Healing the Gallbladder with Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The Gallbladder in Chinese Medicine

In Chinese medicine, the Gallbladder has many important functions. Firstly, it has a very close relationship to the Liver. The Gallbladder is a Yang organ and the Liver is its Yin organ partner. The Gallbladder stores and excretes bile governs decision making and planning, controls the sinews and effects dreams. On a deeper emotional level, the Gallbladder is responsible for our passion for life, inspiration, action, and assertiveness. When we are having problems being assertive, making decisions or following through, are lacking passion, feeling timid or uninspired, we are experiencing an imbalance of the Gallbladder. When the Gallbladder is balanced and its energy is flowing freely, we are happy, healthy, assertive and passionate.

In TCM, organs are categorized as either Yin or Yang. Yin organs are defined as organs that produce, transform, regulate and store fundamental substances, such as Qi, Blood and body fluids, and in general, the Yin organs are not empty cavities. They are function versus form. The Yin organs in Chinese medicine are the Heart, Liver, Spleen, Lungs, and Kidneys. The Yang organs are organs that are mainly responsible for digestion and for transmitting nutrients to the rest of the body. Usually, they are organs with empty cavities and have a connection to the outside of the body. The Yang organs in Chinese medicine are the Gallbladder, Stomach, Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Bladder and San Jiao (Triple Burner).

The Gallbladder is unusual in the sense that it is the only Yang organ that does not have direct contact with food and drink or a direct connection to the outside of the body. Because of this, it is also considered an extraordinary organ.

Just as in Western medicine, the Gallbladder receives bile from the Liver which it stores until it is needed in the digestive process. When the Gallbladder releases bile, it is considered to be regulated by the energy of the Liver, or Liver Qi. When digestion is smooth, so is the Liver Qi. The Gallbladder also needs the Liver Qi to be able to release its bile smoothly. If this relationship is impaired, it can adversely affect digestion and cause problems like vomiting, regurgitation, belching and hiccups, which are all symptoms of rebellious Stomach Qi.

It is common in the modern age to see many patients who have had their Gallbladders removed because of gallstones and other problems. In ancient China, the organs were never removed. That has remained the thinking in Traditional Chinese Medicine today, and if a patient is having problems with their Gallbladder, the practitioner of Chinese medicine would always explore dietary options, herbs and acupuncture, and possibly cleanses before considering surgery as a last resort.

Why Do So Many People Have Problems With Their Gallbladders?

So, why do so many people have problems with their Gallbladders? It is a good question. I believe that one reason is diet, and the other is stress. These are 2 of the things that affect the gallbladder the most. Another, in Chinese medicine, is the emotions. Each organ in Chinese medicine is associated with an emotion. And the Liver/Gallbladder’s emotion is anger. Now, experiencing emotions is a healthy part of life and one of the things that make us human. But in Chinese medicine, the philosophy is that having a healthy emotional life is just as important to our health as eating well, getting enough sleep and keeping your Qi strong (your immune system) so that you can fight off pathogens. The effect of anger on the Liver/Gallbladder works 2 ways.

1. If you repress anger, hold it in and never express it, it will eventually hurt the Liver/Gallbladder and cause imbalance, which will lead to disease.

2. If you are experiencing unusual levels of stress because of things going on in your life (a traumatic event, death, an illness, breakup of a relationship), or stress at work, and/or are eating badly (lots of greasy, fatty, rich or spicy foods), then eventually, the Liver/Gallbladder will become impaired and can cause an excess of anger which can manifest in symptoms like red face & eyes, irritability, angry outbursts, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and migraines. These are symptoms of Liver Fire (excess heat in the Liver).

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So, How Can You Take Care of Your Gallbladder?

Here are some things that you can do to keep your Gallbladder healthy and happy.

1. Avoid Greasy, Fatty, Rich or Spicy Foods

Sharp abdominal pains after eating these types of foods point to Gallbladder stones and other problems. Because the Gallbladder is responsible for releasing bile which helps break down fats, you want to keep intake of these foods to a minimum and not overload your Gallbladder.


