The Energetic Difference Between a Cold and the Flu

Day 13

by Gene Chuah

This is a late entry for the class I attended a week ago (July 29). The final exam was on July 31st. I think I did okay!

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between a cold and the flu? Well, on a general level, most people know that when they have the chills and a runny nose, it’s a cold; on the other hand, if there’s a lot of fever and congestion, it’s the flu. This is correct! From the Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, a cold is considered invasion by Wind-Cold, and the flu is invasion by Wind-Heat. The key thing is that usually a cold progresses into the flu, as the body bolsters its defenses to fight the pathogen, generating Heat as its main weapon.

Below: Differences in Symptoms Between a Cold and the Flu
Symptom Wind-Cold Wind-Heat
Aversion to wind & cold wind & heat
Fever slight high
Sweating none/slight lots
Thirst none big
Nose runny congested
Nasal discharge thin, watery thick, yellow
Throat itchy bad sore throat
Cough slight strong
Tongue no change red (heat, fever)
Pulse slow (cold) rapid (heat)
Headaches usually occipital (Tai-Yang), and not severe can be throbbing, temporal, frontal, more severe
Aching/Stiffness upper shoulder muscle aches and stiff neck body aches especially in upper shoulders and neck
Sneezing yes -
Chills yes -
Below: Typical Progression of Cold into Flu

Normally, a cold turns into the flu, but one can also succumb to Wind-Heat directly, as in the case of sunstroke and some infectious diseases. Most of the time Heat is generated by the Wei (Defensive) Qi in order to kill the pathogen.

Fevers are a good thing, and in fact by using fever-lowering medications too much or too soon, we are hampering the body’s normal immune response. It’s a known fact that heat prevents virus telomeres from binding, in effect stopping their spread. When there is too much, however, it becomes a problem and is known as Pathogenic Heat. This Heat could be generated either internally or from external sources. Pathogenic Heat needs to be removed from the body, and this is what TCM doctors and acupuncturists are good for!

Patient Case Studies

In the next section we covered case studies of patients. This is the exciting part and where everything in this course comes together in real-world-usage. Normally in patients the symptoms of their illness will fit a pattern that tells us what the disharmony is, and we can form a conclusion along the 8 Principles (4 Dimensions, really) :
Yin vs Yang  |  Cold vs Heat  |  Interior vs Exterior  |  Deficiency vs Excess.

Due to limited time, I’ll only cover one case study.

We’re going to refer to The 4 Energetic Imbalance Conditions so here’s a handy diagram:
Also a good refresher of the 8 Principles from Day 12 is also in order.

Case Study: 50-year-old woman, menopausal.

Symptom Explanation Principle
Insomnia — falls asleep pretty easily but wakes several times in the AM This is a known flag for Yin Deficiency. We can liken the Yin to a “blanket of sleep” that is too short, and the person wakes up too early because the Yin isn’t enough to cover them for the full night. Yin is the nutritive aspect necessary for rejuvenating sleep (see Day 4). Deficiency vs Excess? Deficiency.
Yin vs. Yang? Yang (weak Yin means stronger Yang, relatively).
Slight irritability. This is known flag for Liver Qi Stagnation. Heat is one of the things that can trigger it. Cold vs Heat? Heat.
Heart palpations when startled. “When startled” here is key, it points to a Deficiency (a type of straining due to tiredness); heart palpitations of this type are a known flag for Blood Deficiency. Blood is needed to ground the Shen (clear, sound mind/consciousness). Organs such as Heart and Kidneys are also implicated in this type of Deficiency. Deficiency vs Excess? Deficiency.
Malar (partial) flush. Anytime it’s partial vs full, we know it’s Deficiency vs Excess. A flushed face means there’s Heat. Of the 4 Imbalance Conditions (see chart above), only 2 are of the Heat type: Yang Excess or Yin Deficiency. Since partial = Deficiency, We know this is a Yin Deficiency (malar flush is a known flag for this). Deficiency vs Excess? Deficiency.
Yin vs. Yang? Yang.
Feeling of heat in the evening. This is a known flag for Yin Deficiency. On the other hand, feeling hot throughout the day is a sign for Yang Excess. After sunset, it is a “time of Yin” and if one is lacking in Yin, this is when they feel Heat most. Deficiency vs Excess? Deficiency.
Yin vs. Yang? Yang.
Night sweats. This is a known flag for Yin Deficiency. On the other hand, excessive sweating throughout the day is a sign for Yang Excess. Deficiency vs Excess? Deficiency.
Yin vs. Yang? Yang.
Dry mouth and throat. This is a known flag for Yin Deficiency and Body Fluids Deficiency (related, since Body Fluids are considered Yin). Deficiency vs Excess? Deficiency.
Yin vs. Yang? Yang.
Thirst for small sips to moisten throat. This is a known flag for Yin Deficiency. On the other hand, big thirst is a sign for Yang Excess. Deficiency vs Excess? Deficiency.
Yin vs. Yang? Yang.
Sore and weak lower back, relieved by cold. Known flag for Kidney Yin Deficiency. “Relieved by cold” points to a Heat condition. Deficiency vs Excess? Deficiency.
Interior vs. Exterior? Interior (Kidneys).
Cold vs Heat? Heat.
Yin vs Yang? Yang.
Dry stools, tendency to constipate, feels weak after evacuation. “Dry” and “tendency to constipate” point to Heat. “Feels weak” points to a Deficiency (takes precious energy to defecate). This is either Yin Deficiency or Blood Deficiency. Cold vs Heat? Heat.
Deficiency vs Excess? Deficiency.
Dark scanty urine. This is a known flag for Heat. Heat burns up liquid and makes it more concentrated (thicker, darker). Cold vs Heat? Heat.
Tongue: red, peeled coat. This is a known flag for Yin Deficiency. Deficiency vs Excess? Deficiency.
Yin vs. Yang? Yang.
Pulse: weak, rapid. Weakness points to Deficiency. Rapid pulse is a known flag for Heat, whereas slow pulse is a known flag for Cold (think of the reptiles). Deficiency vs Excess? Deficiency.
Cold vs Heat? Heat.


