Traditional Chinese Medicine



The Heart

The Kidneys

The Liver

The Lungs

The Spleen


The Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) approach to the human body is very different to the western anatomical view. TCM sees the body as an integrated whole, and within it each organ represents a complex system, consisting of its anatomical aspect and related emotions, tissue, sense organ, mental faculty, colour, climate, etc.

The conceptual differences between western and oriental medicine may be attributed to the diverse historical development of medicine in China and the West. In Ancient China dissection and autopsy were largely frowned upon, thus discouraging the study of human anatomy. The Chinese focused instead on disease symptoms without referring to the separate organs. Thus, to fully grasp the Chinese theory of the internal organs, it is best to put to one side one's understanding in terms of western medical science.

The Chinese divide the internal organs into a number of different categories. The five solid or 'zang' organs (the heart, lungs, liver, spleen and kidneys) are considered the most important, functionally speaking. However, the six hollow or 'fu' organs (the gallbladder, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, bladder and the sanjiao), as well as the pericardium (the protective covering of the heart) must also be taken into account, as they are closely connected to the aforementioned 'zang' organs.

Indeed, in TCM, each 'zang' organ is paired with a 'fu' organ, the function of one directly affecting the other.

The sanjiao needs some explaining before venturing further. It's not strictly speaking an organ in itself, but rather a functional unit consisting of three portions - the upper jiao of the chest (heart, lung), the middle jiao of the upper abdomen (spleen and stomach) and the lower jiao of the lower abdomen (kidney and bladder). The sanjiao distribute and circulate energy (Qi) and blood to their respective zones, as well as helping to regulate the amount of body fluid, sending any excess to the bladder to be excreted.

In TCM the internal organs play a vital role in the production, maintenance, replenishment, transformation and movement of the Vital Substances (Qi, blood, essence, and body fluids). The interactions of the Vital Substances are central to the Chinese Medical concept of the body-mind. Qi is the foundation of all the substances - they are but forms of Qi in varying stages of materiality.

The true meaning of Qi (pronounced chee), however, is not easily translated into English; there is no single word that conveys the many facets of the Chinese concept. The closest word in English to Qi is 'energy'. Both Qi and energy form the basis of the universe, their origins unknown. Our bodies, the earth, water, sound, and light are all made up of Qi or energy. Neither Qi nor energy can be destroyed, only transformed. It is interesting to note that scientists are now starting to acknowledge that all matter, when broken down into its most basic state is energy.

In terms of the TCM approach to the human body, if a person has abundant, smooth flowing Qi they are seen to be in good health.

The other Vital Substances need a brief explanation before continuing further. Blood is described in TCM as a dense and material form of Qi. In Chinese medicine, blood is seen as being derived from food and water (after being digested and assimilated by the stomach and the spleen and transformed by the heart and lung).

Indeed it is inseparable from Qi - without Qi, blood would be an inactive liquid; conversely Qi is nourished by blood.

Essence (Jing) is a complex term, used in TCM to describe a precious substance derived from numerous sources: the genetic make-up of ones parents plus food and water. Essence, which is stored in the kidneys, determines a person's constitution, as well as growth, reproduction, development, sexual maturation, conception and pregnancy.

Body fluid in TCM terminology refers to all kinds of fluids in the body including sweat, saliva, stomach and intestinal secretions, urine as well all the major fluids circulating throughout the system.

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