March 16, 2014

Crash Course: The Basics of Chinese Medicine. ~ Yara Coelho


Photo: Occupy for Animals

Health and Natural Cycles According to Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Ancient medicines, like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Ayurveda from India, have gathered over 2,500 years of research, knowledge and highly successful treatments.

I’m a believer that the best health care is the one that integrates all healing tools and wisdom, regardless of whether that knowledge comes from east or the west.

Chinese Medicine: Microcosms Within the Macro

In Chinese medicine, everything in the universe is united as one. Nature and humans are deeply interconnected and interdependent. We are a reflection of the whole—we are the micro within the macro.

In Chinese medical philosophy, the same laws that regulate nature also regulate the human body. These natural principles  will not only determine our physical, emotional and mental health, but will also determine whether the body is in a state of balance or imbalance.

More than a medicine which treats a symptom or an illness, Chinese medicine treats the person as a whole. In order to restore health, Chinese medicine is less concerned about the symptom of a disorder, and is more focused on detecting the root cause of the dis-ease. This is a different approach than western medicine, where doctors are often targeting an isolated symptom and ignoring the cause.

Chinese Medicine, as well as Ayurvedic medicine, is mostly a lifestyle choice that will keep you healthy throughout your life.

The Five Elements/Movements

The basis of Chinese medical philosophy says that we are constituted by five elements or movements which are also reflected in the macrocosms— wood, fire, metal, water, and earth.

Each one of these elements is directly linked to a specific internal organ, controls a specific sensory function, and manifests itself as different emotions.  All organs are represented by a complex representation of a specific element, and explains why you might get your liver treated if you have eye problems, or your kidneys treated if you have lower back pain.

author Yara Coelho

The earth element is linked to the stomach and spleen, controls digestion, the mouth area and the emotion of worry.

The fire element is linked to the heart, and is the force that controls blood circulation. It controls the tongue and the emotion of joy.

The metal element is linked to the lungs and the nose, and controls the emotions of grief and sadness.

The water element is linked to the kidneys, and controls the water within the body. It’s linked to the ears, and controls the emotions of fear.

The wood element is linked to the liver, and controls the eyes, and the emotion of anger.

These elements are all intertwined, and their circular movement reminds us of the cycle of life and nature— with each element nurturing the coming one or controlling the proceeding one.

The Five Seasons

Each element, and therefore each organ, is also linked to a specific season.

For Chinese people, living according to the seasons is extremely important in maintaining perfect health, so eating local seasonal foods is a must. In many Chinese cities and villages, you can smell the brewing of tea when fall comes, or the cooking of specific herbs during winter time.

Just like our fellow animals who live in respectful harmony with the seasons, so should we.

The Winter Season:

During winter, it is time to slow down, to go to sleep early, and to wake up a bit later to avoid the environmental cold. The body should rest and recover during this season, just like the earth which gathers it’s energy, and the animals who slow down or hibernate to prepare themselves for the expansion of spring.

The Spring Season: 

Spring is time to expand and create. This is a time when animals and nature wake up after a long period of rest. We should wake up early and go to sleep late. Spring is the best time to start projects, and initiate physical activities. The earth is in full expansion, and so are we!

The Summer Season: 

Summer is a time for growth and for maturing the projects that we started during the spring time. This is an excellent time to do physical activities and soak up the sun. Waking up early and going to be late is fine during this season. Eating fresh and light seasonal foods helps us cool down the body.

The Autumn Season:

Fall is the time to slow down again and gather the fruits of our actions during summer time, just like in nature, this is the time for harvesting. Waking up later and going to sleep early to prepare for the cold days ahead. It’s time to drink warm teas and rich foods.

The Five Flavors

Chinese nutrition is one of the best developed and healthiest ways of eating.  Each one of the five flavors will harmonize and directly affect a specific organ, emotion and sense in our body.

Balancing the five flavors is extremely important in keeping our health throughout the year.

Once a Chinese medicine doctor has checked your tongue and pulse for a correct assessment and diagnostic, they will be able to advise you on a personalized nutritional plan, which will have a direct effect on the specific organ they would like to work on.

If you have spleen or stomach problems, you might be prescribed foods which are sweet in nature, like sweet potatoes, squash and beetroot. You might be advised to eat bitter foods to help your heart, or salty foods to help your kidneys. Spicy foods will have an impact on your liver, and will have a direct effect on your lungs.

With this knowledge, and the ability to associate flavors by the influence they have on the body,  we are able to control a big chunk of our health care through our food.

Health is an active daily ritual that should be nourished by maintaining a healthy diet, cultivating a healthy lifestyle and maintaining healthy emotional balance.


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Editorial Assistant: Brandy Mansfield / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Occupy for Animals


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