TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE – AN INTRODUCTION
In traditional Chinese Medicine, (TCM) The Five Elements Phases (or these systems???) correspond to the five elements of nature: Fire, Wood, Earth, Water, and Metal. According to TCM, the organs are interconnected with the fours seasons of the year, tastes, temperatures, and colors, which are all essential to our well-being and health. The Kidney, for example, is very sensitive to damp and cold, Heart conditions many manifest as a “red” complexion and sour is the taste considered good for the health of the Liver. Our interconnectedness is one of the key aspects of the Five Element’s Theory. When we consider TCM as the basis of our health, we are tapping into thousands of years of accumulated knowledge and wisdom which gives us a motivation to proactively care for and maintain our personal health and well-being.
This TCM organ is associated with the spring season and the wood element. Spring is a time of new starts and activities. As an organ system the Liver is a very important body system in TCM as it is deemed to be the body’s energy factory, capable of handling more than 500 regulatory functions that allows the body to adapt and be flexible. In TCM theory, besides neutralizing toxins in the body, the Liver also balances out excess anger. It also controls microcirculation and is where Blood is stored. A healthy Liver means healthy eyes and healthy nails.
In TCM, the heart relates to the fire of summer, and is the season or time of abundance. The heart, according to Chinese philosophy, is where Shen is housed. Shen comprises the psychological, mental, and spiritual aspects of our body. If you have a healthy heart, you also enjoy a joyful countenance and a clear complexion.
The harvest of late summer and the earth all corresponds to the spleen. In TCM, this organ is mainly responsible for digestion. Qi is created from the food we eat. The spleen mixes the Qi with blood and sends it to the heart and lungs. A strong energy, healthy appetite, good muscle tone and good digestion are signs of a healthy Spleen. A weak Spleen will result in fatigue, diarrhea, abdominal distension, phlegm-related conditions, poor digestion, diarrhea, obesity, and edema. The lips and the Spleen are associated with each other. Signs that Spleen energy is out of harmony is if you keep on having dry and pale lips and a dull taste.
The autumn season and the metal element are related to the lungs. Taoist philosophy highly regards this organ system which is evident in Qi Gong, an exercise that promotes vitality and repulses disease through breathing exercises. From the Air, the Lungs extract the Essence. It then combines it with the Essence from food delivered by the Spleen. These two Essences combine to create vital energy or Qi which is distributed downward into the chest and stomach and outward toward the muscles, extremities, and skin. Traditional Chinese medicine refers to the skin as the “third lung” and a deficient lung Qi is deemed to be the cause of most skin conditions. The body’s first line of defense is the Wei Qi, which is alerted by the Lungs. The Wei Qi gives the body the opportunity to adapt to its environment and repulses infiltrators. The delivery of moisture to all parts of the body is also the responsibility of the Lungs. Strong Lungs guarantee a well functioning metabolism. The Kidneys which is associated with winter and water, is where the seed of continuous regeneration is kept. This seed or essence is called the Jing. In TCM, Jing is the primary essence that we inherited from our parents.
One of the most important organs of the body, the Kidneys is where bone marrow is produced and is responsible for healthy brain function, and strong teeth and bones. The Kidneys control the fluid balance of the body, filtering out waste water from the body. The Lungs send the Qi to the Kidneys. The Lungs also have the function of holding Qi down, which brings about healthy breathing.
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