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Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

is one of the oldest and most mysterious form of health care, the first book on this subject is about 2500 years old, and there are indications that the Chinese were already using a crude form of TCM 4000 years ago.
Today, this medical system is widely used in China, Japan, Vietnam, Korea and all around Asia; in China alone there are 2500 hospitals specialising in TCM. This complex medical system is taught in 30 Chinese universities, to thousands of students from 120 different countries.

The origins of TCM

are found in Taoist philosophy, a system of thought attempting to describe the Universe as a closed, centred, dynamic, evolving system ruled by a set of simple natural laws that explain cyclical changes.

In the Tao, the universe is conceived as an energetic system that encompass every things and function like a living organism, as opposed to the western structuralist mechanistic concept of the world.
The concepts of totality ( TAO), Bipolarity (YIN YANG) Evolution (from the centre) Hierarchy, and Cyclical changes ( five elements ) are the foundation of Taoist thinking and permeate all component of the Chinese society to this day.
‘Tao originated from emptiness, and emptiness produced the Universe, the universe produced Qi...
Qi is the fundamental material of which the universe is constructed.


in Chinese medicine is defined according to what it does and bears different names according to its function: the constitution is made of essence, Qi, mind, or ì Jing Qi Shenî also called the ìthree treasuresî. For a healthy life, it is necessary to have Essence (Jing) a solid constitution , a good circulation of Qi, and a healthy mind (Shen).
Jing Essence: stored in the Kidneys it circulates all over the body ;Jing controls growth, development, reproduction, sexual maturation, conception and pregnancy. its quality and quantity determines constitutional strength. Jing is fluid like (essence) very concentrated, it is not easily replaced and it is more Yin than Qi.
Nutritive Qi (Ying Qi) is closely related to blood, and flows into blood vessels and the 12 channels of acupuncture to nourish every parts of the body.
Defensive Qi (Wei Qi) is the Qi which flows on the surface of the body; its main function is to protect against diseases. Compared to nutritive Qi, Wei Qi is Yang and superficial.
Main Functions of Qi:

(the dynamic of conception to birth to all stages of human life)
TRANSPORTING: it is the movement of Qi which is responsible for transporting blood, fluids, oxygen, nutrients in all parts of the body.
HOLDING AND RISING: it is the power of the Qi, or vitality of a person that maintain organs in their place and allow us to stand on or two feet.
PROTECTING: Wei Qi protect the body from diseases of external origins
WARMING : This is an important function of Qi, to warm the body and keep it at a constant temperature
SHEN SPIRIT: an overall concept of vitality which includes mental stability, volition, clarity, love, compassion, and direction.

Jin Ye includes all fluids which are not blood: tears, saliva, sweat, urine, gastric juices, synovial fluids, cerebrospinal, intracellular and extrastitial fluids.
Jin relates to clear body fluids: they circulate quickly,

relates to more turbid and viscous fluids which circulates with nutritive Qi, in the interior, they move relatively slowly, their function is to moisten joints, spine, brain, bone marrow and to lubricate orifices or sense organs (eyes, mouth, ears and nose).
Jin fluids are more Yang, more exterior, Ye fluids are more Yin and interior; but Jin and Ye transform each other. Fluids, originate in the transformation of food and Water
Qi has a dynamic role in relation to fluids: it holds fluids in place, and keeps them at constant temperature. Fluids, to a certain extent, nourish Qi and influences its Yin/Yang balance.

is formed from the essential Qi derived from the process of digestion. Blood without Qi is an inert substance. Blood nourishes and anchors Qi; Qi activate Blood. Both Blood and Body Fluids pertain to Yin, and weakness of Yin causes burning (drying) of Blood and Body Fluids.
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YIN YANG: Duality arising from the primary state has always been held as the instigator of change, change is an expression of duality, a second state of being emerging from the first. The two components of the dual power were designated as Yin and Yang.

