This blog entry seeks to “take the edge off” as it were by introducing some base assumptions governing Chinese medicine. These are the “ropes” which, as on a sailboat, guide and direct diagnosis and treatment.
Rope One: Yin-Yang 阴阳
For every heads there is a tails, for every up there is a down. Down gives form to up and up to down. The relation of down to up is dynamic. Above there are two Chinese characters. Each character is comprised of two parts. The first part of each character is identical. This element is called a “radical,” and it conveys a fixed meaning irrespective of what other elements it is paired with. This particular radical symbolizes a mountain, hill place. The second component of the first character is the character for moon, in the second the character for sun, literally the shady side of the hill and the sunny side of the hill, the two sides of all things in nature.
The body is no different from nature. It is when the principles of yin and yang become imbalanced that disease results. Yin and yang function as fungible assessment principles irrespective of which body system and degree of specificity. For example, a condition such as anemia will be assessed in terms of yin, is the body getting the necessary nutrients to make good quality blood, or yang, is the metabolic fire too weak to produce blood. These are but two queries that provide possible avenues into determining the root cause of the issue.
Rope Two: Branch and Root 标本
Symptoms represent the branch manifestation of something imbalanced at the root. Just because the symptoms go away does not mean that the root problem has been addressed. Let’s take the example of chronic yeast infections. First of all, if the problem is recurrent then there is a root problem that has not been addressed. If one has to constantly resort to antibiotics then they are not only not working but could be further compromising the immune system, even if you are taking probiotics.
Rope Three: Five Organs
The five organs are comprised of the heart, spleen, lung, kidney, and liver. They all play together in a series of mutual relationships, each irreplaceable in the overall functioning of the body. The five organs can be implicated in both branch and root problems. Organ function is assessed in terms of yang, i.e., metabolic function, either too much or not enough and yin, i.e., the hormones and fluids particular to that organ. The doctor makes such determinations by asking the patient questions about the time, quality, and duration of particular symptoms.
Rope Four: 12 Meridians or Channels
Just as the earth has meridians marking longitude and latitude, so does the body. There is hot dispute about whether these lines actually exist. The following link discusses nearly microscopic structures in the body that conduct light. (link) These are surmised to be the meridians, which heretofore have been regarded as something of a mystical fancy.
Meridians are the chief pathways of energy from the organs to the exterior of the body. Acupuncture sends balancing impulses along the meridians to alter the conditions of symptoms and the root.
Rope Five: Pathogenic Progression
Disease is not static. It moves. However, there is usually an order to its movement that is governed by the meridians. Generally, disease moves from the exterior to the interior and from top to bottom. Diseases at the exterior are consequently usually much less serious than those at the interior and reflects a generally strong state of overall health. Conversely, internal disease indicates functional deficiencies.
Understanding pathogenic progression provides signposts for understanding the recovery process. Chronic conditions do not resolve overnight in most cases. An understanding of pathogenic progression also implies with it necessary treatment principles that will guide selection of the appropriate points, herbs, and exercises to restore balance.
Learning the ropes of Chinese medicine can be daunting, much like learning to sail, but after a while it begins to make sense. Most people resort to Chinese medicine after some calamity has hit and assistance in learning to sail the proverbial ship of the body is necessary, because ahead lies a looming sense of rocks. When things are smooth sailing, a doctor’s visit is probably the farthest thing from one’s mind but it is under such conditions that adjustments can be made most easily under the most ideal circumstances. This is the core constituent of real preventative medicine for it empowers the individual to take the ropes for herself. A process whereby prevention is construed as a series of tests does nothing to teach individuals how to take charge of their ship. Learning the ropes of Chinese medicine allows you to guide your ship through all types of weather.