Traditional Chinese Medicine

Oct 11, 2016

Traditional Chinese medicine teaches us that all disease begins with emotions. This amazing system of healing and medical practice incorporates emotions with organs of the body, elements in nature, foods that balance or create imbalance, and our sensory organs, and it weaves them all together. The general emotional state of a person in balance will be calm, patient, relaxed, and well-mannered. In contrast, someone who is out of balance or experiencing disharmony within the body, mind, or spirit may experience variations of the above. 

TCM approach to ailments and diagnosis

For example, a person who tends toward depression is frequently known to have disturbances in their body’s digestive processes. The associated organs would be the spleen, pancreas, and stomach. The person may over-consume sugar or carbohydrates, have damp, clammy skin, and feel bloated. A person who is typically angry or irritated, may have an imbalance or disease of the liver or gall bladder. They may be prone to drinking alcohol or excessive caffeine or consume other toxins that impair liver function. They may have signs of excess heat or hypertension. A person with tendencies toward lung disease, may express the emotion of grief. They often wake between three and five a.m., unable to release their feelings of grief and despair. Over-excitability or heartache is often associated with the heart and sadness which is associated with kidney and bladder function. These are overgeneralizations, as individuals are extremely complex and complicated, and so many things affect our emotions regularly. However, maintaining a calm, relaxed, even pleasant state seems to be the key to good health. 

Vitality, or Qi

The Vitality, or Qi, is perhaps one of the most relevant factors observed by a practitioner of Traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM. Qi is measured in terms of consistency and appropriateness. Having appropriate and adequate energy or vital force to perform a day’s work, with the ability to relax the mind and body in time for a restful sleep, is ideal. When a person feels sluggish during the day, or ready to party at ten p.m each night, there is likely an imbalance of Qi.

Qi will correspond to their health and longevity

The quality of one’s Qi will correspond to their health and longevity, and Qi patterns can be examined and evaluated during a TCM diagnosis. The Qi of the vital organs is closely examined by the practitioner using pulse and tongue diagnosis, and both acupuncture and herbal medicine are used to bring balance and vitality to each organ in need. If one is fortunate to have a practitioner well versed in Naturopathic medicine, bringing balance to each vital organ is managed with comprehensive efficiency and effectiveness, as long as the patient has not waited too long to be seen. 

Balance: Yin and Yang

There are two general yet relevant aspects of TCM called Yin and Yang. These terms are used to describe the overriding characteristics of a person in stature, temperament, sex, energy, personality, and health or dis-ease.


Yang is a term used to describe the general characteristics of the sun or vitality and energy in its most balanced state. Men are typically more Yang, with a more robust, natural vital force; they are bigger, warmer, bolder, stronger, weigh more, and have greater muscle, bone, and hormonal energy.


Whereas women are often more Yin. They are typically softer, more delicate, and smaller in structure, density and size. They are thought to be more mild-mannered and less severe (though that has changed dramatically in the last couple of decades). When in balance, a man will have a combination of yin and yang energy, still predominant in yang, while a woman will have a combination of yin and yang energy, where her yin is dominant. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine Practioner

In Traditional Chinese medicine or TCM, one’s constitution is considered in every aspect. A seasoned practitioner of TCM can learn so much about the health and lifestyle of a patient by closely observing every aspect, characteristic, and mannerism of a person. This includes their general appearance, the patient’s physical shape, their manner, the way they behave and the state of their “Shen, or spirit. Observation of the Shen, or spirit, means observing a patient’s facial expression, posture, speech, responsiveness, the look and shine of the eyes, the appropriateness of reaction, and the clarity of thought. If the personality is vital, the eyes will shine with aliveness, indicating a harmonious Shen.

In contrast, eyes without luster or a dull expression may indicate depletion or disharmony within the person’s body/mind/spirit. These usually coincide with one another as the holism of the individual is synchronous. In other words, a healthy spirit usually reflects a healthy balanced individual. While someone may appear to be in good physical health, if there is disharmony in their spirit, the person is, in fact not in balance. 