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2. Express Emotions Freely

This may be easier said than done, but any stagnation or blockage in Chinese medicine is what causes disease and pain. This includes emotions, so it is important to have a healthy emotional life, and always try to express what you are feeling instead of allowing it to build up. Emotions specific to Gallbladder are anger (frustration, resentment, etc..) associated with its partner, the Liver. Emotional changes such as depression (which is considered anger turned inward) can also point to a Gallbladder imbalance.

3. Eat Foods Grown Locally and in Season

This is a big one in Chinese Medicine, and, if you look at history, it is the way we are designed to eat. Our digestive systems have evolved to digest the foods that people were able to grow once we were able to leave our nomadic roots and start farming. People only ate foods that were available to them and grew in the present season. With the recent proliferation of air travel, we have been spoiled by being able to have whatever foods we want, any time of the year (strawberries in winter, blueberries in the tropics, mangoes in the far North...). And although this is wonderful, it is not the way our digestive systems were designed, so we are overloading them with too many kinds of foods at all times of the year. To be kind to your gallbladder, try to eat foods that grow locally and are available in the season you are presently in.

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In Chinese Medicine, nutritional therapy is a huge aspect of the medicine. What better way to heal the body than to use the food that we eat 3 times a day? In TCM, every food has a temperature, that interacts with your body, adding heat, cold, or keeping it neutral. Foods also all have healing properties, so the Chinese felt it very important to eat the proper foods when they became sick to help rebalance them so they could recover. I will include a list of some foods beneficial for the Gallbladder at the end of this article.

4. Exercise. Keep Moving!

The Gallbladder meridian runs bilaterally along the body starting at the outside corner of the eye (at the end of the eyebrow) and runs along the side of the body, ending at the corner of the nail bed of the 4th toe. Therefore, any exercise that stimulates the sides of the body are beneficial for the flow of Qi and to help remove any blockages in the Gallbladder organ and meridian. Side stretches are ideal. There are many Chinese internal as well as external martial arts that are excellent for mind, body, and spirit. Tai Chi and Qi Gong are 2 examples of internal martial arts that are beneficial for moving Qi in all of the meridians, as well as strengthening the body and the mind. Kung Fu is a bit more rigorous, but has an emphasis is circulating Qi throughout the body to maintain physical and mental health. Movement is the most important aspect for keeping your Qi from stagnating, so if Tai Chi, Qi Gong or Kung Fu are a bit more physical activity than you are used to, just simple things like walking are a wonderful way to keep Qi moving.

 

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5. Be Kind to Your Gallbladder in Spring

Spring is the season related to the Gallbladder, and its partner the Liver.
The Spring element is wood, the taste, sour and the colour is green. So you can imagine after a lengthy winter, the new bright green shoots of plants breaking through the ground representing new life after a long, cold slumber. This is the reason that it is especially important to give the Gallbladder and the Liver a rest from things like caffeine, alcohol and other intoxicants during this time. It is also beneficial to cleanse these organs by drinking lots of water and eating things like fresh greens to nourish the Gallbladder and Liver, especially in the spring.

6. Know What Time It Is

In Chinese medicine, every organ is seen to have 2 hours out of every 12 where its Qi is at its peak. The time when the Gallbladder’s energy is it's most abundant is between 11pm-1am. During these 2 hours, it is helpful if you can refrain from drinking alcohol or other intoxicants, as they place unnecessary stress on the Gallbladder. It also helps the Gallbladder if you can rest the body as much as possible in these 2 hours.

