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Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a broad topic dealing with how the ancient Chinese viewed the body and its functions, what happens when something goes wrong and how to fix it. TCM is based on the principle of Qi and the various properties of its states.

Bodily Function

Elements

The five eastern elements are: Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire. These elements are not regarded as literal representations, but describe the state of Qi and how it interacts with Qi in other states. They are used in describing the state and function of various organs in the body, along with identifying any imbalance within bodily function.

There are two main cycles in determining the relationships between the various states of Qi, the creative (Shen) and controlling (Ko) cycles. The creative cycle demonstrates how the elements strengthen and nourish one another, while the controlling cycle demonstrates how the elements keep each other in check. When the elements are in proper harmony by these cycles, there can be no room for stagnation or excess Qi. This system is shown in symbol form by a pentagram within a circle, the pentagram depicting the controlling cycle while the circle depicts the creative cycle.

Creative cycle: Earth -> Metal -> Water -> Wood -> Fire -> Earth
Controlling cycle: Earth -> Water -> Fire -> Metal -> Wood -> Earth

Another cycle describes the elements in terms of Yin and Yang, depicted as a circle with two pairs of elements on the cardinal points of a circle with one in the middle. This cycle defines the nature of the elements themselves, each represented by a coloured animal, which aslo shows the type of conflict within the pairs. Each element in an elemental pair has a specific action which is equal and opposite to its partner.

Transforming: Green Dragon (Yin becoming Yang) / White Tiger (Yang becoming Yin)

Consolidating: Red Phoenix (Yang becoming more Yang) / Black Turtle (Yin becoming more Yin)

Yellow Snake (center)

The conflict between the Green Dragon and the White Tiger is more representive of the classical perpetual battle between Yin and Yang, whereas the Red Phoenix and the Black Turtle coexist together in relative harmony. The lonely Yellow Snake has the responsibility of keeping the other animals in equality.

Thus, we get the attributes of the elements themselves:

Wood: organising
Fire: expanding, rising
Metal: purifying by elimination
Water: descending, contracting
Earth: purifying by contribution (nourishing), centering/restraining

Zang Fu Organs

Meridians

Diagnosing the problem

The Eight Conditions

Remedies

Herbs

Tui Na, Accupunture, Accupressure

Recommended Reading

Chmelik, Stefan (1999) Chinese Herbal Secrets. The Ivy Press, United States. ISBN 0-89529-986-0

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