The use of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as atherapeutic agent has been recorded since the Shang dynasty however it wasvastly different from what is practiced as TCM today. The most recent record ofTCM being practiced as it is today was acupuncture in the first century BCE (Unschuld,1985). TCM is heavily based in philosophical origins and thus is hard tocompare to conventional Western medicine. TCM does not particularly concernitself with what is known as an organ, but instead focuses on the functions ofanatomical parts based on dynamics instead of structures (Kaptchuk, 2000). There are two major abstract concepts present in the TCMschool of thought.
Other minor concepts are based upon or rely on these two. Thefirst is Yin and Yang. This is the idea that everything in the universe can bebroken down into two complementary parts. For example, Yin correlates to theMoon and Femininity, whereas Yang correlates to the Sun and Masculinity. Thisconcept is applied to the human body where illness and disease are the tippingof the balance between Yin and Yang. The second concept is the Five Phases (??,wuxing).
This conceptpostulates that there are five elements that make up the universe. Everythingis an amalgamation of these elements. The five elements are: ? (fire, huo), ? (wood, mu), ? (earth, tu), ? (metal, jin), and ? (water, shui). Each element has aneffect on the others and thus illness and disease are caused by an excess ordeficiency of elements (Aung & Chen, 2007). For example, ingesting too muchdeep fried food (which is considered “heaty”) would cause mouth ulcers, acne,and sore throat amongst other symptoms. Since water counteracts the fireelement, the TCM remedy for this would be to drink or eat “cooling” food anddrink such as chrysanthemum tea or watermelon. TCM has afew other smaller concepts.
One would be ?? (zangfu)organs. These organs are Yin or Yang in nature. ? (zang) organs are Yin in nature andhave a corresponding? (fu) organ that is Yang in nature. Every zang fu organ is assigned to one Wuxing.
These organs are not equivalentto Western defined organs since zang fuorgans are of a functional origin and not of an anatomical origin. AncientChinese believed that dead bodies are inauspicious and could cause illness thusautopsies were not common. This diminished the possibility of cutting open abody to explore the anatomy. Another concept is ? (qi). There is no direct translationto English that encapsulates the Chinese word itself due to its lexicalambiguity but life-force or energy are the most common translations. It was andis believed that qi circulates notjust throughout the human body, but through every being in the universe and throughthe universe.
In humans, qi isbelieved to flow through certain pathways known as meridians. Stability andbalance in one’s qi would result inone being healthy. A disruption, blockage or imbalance of qi would cause illness and/or disease.