Acupuncture has been practiced in China for thousands of years and is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which embodies important differences from, and similarities to, Western medicine. In common with the philosophies underlying holistic therapies, TCM recognizes an elemental \"life force\" that it terms chi or qi (pronounced as \"chee\").
Acupuncture has been practiced in China for thousands of years and is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which embodies important differences from, and similarities to, Western medicine. In common with the philosophies underlying holistic therapies, TCM recognizes an elemental "life force" that it terms chi or qi (pronounced as "chee").
Qi runs freely through the body when a person is in a state of harmony (healthy). It becomes obstructed when their biological, mental and spiritual faculties are unbalanced - when the two opposite, complementary principles, yin and yang, are out of synchrony with one another, due to poor diet, stress or lifestyle.
The art and objective of acupuncture is to restore a person's natural balance by removing the blockages that impede the free passage of qi energy, believed to run throughout the body along with invisible lines called meridians, until disharmony triggers symptoms. Fifty-nine meridians are recognized in acupuncture, and there are around 1,500 acupuncture points - specific high-energy-potential sites along the meridians where qi is most likely to become obstructed, and where stimulation with specially designed needles is most likely to reinstate the free flow of qi.
Yin and Yang
Western medicine does not appear to have equivalent of the polar opposites yin and yang, unless it is the theory of humours. The latter, however, tend to be identified only within living organisms, in contrast to yin and yang, which the experienced therapist can identify everywhere he looks, in both animate and inanimate objects. Examples of their manifestations include male and female, darkness and light, night and day, heat and cold, dryness and wetness, activity and passivity, and heaven and earth. Within a healthy person, neither yin-ness nor yang-ness holds sway: they coexist in a state of dynamic equilibrium, forever active, potent and fluctuating slightly, but each, at all times, the other's perfect counterpoint.
Their harmonious interplay is disrupted when, for instance, yin - regarded as female, dark and cold, is inadvertently encouraged to gain ascendancy over yang, which is male, light and hot. Dietary imprudence is a common cause for this, although it differs from the Western concept of overindulgence in salt, sugar or animal fat, or too little water in fiber; rather, it consists of eating, for instance, too many cool, bitter and salty foods at the expense of hot, sweet, pungent yang foods.
In a hot, dry climate, the strength of yin may be weakened, and eating extra fruit would be a possible way of rectifying the problem. Someone from a cold northern country, however, spending Christmas in Australia would be predominantly yin to start off with, because he/she originates from a cold, damp climate. But in the hot, moist environment, he/she may be tempted to eat large quantities of melons, paw paws or mangoes, pushing yin energies into excess and triggering the cold, moist diarrhea that mars so many holidays.
The Five Elements
The correspondences between yin and yang are, in fact, extremely complex, and balanced by the other important theory in TCM, that of the elements. Five of these exist - wood, fire, earth, metal and water - in contrast to the four underpinning Western (Greek) philosophy, namely, earth, air, fire and water. Each element has many associations, ranging from organs of the body to human sounds, the seasons, colors and tastes.
Water, for instance, relates to winter, a salty flavor, fear, and the body parts ear, hair, bone, kidney and bladder. TCM practitioners often look for the cause of illnesses in a related element: weakness of the liver (wood), for example, may be caused by deficiencies in the kidneys (water); a weak stomach (earth) may be caused by over-exuberant wood (liver) failing to be controlled by deficient metal (lungs).
Yin and Yang Foods
Yin and yang properties belong to certain foods:
- Yin food are cool, bitter or salty foods, such as bean curd, aubergine, seaweed and coffee.
- Yang foods include "hot", sweet and pungent foods, such as green and red peppers, dates and garlic.