A Little Chinese Medicine Info

A Word about the Language of TCM

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a complex subject and quite alien to western traditional thinking. The aim on any treatment is to create a balanced body.  Illness occurs when Yin and Yang are out of balance.

Think of a mountain with a cave.  The cave would be Yin – dark, cold, damp, internal, and quiet.  The sunny mountain would be Yang – warm, expansive, light, external and loud.  Exercising is a Yang activity so to create balance, a person will sweat (Yin) to cool down.

In the text you will notice that some words are written with capital letters.  This is to signify that the word means more than just a verb or noun.  The organs are written with capital letters when relating to TCM.  The Spleen, for example, is responsible for converting the energy from food and sending it in various directions to perform specific functions.  It is also responsible for ensuring that things stay where they’re supposed to; a pooling of fluid in the ankles or a prolapsed uterus indicates a Spleen-Qi deficiency.


There are pathways of energy which circulate around the body.  Although one pathway, it is divided into separate categories and named after internal organs.  The pathways are called meridians or channels.  Each meridian has an internal and external branch.  The Lung meridian, for example, runs through the lungs and diaphragm internally then comes to the surface below the outer edge of the collar bone and runs down the arm to the thumb.  Points are named and numbered along the direction of the meridian – Lu 7 is the 7th point on the Lung meridian.  Lu 7 impacts many bodily functions including opening the chest to ease breathing, treating sneezing, releasing suppressed grief, and easing tension in the shoulders and neck.

The flow of energy runs from the Lung meridian to the Large Intestine meridian then to the Stomach meridian and so forth.  This is why working a point on one meridian can have an effect on an area covered by its paired meridian, and why working a point on the hand can have an effect on the head.

The Causes of Disease

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are three main causes of disease: Internal causes of disease are emotions like anger and grief.  External causes of disease are described as weather conditions, and the third cause is trauma.

The External causes of disease are Wind, Cold, Heat, Damp, and Dryness.  Wind is usually the vehicle which carries the other conditions into the body.  Wind-Cold describes the beginning of a common cold where one feels chilly, sniffly, and cold.  If this condition is not expelled it moves deeper into the body and turns into a Heat condition.  This is similar to a cold turning to bronchitis where the condition started off with a sniffle but turned into a fever.  Heat is more than a feeling of warmth.  Heat describes inflammation, high temperature, redness, expansion and, of course, heat. 

Another example is Damp.  Living in an area with high humidity will lead to one feeling sluggish because Damp causes stagnation.  If Damp accumulates it forms Phlegm which is what lumps and tumours are made of.   Wind is an interesting condition and to understand it, think of a coin.  On the one side, Wind is active so causes conditions which move like shivering or arthritis which appears in different joints at different times. On the other side of the coin, Wind causes stiffness and rigidity like a stiff neck after sleeping in a draft.

The Internal causes of disease are anger, joy (over-excitement), sadness, worry, pensiveness, fear, and shock.  Obviously we all experience these emotions, they only become a cause of disease if they are long lasting or intense.  Each emotion has a particular affinity with an organ.  Anger affects the Liver, joy affects the Heart, pensiveness and worry affect the Spleen, sadness affects the Lungs and Heart, and fear affects the Kidneys.  All the emotions affect the Heart though, especially shock. 

If an organ is compromised, it will often manifest with imbalanced emotion.  Consider a drunk person, they can become belligerent.   A child who suddenly wets his bed after going to nursery school will usually have an issue with insecurity and fear.