"If there is heat, cool it; if there is cold, warm it; if there is dryness, moisten it; if there is dampness, dry it; if there is vacuity, supplement it; and if there is excess, drain it."
- Neijing, The Yellow Emperor's Classics of Internal Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is one of the oldest natural medicines in the world with over 4000 years of recorded history. Its theories originated from the ancient philosophers' view of how lives on earth are being governed by the law of the Universe. They observed that when the elements in the Universe are in harmony, there is life. When disharmony occurs, there is disruption or death. Their observations had formed the basis of THE YIN AND YANG THEORY and THE FIVE-ELEMENT THEORY. These two theories have become the foundation of TCM and have been in used ever since.
The Law of Nature
Two opposing ends of things
The Universe embraces natural phenomenon of extreme forces such as night and day, hot and cold, wet and dry and wind and calm. All living things on earth need the systematic alternation between the extremes in order to live. Day is for living and growing, and night is for resting and restoring. The earth needs a time of wetness for seeding and growing, and a time of dryness for harvesting and resting. Plants need wind to scatter seeds around and calmness so that seeds can take root and grow.
When there is a good balance between the two extremes or at equilibrium, harmony exists and there is life. When any one of the extreme forces persists or gets out of control, natural disaster occurs. Flooding, droughts, forest fires, storms, heat waves and cold spells are all typical examples of extremities.
The Universe seems to have its own plan in allowing extremities to persist before bring things back to balance..For example, forest fires are destructive, but they can clear out over crowdedness and dead woods to make new soil and to make way for new growth. If there is no fire, over crowdedness will continue to deteriorate the living conditions and nothing will be able to grow in the end. They are all parts of nature’s plan to suppress the old to give way for the birth of the new.
A system of indefinite rejuvenation and renewal
This is a system of indefinite rejuvenation and renewal and it is the law of nature. Under this system, the natural resources on earth: air, water, earth, wood and fire (the five elements) will never run out and it will support the conditions for external life.
The Yin and Yang Theory
Yin is night and Yang is day
Chinese medicine sees many similarities between our body system and the cosmic system. Many extreme conditions do exist in our body such as hot and cold, wet and dry, wind and calm, active and passive, weak and strong, etc. When our internal conditions are in checks and balances, we enjoy good health. When any extreme condition dominates or gets out of control, we become sick. The yin and yang theory was developed not only to explain the external environment and the law of nature; it is also used to explain our internal body systems and conditions.
Our body has yin and yang phenomenon and also yin and yang organs. The Yin and Yang Theory can explain why sickness occurs and what treatments are needed in order to get well and they all make perfect sense.
Yin represents the dark side - night, calm, cold, resting, passive, descending, insufficient and slow.
Yang represents the bright and opposite side - day, fierce, hot, moving, active, ascending, excess and quick.
Yin & Yang and our organ systems
Yin Organs = the 5 vital/solid organs: liver, heart, spleen, lungs and kidneys.
Yang Organs = the 5 companion/hollow organs: gall bladder, small intestine, stomach, large intestine and bladder.
Each yin organ works with one yang organ in pair as one vital organ system. The yang organs are the reservoir for its yin partner. They are responsible for storing the vital resources or waste materials generated by the yin partners and are also responsible for moving these materials to other parts of the body.
The 5 Vital Organ Systems:
- The liver system = liver + gall bladder.
- The digestive system = spleen + stomach.
- The kidney system = kidney + bladder.
- The heart system = heart + small intestine.
- The lung system is the lungs and the large intestine.
The Five-Element Theory
Wood, fire, earth, metal and water are the 5 constant elements in nature. They have very close and inter-dependent relationships with each other. They rely on each other to coexist through mutual promotion and mutual control.
The Cycle of Mutual Promotion - water promotes wood; wood promotes fire; fire promotes earth (when burning down wood); earth promotes metal (when burying wood); and metal promotes water (when melting by fire).
The Cycle of Mutual Control - water controls fire but is controlled by earth; wood controls earth but is controlled by metal; fire controls metal but is controlled by water; earth controls water but is controlled by wood; metal controls wood but is controlled by fire.
The 5 Elements and our 5 Vital Organ Systems
Kidney same as water = nourishing, flowing downward.
Liver same as wood = growing, unfolding;
Heart same as fire = warming, flaring up;
Spleen same as earth = receiving, transforming, generating;
Lung same as metal = purifying, descending.
Mutual Promotion and Mutual Control of the 5 Vital Organs:
Kidney (water) promotes liver (wood), controls heart (fire) but is controlled by spleen (earth).
Liver (wood) promotes heart (fire), controls spleen (earth) but is controlled by lung (metal).
Heart (fire) promotes spleen (earth), controls lung (metal) but is controlled by kidney (water).
Spleen (earth) promotes lung (metal), controls kidney (water) but is controlled by liver (wood).
Lung (metal) promotes kidney (water), controls liver (wood) but is controlled by heart (fire).