Foods that are beneficial to the Gallbladder

  • Broccoli
  • Rocket
  • Beetroot
  • Oranges
  • Jasmine tea
  • Green tea
  • Radishes
  • Basil
  • Garlic
  • Cayenne (this may seem contradictory, but Cayenne is very moving for qi. Just remember moderation!)
  • Dill
  • Chive
  • Cardamom
  • Lemon
  • Dandelion root
  • Licorice root
  • Cumquat
  • Grapefruit
  • Kale
  • Carrot
  • Celery
  • Peppermint tea
  • Chrysanthemum tea
  • Tea with orange peel

 

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Foods that hurt the Gallbladder

  • Deep fried food - (Greasy)
  • Alcohol - (Damp)
  • Spicy foods - (remember moderation is important!)
  • Hot foods - Foods that are considered “Hot” in Chinese medicine are:
    • Lamb
    • Beef
    • Curry

If you are experiencing any Gallbladder symptoms, or have been told by your doctor that you should consider surgery, I encourage you to seek out a practitioner of Chinese Medicine and explore the non-surgical options to rebalance your body and heal your Gallbladder.

The wonderful thing about Chinese medicine is that it was developed to be a system that focuses on prevention. That is why, it is not only the oldest medical system on earth, but it teaches an entire way of life, teaching how to live in harmony with nature, eating with the seasons, moderation in work and play, exercise and emotional wellness. By practising these basic principles, Chinese medicine teaches that you can maintain optimum health so that illness never has a chance to develop.


If you would like to learn more about the gallbladder in Chinese Medicine, you can download this sheet.




Happy Chinese New Year - Welcome to the Year of the Dragon!

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

January 23, 2012 is the Chinese New Year, and it brings us into the year of the Dragon. This is a very important year!

The Dragon is the only mythical animal in the Chinese zodiac, and anyone born in this year is supposed to be very lucky. The Dragon is a symbol of good fortune and immense power and in Chinese culture, the Dragon is a divine creature. In Eastern philosophy the Dragon is said to deliver good fortune and is a master of authority, therefor people born in Dragon years are to be honoured and respected.

DRAGON CHARACTERISTICS

The key to the Dragon personality is that Dragons are the free spirits of the Zodiac. Conformation is a Dragon's worst nightmare. Rules and regulations are made for other people. Restrictions blow out the creative spark that is always aflame in these passionate people. Dragons must be free and uninhibited. The Dragon is a beautiful creature, colourful and flamboyant. An extroverted bundle of energy, gifted and utterly irrepressible, everything Dragons do is on a grand scale - big ideas, ornate gestures, extreme ambitions. However, this behaviour is natural and isn't meant for show. Because they are confident and fearless in the face of challenge, they are almost inevitably successful. Dragons usually make it to the top.

While Dragons frequently help others, rarely will they ask for help. Others are attracted to Dragons, especially their generous personalities, but deep down, Dragons are solitary people at heart. Perhaps that is because they’re most successful when working alone. Their preference to be alone can come across as arrogance or conceitedness, but these qualities aren’t applicable. A Dragon's self-sufficiency can mean that he or she has no need for close bonds with other people. Dragons are fiery creatures and have tempers that can flare fast!

Dragon

DRAGON FACTS

People born in the Year of the Dragon share certain characteristics. The Dragon sign is an abbreviated way of characterizing that individual's personality. Following are features associated with the sign of the Dragon.

Occupies the 5th position in the Chinese Zodiac.
Chinese name-LONG.
Sign of luck

CHARACTERISTICS

  • Innovative
  • Ambitious
  • Enterprising
  • Driven
  • Flexible
  • Generous
  • Self-assured
  • Brave
  • Passionate
  • Dominant
  • Conceited
  • Tactless
  • Scrutinizing
  • Unanticipated
  • Quick-tempered

龍-seal

An ancient seal script form of thecharacter for "dragon" that is now written 龍 or 龙
and pronounced lóng in Mandarin Chinese.

DRAGON YEARS

1904 * 1916 * 1928 * 1940 * 1952 * 1964 * 1976 * 1988 * 2000

 


The Importance of Emotions in Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

The emotions are an extremely important aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Emotional wellbeing is an integral part of health in the TCM model. Each emotion is associated with an organ, which, if out of balance will cause specific symptoms.  These are what the experienced acupuncturist or practitioner of TCM is looking for when you walk into their office with a complaint.

