Chi is a Chinese term denoting the crucial life force or energy essential to sustain all lives. An extensively used term in conventional Chinese medicine, there is no equivalent perception of chi in the traditional Western medication. Realizing the significance of chi is of utmost significance to every one involved with the traditional therapy as without understanding the concept of chi it is virtually impossible to effectually make use of Chinese stimulants or energizers such as ginseng. This is primarily owing to the fact that ginseng and other Chinese tonic herbs form and foster chi. Moreover, ginseng and the other Chinese tonic aromatic plants will only function in the milieu of a specific way of life as well as actions that also help sustain and develop chi.
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To understand the significance of chi, one must first realize that the entire concept of Oriental medication is based or developed on the concept of this vital life force or energy. There is a basic difference between the basics of the traditional Western and Orientation forms of realism as well as medication. It is interesting to note that while chi forms the base of the conventional Oriental medicine, the atom and cell form the basis of the traditional Western medicine. The concept of chi is based on the belief that this vital life force is responsible for enlivening all living things, including humans, animals and plants, and also everything that gets bigger or grows, including atoms and stars. Chi is also responsible for uniting all these living as well as growing things together into one big living entity.
According to the Western scientists specializing in physics, the universe or the cosmos is made up of matter and energy and the two are interactive. For instance, Albert Einstein's path breaking formula 'E=mc2' (where energy is equivalent to the product of mass and the speed of light squared) also emphasized that both matter and energy can be convert from one form to another in a very expected manner. On the other hand, according to the conventional Oriental viewpoint, matter as well as energy equally represents chi and this crucial life force regulates their makeover from one form to another.
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It is may be mentioned here that although the conventional Chinese medicine practitioners do admit that our bodies possess numerous cells and molecules, they emphasize that chi is responsible for sustaining these cells and molecules or enlivening them. Contrary to the Western physicians, they will never concede that things work the other way around. According to the Chinese doctors, a person will maintain good health, possess the ability to endure stress or nervous tension, lead a natural life, enjoy the vital structural and functional traits of sex, possibly have a longer life span, and also be successful in life provided the chi is potent and vivacious. On the contrary, if the chi or the life force is at a low level and diminished, the individual will always feel exhausted, be under the weather and complain of ill health. The traditional Oriental philosophy further states that a person will die when the chi is utterly lacking.
Interestingly enough, for hundreds of years the Chinese have been describing chi on the basis of how it functions and have never been bothered to find out the manner in which it precisely functioned or the chemical responses engaged in the process. Basically, the Chinese have examined that some plants, such as ginseng and other energizing herbs, and animal foodstuff enhance the presence of chi in the body and/ or facilitates the transmission of this crucial life force inside the body thereby enabling better health and longer life spans in people. Instead of trying to discover how this life force works, the Chinese have laid more emphasis on the manner in which the herbs influence the chi. They have concentrated on the manner in which selecting the herbs, harvesting them, preparing medications with them and specific dosages influence the characteristics responsible for the development of the chi in the human body.
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At the same time, the Chinese also monitored the consequences of the diverse ways of living as well as work outs on building, sustaining and circulation of chi within the body. Based on their observations, the Chinese have adopted the healthy aspects in their lifestyles and eventually they became an essential part of their culture. Thus, it is not surprising to note that even the food consumed by the Chinese are based on the chi-building properties. For instance, to a great extent the conventional Chinese food preparation, comprising small and effortlessly absorbed segments of healthy and invigorative seafood or meats blended with roasted vegetables, has emerged and progressed owing to its distinction to facilitate the process of develop chi. This a primary reason why the Chinese like to eat their food fresh and without much spice or oil.
According to the Chinese, the chi has three sources of origin - prenatal chi, food chi and air chi.
