Category Archives: Chinese Medicine Basics

Short summary: yin/yang, qi and 5 phases / Elements

An explanation of the basic terms of Chinese medicine

Yin and Yang

Yin stands for “substance and the juice of life”, our material basis.

This is shown in the ability to relax, restful sleep, good nerves, serenity, patience and calm. The effect is directed downwards. Further assignments are: the night, autumn and winter, cold, passivity and our blood. Yin is assigned to the storage organs. These are the lungs, kidneys, liver, heart, pericardium and spleen.

Yang stands for “energy and vitality”, dynamism and movement.

Yang is involved in all active processes in our organism. The effect is directed upwards. Further assignments are: the day, spring and summer, light, warmth, activity and our life energy Qi. Yang is assigned to the hollow organs. These are the Large Intestine, Bladder, Gall bladder, Small Intestine, Triple Heater (regulates temperature and energy movement) and Stomach.

We are healthy and our self-healing powers are active when Yin and Yang are in a balanced relationship to one another. Illness is always an imbalance between in Yin and Yang.

Qi – a definition

Qi is the energy, our life force, it flows through and invigorates all physical, emotional and spiritual processes in the body. It is assigned to the Yang. Blood (in Chinese: Xue) is the material basis for Qi and is assigned to the Yin.

In TCM a distinction is made between prenatal and postnatal Qi. The prenatal or innate qi is inherited from parents and ancestors. This is stored in the kidneys and is our essence.

The postnatal Qi is obtained from food and the air we breathe, which is why nutrition and exercise are so important. The Qi flows in the so-called meridians, but also circulates freely in the body – such as the Wei Qi, our defense energy. The Qi expands during the day and is active (Yang), at night it retreats inside to regenerate (Yin).

Qi can be abundant or deficient, stagnated, blocked or knotted. Abundance manifests itself in yang or heat symptoms such as inflammation, rather sharp pain, high fever and acute events, deficiency, on the other hand, are mostly yin or cold symptoms such as chills, numbness, edema, chronic and rather dull pain.

The five phases of change – The 5 Elements

The doctrine of the five phases of change or the five Elements describes the relationships and principles according to which dynamic processes (changes) take place. The five elements in TCM are: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water. Each of these phases of change is assigned different qualities / characteristics:

WOOD: the rising Yang, Liver and Gallbladder, anger (also suppressed anger) and creativity, spring, birth and growth, morning, the color green, the taste sour,

FIRE: Yang, Heart and Small Intestine, the joy, training and development, the summer, the blossom, the noon, the color red, the taste bitter

EARTH: Yin and Yang in balance, Spleen / Pancreas and Stomach, worry and brooding, maturity and transition, the late summer or the middle, the afternoon, the color yellow, the taste sweet

METAL: the small Yin, Lungs and Large Intestine, the sadness, the parting and structure, the autumn, the harvest, the retreat, the color white, the evening, the taste sharp,

WATER: Yin, kKdney and Bladder, fear and anxiety, inner contemplation, winter, the color black or dark blue, the night, the taste salty

All Elements are connected and interact with one another.

Treating the Center / the Middle in Chinese Medicin

The Middle or center in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and why treating the abdominal area is important

In TCM, the inner abdominal organs are assigned to the Earth element and the center. Nurturing and maintaining the central energy is a fundamental principle in Chinese Medicine. The main function of the center is to convert the essence of food into Blood, Qi and body fluids and to distribute it throughout the body. This is how the body is nourished. The center is also known as the “Engine for postnatal Qi”.

The Earth symbolizes the nourishing and resting pole of the body and stands for balance, pause and digestion, also on the emotional and spiritual level.

In many cultures the Earth is a symbol of motherliness, preservation of life, security, security, nutrition, abundance and generosity, compassion, recognition, love and connectedness, being at home, welcome, order and harmony.

All influences that come from outside – climatic, social, intellectual and of course the food – are absorbed, processed and digested in our midst, also emotionally and mentally.

