Chinese medicine is a complete healing system that first appeared in written form around 100 B.C. Since that time, China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam have developed their own distinct versions of the original Chinese system.
Qi (also spelled “chi”) is an essential concept in Chinese medicine. Qi is a form of vital energy that exists both inside and outside the human body. At the root of every function of the human body and the universe around us is a form of qi.
Chinese medicine describes human physiology and psychology in terms of qi, correlating qi with specific mental and physical processes and emotional states. Different kinds of qi commonly referred to in Chinese medicine include blood qi, organ qi, nutrition qi, meridian qi, and pathogenic qi. Pathogenic can enter the body from sources such as wind, dampness, heat, cold, and dryness.
The quality of qi is described in terms of yin and yang. Yin and yang are opposite energies but exist interdependently. Yin qi is defined as cold or cooling energy, and yang qi is defined as hot or warming energy.
To be healthy, a person needs to have a balance of yin and yang because yang needs yin’s nourishment in order to function, and yin needs yang in order to be produced and utilized. Human beings are considered healthy when qi is circulating freely and there is a balanced flow of yin and yang.
When yin qi is deficient, then yang qi is in excess, and symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, restlessness, elevated blood pressure, and constipation can manifest.
When yang qi is deficient, yin qi is in excess, and symptoms such as increased sensation of cold, feelings of fatigue, diarrhea, slow metabolism with water retention, low blood pressure, and psychomotor retardation can occur.
In Chinese, the words for the different emotions are followed by the word “qi.” For example, anger is called “anger qi” and joy is called “joyful qi.” Therefore, when an intervention is made with acupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine, it not only aims to affect the physical functions of the body, but also the mental functions and emotions.
Qi circulates through energy channels called meridians. The meridians form a web-like system that connects different parts of the body together and supplies qi to every part of the body. Chinese medicine relates each meridian with specific mental, physical, and emotional functions.
In Chinese medicine, mental functions and emotions are not confined to the brain but are viewed as the interaction between the brain and the meridians. Another way of looking at it is that the brain is part of each individual meridian, and each meridian’s health affects the brain.
The lung meridian is associated with grief, and thus people in the grieving process may be more susceptible to upper respiratory infections. The biomedical model might explain this reaction in terms of diminished immune responsiveness due to chronic stress induced by grief. Chinese medicine would characterize the problem as an emotional stressor causing imbalance in the lung meridian, thus causing it to become deficient in qi.
In the West, one of the most well-known treatment methods of Chinese medicine is acupuncture, which is also one of the oldest treatment methods. Acupuncturists insert extremely thin needles into the body at strategic points in order to rebalance the flow of yin and yang through the meridians
Acupuncture treatments are used alone or integrated with conventional medicine to treat a variety of psychiatric conditions, such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, pain, addiction, and depression.
In Chinese medicine, major depression is seen as the extreme psychiatric manifestation of an excess of yin and a deficiency of yang. Mania is the opposite, being the result of an extreme manifestation of excessive yang and deficient yin.
The abnormal transition between extreme yin and extreme yang is similar to the pattern of cycling in bipolar disorders. Thus, acupuncturists place needles in the body with the goal of rebalancing yin and yang.
Dr. Yang is a board-certified psychiatrist and is a fourth-generation doctor of Chinese medicine. His website is taoinstitute.com