Emotions are of course a natural part of being human. Feeling joy, sadness and anger are all perfectly normal experiences we have in our day to day lives. It is when these emotions become excessive or are repressed and turned inward that they can become pathological and cause disease. The belief is that balancing the organ associated with the emotion will balance the emotion. Sometimes the organ is out of balance and produces the emotional imbalance. But sometimes the emotional imbalance can produce the organ imbalance. The difference to the practitioner is important only in preventing a recurrence of the problem. For example, if a person is experiencing extreme fits of anger, frustration, red eyes, problems sleeping, migraines and constipation, they are seen to be suffering from an imbalance of the Liver. This can be corrected with acupuncture and herbs. The liver returns to balance, the migraines disappear, sleeping improves and the bowels return to normal. But, if the patient is in a job he hates, with coworkers that make him angry and is constantly fighting with his wife, his anger will remain and the Liver imbalance will return. This is why during the diagnostic process, the practitioner asks many questions, and to the patient, it might seem like they have no bearing on the presenting condition. The job of the practitioner is to evaluate all aspects, not just the physical so that once the imbalance is corrected, the environment that created that imbalance no longer exists.

It is important to remember that cause and effect in TCM is not linear but circular. We usually think that something is the cause of an act, or effect such as - eating too much will give you a stomach ache. Eating too much is the cause and the stomach ache is the effect. This is linear thinking. In TCM linear cause and effect does occur when symptoms are present, for example - going outside without enough warm clothes on in the middle of winter will cause you to catch a cold, resulting in symptoms like a runny nose, achy muscles and a fever. These symptoms are the effect of the cold which was the cause. However, in some cases, the symptoms are not a result of such straightforward reasoning which is especially true when we are dealing with emotions.

One very common cause of emotional imbalance in TCM is repressed emotions. TCM is all about balance and flow. If emotions are not being expressed, they are being stuck which can lead to a blockage of the flow or stagnation, which in turn can lead to disease. How the disease manifests is completely individualized depending on many factors, and it is up to the practitioner to determine the “how”. Releasing emotions can heal disease. Even things that are considered extreme and long-standing stagnation in TCM like cancer. Diseases which, in the West, are seen as incurable.  Emotions that do not have avenues for expression and release can create disease and disharmony in the body manifesting as physical symptoms. So, it is very important to have a healthy emotional life, expressing your emotions freely and not allowing things to build up.

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Here is a breakdown of the emotions, their related organs and some symptoms when an imbalance occurs...

HEART

Emotion - Joy
Emotion out of balance - Lack of enthusiasm and vitality, mental restlessness, depression, insomnia, despair, confusion, anxiety, fidgeting, easily startled
Organ Function - Regulates the heart and blood vessels, responsible for even and regular pulse, influences vitality and spirit. Connected to the tongue, complexion and arteries
Symptoms of organ imbalance - insomnia, heart palpitations, irregular heartbeat, excessive dreaming, poor memory and concentration, dizziness, spontaneous sweating

SPLEEN

Emotion - Worry, overthinking
Emotion out of balance - Dwelling or focusing too much on a particular topic, excessive mental work
Organ Function - Food digestion and nutrient absorption, the first step in the formation of Blood and Qi, holds blood in the vessels, connected to the muscles, mouth and lips, involved in thinking, studying and memory
Symptoms of organ imbalance - Tired, loss of appetite, mucous discharge, poor digestion, abdominal distension, loose stools or diarrhoea, weak muscles, pale lips, bruising easily, excessive menstrual blood flow, other bleeding disorders

LUNG

Emotion - Sadness
Emotion out of balance - Excessive sadness, grief, or detachment, uncontrolled crying
Organ Function - Respiration, controls sweat and body hair, creates energy (Qi) from the air and redistributes it throughout the body, works with Kidney to regulate the water metabolism, an important part of the immune system and helps protect the body from viruses and bacteria, provides moisture to the skin
Symptoms of organ imbalance - Shortness of breath, fatigue, cough, catching colds easily, fever with chills, sore throat, runny nose, headache, asthma, chest oppression, pale complexion, dry skin

