Overcome your health challenges by applying these ancient principles.
Our approach to health and wellness helps a lot of people, because it incorporates the use of six key principles.
1) Root/ Branch Principle:
Symptoms are what show up on the surface and create discomfort, or disease. They get your attention. But in order to make lasting change with your health, it’s important to understand that your symptoms are your body’s cry for help. And to ask: “What’s underneath this pain? This anxiety? This inability to conceive? What’s my body really trying to tell me?”
In Chinese medicine, we have what we call the “Root and Branch Principle”. Like the root and branch of a tree, the branch is what you see- it’s the symptom. The root is beneath the surface of the earth- it’s the imbalance that’s causing the symptom.
As a practitioner, we determine if it’s important to treat the root or the branch, and at what point in treatment.
- In some cases we may treat the branch first to give you relief, especially if your symptoms are acute or severe;
- In other cases we may opt to go straight to treating the root;
- However in most cases, we treat the root and branch simultaneously. For true and lasting healing to occur, it’s essential to address the condition at the root level when the body is ready to go there.
For example, we often find digestive issues arise due to a latent infection, adrenal fatigue, or hormone imbalance. The inability to lose weight can be due to an endocrine disorder (insulin resistance, cortisol imbalance, estrogen dominance), toxicity, or gut flora imbalance. And acne is often a result of a gut flora imbalance, toxicity, or hormonal imbalances. So as you can see, we may have two people come in suffering with acne, but both of them will get a totally different treatment depending on the root cause, even though they both have the same goal- to have clear skin.
2) Holism Principle:
In modern medicine, we tend to isolate parts and specialize in them: gynecology, dermatology, endocrinology. This is beautiful, in that it really allows us to understand that particular body system on a deep and profound level. But nothing exists in a vacuum and so it’s equally important to take a step back and understand how that part works in relation to the whole.
Chinese medicine is based on holism and so we are always taking the whole picture into account. For example, we may notice that the liver qi is affecting the spleen, showing up as stress causing loose stools and bloating. Or we may witness how the body is being affected by the season, like when damp heat conditions such as eczema are aggravated in the hot, humid summer. Or we may find the sex hormones thrown off balance due to overwork, manifesting as PMS, infertility, or hot flashes. Everything is connected and so it’s essential to take the whole picture into account.
3) Excess/ Deficiency Principle:
In Chinese medicine, the principle of Excess and Deficiency is one that we often use to assess and treat conditions. The idea is that all disorders are due to a relative excess or deficiency. An analogy is that if you put a kink in a garden hose, the water can’t get through. Right before the kink where the water is welling up, you have ‘excess’. And right after the kink where the water can’t through, you have ‘deficiency’.
The same thing happens in the body. When there’s a blockage in a meridian, you have both excess and deficiency. So almost always in treatment, we are aiming to tonify or strengthen one area, and move or clear another. If we do one without the other, then the relief is certain to be short lived. A common example is with environmental allergies.
From a Chinese medical perspective, we usually diagnose this as spleen, lung, or kidney qi deficiency with liver qi stagnation and heat. From a functional perspective, this often equates to adrenal fatigue with liver congestion and toxicity. So the aim is to strengthen the underlying deficiency while simultaneously clearing the heat toxins.
4) Principle of Yin/ Yang:
Another principle that we often use in Chinese medicine for assessing and treating is the principle of Yin and Yang. I imagine you’re somewhat familiar with at least the yin/ yang symbol. Yin is the substance that represents rest, rejuvenation, woman, moisture, nighttime, and darkness. Yang represents movement, activity, man, dryness, daytime, and light. Yin is always turning into yang and yang is always turning into yin. It’s similar to how the night always turns into day and back again. One is not better or worse; we need both. But disease occurs when there is an imbalance between yin and yang.
One of the most common examples of yin deficiency are the symptoms associated with menopause. It makes sense if you think about it. There’s not sufficient yin to moisten, cool, and lubricate, so women experience hot flashes, night sweats, and dryness. So, our treatment approach would be to tonify and nourish yin and to clear heat. This is one of many examples of the importance in balance between yin and yang.
5) Balance Emotional Body:
In Chinese medicine, a large emphasis is placed on the emotions. So much so that each organ system has an emotion associated with it. Anger is associated with the liver, fear with the kidneys, grief with the lungs, worry with the spleen, and sadness with the heart. If an individual feels one particular emotion often, then chances are that emotion needs balancing or that organ system needs attention. There is no separation between the physical form the emotional body. And so it is accepted that a physical condition can cause an emotional imbalance and an emotional imbalance can create a physical symptom. So it becomes essential to address underlying emotional blocks to promote physical healing.
6) Order of healing:
We know that if we have someone’s phone number but in the wrong order, we will not be able to reach them. Getting things in the right order in terms of healing is important too. Everyone is different and and it’s important to honor what’s right for your body’s constitution and what your body is or isn’t ready for.
An example I often see is when people go on a strict cleanse. This causes toxins to be released from deep within the tissues and joints. But if phase 2 liver detox pathways are not working efficiently, which allow the toxins to get out of the body, then they’ll get recycled and go back into storage in the tissues or joints. If you switch the order, and first enhance phase 2 liver detox function before doing the cleanse, it’d be a lot more effective.
Another scenario is trying to exercise when your body is too deficient or in a state of adrenal fatigue. In that case, the body sees exercise as just another form of stress and it could lead to further fatigue and depletion. For this case, you could first support the adrenals with appropriate nutrients and herbal tonics and do restorative forms of exercise like yoga, or pilates. And then add more rigorous forms of exercise once the body is stronger.
These concepts have been around for thousands of years and have withstood the test of time. They are beautiful in that they can be related to the body, or to life.
When you apply these simple, yet profound, principles to understanding and treating the body, increased health and vitality is inevitable. You can go from sickness back to health.
If this makes sense to you, or, if you’d like to learn more about Chinese medicine, start with our eBook: “How to Thrive in the Modern World: A Layperson’s Guide to Chinese Medicine”. Or if you have a question regarding your specific condition, click here to send us a message.