There are four basic rules which govern the relationship between yin and yang

1) Yin and Yang Depend upon each other for Definition:
If the inside of the body is Yin and the outside is Yang they are interconnected by virtue of the fact that they are aspects of the same phenomenon. One cannot exist without the other.
2) They Transform into Each Other:
Taking the example of Day changing into Night, Yang reaches its peak at Midday and from that moment, Yin grows out of Yang until it reaches its peak at Midnight.
3) They Mutually Consume or Control each Other:
When one becomes dominant it has a tendency to weaken the other.
4) Yin and Yang Oppose Each Other:
like cold and hot, night and day, etc...

a) Basic Properties of Yin and Yang:
Substance (Solid)

Insubstantial (Vapour)

b) Division of the Human Body according to Yin and Yang:


Internal Organs
Anterior Surface
Below the Waist
Zang Organs
Blood & Body Fluid
Ying (Nutrient) Qi
Lower Orifices


Surfaces & Limbs (skin, flesh & muscles)
Posterior Surface
Above the Waist
Fu Organs
Qi Wei (Defensive) Qi
Upper Orifice

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Wu Tsing ‘Wu’ signifying the number Five and ‘Tsing’ meaning to do, to act, to set in motion, to move or activity, motion.
‘The Five Phases are:
Water, Fire, Wood, Metal, Earth.

The connection between Yin/Yang and the Five Phases is explained by the French acupuncturist Jacques Lavier as follows:

Fire, connected with the summer and the south, symbolises the ‘Great Yang’ in its extreme sense while Water, connected with winter and the north symbolises the ‘Great Yin’. Wood, connected with spring and the east is the 'Diminishing Yin/Increasing Yang' or Yang growing out of Yin, Yin transforming into Yang. Metal, related to the west and the autumn, is the 'Diminishing Yang/Increasing Yin', or Yin growing out of Yang, Yang transforming into Yin".

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The organs associated with Water are the Kidneys and Bladder. The Kidneys are the deep, Yin organ; the Bladder is the superficial, Yang organ. Weak Kidneys Qi results in the Bladder’s inability to control and hold fluids in. The Kidneys are directly related to the constitution; ageing is by definition the depletion of the power of the Kidneys. The spiritual power of Water element is will power.
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The organs associated with Wood are the Liver and Gall Bladder. The Liver is the internal, solid, Yin organ; the Gall Bladder is the external, hollow, Yang organ.

The Fire Phase has four Meridians and three Organs associated with it; the Triple Warmer has a function but not form. The vessels form two pairs of partners:
Yin Yang
Heart Small Intestine
Pericardium Triple Warmer

The organs associated with Earth are the Spleen (Yin) and the Stomach (Yang). When these two are healthy and in harmony the flesh and muscle tissue is firm and has good tone.

The organs associated with Metal are the Lungs and Large Intestine, which are responsible for taking in and absorbing Pure Qi and expelling Impure Qi. The pores of the skin, which is considered to be a third lung, open and close to regulate body temperature and eliminate toxins through sweat.

The Chinese view of Physical, emotional and spiritual role of each Zang Fu implies that a dysfunction of an organ can manifest itself either physically , emotionally or spiritually.
According to TCM, excess or lack of a particular emotion affects its related organ:
these are the internal causes of disease; the seven emotions are Anger, Joy, Worry, Pensiveness, Grief, Fear, and Shock.
Anger affects the Liver: excessive anger makes the Qi rise and causes symptoms such as headache, tensions, burning eyes, etc. Repressed anger causes Qi stagnation.
Worry and pensiveness affects the Spleen, it will manifest physically as stiffness, (Spleen nourishes muscle), shallow breathing, digestive problems, stomach ulcers, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting, gastritis, etc.
The excess of reflection/obsession would certainly interfere with the ability to absorb ideas and process them mentally.
Grief disturbs the Qi of the Lungs, and manifest itself in a variety of ‘psycho somatic’ symptoms such as breathlessness, depression, tiredness etc. If the Lungs are affected by sadness, their related Fu organ, the colon, will be affected too. Its response would be to ‘somatise’ sadness and grief in the form of irritable bowel syndrome, constipation (the inability to let go), diarrhoea (the inability to contain) ulcerative colitis etc.
Joy disturbs the Heart, The excessive Joy of the Heart is best understood as over-excitement, the continuous over stimulation of the mind caused by drugs, mental disturbances or severe and prolonged periods of stress. The Shen (mind, spirit) needs to be relaxed, peaceful; Joy makes the Qi relax and slow down. Excessive stimulation of the mind unbalances the Heart, which is Yang in nature. ìFire causes Heat to rise and disturb the mindî The Triple Heater and Pericardium are functions rather than organs they are frequently used in the treatment of mental illness.
Fear affects the Kidneys, shock scatters the Qi of both Kidneys and Heart. Fear and mental shock are said to ‘freeze’ a person; the Qi stops flowing, impairing all functions. Physically, fear generates such symptoms as palpitation, ( Heart Qi affected) urination disorders, low back pain, lack of energy; it also generates anxiety, panic attack, insomnia etc.
2) External causes of disease: Six external factors

