Understanding Eastern medicine or Chinese medicine begins by understanding nature. The Chinese believe that everything in nature is interlinked, so by observing nature it is possible to understand the workings of the human body. Through observing nature, the Chinese were able to come up with the model of Yin and Yang. This concept revolves around the existence of direct opposites. Nature has Ying and Yang: Big and small, fast and slow, good and bad and so on. The direct opposites are responsible for the balance of nature and so they are both necessary and contribute towards life and all its forces. This can be seen in the symbol for Yin and Yang: 2 halves of a circle of equal size with smaller circles of opposite colours inside the halves.
It is not just by chance that circles are used to depict the balance of nature. The Chinese took note of the prevalence of circles in life. Life itself is a cycle and the circle is the most common shape in nature. Think of the cells in the body, the flow of blood is cyclic and even DNA move in a clockwise manner when healthy.
Likewise in nature, it is observed that Water grows wood, wood grows fire, fire creates ashes and earth, the earth has metals on which water condenses and the cycle begins again.
This same cycle is used to represent the body organs and their functions: Water represents the bladder and kidney, Wood represents the liver and gall bladder, fire represents the heart and small intestines, earth represents the stomach and spleen and metal represent the lungs and large intestines. All these organs in the body have a role to play in promoting the smooth flow of blood which flows like water and if any of them was not working properly, sickness would set in because the blood will not flow like it is supposed to.
In Chinese medicine, therefore, the body is taken as a whole and treatment is provided for the entire body though a series of examination of the tongue, which is key in providing a diagnosis. The tongue is like the blue print of the body, with different parts of the tongue able to give information about what is wrong with a particular organ. For example, the tip of the tongue will help in diagnosing the heart and part of the lungs while the sides of the tongue will help to diagnose the liver and gall bladder, the centre is a reflection of the spleen and stomach and the back represents the urinary bladder and kidney. By observing the colour, coating, shape and size of a particular part of the tongue, it is possible to know how the corresponding organ is doing.
Taking the pulse of a person is also another diagnostic method used in Chinese medicine, the pulse is taken off both wrists to assess the condition of the Yin and yang. The heart, liver and kidney represent the Yin and this is taken from the left radial pulse while the lungs and spleen represent the yang and this is read from the right radial pulse. The pulse is assessed in terms of speed, depth and rate.
A patient is also questioned as part of the diagnosis. Just like in western medicine, the doctor will try to find out what the patient feels like and what symptoms they may be experiencing and this will all contribute to the final diagnosis and the course of treatment.
All the information gathered from the examination and questioning is then used to determine a course of treatment which could include, acupuncture, herbal remedies or moxibustion. This treatment is not just to attend to the symptoms but to treat the entire body so that it can regain its balance. In the end, the body gains relief, not just from the symptoms but any other ailment that may have been affecting the normal function of the yin and yang.
Chinese medicine emphasises not just a healthy body, but a complete healthy lifestyle for the mind body and soul. Eating right, exercising, and meditating as well as massage therapy all contribute to the wellness of an individual.