by Lauren Swanger, holistic health enthusiast and research journalist
Balance. Energy. Simplicity. Calmness. Oneness. Relaxation. Wholeness. Harmony.
Any of these words could describe the effect the application of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can have on the typical stressed-out American. TCM is rooted in a distinctive, inclusive and systematic theoretical structure and is based on the flow of energy, or chi, throughout the body. Chi flows through the body via pathways which are called meridians. There are a total of twelve meridians in the body which correspond to specific organs, organ systems, or functions. This flow of energy is responsible for controlling the functions of the human mind and body. An imbalance of chi causes illness and a correction to this flow restores the body’s balances, and therefore, health.
TCM is based, in part, on the Taoist belief that humankind is part of the universe and we, and the universe, are interconnected. Chinese medicine teaches us that what happens to one part of the body has an influence on all other parts of the body. Similarly, the mind and body are viewed as being one where the mind influences the body and the body influences the mind. Because Chinese medical philosophy and theory make up the base of TCM, many of these concepts have no true counterpart in Western medicine. TCM is a systematic and holistic approach that links the mind, body, and spirit to identify imbalance in the body.
There are eight “branches” of Chinese medicine. This system of practice coordinates a variety of therapeutic techniques: meditation, qigong or breathing exercises, nutrition, tai chi or mindful movement, Fengshui, herbology, bodywork and acupuncture. A practitioner will systematically move through these branches with you, depending upon your unique needs, in order to restore your health.
What is Herbology?
Herbology uses plants, animals, and minerals to help the body restore its state of balance.
The twelve meridians are directional pathways in the energy flow of qi through the body. The meridians are named according to their corresponding organs, limb positions, and yin and yang properties. There are three arm yin meridians and three arm yang meridians which include the lung, heart, large and small intestines. The three leg yin and three leg yang meridians include the stomach, bladder, spleen and kidney. The goal of herbal therapy is to open the energy flow in the 12 meridians, releasing stagnancy and improving health.
Herbs treat disorders or diseases through internal or external absorption. Their application may be in powder, pills, teas, or topical form. Because Chinese herbs have different properties, natures, and functions, and because they enter various channels, they affect the flow of qi (chi) as well as the body’s natural balance. Herbology is a precise science that uses a number of classifications in order to ascertain which herbs are appropriate for use in treating a particular condition. Each herb, plant, or spice corresponds to a meridian within the body. Astragalus Root is used for immune deficiencies and allergies and effects the lung and spleen meridians. Hare’s Ear Root, believed to treat liver diseases, arthritis, and mental disorders effects the gallbladder and liver meridians. But simply knowing which herbs may treat which diseases is not enough. Chinese herbal medicine has been used and perfected over many centuries. Herbology is a highly refined and individualized practice, dependent upon a client’s needs and current health condition.