TCM theory comes from classical works written by famous traditional Chinese Doctors, but more recently there has been a growth of a strong world-wide practice of the scientific model of research.

An overview of the philosophy

A general overview of TCM philosophy starts with the idea of Yin and Yang. Chinese Taoist ideology states that all things can be divided into Yin and Yang. Yin being the dark, feminine, storing, quiet nature of things, and Yang being the bright, dynamic, male, energetic nature of things. Within Yin and Yang are elements of each other, so Yin and Yang are never truly separate and rely on each other to function correctly. In TCM the first place of disorder or disease is the imbalance of the harmony of Yin and Yang within the body.

The essential substances of the body are also divisible into Yin and Yang, Qi (pronounced as ‘Chee’), Blood, and Jing (Essence – basically a person’s constitution) are intimately tied with the Yin and Yang concept and each substance has an element of Yin and Yang in it.

The five elements of TCM

Further Chinese ideology involves the concept of the Five Elements, or Five Phases. These are elements in and of nature that are used to describe the relationships between and within our bodies and nature. The Five Elements are Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood. Each element has a season, taste, sound, anatomical organ, emotion etc, that corresponds to it, and we are able to use these relationship models to diagnose and treat disorder.

Channel theory of TCM

Channel theory incorporates both the Yin and Yang and Five Element models of TCM. The body has a network of channels in which Qi moves to provide the motive force for everything we do. There are 12 main channels, and 8 extra channels that Acupuncturists largely deal with, and each of the 12 is associated with Yin or Yang, a particular organ of the body, and one of the Five Elements. As Qi is a dynamic energy and must move, when it becomes stuck or ‘stagnant’ in a location in the body, pain or disease is the result. When an acupuncturist inserts a needle into a person, they are typically needling a point on one of the above channels, to affect a change in that location, or through-out that person’s whole body via the network.

Diagnosis of your health

When diagnosing a client, an acupuncturist will often palpate the main area that the client feels pain or disorder, but will also often palpate adjacent areas of the body, following the course of the particular channel that is affected. Diagnosis is a vital element in TCM, as a correct diagnosis is the key to the points and herbs that will be used on a client. When diagnosing a client, an acupuncturist may ask seemingly unrelated questions in order to develop an idea of the pattern of disorder that the client is suffering from. These questions typically involve queries on sleep, appetite, diet, and lifestyle.

The acupuncturist will also study the client’s tongue and radial (wrist) pulses, in order to get a ‘snap-shot’ of the client’s internal ‘landscape’, as the tongue and pulse are important indicators of the health of the Qi, Blood, Yin, and Yang. The main objective of diagnosis is to establish and correct the ‘root’ cause of the disorder, rather than to only focus on the ‘branch’ symptoms, in order to prevent the disorder re-occurring.