In traditional Chinese medicine, a healthy body and mind require the balancing of two forces, yin and yang.
Yin (moon) is the receptive, passive, cold force. Yang (sun) is the force of movement and heat. The yin-yang
symbol represents the ancient Chinese prescription for good health: bringing a person's yin and yang into harmony.
The harmonizing of yin and yang in the body results in an energy called qi (pronounced "chee"). Qi
circulates through the body, providing warmth and protecting against illness. Babies are said to receive qi
from their parents before birth. Qi also comes from the food people eat and the air they breathe.
How does traditional Chinese medicine detect illness?
Health is achieved through a delicate balance, according to doctors of Chinese medicine. If a person's qi is blocked,
the balance between the body's yin and yang disappears. A medical examination can detect this imbalance.
To determine the pattern of disharmony and suggest an appropriate treatment, Chinese doctors use four
diagnostic tools: looking, listening and smelling, asking, and touching.
The doctor assesses the patient's appearance, complexion, posture, and facial expression.
The most important element of looking, though, is inspecting the patient's tongue for changes
in its shape, color, or coating. By listening and smelling (in Chinese the two are one word),
practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine say they can identify disease in the way a patient
breathes, coughs, and speaks. Certain body odors can also suggest specific illnesses.
The doctor asks a variety of questions to learn about a patient's medical history, lifestyle,
and symptoms. For example, is the patient hot? cold? hungry? thirsty? perspiring?
Various points on a patient's body are examined to detect swelling or soreness. Doctors
often check a patient's pulse at three locations on each wrist and record up to 28 different
pulse qualities; each one reflects a particular type of imbalance.
Credits: Tongue depresser © Yoav Levy/Phototake; taking a pulse © Robert Rathe/Stock, Boston Inc./PictureQuest.
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