KIDNEYS

Emotion - Fear
Emotion out of balance - Fearful, no willpower, insecure, aloof, isolated
Organ Function - Responsible for reproduction, growth and development & maturation, connected with lungs in water metabolism and respiration, responsible for bones, teeth, hearing and head hair
Symptoms of organ imbalance - Frequent urination, urinary incontinence, vertigo, night sweats, dry mouth, poor short term memory, low back pain, sore or weak knees, ringing in the ears, hearing loss, hair that turns grey prematurely, hair loss and osteoporosis, lowered libido

LIVER

Emotion - Anger
Emotion out of balance - Explosive anger, resentment, frustration, irritability, bitterness, moodiness
Organ Function - Stores the blood, responsible for the smooth flow of Blood and Qi throughout the body, regulates the secretion of bile, connected with the tendons, nails and eyes
Symptoms of organ imbalance - chest distension, red face, bitter taste in the mouth dizziness, ringing in the ears, jaundice, menstrual problems (cramps, irregular or heavy periods), headaches, tendonitis, nausea, vomiting, sighing, breast tenderness, swelling and/or itching of the genitals, blurred vision, floaters, dry skin and hair

Here are examples of some combination patterns:

Heart & Kidney

If a patient is experiencing extreme mood swings between Joy (mania) and Fear (depression), it indicates an imbalance between the Heart (Joy) and Kidney (Fear). We would see symptoms such as insomnia, dream disturbed sleep, heart palpitations and dizziness.

Liver & Lung

If a patient is experiencing violent mood swings between Anger and Grief, an imbalance between the Liver and Lung is present with symptoms involving breathing problems, issues with bowel movements and waking between 1-5 am.

The way the TCM model views emotions is very specific. For example, there are many different types of depression. It depends on which organs are involved. Here are some examples:

Liver

If the depression is actually anger turned inward on itself, which is common with many women, the Liver is out of balance. Symptoms could include PMS symptoms, cramps during the period, vomiting and nausea.

Spleen

If obsessive thinking or worry characterizes the depression, we would suspect the spleen and look for symptoms such as decreased appetite, diarrhoea, fatigue, heavy bleeding with the periods, and bruising easily.

Kidney

Sometimes the depression comes with panic attacks (Fear). In this case, we would suspect the Kidneys.  We would look for urinary changes (usually an increase in frequency), low back pain and weakness, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), poor appetite and diarrhoea.

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Emotions are not the only factor contributing to disease. Another thing to consider is lifestyle. It is difficult to always avoid getting cold, having an umbrella for when it might rain, getting enough sleep and eating properly. We live in a fast-paced world full of stresses on both our minds and our bodies. We always seem to be rushing and there never seems to be enough time. And although sometimes we can’t help getting sick or feeling a little under the weather, it is important to remember that the cause of an imbalance may be occurring from events in your life. There is no needle for a bad relationship, stressful job or frustrating coworker. A practitioner can help you to deal with the stress in your life that may be causing the imbalance, but we can’t remove the stress. Only you can do that. Sometimes we feel that we are unable to change the circumstances that are causing stresses in our lives, but a practitioner can help you to deal with that stress by advising on how to eat healthily (eating with the seasons, and the incorporation of the 5 flavours - Sour, Salty, Spicy, Bitter, Sweet), and how to incorporate exercise and meditation techniques such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong into your life. The TCM practitioner is trained in how to live or the “Tao” (which comes from Taoist philosophy) helping both to rebalance a patient and educate him on how to retain that balance by living a healthy balanced life.

We are all living full, busy lives. Imbalance is everywhere, and staying healthy isn’t easy. I have found that in my practice people often feel overwhelmed and exhausted. I always suggest that they be kind and gentle with themselves, and to try to do at least one nice thing for themselves every day, as our happiness is so important for our health. We are living in a time when we are dealing with so much, so it is important to take the time to do things for yourself like have a bath, read a book, spend time with your children, or walk outside in nature. Whatever brings you happiness and makes you feel good. It is these small things that are the keys to wellness. Life is the journey we all share, and if we live it with mindfulness and wisdom, that journey will always lead to balance and happiness.

