Traditional Chinese Medicine: A Literary Medicine

“And when you do find one, observe with care…they almost always have crystals in their hearts.”

From Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

To understand Chinese medicine better, we also have to think about how acupuncture and Chinese medicine conceptualize and describe the body.

The Language of Acupuncture and Chinese medicine

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese medicine is a comprehensive medical system with it own diagnosis and treatment.  The terminology and language is also unique.

Sometimes, acupuncture language may sound a little magical.  We may say that a headache is caused by liver qi stagnation in one person but in another person it may be from heat.  Similarly, anxiety can come from heart blood vacuity but it also can be related to heat irritating the heart.

It is very important that the language and theory is consistent throughout the acupuncture diagnosis and treatment.  In fact, if the wrong diagnosis is made, say heat instead of liver qi stagnation, the incorrect treatment will be used which can make the condition worse.

I like to think of these imbalances as metaphors describing the symptoms of your illness.

A Scholarly History

The causes and treatment of disease have been debated, discussed, and experimented with by clinicians and scholars throughout the more than 2500 years of Chinese medicine history.

They have evolved, as historian Paul Unschuld has written, into a system of medical correspondences. These debates still continue today about the best methods to approach and treat different diseases.

Health in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine view health as a state of balance in the body, as well as balance within the enviornment.

Some of the most common imbalances pertain to the body’s energy, or qi.   The qi can be too little, what we call qi vacuity, or it may not circulate as it should, called qi stagnation.

Other imbalances coorespond to the enviornment.  Cold, heat, dryness, and wind can all cause diseases.

The Body Acupuncture

Acupuncture Channels

Acupuncture visualizes the body as a complex interconnected web.  Meridians travelling throughout the body, connecting the surface to the interior, the upper body with the lower body.

The body’s energy circulates freely.  If there is too little energy or if the energy gets stuck, imbalances occur.  A build up of any imbalance, heat, cold, stagnation, or others leads to developing into an illness.

To correct the imbalance, we use acupuncture points and treatment methods specific to your imbalance.

For example, a headache from liver qi stagnation, we could use the acupuncture points LI 4, Liver 3, and Liver 14.  But if it is from heat, we may choose Liver 2, Gallbladder 34, and San Jiao 5.
photo: geishaboy500

Joseph Alban, L.Ac.
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