Chinese Medicine 101
Let me begin with a disclaimer: I am not a physician and do not diagnose illness. I am not an acupuncturist or an herbalist. If you stick your tongue out at me, I can probably tell you (by your tongue’s appearance, not your attitude) which areas of your body need some attention, but that is about as specific as it will get. I am merely a personal chef and dedicated student of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), who has applied principles of TCM in my work and in my personal life. Through practice, ancient TCM methods have proven immensely beneficial and shockingly accurate. My endeavor is to respectfully boil TCM down to its essence, and make practical application of its principles with regards to personal food choices.
Simple dietary changes, per my Chinese Medicine element, resulted in an almost immediate improvement in my own health. My energy level rose, I lost weight without effort, and a sense of well-being ensued. And I have not eaten less or been deprived of anything. I simply made a few simple changes in food preparation and added a few items.
A basic knowledge of TCM will give you a highly useful tool to add to your knowledge of healthful eating. An internet search will supply you with a plethora of information… actually more like a deluge! If you find your exploration overwhelming and information conflicting, do not get discouraged! Traditional Chinese Medicine is an art, and is therefore subject to interpretation… or maybe misinterpretation. I am pretty sure the serious practitioners of TCM are much more unified than is the internet world.
When I comment on TCM principles, expect oversimplification. The purpose of this forum is to give you a foundation strong enough for you to make your own dietary decisions based on TCM, if you so choose. If you would like to build and expand your personal knowledge, consider purchasing The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine by Ted J. Kaptchuk, O.M.D.
Here are a few basics:
Chinese Medicine treats the whole person, not symptoms. It is based on an understanding that one’s demeanor, personality, personal history, all that makes you “you”, has an influence on your health.
Methods for improving health in TCM include: diet, herbs, and acupuncture.
Foods that are right for you are determined by the category in which you fall. These are divided into five elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Again, this is a gross oversimplification, as we each possess characteristics of more than one element. We are complex; this is where the art of TCM comes in. However, most of us identify with one predominant element.
How do we become the element that we are?
The belief is that our first significant or traumatic experience in life begins to shape our individual character. This is not so different from Western studies in medicine and psychology which maintain that major events affect our mental and physical health. In Chinese Medicine, the only element with which one may be born is water.
There is no “good” or “bad” element. Each has its own virtue and pathology. Each has its own set of health concerns, which means that each one has its own specific remedies and beneficial foods as well.
How do you determine your element?
You can find questionnaires and descriptions on the internet; these may be a useful place to start. But don’t put all your eggs in one basket! I often find these very subjective, and sometimes just inaccurate. In future postings, I will share with you some basic descriptions, as they were given to me.
With that in mind, I must give a respectful nod to the skilled practitioner who gave me my foundation in studies of TCM. AmyJo Gengler is a highly skilled acupuncturist, herbalist, and teacher of TCM in the Boston area. I can’t say enough good things about her to do her justice. 🙂 http://flourishboston.com
To read about the five elements, click here.
“He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skills of the physician.”