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Lovely featured image photo by Tom Pumford on Unsplash


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Eating With The Seasons: Winter

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Winter represents the most Yin aspect in Chinese medicine. Yin is the dark, cold, slow, inward energy. This is compared to the Yang of summer whose energy represents light, hot, quick, expansive qualities. The summer weather is warm, the days are longer and people are out being active. In TCM we believe that the diet in winter should be adapted to enriching yin and subduing yang.Many people love winter. They feel energized with the coming cold and love to be out snowboarding, skiing and going for walks in the snow. For others, winter causes them to retract, stay inside and can cause some to feel sad or even depressed because of the lack of light and reduced physical activity. The good news is that winter can be enjoyed by everyone if we live, eat and exercise according to the season and pay attention to our bodies preferences.Winter, in TCM, is associated with the Kidneys which hold our body's most basic and fundamental energy. It is believed that by harmonizing oneself with the seasons you can stay healthier and prevent disease, so winter is a good time to strengthen the kidneys. Rest is important for revitalizing the kidneys, which is why some animals hibernate in winter. It is also a good time to look inward, reflecting on ourselves with meditation, writing, or other inward practices such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong. These practices help us to connect to our inner selves and help to support kidney energy. They are very helpful to relax the mind, calm our emotions and raise the spirit.There are many foods that are beneficial for us to eat during the winter season. These foods are the ones that naturally grow in this season - squashes, potatoes, root vegetables, winter greens, mushrooms, apples, pears and citrus fruits. In winter, our bodies need warming foods like soups made with hearty vegetables, and rich stocks cooked with animal bones are best. Foods that specifically nourish and warm the kidneys are: black beans, kidney beans, broths cooked with bones, lamb, chicken, walnuts, chestnuts, black sesame seeds and dark leafy greens. A small amount of unrefined sea salt is also helpful as the taste associated with the kidneys organ is salty, but remember, moderation in all things is important.
chickencongee

The principle of harmony between what we eat and the season is based on hundreds of years of practical experience. It may seem strange, but the fact remains: you are what you eat. The food that we consume has a profound effect on the body, affecting our health and wellbeing. Foods become part of the body after being consumed (internal) and the weather and environment have an effect on us externally. Chinese dietary philosophy suggests that you embrace native foods along with eating locally grown, organic and chemical free foods that grow in season. According to TCM the thing about the modern diet which is the most unhealthy is that we are able to eat foods all year round that may be grown unnaturally with the use of pesticides rather than ones grown naturally for only part of the year. This is the way nature intended us to eat. Eating natural foods that grow in season is what our bodies are designed for and prefer. This is one of the main ways that Chinese Medicine guides us on how to remain healthy all year long.


Winter: The Water Element

Season: Winter
Element: Water
Organ: Kidney
Weather: Cold
Direction: North
Taste: Salty
Sense Organ: Ear
Tissue: Bone
Emotion: Fear
Sound: Groaning
Smell: Putrid
Colour: Black
Developmental Stages: Storage
Body Types: Round Features / Strong Digestion / Loyal / Enjoy Movement


What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an umbrella term for the many different modalities used in Chinese Medicine. These include Acupuncture (electro, auricular, cosmetic), Tui Na (Chinese medical massage), Herbal Medicine, Gua Sha (scraping), Moxibustion (the burning of the herb mugwort), Cupping, Dietary Therapy and Energy Work (Qi Gong, Tai Chi).

Traditional Chinese Medicine is one of the oldest continuous medical systems on earth, with instances dating back more than 4000 years. The philosophy of TCM is based on the Taoist view that human beings should strive to live in harmony with nature and their natural environment. Eating foods that grow locally and in season, practicing Tai Chi and Qi Gong, expressing our emotions, being self aware and listening to our needs and desires are, in the TCM view, the way to a healthy and balanced life.