The external causes of diseases refer essentially to climatic factors : Wind, Cold, Damp, Summer heat, Dryness and Fire. These are Qi of a particular nature and encompass disease-causing micro-organisms. In TCM, Wind, Cold, Damp, Summer Heat, Dryness and Fire are used to describe both the climatic influences and the pathological factors.

Wind: affects Liver Qi, causing symptoms which arise suddenly and change rapidly; psychologically, Wind causes irritability; physically: changing painful symptoms such as muscular pains or skin problems.

Cold: affects Kidneys, causing Anxiety, ‘freezes’ the Qi and stops its circulation. Typically, Cold symptoms do not move or change, they cause contractions and are better from warmth.
Cold superficially (externally) affects the skin, muscles and circulation, causing stagnation (rheumatic pain in the joints and muscles). Internally it easily disturbs normal body functions such as digestion and respiration.

Damp : affect Spleen, causes worrying, is heavy in nature and tends to collect downward or cause stiffness, swelling and pain. Damp tends to stagnate, especially around the joints inducing severe pain which responds slowly to treatment. When Damp is affecting the Zang Fu, this manifests as physical fatigue with heavy sensations in the head and limbs, headache, indigestion, diarrhoea, abdominal distension etc.
Damp associates easily with Cold, Heat and Wind, to cause arthritis. Skin disorders are another manifestation of Damp often associated with Heat or Wind.
Summer Heat: is closely associated to Fire, Summer.
It is mainly a climatic factor (typically heat stroke) characterised by high fever, thirst, profuse sweating, a sudden, acute state causing rapid loss of Fluids .
Unlike Cold, Damp, or Wind which appear at any time of the year, summer heat strike mostly in the hottest days of summer and in very hot climates.

Dryness : associated with the Metal phase, Autumn, affects predominantly the lungs and skin, it easily combines with Heat (causing redness) or Wind (skin scaling); Dryness interferes with the Lungs function causing symptoms such as dry cough, dry nose, pain in the chest and causes dry skin (cracked or scaly), dry mouth, tongue, lips. Dryness causes damage to Fluids, Blood and Yin.

: is similar to Summer Heat, but not always a seasonal factor.
Fire associates with Damp (or Phlegm) and Wind, is Yang in nature, causes violent symptoms such as red face, fever with intense thirst, delirium, constipation etc. The difference between Heat and Fire is a matter of degree: Fire is a further stage of Heat affecting the Heart and mind, severely disturbing the Shen and also burning Blood and Fluids, damaging Yin.

Wind, Cold, Damp, Heat, Dryness and Fire may also come from within: in this case, the internally generated pathology is associated to a disturbance of the Zang Fu induced by the seven emotions or miscellaneous cause of disease; for example : excessive anger will generate ‘internal wind’, the absorption of large amount of cold foods and drinks will create ‘internal cold and damp’.