TCM Tongue Examination

A doctor of TCM will also be experienced in examining the tongue and feeling the pulse. This is referred to as a Traditional Chinese medicine pulse and tongue diagnosis. In Traditional Chinese medicine, the tongue reveals the qualities of health or disharmony in the body. It is a very reliable source of diagnosis for those proficient in reading the subtle signs it reveals. The two aspects of the tongue that are evaluated are the body of the tongue, which is examined for its color, shape, size, and the way it moves (is it quivering, strong, bent, or difficult to protrude.)

  • A healthy tongue is pale red or pink and somewhat moist. This tongue profile represents abundant blood and smoothly moving Qi, or energy. If the tongue maintains its normal color during illness, it is a good sign, indicating that the energy and blood flow of the person has not been largely affected. 
  • A pale tongue indicates a deficiency of blood and or qi, energy deficiency or excess cold. A red tongue body indicates an excess heat condition in the body. This may be seen in women going through menopause or those with high blood pressure, high blood sugar, high cholesterol, extra weight, or high triglycerides. 
  • A scarlet red tongue points to an even more excess condition of the above, and a purple tongue usually indicates that the Qi and blood are not moving harmoniously in the body. In those with a purple tongue body, there may be congealed blood, such as clot formation or other stagnant conditions. 

The coating on the tongue, referred to as moss or fur, is a reflection of the spleen in TCM, which encompasses all of the processes related to digestion, or the transformation and transportation of food and fluid in the body. Healthy tongue coating is thin and white, almost transparent. However, in imbalanced states, the tongue moss varies in thickness, color, texture, and general appearance. In illness, a thin coating on a sickly person may indicate extreme deficiency or weakness, while thick moss nearly always indicates excess. 

Color is also an important aspect of diagnosis and treatment in Traditional Chinese medicine. A yellow coating typically correlates with excess heat, phlegm, and bacteria. In contrast, a thick white coating may reflect a cold condition in the body or a virus. Black or extreme darkness may signify kidney impairment, while purple reflects stagnation and red reflects heat. These color patterns can be seen on the tongue and sometimes in the eyes, skin, and nails. 

TCM and Organs

Each organ in TCM has an associated color, smell, taste, emotion, and relevant season. For example, conditions in which there is yellowing of the skin, eyes, tongue fir, or discharges illude to dampness or damp heat if extreme yellow-orange. These conditions usually lead back to digestion, which indicates an imbalance in the stomach, spleen, or pancreas. The patient with this condition may prefer sweet foods, and their general emotional state is often melancholy. Their ideal season is the late summer. 

The Six Pernicious Influences

The environment, aspects of weather, and seasonal patterns play a part in both diagnosis and treatment in Traditional Chinese medicine. These environmental factors are referred to as the six Pernicious Influences. They include the climactic phenomena, wind, cold, fire, heat, dampness, dryness, and summer heat. Temperature extremes are not a huge issue when the person is in balance, and their yin and yang are in harmony. 

However, when an individual is suffering, extreme aspects of weather and temperature change can become severe and almost debilitating. For example, an elderly woman who has become weak and frail will not withstand wind or cold temperatures. An obese person will find cold climates inviting, while they may be intolerant to heat. 

Traditional Chinese medicine teaches us that all disease begins with emotions. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Harmony of Mind and Body. Anger can disrupt liver function; fear can impair kidney function; anxiety can destroy the heart;  worry may dampen the energy of the spleen; resentment will weaken the digestive system.

Conversely, healing and repairing imbalances in the physiology of our organs can lead to a lighter, healthier attitude and emotional balance.  Health is a MIND/BODY/SPIRIT interactive dance.
Each partner in the dance must be well balanced, well nourished and practiced choreography in order to acquire and maintain dynamic health.

Acupuncture, Cupping, Acupressure, Herbal formulas, and Qigong are common forms of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Acupuncture can help treat addictions and Cupping is used to relax tense muscles from strain. Herbal formulations of plants can help with infections within the body and Acupressure can promote better blood circulation. Qigong which incorporates posture and body movements can help with mental health and focus.

acupuncture hands scheme. vector illustration

Incorporating the teachings and practices of this ancient medicine into our daily lives can help us find balance and harmony within ourselves.


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