Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been evolving for more than 3,000 years. It focuses on living in balance with our environment as well as seeking balance within our own bodies to promote health and wellbeing. TCM has many facets including: Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM), Acupuncture, Food Therapy, Tui-na, and Qi Gong. At Wholistic Paws, we are proud that we have been able to offer acupuncture for our patients for the last 5 years and we are very excited to expand our services to include Chinese Herbal Medicine in our repertoire. Consider CHM as “acupuncture in a bottle” and the herbs recommended for your pet will help to promote balance, healing, and longevity. Look here to learn the basics of TCM and CHM.
The concept of Yin and Yang is best illustrated by looking at the Tai Ji symbol (no- it’s not a Ying Yang, it’s a Tai Ji symbol and it’s far more cool and complex than just being a surfer logo!). The white areas represent the Yang energy of the body- all that is hot, energetic, and forcefully moving up and out in the body. The black areas represent Yin- all that is cool, moist, and restful in the body. Yin and Yang must exist with one another and interact with one another to create Qi- the life force of an individual. The Tai Ji symbol shows how they are anchored to one another through the contrasting “dots” on either side- Yin within Yang and Yang within Yin. The tides of Yin and Yang ebb and flow throughout the day as well as throughout the year but when there is a general imbalance or a lack of “anchoring” there is illness.
This theory breaks the body and its organs into 5 different groups: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood. It provides a metaphorical approach for looking at the organ systems and how they impact one another. This theory also gives insight to the basic constitution of an individual and what illnesses may crop up. Five Element theory provides a “roadmap” to diagnosis and treatment. While this theory may not be applied to every patient, it can be a helpful tool for looking at difficult to diagnose or treat conditions in a different way to help restore that patient into health and balance.
The Fundamental Substances are the constituent substances that help our bodies to function. They are: Jing (Essence that helps to determine longevity and strength of an individual), Qi (pronounced Chee- this is the life force), Blood (not blood in a literal sense. In TCM, Blood helps to nourish the tissues and organs), Jin Ye (these are the body fluids most similar to joint fluid, sweat, tears, and saliva) and Shen (aka the spirit). By looking at patterns of excess or deficiency in these substances, a practitioner can diagnose a condition and gain metaphorical clues on how to restore balance for a patient’s good health.
It’s pretty fascinating how ancient Chinese practitioners were able to deduce how the body functions without all of the technology we so rely on today. Zang Fu describes pairs of organs: Heart/Small Intestine, Spleen/Stomach, Lung/Large Intestine, Kidneys/Bladder, and the Liver/Gallbladder and how they work together to create and manage the Fundamental Substances. Many nay-sayers of TCM get bent out of shape because the function of the Zang-Fu organ pairs don’t always 100% match up with their conventional or Western functions. However, by looking at the metaphor of what each of these organ pairs do and how they interrelate, clues can be gained to pinpoint the source of chronic illness and also how to best treat them.
As you can see, TCM is a relatively complex system with a language all it’s own. Don’t get lost in the weeds of fully understanding these concepts but do celebrate the thousands of years of observation and the unique approach to healing that is TCM. By combining traditional theory with Western ways of looking at the body, we can better diagnose and support our patients to provide comfort care, promote wellness, and seek balance. We look forward to seeing how Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine can help to augment what we’ve already been achieving with acupuncture and how it will elevate our patient care!