The Earth provides the energy for almost all vital functions. That affects the whole person. If the energy is good, our metabolism works and we are well supplied with Blood and Qi.

The assigned functional organ groups are the Stomach (Yang) and the Spleen (Yin).

The Spleen (and also pancreas) functional group controls the transport and transformation of food and fluids. It controls the blood and muscles. The Spleen holds the blood in the vessels and organs in place and supplies them with warmth, blood and energy. It is the source of Qi and Blood and controls the rise of Qi. The energy opens in the lips and manifests in the mouth. She controls the saliva. The associated positive mental aspect is Yi, the thinking and the emotion, that easily turns into a pathology, is worry and the brooding.

The functional circuit of the stomach as a Yang organ controls the absorption and processing of food and is considered to be the origin of fluids. It is responsible for the further transport and the descent of Qi (together with the Lungs).

A common TCM syndrome is the so-called “Spleen Qi weakness or defiency”. It complicates and promotes many other syndromes. The deficiency of the Spleen manifests itself primarily in physical weakness, tiredness and powerlessness, dysfunctions of food transformation and transport, digestive disorders, tendency to obesity, organ subsidence (ptosis). Reasons for this are often a “wrong” diet (too irregular, low in nutrients and too cold), physical and mental overwork, chronic illnesses, too much worry and brooding. According to TCM, this can lead to increased moisture and phlegm, which greatly weakens the “middle” energy.

For the treatment and care of the middle, the area of life care, especially eating habits, is of particular importance.

There are other important energy centers in the middle of the body that can be included in the treatment.

  • the area of the solar plexus and diaphragm
  • the area around the navel.
  • the “mid” section of the so-called “lower dantien” between the pubic bone and the navel

There are acupuncture points in the vicinity of the genitals and between the pubic bone and anus – often referred to as the “lowest” part of the lower dantian. For specific ailments they can are in fact needled in the clinic. However, there is use is linked to very concrete painful conditions regarding uro-genital, fertility or conditions linked to the rectum (haemorrhoids, anal prolapse, anal fissure).  Most often the practitioner instructs the patients to self-massage or acupressure these points.

For these ailments many acupuncture points also lie on the back of the body on the sacrum.



Introduction to TCM

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) assumes that the life energy Qi flows incessantly and changes constantly. Qi animates all living beings and creates life. All Qi manifestations have a share of Yin and Yang.

The energetic exchange between heaven and earth, between Yin and Yang, is also evident in the seasons and in the alternation of day and night. This directly affects the energy that flows within each of us. Qi expands and is active during the day, while at night it retreats inside to regenerate. “The only constant is change”.

Another concept of Chinese Medicine is the teaching of the five phases of change.  We humans are part of nature, our organs and physical, as well emotional and mental functions reflect the order of nature. Each element brings forth, nourishes and leads to the the next element (Creation Cycle – Sheng).  In addition, there also other pathways of how the elements influence each other:

  1. Controlling cycle (Ko)
  2. Insulting cycle (Wu)
  3. Overacting cycle (Cheng)

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) looks back on a tradition of over 2000 years. The philosophy on which it is based is a complex, multi-layered concept.

Humans are embedded in nature between heaven and earth and form a universal unit with it. In Chinese Medicine, the human being is seen as an organic whole, a part can only be understood in relation to the whole. We looksat the dynamics of life, everything is in constant change. This change is unintentional. Every state, when it is reached, already contains its opposite. A reached maximum state is unstable and must collapse.

Yin and Yang are two forces in the universe that are effective everywhere. Their interplay is the basis for the continuous process of every natural change, every movement in the universe and the basis of man himself. Yin and Yang are relative quantities, they determine each other, are dependent on one another, together they form a whole, they are constantly in motion and in constant change.

In the Su wen (chap. 2) it says:

“Yin and Yang are the law of heaven and earth, the basis of everything, the parents of change, the origin of creation and destruction.”

