The Chinese Medicine for Asthma (Chi Kung)
Chinese medicine is used extensively in China. It was introduced into Europe through the Ming Dynasty and spread throughout Asia during the Qing Dynasty. During this time it became popular with royalty, nobility, merchants, doctors and commoners alike. However, due to its complexity and many different types of treatments available, it has been criticized as being ineffective at best or dangerous at worst.
There are two main schools of thought when it comes to Chinese medicine. One school believes that all illnesses stem from imbalance between the body’s natural energy system and the environment. Therefore, the most effective way to treat any illness is to balance these energies within one’s own body. The other school believes that diseases arise from a lack of harmony between human beings and nature. Diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and arthritis are believed to result from imbalance between these two systems.
These disorders can only be cured by correcting the imbalance.
The first school of thought holds that the body contains an internal energy system called chi. Chi is a spiritual force which flows through every living thing and acts like a life force. When this flow of chi is disturbed, there will be disturbances in health and disease as well as mental states such as happiness and sadness. Changes in a person’s diet, environment and many other factors can disturb the flow of chi within the body.
The second school of thought holds that the human body contains 12 main meridians. Meridians are rivers of vital energy which run through the body like a highway. There are also three treasures which run through these meridians. The three treasures are Zang (or essence), Qi (or breath) and Shing (or heart). These three treasures need to be in harmony for the body to maintain correct functioning.
Meridians can become blocked and when this happens, disease and disorders can occur.
The second school of thought states that there are external forces which can affect the human body. These include temperature, climate, terrain, diet, emotions, work, exercise and many other factors. People are also susceptible to external pathogens such as viruses and bacteria. These factors can disturb the balance of the three treasures, which in turn, will cause health problems.
Acupuncture is one of the most well-known and commonly used aspects of Chinese medicine. It is based on the concept that there are twelve main meridians in the body. Each meridian corresponds to a organ in the body. The meridians are like rivers flowing through the body with vital energy. When a meridian is blocked or unbalanced, illness or pain can occur in the organ which it corresponds to.
By inserting very thin needles into specific points along these meridians, the vital energy in the river can be redirected and restored to normal flow.
Acupuncture is usually practiced along with other treatments such as herbal medicine, exercise, diet and other lifestyle factors. Acupuncture has been used to treat asthma as far back as 200 B.C. by the Chinese. In modern times, it is used to treat a wide variety of conditions including multiple sclerosis, low back pain and post surgical pain.
Herbal medicine has been used in China for thousands of years. Medicinal plants have always been readily available from the mountains and forests. There are more than 2000 plant species used in Chinese medicine, many of which have yet to be studied by modern scientists. Medicinal plants are used to treat a wide variety of conditions including asthma.
Chinese herbal medicine can be administered in many different ways including teas, syrups, tablets and ointments. Certain herbs can be smoked as well. Herbs can also be infused into wine. Medicinal wines were very popular in ancient China and are still used today.
A patient undergoing treatment with Chinese herbal medicine will normally see a professional practitioner for a diagnosis. The doctor will inquire about the patient’s medical history and lifestyle, then perform a physical exam. They will then formulate a diagnosis and create a personalized treatment plan. This plan could include acupuncture, dietary changes, herbal medicine and other therapies.
Many of the herbal medicines used in Chinese medicine today are based on formulas developed in ancient times. Formulas are combinations of different herbs used for specific conditions or illnesses. There are three main types of formulas: single herb formulas, Decoctions and granules and preserved or prepared formulas.
The single herb formula is the simplest and most common type. It is simply a single medicinal ingredient intended to treat a particular condition. The decoction is made by simmering the herb in water to create a liquid solution. The granule is made by drying the herb into tiny particles. The preserved formula uses ingredients such as fish or animal organs to create a paste.
Herbal medicine can be prepared in many ways.
The ancient Chinese were the first to recognize that there are times of excessive heat and times of excessive cold. They classified them asHot and Dry, orHot and Moist. In contrast, they recognized the importance of keeping the body in balance. Over-use of fire, heat or dryness would throw the body out of balance and ill health and disease would result.
The ancient Chinese developed a system of five elements to describe how things came to be. They believed that everything was made up of one of the five elements. These elements were Metal, Wood, Water, Fire and Earth. Each element was paired with another; metal with wood, water with fire and earth with air. When these paired elements mixed they created a third element, this created a cycle which went on to create everything in the universe.
The ancient Chinese attached three qualities to each element; one relating to the season; another relating to part of day and the final one relating to an animal.
These five elements formed the basis of the art of feng shui, which is used to ensure the flow and balance of energy in a person’s life and home or work place.
Qi (pron. Chee) is the underlying concept and the driving force in Traditional Chinese Medicine. In English, it can be translated in many ways such as “life force”, “energy flow”, or ” vital energy”. To understand qi one must understand yin and yang, which are the two opposing but complementary forces found in all things in nature. They are constantly interacting in a cycle of creation and destruction.
They manifest themselves in the world as the five classical elements; water, fire, earth, metal and wood. Qi flows through a person’s body along pathways called meridians which connect at certain points called acupressure points. Each of these has a name and identifying number. There are twelve major meridians named after the zodiac and there are extra minor meridians. There are 365 acupressure points located along these meridians.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, qi is seen to be blocked by an accumulation of pathological factors such as emotional traumas, environmental influences and dietary habits. The concept of qi is also extended into other branches of alternative medicine such as acupuncture, acupressure, tai chi and shiatsu.
In acupressure, the same number and name of points are used, but instead of using needles, pressure is applied with the fingers or palm.
In tai chi and other martial arts forms, breathing and movement exercises are used in combination with visualizations to open up these blocked points.
Shiatsu is similar to acupressure except the finger pressure is given in a specific order according to traditional Chinese medical diagnosis.
Traditional Chinese medicine is a holistic system of medicine that can be used to prevent or treat an illness or disease. It focuses on the philosophical basis of yin and yang as they relate to a person’s qi. The human body fits into this philosophy because it is believed to be made up of the four elements; fire, earth, metal and water. Illness is said to occur when one of these four elements becomes unbalanced within the body.
Shiatsu is a combination of acupressure and massage therapy. It is used to prevent and treat health problems like headaches and back pain by applying finger pressure to points on the body.
Acupuncture uses extremely thin needles to puncture the skin at specific points on the body to alleviate pain or promote healing. These needles are sometimes placed with the aid of a chart called a meridian chart which shows where the qi flows through the body.
Sources & references used in this article:
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Efficacy and mechanisms of action of traditional Chinese medicines for treating asthma and allergy by XM Li, LV Brown – Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 2009 – Elsevier
Ding Chuan Tang, a Chinese herb decoction, could improve airway hyper‐responsiveness in stabilized asthmatic children: a randomized, double‐blind clinical trial by CK Chan, ML Kuo, JJ Shen, LC See… – Pediatric Allergy and …, 2006 – Wiley Online Library
Complementary and alternative medicine in asthma: do they work? by C Steurer-Stey, EW Russi, J Steurer – Swiss Medical Weekly, 2002 – smw.ch
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