Western medicine places strong emphasis on the physical structures of the body, which are made up of different organic and inorganic substances, proteins, tissues and cells. These substances form the physiological basis of humans. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), on the other hand, views life a little differently. Instead of emphasizing discrete body components with cells being the basic building blocks, the body is seen as a whole entity with connecting parts that work together to sustain life.
Some parts have more energetic properties while others have more material characteristics. The interaction between the different parts is vital to the individual's being so they are often referred to as fundamental substances. Qi (pronounced chee), blood and body fluids are the most important fundamental substances necessary for life.
The ancient Chinese people believed qi was the most fundamental entity making up the world. They thought everything in the universe resulted from the movement and change of qi. The Chinese character for "qi" is the same word used for air or gas, and it is thought to have the same properties as these substances. Qi can be interpreted as the "life energy" or "life force," which flows within us. Sometimes, it is known as the "vital energy" of the body.
In TCM theory, qi is the vital substance constituting the human body. It also refers to the physiological functions of organs and meridians. In fact, it may be difficult to find one equivalent English word or phrase that completely describes the nature of qi. Most often, qi is best defined according to its functions and properties.
The origin of Qi
Human qi comes from two main sources. The first source of qi is inherited from our parents at conception. It is known as the "innate vital substance". The second source is derived from essential substances in nature such as the air we breathe, food and water. Both the inherited and the acquired vital energies are further processed and transformed by the organs.
The kidney first sends the innate vital substance upwards where it combines with food essence derived from the spleen. It further mixes with the fresh air from the lungs where it finally forms into qi of the body.
By understanding how qi is formed, TCM has identified two important factors necessary for maintaining health. By eating a healthy diet and breathing fresh air, the body extracts their most valuable essences and uses them to help form the vital energy. Following these simple principles are the first steps towards creating a healthy balance in the body.
These and other Traditional Chinese practices all form part of TCM, each adding a little to the history and methodology of Acupuncture and Herbs.
Eca Brady is a fully licensed physician of Chinese Medicine BSc(Ac) MBAcC PGDip(CHM), practicing from Harley Street, London. Make an appointment for an Acupuncture or Herb treatment and we can discuss how we can help you, to read more about Eca click here.
Excerpts from the original article by Shennong.