The TCM philosophy offers us different approaches to looking at the workings of our bodies, the development of disease and the process of healing. The emotional self, for example, is just as important to the TCM practitioner as the physical body. When a patient arrives with a specific complaint, all physical as well as emotional and psychological aspects are evaluated, as it is the entire person who must be rebalanced, not just one aspect. This holistic approach is the strength of the TCM model, and why it is so effective. Treating the whole is in opposition to the reductionist model in the West which reduces the body into parts, not taking into consideration that they operate synergistically as a whole. This is one of the reasons why TCM is still able to treat a huge variety of ailments in the modern world.

acudish

Illness is described in the way it is seen to exist and develop, in natural terms. Terms like water, fire, wind and earth are used to describe a person and aspects of their health, personality and disease. Illness develops when something is out of balance, is deficient, in excess or stuck. The energy of the body, or Qi, must then be rebalanced, topped up, sedated, and moved depending on the presenting condition. Qi moves along specific pathways in the body called meridians. The acupuncture points are places where the Qi comes to the surface and is able to be manipulated by the acupuncture needles.

Herbs work internally to achieve the same goals. They are powerful tools and can be used alone or in conjunction with acupuncture or any of the other modalities, like Tui Na, Cupping or Gua Sha. All are used to rebalance the body and return it to a state of equilibrium. It is up to the practitioner to decide which ones or combinations are most effective for the patient and the imbalance that has led them to seek treatment.

In conclusion, Chinese medicine holds the body and its capacity for healing in great reverence. It does not see itself as an outside force that is able to heal the body, but as a way to help adjust the body and bring it back into balance so that health is restored. In essence, it is not the practitioner doing the healing, it is the body. Advice on nutrition, living with the seasons and moderation in life empowers the patient and enables him to participate in his own healing. The goal of the TCM practitioner is to use these concepts to guide the patient on how to live a healthy, happy and balanced life.


Quan Yin - Goddess of Mercy and Compassion

Quan Yin is the Goddess of mercy and compassion worshipped by East Asian Buddhists. The original sanscrit word used to describe her is "karuna" meaning to weep. Karuna is the ability to relate to another in such an intense manner that any harm done to the other is felt as if it has been done to us. The term karuna is central to the Buddhist tradition, and is often described as a "love for all beings".

kuanyin2

Quan Yin is a Bodhisattva, a being of wisdom, destined to become a Buddha. She has taken the vow of Bodhisattva to save all beings from suffering.

The following mantra is associated with her:

Om Mani Padme Hum


What is Acupuncture?

In Eastern philosophy everything is seen to exist within the continuous circle of nature. Nature is a unified system. When the elements of nature are in balance, life is in harmony and flourishes. Humanity cannot be separated from nature – we are nature, manifest as people. Life in ancient China (and indeed many ancient cultures), was completely dependent on the earth, and life revolved around its processes. The people depended on the fruits of the land for survival. Agricultural societies experienced power through nature and aspired to be in harmony with the seasons, rhythms and patterns that connected all things to each other. Living in harmony with the world around you was the way to maintain health. If one was to live out of balance with nature, illness would develop. Doing activities or eating foods that did not coincide with the season, or living out of balance with your constitution would cause you to get sick. Everything in everyday existence was an integral part of not only the health of the individual, but their well being and peace of mind as well.

The ancient Chinese saw human beings as a macrocosm of the universe surrounding them. They saw themselves as part of an unbroken wholeness, the Tao. Taoism is a principal philosophy and system of religion that originated in China and is based on the teachings of Lao Tzu in the sixth century B.C. It advocates a simple honest life and noninterference with the course of natural events, preserving and restoring the Tao in the body and the cosmos. The Tao literally means “the Way”. The true physician teaches the Tao, or “how to live”.

“Maintaining order rather than correcting disorder is the ultimate principle of wisdom. To cure disease after it has appeared is like digging a well when one already feels thirsty or forging weapons after the war has already begun.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Huang Di Nei Jing

In the Chinese philosophy there was a fusing of the mind and body and the people with their world. Everything was integrated and interrelated. This is something that Chinese medicine has never lost, as it is the basis of not only the medicine, but the culture as a whole. The reason that Chinese medicine has never severed the connection is because it would be impossible. It is the connection that is the basis of the medicine. The body is absolutely connected to the mind, and they both work in harmony to keep us alive and healthy. Any disease, or imbalance that causes disease, is thought to be an imbalance in the entire system and cannot be broken down to the disease of just one thing. One thing affects all, thus, the whole body, mind and spirit are kept in working order, the idea being that if we are in balance, illness will never develop.

