First an overview of the energetics involved in Chinese medicine...
The human body is seen as a holistic being, meaning that all of it’s various systems are part of a greater whole that must be energetically and physically balanced to achieve maximum health and prevent disease.
Energetic balance can be defined as the relative balance of Qi (pronounced ‘chee’) throughout the body. Qi is the “life force” that flows freely within us. It animates us, protects us from illness, pain and disharmony. Our health is determined by the quality, abundance, availability and balance of our Qi.
Qi moves through the body via pathways called meridians or channels that connect the organs and glands to the rest of the body. Meridians can be compared to rivers or stream-flows that must be abundant and free from blockage to maintain health.
Practitioners can use acupuncture to restore the free-flow of Qi. Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin, sterile needles into specific points along the meridians. Stimulation of these points can restore the balance of energy in the body, allowing it to overcome disease.
Herbs are another means of balancing Qi. Over the past 2-3 millennia, scholars, physicians and farmers in China have harvested, cultivated, energetically categorized and become proficient at formulating herbs to treat disease. The Qi of each plant was recognized as having specific effects on human health and disease by way of it’s taste and temperature. Using the same theories as acupuncture to diagnosis energetic imbalance, an herbalist would prescribe a formula of herbs to address that imbalance and bring the body back into health. Modern science has confirmed that each plant or herb does have specific energetics which can be described by the active constituents found in that herb.
Next time we will compare and contrast these two different modalities.