One of the key concepts of traditional Chinese medicine is the yin and yang, two opposing and complementary qualities that can be attributed to anything. Here are four concepts you need to know about it.
1. The symbol
- The famous round symbol, which includes two interlocking areas in the shape of tears — one black and one white, each with a small area of the opposite colour — is called taijitu .
- It represents the dichotomy between yin and yang, two interdependent and inseparable opposites, each part needing the other to form the whole.
- Yin is represented by the black part of the taijitu: It is the female character, of rest, darkness, cold and night.
- Yang, the white part, is associated with the male character, with activity, light, heat and day. When yin and yang are in balance, the body is in harmony.
Consequently, the excess of one or the other (and, therefore, the deficiency of its opposite) causes an imbalance which can lead to illness.
Medicinal plants and foods are classified according to their yin and yang characters and their effects on the body. These elements are to be taken into consideration to restore internal harmony of the body and thus regain health.
“He who takes his medicine but neglects his diet wastes the skill of his doctors.” – Chinese proverb
2. Vital energy
The Chinese call qi (sometimes spelled ki) the force, or vital energy, that drives not only the body but also the whole universe.
- Qi is energy in motion, sometimes defined as a “breath” of which many features are similar to those of fluids.
- In the human body, qi moves through channels known as meridians.
- Although these meridians are not true anatomical structures such as blood vessels, acupuncturists are able to locate them with high precision and place needles on over 500 points to regulate the flow of qi in the body.
3. Consult a practitioner
- The practitioner establishes his or her diagnosis from the examination of the pulse, tongue and face as well as from the description of the patient’s symptoms.
- He or she can determine if there is an imbalance between the five elements of yin and yang and the flow qi .
- True, the terms used can be confusing: a patient who visited to report persistent headaches can be diagnosed with a deficiency of qi of the spleen!
Once diagnosed, the practitioner usually prescribes herbal remedies, and sometimes acupuncture sessions. The remedies often contain a large number of plants to be boiled for nearly an hour.
These traditional decoctions thus concentrate the flavours of the plants and their therapeutic action. Plants to be taken during treatment can be put in individual bags, corresponding to daily doses.
4. The five elements
- Like other traditional medicines, traditional Chinese medicine is based on a theory involving five elements (fire, earth, metal, water and wood) or moods.
- Each of these elements (also called phases) has specific qualities, regulates certain functions of the body, and can be influenced by various medications or foods.
- The taste of each remedy is also itself an indication of the nature of the targeted element. These five elements interact and influence one another in many ways.
Now that you have demystified the yin yang, perhaps you could also enjoy the benefits of traditional Chinese medicine and restore your inner harmony.