It is a wonder that Chinese medicine, a medicine that is more than 4000 years old, is still able to diagnose and treat maladies that affect people that live in a civilization that is so vastly different from the one in which it was created. One of the most impressive things about Chinese medicine is how is has evolved over the centuries, so much so that it is still as relevant and capable of treating disease as it was 4000 years ago. Perhaps the most attractive, and ultimately most effective aspect of Chinese medical theory, is its simplicity. This is certainly one if its strongest points and the thing that makes it truly universal. Its theories are based on things like emotions, diet, stress and weather and it contains metaphors from nature like fire, earth, metal water, wood, hot, cold and wind. These fundamental qualities mean that it can be applied to any culture, in any time. The Chinese have a truly poetic way of describing the body and its processes. For example, a feeling of extreme anger and frustration causing high blood pressure may be seen as liver qi stagnation – the blockage of the body’s vital energy emanating from the liver, and an inability to sleep may be attributed to a disturbance of shen – the mental aspect of the heart.

The Chinese believe that everything has energy or a life force called qi. The concept of qi is absolutely at the heart of Chinese medicine. Every living thing has qi, and the Chinese accept this even though it is hard to define, invisible to the naked eye and almost impossible to prove. It is immaterial yet essential to life and all of its processes. Qi is an invisible force known by what it generates, fosters and protects. Matter is qi taking shape. Without it, life wouldn’t exist.

 


The Importance of the Pulse: Chinese Pulse Diagnosis

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Anyone who has ever been to see a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), will be familiar with having their pulse taken in the unique TCM way. We all know that the pulse tell us about heart rate, and that listening to the heartbeats speed and regularity are used to help diagnose heart problems in the Western medical model. The pulse in Chinese Medicine however, is used to give us a lot more information about the patient.

There is no stethoscope. The pulse is generally taken with the patient seated, the practitioner placing 3 fingers on the patients wrist, feeling for the radial artery. Each wrist's pulse is taken, and the position of each finger represents a specific organ. There are 6 organs represented, 3 on the right, and 3 on the left. There are 3 different depths at which the pulse is taken as well, each representing a different aspect of the overall health of the patient. The three wrist sections of the pulse are the front, middle and rear, respectively. The three levels are superficial (pressing lightly), middle (pressing a little deeper) and deep (pressing even deeper). The three levels at each of the three sections on the wrist are referred to as the “Nine Regions.”

LEFT WRIST

FRONT: HEART / SMALL INTESTINE

MIDDLE: LIVER / GALL BLADDER

REAR: KIDNEY / BLADDER

RIGHT WRIST

FRONT: LUNGS / LARGE INTESTINE

MIDDLE: SPLEEN / STOMACH

REAR: GATE OF VITALITY FIRE

These three levels of the pulse give an immediate idea of the level of Qi in the body and, therefore, the kind of pathological condition that might be present. In particular, the superficial level reflects the state of Qi (energy), the middle level reflects the state of Blood and the deep level reflects the state of Yin (the water aspect of the body). Thus, by examining the strength and quality of the pulse at these three levels, we get a better idea of the pathology of Qi, Blood and Yin, and of the relative state of balance in the body as a whole.

Any imbalance in Chinese medicine is seen to be the cause of disease, therefore the goal of the TCM practitioner is to discover the root of the imbalance by listening to the pulse, looking at the tongue, observing the body, and doing a thorough investigation of the patients medical history and presenting symptoms. Once all of the information has been collected, a diagnosis is reached and a treatment plan can be created for the patient according to their specific needs. The pulse is an important part of the diagnostic process in TCM, and although it may seem mysterious, there is a lot it can reveal about your health, your organs, energy level, and the overall condition of your internal environment.