The Jing Luo , translated as channels or vessels ‘who goes through’, ‘connect’ (Luo) like a net. Meridians is probably the most frequently used translation in the west. There are 12 main meridians running bilaterally and longitudinally on the surface of the body, with deep connections to vital organs. These channels are named after the organ they affect most (Zang Fu) and are classified according to Yin and Yang.
Heart, Lungs and Pericardium channels all start in the chest, and run internally along the arms, down to the end of the finger tips, they are connected to YIN organs and therefore relate more to Yin energy and blood.
Small intestine, Colon and Triple heater all start at the end of fingers and finish on the face, close to the nose, ears and temples, after running along the posterior surface of the arms, the base of the neck and towards the face. These three channels are connected to YANG (Fu) organs and associated more with Yang Qi. There also are internally/externally related to the 3 Yin channels (Heart, Lungs and Pericardium) and exchange energy with their Yin counterpart.
The 3 Yang channels of Stomach , Gall bladder and Bladder have their starting point in the face and extend all along the body. The Stomach channel runs on the front of the body down to the extremity of the foot, the Gall bladder channel stretches along the lateral side and the Bladder on the back of the body. The 3 Yin channels of Spleen, Liver and Kidneys start on the feet: running along the internal side of the legs and through the pelvis and abdomen to terminate in the chest. They are respectively related to Stomach, Gall bladder and Bladder channels. All the Twelve channels run bilaterally, creating a longitudinal net to allow an even distribution of blood and energy into all parts of the body.
Two more channels need adding to this list: the Ren, and the Du channel.
The Ren channel is the median line of the front of the body, starting at Ren 1, in the perineum, and ending at Ren 24, below the lower lip.
The Du channel starts at the tip of the coccyx, in the corresponding median line of the back, and, after travelling around neck and head ends at Du 27, in the upper gum. These last two meridians are part of the eight extra vessels and are involved in the circulation of ancestral Qi.
Besides these longitudinal meridians (which set the path for all individual acupuncture points) there is a series of collateral channels which connect them transversally.
The functions of the channels and collaterals consists of circulating Qi and blood, warming and nourishing the tissues and linking up the whole organism.

TCM diagnosis
includes diagnostic methods and differentiation of syndromes. The diagnostic methods consist of interrogation, inspection, auscultation and olfaction, pulse-taking and palpation, and provide the basis for differentiation of syndromes by recording symptoms and signs from the patient.
Differentiation of syndromes consist of analysing pathological conditions in accordance with the eight principles, according to the state of Qi and Blood, and according to pathological changes of the Zang Fu with their interrelations; some additional methods are used specifically for the diagnosis of febrile diseases. To differentiate pathological conditions according to the eight principles is to analyse a disorder as
exterior and interior, excess and deficiency, cold and heat, yin and yang as well as the state of the vital QI in conflict with pathogenic factors
Differentiation of syndromes according to the state of QI and blood, and according to Zang Fu are mainly applied to distinguish between various diseases due to disorder of internal organs.
TCM diagnosis depends merely on the practitioner sense organs to gather clinical information, then to analyse, all these through logical thinking without resorting to any technology.
There can also be problems of the channels not affecting the organs and vice versa: if any painful symptom is clearly situated along the path of a particular channel is it likely that acupuncture points on that channel will be stimulated to treat the related condition.
Upon diagnosis, several forms of treatment may be applied to treat the syndrome, with relevance to severity, appropriateness and the skills of the practitioner.
In the tradition, the first way of staying healthy is to practice ancient exercises such as Qi Gong or Tai Chi.
The second way is
to adjust the diet according to the state of health and season: hot food to warm Qi, cool food to reduce an excess of yang for example.
The third way is the use of acupressure or massage to activate Qi in the channel and eliminate stagnation
The fourth way is the use of burning herbs (moxibustion) or
needle to treat Qi and Blood, the zang Fu, balance Yin and Yang and eliminate disease.
The fifth way is the use of poison medicine (herbs) if the previous methods have proven either unsuccessful or insufficient.

Food is considered medicine. Everything we eat is a kind of medicine Every substance has its own influence on excesses and deficiencies in our bodies. Certain foods are more influential than others, particularly when they are excessively yin or yang in nature.