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According to the conventional Chinese medicine, the movement of chi in the body is much similar to the blood circulation. While the blood circulates in the body through arteries and veins, the chi moves in conduits. Incidentally, like the chi, the Chinese describe these conduits according to their respective functions. Chi originates in the digestive system or the lungs and is said to move in the body through channels, also are known acupuncture meridians or high points in the Western medicine, to reach each and every organ and cell. It may be mentioned here that needles pierced at specific points in these channels are able to influence the flow of chi through those acupuncture meridians and hence, medical practitioners specialized in acupuncture basically insert needles at these specific spots to regulate the course of the chi to any organ. This process helps to augment or reduce passage of the amount of the chi to any part of the body where there is some kind of a problem. As a substitute to acupuncture, intake of preparations comprising ginseng and other energizing herbs blended with supplementary aromatic plants are also capable to guiding the flow of the chi to explicit organs and body parts. It is important to note here that some of these channels or acupuncture meridians are in contact with the nerve conduits, while others may have a link with the blood circulatory system. Again, a few of these channels carrying the chi may not be obviously connected to any organ or body region. Although these channels may not have any evident corporeal corresponding body organ, the Chinese have studied their operation as well as the impact of the movement of chi by inserting the needles at different points on these conduits.
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It is significant to note that the Chinese medical practitioners have detected that the movement of the chi to a particular organ or body region is not same at all times. They have observed fluctuations in the flow of the chi to different organs at different hours of the day. According to the findings of the Chinese doctors, as far as the flow of the chi is concerned, every body part has its own rotation period on a daily basis and has a number of hours when the movement of the chi to the organ is maximum, while at other times of the day it is a normal slump or lean period for the flow of the chi. For example, the chi associated with the digestive system is highest some time during the middle of the day and is at its lowest a few hours before the midnight. Based on daily cycle of an organ or the receding and surge of the chi, acupuncturists in China have different hours for treating different disorders. In fact, they may even decide to treat a person at midnight to take advantage of the daily cycle of an organ vis-à-vis the flow of the chi.
At times, an individual may be affected by the disorders of the chi and they include shortage or inertness of this crucial life sustaining force. It is essential that the chi flows freely and moves to all organs and cells of the body without any difficulty or obstruction. According to the Chinese, any obstruction or blockage of the circulation of the chi owing to any problem is likely to give rise to ailments. Here is an example. Suppose water is flowing through a hose pipe that is curled or folded up. In this instance, the pressure of the water will be at the utmost just before the fold or crease and this will give rise to a bulge at that particular point. On the other hand, the flow of water just below the fold will be reduced considerably. In the same way, when the chi is blocked it may lead to an excess of the vital life force at one place in the body and insufficient in any some other place or organ.
According to the Chinese traditional medicine practitioners, blocked up chi is primarily responsible for pain or aches and pressure. The stagnation of the chi in the body is very much similar to the flow of water in a curled up or creased hose pipe. As the organs or tissues below the blocked point in the channels carrying the chi will not receive sufficient amount of this vital life force, there will be a shortage of the chi and may give rise to several ailments or syndromes. This is much like the case where the place just below the fold in the hose pipe does not receive enough water leading to a swelling at the point above the obstruction. There are several reasons that may lead to scarcity of the chi or obstruct its circulation in the body. The most common reasons for this include inappropriate diet, bodily or mental ordeal, need for physical and aerobic work outs, being out in extreme weather conditions, feebleness and several other aspects.
Any blockage in the flow of the chi is important from the point of view of an individual's well being. It is also to take into consideration while administering any medication prepared with ginseng or tonic herbs that facilitates the process of developing the chi in the body. If you recall the instance of the crumpled hose pipe where water gets blocked just above the fold to create an unwanted bulge, you will realize that administering energizing herbs that help to build the chi will only deteriorate the health situation. Hence, it is advisable to adopt caution while taking tonic herbs that help to develop the chi. In fact, Chinese traditional medicine practitioners do not recommend the use of these herbs when a person is suffering from pain, anxiety, irritation or swelling, emotional aggravation, hypertension or high blood pressure, fury and other indications of chi blockage.
It is important to understand how the chi exactly functions or what it does if we want to be aware of the chi inadequacy syndrome that requires the Chinese conventional medicine practitioners to administer ginseng and other energizing herbs. Therefore, one will have to be acquainted with the process to analyze the chi deficiency and only then he can decide whether using ginseng or other tonic herbs need to be used. Once this is mastered, the person will also have to make himself familiar with the different variety of ginseng and the exact dosage that need to be used for chi deficiency in the body.