We are healthy and our self-healing powers are active when Yin (vital fluids and substance) and Yang (vital force and energy) are in a balanced relationship to one another.

Yin signifies:

  • the ability to relax, restful sleep and good nerves, serenity, patience and calm. Sufficient substance and vitality are necessary for this.
  • the night, autumn and winter, passivity and standstill, the front, the lower and inner area of ​​the body, the inhalation, cold, wet and damp, direction downwards.
  • compressed matter, substances, that sink to the bottom.
  • darkness, cold, contraction

Yin is assigned to the storage organs, these are the lungs, heart, pericardium (also called master of the heart), spleen, liver and kidney.

Yang signifies:

  • dynamics, movement, resistance, joie de vivre, willpower
  • all active processes in our organism
  • sufficient energy (Qi), life force and warmth are necessary for this
  • the day, the spring and summer, activity and movement, the back, the upper and outer areas of the body, the exhalation, warm and dry, direction upwards.
  • dynamic energy
  • light, brightness, warmth, expansion

Yang organs transport fluids and blood, i.e. the large intestine, small intestine, triple heater (regulates temperature and energy movement), stomach, gall bladder and bladder.

Qi is the breath of life, like a stream, an invisible force that keeps all physical, emotional and spiritual processes going and lets us be alive. It pulsates, transforms, nourishes and is the engine of an ongoing cyclical change, filled with the energies of heaven (Yang) and earth (Yin).

Qi drives the blood, the nervous and lymphatic systems (Ying-Qi), it strengthens the immune system (Wei-Qi). It turns food into body substances, keeps organs in place, prevents excessive perspiration, keeps the body warm, and is the source of movement and growth.

Qi is everywhere in the body, its flow runs along certain channels, the so-called meridians. There are 12 main meridians corresponding to the main organs and 8 extraordinary meridians.



A primer in nutrition and Chinese Medicine

“When we eat with pleasure, the stomach directs the purest portion of the essence from the food directly to the heart and awakens our joy of life.”

Good eating habits are the most important principle for strengthening the energy of the center.

  • Prefer good quality and high quality food, seasonal and local food
  • Establish a daily rhythm with regular meals
  • Regular breakfast, lavish lunch and light dinner, the latter before 6:00 p.m.
  • Serve lots of warm / cooked food (preferably 2-3 times a day)

While eating:

  • Eat slowly and chew thoroughly
  • Don’t drink cold liquids with your meal, but rather clear and light soup, hot water or green tea.
  • Don’t eat right away after getting angry
  • Avoid exhausting discussions while eating
  • Do not eat completely full

Quality of food and food preparation:

  • Use organic ingredients (whenever your budget and availability permits)
  • No artificial food additives, no ready meals.
  • No microwave

Detailed advice:

  • Simple meals (do not combine too many different proteins and carbohydrates)
  • Lots of vegetables (preferably only briefly steamed or seared)
  • Boiled cereals (millet or barley, bulgur – together with some soy, coconut or almond milk, also suitable as a healthy breakfast)
  • Neutral foods to which you add warm and refreshing ingredients
  • Soups that warm the whole stomach (e.g. Chinese style)
  • Vegetables that grow in the ground

Food items with a (naturally) sweet flavour and neutral thermal properties have the following effect: strengthening Qi, harmonizing, moisturizing, relaxing, saturating, nourishing.

However the sweet flavour has no direction of action, i.e. it’s harder to digest. Therefore add other tastes. Too much sweetness creates moisture, which leads to phlegm. ‘Visible’ phlegm manifests as an excess in body fat.

However don’t be fooled by instagram and lifestyle magazine depictions of skinny and „sporty“ looking models. Healthy bodies have mainly the outline and body fat distribution visible in many Renaissence or classical art nude paintings.

About Qi

Qi is the invigorating energy of all processes, our life force or life energy. It animates all living beings, nature and the cosmos. It is an energy that is present in all forms of matter and is concentrated in living organisms.