In TCM herbs and foods are classified according to their
taste, movement and nature.
Taste may be Bitter, Salty, Sweet, Pungent and Sour; the QI energy’s movement is the direct consequence of the herb or food action, it may be descending, ascending, floating, dispersing, expanding, astringent or contracting. Nature relates to temperature effect of the herb or food:
Hot (Yang), Warm (Yin within Yang), Cool (Yang within Yin) and Cold (Yin).

All three of the above categories are used in defining herbs or foods properties.
Pungent is often associated with Hot or Warm, sometimes with Cool; it is dispersing and activates Qi.
Sweet is usually associated with Warm and Hot; it is stimulating and harmonises or regulates Chi (floating).
Sour is associated with Cold; it is astringent, contracting and descending.
Bitter is often associated with Cold, but it can also be Warm; it is descending and affects the blood.
Salty is associated with Cold, it is descending and can be astringent.
Sour, Bitter and Salty are Yin; Pungent and Sweet are Yang.
QI’ movements in the body are either ‘ascending’, ‘descending’, ‘expanding’ or ‘contracting’; (ascending and expanding movements may combine and cause profuse sweating; descending and contracting QI may manifest as diarrhoea with abdominal pain).
For example, eucalyptus is said to ‘descend the lung’s Chi’ and stop coughing; it is also cool and helps in dissolving (expel) ‘hot’ phlegm.

Plants have also a direct effect on meridians: a single herb may act upon as many as three of the body meridians.

Chinese Herbs are often combined in a formula: the main herb is then called the king, and treat the main symptom; some ingredients complementary to the king are then incorporated: these are called minister; more herbs are chosen to act as secretary: their role is often to moderate or counterbalance possible adverse effects of the king and ministers; finally a small amount of one or two more herbs are added as co-ordinators to make sure that the entire formula is absorbed and target the organ or meridian were it is most needed.

Acupuncture is a Yang treatment using needles inserted in acupuncture points along the meridians to re-balance the flow of Qi. Although there are a few hundreds points in the body, in practice only a hundred and fifty are used regularly. Under correct professional treatment, the patient may feel the so-called De Qi which means the coming of energy. Characteristically, De Qi sensations are a sense of heat or cold, weight or pressure, irritation or tingling. Patients frequently feel a ìheavyî tension along the whole course of the meridian treated.

Moxibustion is a technique to warm acupuncture points using a dried herb (usually Mugwort) compressed into a cigar or into little cones that can be lit up directly onto the skin; scarring of the skin is usually avoided in the West.
An excellent treatment to warm and move Qi, often effective for rheumatism, or conditions brought up by cold.

Chinese therapeutic massage (Tui Na) the practitioner works along the channels in order to free and direct the flow of energy in the body. Between massage and acupuncture is acupressure: that is the application of finger pressure on acupuncture points. Massage is slower but more comprehensive because it does not confine itself to specific acupuncture points.

Qi Gong means manipulation of vital energy,î and the term refers to an ancient practice crucial in the development of Chinese medicine. The masters of this practice are said to manipulate Qi with their bodies through special breathing exercises, and control their Qi absolutely.
By learning to regulate one’s Qi, : one can cultivate a calm mind and body.
Medical Qigong is the use, directing and Enhancement or diminution of Qi to maintain health and cure disease.
Martial Qigong is utilised to ,strengthen the body and the energy field for combat.
Spiritual Qigong: for religious practitioners, the goal of Qigong is to strengthen the internal Qi and to lead the Qi to the Shen or spirit.

During a TCM consultation, after recording detailed information about your main complaint, medical and personal history and enquiring at length about breathing, digestion, sleep pattern, appetite etc, your practitionner will then listen to your breathing, feel your pulse on both wrists, look at your tongue a few times and sometimes ask a few more questions; he will then make his diagnosis, and accordingly will suggest a treatment.

Acupuncture at Cure By Nature: clinics at 95 Repligham Road london SW18 5LU and 211-213 kensington High Street London W8 6BD
About us: clinic details, insurances, links etc.
Pj Cousin is a full member of the British Acupuncture Council and of the Unified Register of herbal Practitioners

Free 20 minutes consultations available:

Call 07720773890

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