The chi performs several functions in our body and, in brief, they are as below:
According to the traditional Chinese medicine practitioners, the chi is in command of all the actions of the body. Even the involuntary muscles like those of the heart, arteries and the intestinal walls also function owing to the existence of the chi. At the same time, the chi also makes the voluntary muscles vibrant. It may be mentioned here that when the chi is diminished or exhausted, it leads to indigestion or slow digestive process, a reduced rate of breathing and even physical weariness. In such instances, people suffer from poor fortitude and frailty of the lower back, legs and knees.
Apart from being responsible for the proper functioning of all the voluntary and involuntary muscles in the human body, the chi is also reported to sustain all our mental actions. In fact, all our mental functions such as ruminating, memorizing and even the development of the mind depends on the chi. We are mentally alert and intelligent when there is a healthy flow of the chi in the body, but insufficient or deficiency of the chi leads to a dull and stupid mind.
As mentioned earlier, the main sources of the chi are from our parents, the food we digest and the air we breathe in. Hence, the chi is also responsible for transforming the digested food and the air we take in into energy and other vital substances essential for the sustenance of all living things. This is in following the principle that matter and energy can be transformed from one form to another. Thus, this transformation is thwarted when there is a scarcity of the chi in the body and the flow of energy to different organs and regions of the body is adversely affected. Consequently, the tissues and organs in our body experience energy deficiency and may likely give rise to several disorders.
Chi enlivens the body and keeps it warm wading off diseases and disorders. According to the traditional Chinese medicine, deficiency of the chi may bring down the body temperature, give rise to a sensation of chill, make one feel sick and even result to cold hands and feet. According to the physicians, these are indications of unhealthy conditions in a person.
It would be interesting to note that the chi plays an active role in defending the body from external stimulus or attacks and to some extent functions like the antibiotics used in modern medicine. According to the Chinese philosophy, a film of the chi moves at the facade of the body flanked by the muscles and the skin. This layer or covering of the chi is responsible for the appropriate working of the immune system at the exterior of the human body and safeguards it from outside cold and heat. In addition, this chi layer also controls the sweat glands or perspiration cavities found on the epidermis. In the instance of the chi being insufficient or weak, an individual is often likely to suffer from colds and infections and may be loathe to wintry weather and wind. In addition, low presence of the chi in the body is likely to make a person perspire or sweat impulsively even with no physical work outs.
Another vital function of the chi is to maintain the organs in their right place and make sure that they operate properly. When the body does not possess sufficient or adequate chi, it is likely to make the organs prolapsed. This means that chi deficiency may make the organs, such as the heart valves, sink from their original position or even result to their disintegration. At the same time, if an organ does not receive sufficient chi, its functioning may be adversely affected leading to several diseases and disorders.
It is important to state here that the deficiency of the chi in the body does not inevitably give rise to the entire symptoms above mentioned all at the same time. On the contrary, deficiency of the chi is more likely to affect separate parts or organs of the body depending where the flow of this vital life force is scarce. In general, ginseng or other tonic herbs may be recommended to cure the above mentioned symptoms as they arise owing to insufficient presence of the chi in the body. However, it is not advisable to use either ginseng or any other energizing herbs when the conditions are reverse, especially when a person is excited, feeling hot rather than cold or experiencing excessive activeness. Using these herbs may prove to be detrimental for the health of the person concerned.
Before we discuss the relation between the chi and blood, it is necessary to mention that according to the conventional Oriental medicine both are associated through and through. According to the Chinese philosophy, the blending of the chi obtained from the digested food and the chi derived from the air leads to the formation of blood. If this theory is to be followed, then we must agree that the chi is not only responsible for the formation of blood, but blood is also determined by the chi. Hence, it is not surprising when the Chinese state that the chi is the administrator or boss of blood. After the formation of blood, it circulates throughout the body along with the chi. And more interestingly, the Chinese philosophy states that the two are always joined together somewhat like the two sides of a coin. It further states that while the chi present in the heart muscles pump the blood to enable it to circulate throughout the body, the chi in the blood vessels and the different organs of the body encloses the blood and regulates the blood pressure. While it is a fact that blood is dependent on the chi, the reverse is also true, as for the chi present in the tissues in our body, there is a need for sufficient nourishment for these body substances. These aspects of blood make the Chinese agree that 'blood is the mother of the chi'.
