THE LANGUAGE OF TCM
While preventative, root-cause medicine isn’t a concept exclusive to TCM (see: Ayurveda, the healing system of India, or Rongoā, the medicinal practice of New Zealand’s Māori tribes). TCM goes about it in its own way.
“The system looks at the individual as who they are,” Counts says, and each individual has what’s known as a constitution, or a fixed and unchanging “energetic profile.” TCM uses the five elements to illustrate this concept: earth, water, wood, fire, and metal. “It’s very rare to find someone who is 100 percent one element; usually, we’re all mixtures,” she says. (For example, I have a water-dominant constitution, which I learned by taking the free quiz on Counts’ site, with hints of wood and earth.)
Each element has a yin expression and a yang expression. (That’s pronounced yahhhng, by the way.) “Some of us are more yin, more introverted, and some of us are more yang, more extroverted,” the author shares. What determines your element and its yin or yang expression is your personal Qi (pronounced “chi”). That’s the life-force energy that runs through every living thing in the universe, from humans to bowls of soup to coffee tables, as Counts describes. But let’s focus on human Qi for the time being, shall we?
“When we are most in flow and most healthy is when our personal Qi is moving well,” the practitioner explains. “When energy gets backed up or gets stuck, that’s when we start to have symptoms, and symptoms will tell you that something is out of balance.” Of course, large life events, like a death in the family or a car accident, can cause symptoms of imbalance—but most can be traced back to everyday issues, like work stress, relationship problems, or diet.
Here is where TCM differs most from Western medicine: “If you have 10 people who go to a Western doctor for the same symptom, like a headache, they’re all basically going to get the same tests, the same questions, the same treatment,” Counts says. But in TCM, your individual constitution, expression, and Qi are taken into account. “TCM recognizes that we are so unique, and one treatment strategy does not cover all people like a blanket,” she notes. “If we’re both having headaches, we’re probably having them for very different reasons—and those reasons are called patterns.”
To recap, Traditional Chinese Medicine facilitates the flow of Qi by correcting imbalances in your constitution, yin-yang style, in order to resolve the patterns causing your symptoms. Got that?