We already know that menopause = Yin Deficiency (from Day 6), and each of the symptoms here confirms this, on their own anyways.

In making a TCM diagnosis, we piece together parts of the puzzle. In this case for instance, we saw Heat as symptom on its own. It helped us narrow down from the 4 Energetic Imbalance Conditions to 2 (the Heat-related ones, top 2 in the diagram). Since in this case we’re seeing Deficiency and not Excess, we relate the Heat to Yin Deficiency and not Yang Excess. In fact the other symptoms also pointed in that direction, helping us connect the dots.

Now looking at the 8 Principles (4 Dimensions), we conclude this patient as having the following:

Yin vs Yang? Yang
Cold vs Heat? Heat
Interior vs Exterior? Interior (Kidneys)
Deficiency vs Excess? Deficiency

… with the overall diagnosis of Kidney Yin Deficiency
… which opens up the path for our treatment approach. To treat Deficiency, we tonify, and it’s Kidney Yin in this case. Some ideas from the Interwebs here.

One renowned option : Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, also known as Liuwei Dihuang teapills (simplified Chinese: 六味地黄丸; traditional Chinese: 六味地黃丸; pinyin: liùwèi dìhuáng wán) or Six Flavor Rehmanni.


The Chinese Health Troubleshooting System : It’s Elementary, My Dear Hua-Tu-Sun

Day 12

by Gene Chuah

Q: “How do you eat an elephant?”
A: “One bite at a time.”

We are all familiar with the phrase “divide and conquer”. Sculptors know this. They start with a big piece, hack away big chunks, make sure all the proportions are correct, before refining the features. Even modern Web browsers do this — they preload a fuzzy image before overlaying increasingly finer layers. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we go from general to specific in making a diagnosis. There are several key “ley lines” in this troubleshooting system, and they are the 8 Principles Of Pattern Identification. Pain, in relation to these 8 Principles, is also an indicator that can give us more clues to solve the puzzle (chart below).

Below: The 8 Principles Of Pattern Identification
(1) Yin
(see physical traits list below)
vs. (2) Yang
(see physical traits list below)
(3) Cold
to treat: heat up
vs. (4) Heat
to treat: cool down
(5) Interior (organs)
to treat: harmonize organ(s)
vs. (6) Exterior (limbs, skin)
to treat: push out, expel
(7) Deficiency
to treat: increase, tonify
vs. (8) Excess
to treat: reduce, sedate, detox
Below: Yin-Yang Physical Traits For Diagnosis
Yin † Yang ‡
chronic disease
(longer-term, usually at interior)
acute disease
(shorter-term, usually at exterior)
slow onset of symptoms sudden onset of symptoms
pale complexion flushed complexion
cold limbs & body hot limbs & body
likes heat, hates cold likes cold, hates heat
prefers hot drinks prefers cold drinks
likes to curl up throws clothes off
tiredness restlessness
sleepiness insomnia
introverted extroverted
quiet and still loud and hyperactive
obsessive, nervous, agitated, timid
(inward energy)
aggressive, angry, confrontational
(outward energy)
calculating and meticulous takes risks
frail strong/sturdy
shortness of breath heavy breath
dislike speaking over-talkative
reduced appetite excessive appetite
watery stools dry stools
frequent, abundant, pale urination scanty dark urination

+ nausea <- Excess
+ vomiting with strong force <- Excess
+ heartburn / acid reflux <- Heat
: this is Stomach (Interior)
Treatment: reduce Excess Heat in Stomach.

A wrong treatment is made when, rather than reducing something extreme (and bringing it back into the middle of the scale), we instead make it even more extreme. For instance, instead of reducing Heat, we increase it. This could happen if we don’t identify symptoms from the 8 Principles correctly. A bit of a misnomer actually, I would prefer calling them The 4 Dimensions, so let’s also use this term.

