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Key Concepts Within TCM

Qi
Qi (pronounced “chi”) is translated into English as vital energy. It is defined in terms of function rather than as a discrete substance, and it is what animates us and allows us to move and maintain the activities of life. The origins of Qi include “congenital”’ (prenatal) Qi—that which is inherited from our parents—and “acquired” Qi—that which is incorporated from food and air.

Two major patterns of disharmony are associated with Qi. Deficient Qi occurs when there is insufficient Qi to perform the functions of life. Deficient Qi may affect one or more organs or the entire body. If the latter occurs, then the patient may experience lethargy, fatigue, and lack of desire to move. Stagnant Qi refers to impairment of the normal movement of Qi through the meridians (see discussion below) and may result in aches and pains in the body.

Meridians
Meridians are the channels or pathways through which Qi is constantly flowing and circulating throughout the body. There are 12 regular meridians and 8 extra or “curious” meridians. The 12 main meridians correspond to 12 major functions or “organs” of the body (such as liver, kidney, heart).

The Chinese concept of organs corresponds only loosely to the Western concept. TCM associates specific functions, symptoms, emotions, colors, and tastes with each organ, whereas the Western view is limited primarily to function.

Qi must flow in the correct quantity and quality through the meridians and organs for health to be maintained. Acupuncture, the insertion of thin, solid metal needles, is performed on 1 or more of the 361 acupuncture points distributed along the meridians in order to regulate and promote the proper flow of Qi. Other techniques may be used to stimulate acupuncture points, such as moxibustion, in which the herb “moxa” (Artemesia vulgaris) is used to warm the acupuncture point either above or on the skin. Applied pressure (acupressure), lasers, and magnets also may be used to stimulate acupuncture points.

Jing
Jing, usually translated as “essence,” is the substance that is the underpinning of all organic life. Qi is responsible for the ongoing day-to-day movements and function of the body, whereas Jing can be considered an individual’s constitutional makeup. According to TCM, Jing is stored in the kidneys.

Shen
Shen is considered to be the psyche or spirit of the individual. Shen is the vitality behind Jing and Qi in the human body. The three elements together—Qi, Jing, and Shen—are referred to collectively in TCM as the “Three Treasures” and are believed to be the essential components of life.

Blood
According to TCM, the major activity of the blood is to circulate through the body, nourishing and moistening the various organs and tissues. Disharmonies of the blood may manifest as “deficient” blood or “congealed” blood. If deficient blood exists and affects the entire body, the patient may present with dry skin, dizziness, and a dull complexion. Congealed blood may manifest as sharp, stabbing pains accompanied by tumors, cysts, or swelling of the organs (i.e., the liver). The key organs associated with blood are the heart, liver, and spleen.

Fluids
Fluids are bodily liquids other than blood and include saliva, sweat, urine, tears, and semen. Fluids act to moisten both the exterior (skin and hair) and the internal organs. Disharmonies of fluids may result in dryness and excess heat. The key organs involved in the formation, distribution, and excretion of fluids are the lungs, spleen, and kidneys

Next Article: Acupuncture/Moxibustion

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