Chinese medicine dates back over 3000 years. It is still a very valid system that treats the body holistically. At first glance, it seems simplistic because the conditions treated within Chinese medicine use terms such as excess fire or water or wind rather than our modern scientific names. Yet this system is actually very complex and can be significantly more effective than our modern medicine especially with chronic health problems.
The part of Chinese medicine that I find particularly useful is the meridian system. The Chinese mapped pathways, or meridians, throughout the body that carry an invisible sort of electric energy. This energy is now detectable using specific instruments.
The Chinese found 12 of these electrical systems known as meridians. They are mostly associated with major organs or glands in the body such as liver, gallbladder, kidney, lungs, stomach, etc. While the meridian name may denote a particular location in the body, the meridian actually channels energy throughout the body from head to toe.
Many of the symptoms associated with an imbalance in an organ or gland will be reflected somewhere along this energy pathway. For example, tingling, pain or numbness in the left arm is a sign of heart trouble. The path of the heart meridian is down the left arm. I find that mysterious pains in the body can sometimes be traced to a specific meridian and balanced with herbs that in the western world are known to work on specific organs and glands.
Pains in the foot area tend to be particularly responsive to this system. Pains in the ankle area, particularly those on the inside above the heel, or pains towards the ball of the foot, close to the center tend to be related to kidney. Also, hip problems can be related to kidney imbalances. Pains in the big toe or in the ball of the foot close to the big toe tend to be liver congestion.
Certain problems not commonly associated with a specific organ or gland can sometimes be explained by the meridian pathways. An example is bursitis of the shoulder or elbow, which can be a problem with the large intestine. Sinus problems, neck stiffness and hand pain or weakness can also be associated with an imbalance in the large intestine. Headaches and lower leg pain can be a sign of gallbladder problems.
There are points along the meridians which are known for certain things. For example, a point on either side of the head, behind the ears is known as the sleep point. If the right point is not in balance, a gallbladder problem may be causing insomnia. If the left side is off, nutritional imbalances or deficiencies may be causing insomnia.
A practitioner of Chinese medicine would use needles along the meridian to balance the energy flow in that part of the body. He or she might also recommend certain herbs that would move the energy appropriately and bring balance to that system. Western herbs can work similarly as can diet changes.
I like the Chinese system because it allows for those odd symptoms that can affect any of us and helps to explain the body’s way of communicating problems. The Chinese system also blends well with many other systems of health including the conventional medical system.
Margaret Durst owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.