Now is where things get a little murkier, Traditional Chinese Medicine works on the principle that there is an imbalance between yin and yang, in one or more of the aspects, meridians, etc. that supposedly govern the body. The TCM practitioner’s job is to identify the “pattern” of disorder within these areas and come up with a diagnosis (and then a treatment) for the condition in hand.
So let’s look at a simple example; bleeding from the nose and mouth. First your TCM healer will examine the person’s tongue – and depending on the conditions of the tongue, and possibly the pulse of the patient they might come up with something like the following; “The patient’s LIVER fire, is rushing up into the LUNG and scorching it. This injures the Xue, and causes the [and I’m not making this up] reckless flow of blood from the mouth and nose.”
Once the diagnosis is complete the TCM physician will make out a prescription of items that are supposed to clear heat from the body or to improve/supplement the LUNG.
There are two aspects of disease that are considered in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the “bing” and the “zheng”.
The bing is considered to be the illness or diagnosis. The zheng, which is considered to be important in TCM, is the “pattern” (or perhaps, “syndrome”).
So you might find that a single disease is diagnosed with different patterns in different patients, so the common cold might appear as “wind-cold” (bing-zheng) in one person, and “wind-heat” in someone else.
Though it’s worth noting that diseases listed in TCM are not usually diseases by Western (and/or scientific) standards but rather symptoms – such as coughs, stomach aches, headaches, etc.
The therapy is not usually determined by the disease entity but rather by the pattern (zheng) of the disease – so there are different therapies proffered for the same disease based on the zheng assigned to it by the TCM practitioner. The Chinese say “yi bing tong zhi, tong bing yi zhi” – which is literally “different diseases, similar treatment, similar diseases, different treatments”.
Patterns of Disharmony
The zheng, follows patterns of functional disharmony in the qi, xue, bodily fluids, zang-fu and in the meridians. These patterns are diagnosed through the “signs” (for example checking out that tongue again and feeling the pulse of the victim, sorry I mean patient). Often a full diagnosis involves a combination of patterns.
OK that’s it for today – tomorrow we’ll start looking at how these patterns develop so a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner can put them together to treat the patient.