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Traditional Chinese Medicine
Health as Harmony
The Five Elements

Health as Harmony

In the cosmology of Traditional Oriental Medicine, in between Heaven and Earth is the person. A person's state of health is influenced by his or her relationship with Heaven, or the natural order. To enjoy perfect health, we need to live in harmony with God or Nature, according to our understanding of our universe. A person's health is influenced by his or her relationship with society, family, partner, and self. Someone who struggles bitterly with family members is unlikely to be completely healthy. Within a person's own self, vibrant health results from a dynamic balance of opposing forces. Illness is a state of imbalance or disharmony. 
These vigorous samurai symbolize the action principle of yang

Yin and Yang

The blazing sun is an image of yang energy. In the body, yang is warming and enlivening. When you have an ample supply of yang, you feel peppy and have plenty of energy to work and play vigorously. If your yang becomes weak, you may have a tendency to become lethargic, tired, and cold, and may have problems with digestion, urination, or decreased interest in sex.

Kwannon (or Kuan Yin) is a symbol  that embodies the restfulness of Yin
Yin refers to our capacity for stillness and rest. When you don't have enough yin, you may feel restless and irritable, worn out without being able to relax. A deep blue pool of water is an image of yin energy. Women in menopause often have weak yin and feel very warm and dry, with hot flashes, flushed complexions, and dry lips and throats. These symptoms illustrate that when the cool yin is weakened, the warm yang becomes too prominent.

Oriental medicine seeks to balance and harmonize yin and yang. The dynamic interaction of the two maintains the body in a healthy state, with strong vitality and ability to resist disease. When yin and yang are balanced, you have all the energy you need to work and be active all day; and at night you sleep soundly and peacefully.



What is the main difference between a dead body and a live one? What is the force, the spark that makes a living being alive? We call it qi (pronounced chee). Oriental Medicine works on the qi in the body by diagnosing and regulating its condition and quality.

Scientists study qi by investigating biochemical reactions, microelectric currents, and properties of light. You can actually feel qi for yourself when you get an acupuncture treatment.



The qi in the body flows in pathways called meridians. Acupuncture points can be opened like gates to control or direct the flow of qi. The acupuncturist diagnoses symptoms according to the meridians affected and the condition of the qi. 

When you are healthy, the qi flows through all of the points and channels in ample supply. The meridians are like a string of Christmas tree lights. Bulbs that don't light or that shine dimly correspond to the points that need treatment. Symptoms of disease occur when the qi in some of the meridians becomes weak or blocked.

Qi Deficiency and Excess

When you haven't eaten or slept well, you may have a mild, dull, nagging headache. This is an example of qi deficiency. Treatment relieves this headache by strengthening the qi.

Other headaches are more explosive, characterized by a banging, pounding pain. They may occur when you are upset or stressed. These kinds of headaches are relieved when the excess congestion of qi is cleared or sedated.


text copyright @2003 by
Meredith St. John,
Boston, MA