In TCM a distinction is made between prenatal and postnatal Qi. The prenatal or innate qi is inherited from parents and ancestors. This is stored in the kidneys and is our essence.

The postnatal qi is obtained from food and the air we breathe, which is why nutrition and exercise are so important. The Qi flows in the so-called meridians, but also circulates freely in the body – such as the Wei Qi, our defense energy. The Qi expands and is active during the day (Yang), at night it retreats inside to regenerate (Yin).

Qi can be abundant or deficient, stagnated or blocked. Abundance manifests itself in Yang or heat symptoms such as inflammation, rather sharp pain, high fever and acute events, deficiency, on the other hand, are mostly Yin or cold symptoms such as chills, numbness, edema, chronic and rather dull pain.

Qi is the breath of life, like a stream, an invisible force that keeps all physical, emotional and spiritual processes going and lets us be alive. It pulsates, transforms, nourishes and is the engine of an ongoing cyclical change, filled with the energies of heaven (Yang) and earth (Yin).

It directs the blood, the nervous and lymphatic systems (Ying-Qi), it strengthens the immune system (Wei-Qi). It turns food into body substances, keeps organs in place, prevents excessive perspiration, keeps the body warm, and is the source of movement and growth.

Qi is everywhere in the body, its flow runs along certain channels, the so-called meridians. There are 12 main meridians corresponding to the main organs and 8 extraordinary meridians.

Qi is the invigorating energy of all processes, our life energy. It animates all living beings, nature, the cosmos. The Qi flows in the so-called meridians, but also circulates freely in the body – such as the Wei Qi, our defense energy.

Qi expands during the day and is active (Yang), at night it retreats inside to regenerate (Yin).

Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang are two forces in the universe that are effective everywhere. It explains the ongoing process and dynamics of natural change.

The well-known symbol of Yin and Yang represents the universal law of eternal change. It represents the way in which things change. Opposites attract each other, they condition each other, form a unity and ultimately – at their peak – become their opposite. It is a description without evaluation, neither yin nor yang is good or bad.

Yin and Yang are not absolute terms. They are always seen in relation to one another. An example: the chest is yin compared to the back, but yang compared to the pelvis.

We are healthy and our self-healing powers are active when Yin (vital sap and substance) and Yang (vital force and energy) are in a balanced relationship to one another.

Yin signifies vital fluids (blood) and substance, the ability to relax, restful sleep and good nerves, serenity, patience and calm, the condensed matter, earth, sinking down, darkness, cold, relaxation, retreat

Sufficient substance and vitality are necessary for this

Yang signifies life force and energy: Movement, dynamics, light, warmth, expansion, resistance, joie de vivre, willpower, sky, rises upwards. All active processes in our organism

Sufficient energy (Qi), life force and warmth are necessary for this

Illness is always an imbalance between yin (substance) and yang (energy). If a component is missing, there is no life. In death, energy and substance, i.e. yin and yang, have separated.

Yin and Yang are two forces in the universe that are effective everywhere. Their interplay is the basis for the continuous process of every natural change, every movement in the universe and the basis of man himself. Yin and Yang are relative quantities, they determine each other, are dependent on one another, together they form a whole, they are constantly in motion and in constant change.

We are healthy and our self-healing powers are active when Yin (vital sap and substance) and Yang (vital force and energy) are in a balanced relationship to one another.

There is no static state in the cosmos, everything is constantly in motion! We humans are also in a constant process of change. All manifestations have a share of yin and yang.

Yin is the sap of life (blood) and substance, the condensed matter, earth, sinks down, darkness, cold, relaxation, retreat

Yang is life force and energy, movement, dynamic, light, warmth, expansion, sky, rising upwards

Yin and Yang are opposites that together form a unit and depend on each other, they only exist in connection with each other.

Illness is always an imbalance between yin (substance) and yang (energy). If a component is missing, there is no life. In death, energy and substance, i.e. Yin and Yang, have separated.