The Vital Substances
TCM views the human body as an energy system in which various substances interact with each other to create the physical organism. These basic substances are Qi, Jing, Blood and Body Fluids.
usually translated as 'energy' or 'vital energy', is the energy that underlies everything in the universe. The Qi inside our bodies is created from the combination of the food we eat and digest via our Stomach and Spleen and the air we breathe into our Lungs. It is the source of body activity and movement, protects us from illness and keeps our bodies warm. If the Qi becomes deficient or blocked, this will result in an inability to transform and transport our food and drink, an inability to keep warm, and a lack of resistance to diseases and depleted energy.
usually translated as 'essence', is crucial to the development of the individual through life. It is inherited at birth and is stored in the kidneys and allows us to develop from childhood to adulthood and then into old age. It governs growth, reproduction and development, promotes kidney Qi and works with Qi to help protect the body from external factors. Any developmental disorder such as learning difficulties and physical disabilities in children may be due to a deficiency of Jing. Other disorders such as infertility, poor memory and chronic tendency to external disease and allergies may also be due to deficient Jing.
in TCM is not the same substance that is recognised in Western medicine. In TCM, Blood means the fluid that nourishes and moisturizes the body. It also houses the Shen (or spirit) and aids in the development of clear and stable thought processes. Disharmonies of Blood include deficient Blood, which typically lead to pale complexion, dry skin and dizziness; stagnant Blood causing sharp and intense pain or even the development of tumour; and heat in the Blood causing bleeding symptoms such as uterine haemorrhage or nosebleeds.
called Jin Ye in Chinese, are considered to be the organic liquids that moisten and lubricate the body in addition to Blood. These fluids moisten and nourish the skin, muscles, hair, joints, brain, spine and bone marrow. Deficiency in body fluids can lead to various forms of dehydration such as dry skin and constipation. If fluids accumulate and get stuck, this can lead to problems of dampness and phlegm in TCM and may manifest as symptoms like lethargy and a feeling of heaviness in the body.
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