The conventional Chinese medicine classifies herbs into two categories - chi herbs and blood herbs. While ginseng and other energizing tonic herbs are considered to be chi herbs, the remaining herbs are called blood tonics. Owing to their intimate association as well as dependence on each other, a scarcity of the chi will adversely affect the blood too and vice versa. Hence, Oriental physicians prepare medications blending both the chi and blood tonics. Although there are numerous people in China who take ginseng alone with a view to maintain their well being, but the formal Oriental medicine recommends that the herb should be generally used in combination of blood tonics. Incidentally, ginseng and other chi tonics are frequently used to cure anemia or blood deficiency in people.
There are numerous indications or symptoms that reveal the deficiency of blood or anemic conditions in an individual and they include:
Even as we have been deliberating on the chi or the vital life force in the Oriental medicine, it must be remembered that the concept of vital energy is not new to the Western medical science. There are several references of the fundamental function of this crucial energy in sustaining health as well as combating and curing diseases in the history of the Western medicine. Unfortunately, all these are missing from the modern conventional medicine practiced in the West today.
The fact remains that unlike the perception of the chi in conventional Chinese medicine, the notion of vital energy has not been cultivated adequately in the Western medicine. According to the Western philosophy, the vital energy is an significant, but indistinguishable force or power that enlivens the body, synchronizes it operations and gives rise to hints of ailments or disorders enabling the physicians to cure the disparity. The vitalist (a principle that attributes the functions of a living organism to a vital principle separate from chemical and physical energy) methods comprise naturopathy, homeopathy, chiropractic as well as herbal medication. All these vitalist methods endeavor to develop a framework or prospective in a person's daily life that sustains the crucial force through medications or approaches. The aim is to facilitate the life force to articulate itself within the body, get rid of all impediments in the path of its affable countenance as well as not to hold back the warning signs produced by the vital energy with a view to cure the body of its ailments and disorders. Conversely, the modern conventional medicine methodically stifles the symptoms when they appear and by and large this is normally done at the cost of the patient's very existence.
It may be mentioned here that most of Western medicine was basically vitalist, it was approximately three centuries back and homeopathy was very popular even a century ago. Below is a brief discussion on the different vitalist methods that were widely accepted by the people at some point of time or the other.
It needs to be emphasized that the traditional Chinese medicine as well as the vitalist methods are very potent approaches to diagnose as well as heal a disease or disorder. It must also be mentioned that ginseng as well as other tonic or energizing herbs too have great potential and strength in alleviating different conditions and restoring the vital force in the body.
Here is a case in point. There are several instances when patients visiting a conventional physician come out with no diagnosis simply because the doctor has not found anything erratic in them. Most interestingly, even the blood tests and other physical examinations reveal nothing wrong in them. As a result, people often feel dejected, unwell or even worried. Although nothing abnormal has been detected in their body so far, the fact may be that these unsuspecting people may be in the first stage of a chronic illness. In such instances, finding nothing else to recommend, the physicians prescribe psychic energizer (anti-depressant) and tranquilizers to the patients. Worse still, there are many physicians who will recommend the patient to a psychiatrist with the message that 'he is completely well and any thought of a disease is only in his head'. On the contrary, if the patient had visited a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, he would not only have been thoroughly diagnosed, but also received quick medical care. And you may be sure that this treatment would have been based on tonic herbs.
In fact, the objective of the traditional Chinese medicine, which emphasizes on healing any disorder before it turns grave, is responsible for this fully build up 'pre-illness' examination. According to an prehistoric Chinese scripture, 'healing a disease when it has already assumed a serious nature is similar to digging a well only when one is thirsty or manufacturing swords by the time the war is on'. Contrary to the general concept that the Oriental medicine is best for simple diseases and disorders, it is important to note that this form of medicine is also capable of treating an assortment of advanced complaints. However, the importance of Oriental medicine compared to the conventional Western medicine lies in the fact that it is effective in the early stages of any disease or disorder. In addition, the effectual tonic or energizing therapy makes Oriental medicine more useful than the conventional Western medicine.