Some examples of wrong treatments involving the Interior-Exterior dimension:
1. Fever-reduction medications -> lower fever -> impede Wei-Qi expelling-Heat -> drive pathogen inwards instead of expelling outwards -> illness is worsened, becomes chronic.
2. Corticosteroids to treat skin issues (at Exterior) -> push Heat inward rather than expel -> Liver damage (eventually).

Notes on some of these Dimensions:

Cold vs. Heat

A. Etiology (root causes):

1. External factors / pathogens (4 of the 6 Evils : Wind, Cold, Heat, Damp)

2. Diet (food & drink)

3. Emotions (from Day 10)

Anger -> Heat
Sadness -> Cold
Worry, Pensiveness -> Cold
Fear, Shock -> Heat -> Cold
Joy (Overexcitement) -> Heat

4. Overexertion (physical)
With physical overexertion, whichever “level” is lower (this chart above) than the other, will be amplified (even lower). So someone with a Yin Deficiency will have even less Yin and therefore relatively more overall Heat in their system.

B. Mixed patterns for Cold vs. Heat

Example: Heat in upper body, Cold in lower body.

Transformation of energy.

Example: Wind Cold -> Wind Heat (Wei Qi)
Example: Fevers -> burn out Qi -> Cold

C. True vs. False Cold & Heat

One type of “energy” may have a response or “echo” elsewhere of the opposite energy. Do not be deceived, find the “true” or initial imbalance. Usually the energy at the Interior is the true one while the Exterior is false.
Example: body core has high Heat, but limbs are Cold. Stagnation somewhere blocking the flow to the limbs is correct here, but this may or may not be the root cause; dig deeper; in any case Heat is the true problem here, not Cold (false).

Excess vs. Deficiency

A. Shows the strength/weakness of the body’s Qi OR presence/absence of the external factor/pathogen (4 of the 6 Evils).

B. Expressed through the strength/weakness of the symptoms (how big or small).

C. Subtypes:
There may be clusters of symptoms which can be grouped under an Organ. As a practitioner, once you know the general direction of your diagnosis, dig in deeper in that direction to find confirmation — this may entail asking the patient more questions to confirm your hunch.

An example of the “full vs. partial” concept:
Yang Excess : full red face
Yin Deficiency : partial (cheeks only) / less red

Some examples on how to identify Excess vs. Deficiency:

Example: general weakness and fatigue <- Qi Deficiency
Example: strong, stabbing, sharp headaches <- Blood Stasis
Example: tinnitus — constant “seashore” sound, especially at night <- Excess
Example: tinnitus — constant whistling, high-pitched, strong buzzing <- Deficiency

One test to determine which type of tinnitus (Exc vs. Def) is the “clap test”. Clap next to the patient’s ear. If the problem goes away temporarily, it is Deficiency (lacking and likes additional energy); if it is aggravated, it is Excess (too much, dislikes more added energy).

What’s outside amplifies what’s inside. Environmental (external) factors will aggravate any internal Excess.
Example: Shen disturbance aggravated in hot room <- Heat Excess
Example: rheumatoid arthritis aggravated on humid days <- Damp Excess

Pain, with the “what” and the “when”, is an additional tool to help us complete the picture and zoom in on our target, particularly in regards to Deficiency vs. Excess and Cold vs. Heat.

Below: Mechanism Of Pain In Relation To (4 Of) The 8 Principles Of Pattern Identification
Deficiency Excess Cold Heat
Description dull, lingering sharp, excruciating cramping, spastic burning
Pressure relieved aggravated - -
Temperature - - relieved by heat relieved by cold
Onset slow, gradual sudden - -
Rest better with rest worse with rest - -
Activity worse with activity better with activity - -
Position better lying down better sitting up - -
Food relieved abdominal pain aggravated abdominal pain relieved by hot food,
aggravated by cold food
relieved by cold food,
aggravated by hot food
Bowel Movement worse after evacuation relieved after evacuation - -


Fu Organs in the spotlight!

In last Monday’s class, of the Zang-Fu Organs, we covered the Zang (Yin) Organs. Now we cover the Fu (Yang) Organs. Note that it’s a much smaller spotlight though.

Gallbladder : Minister of Justice

The Gallbladder is categorized as an Extraordinary Organ because it is hollow, like all Yang (Fu) Organs, but also stores pure essence like all Yin (Zang) Organs.

1. Stores and excretes bile.
Bile is considered a surplus of the Liver, a pure essence. The Gallbladder assists in digestion (bile helps digest fats via emulsification). It is mostly regulated by the Liver, but still works quite independently.
In dysfunction, e.g. Damp Heat, there can be a bitter taste in the mouth due to excess bile (accompanied by nausea).

2. Controls courage.
The Gallbladder is crucial in producing courage, particularly the type needed for making hard decisions. Just as its Wood complement, the Liver, is responsible for vision and strategy, the Gallbladder gives one the courage to act on the vision/strategy. In TCM, the Gallbladder is like a judge who needs to make correct choices which the crowds may not like.
Pathology: Gallbladder Qi Deficiency will cause a shrunken ability to act, or timidity.
3. Controls the movement of the sinews.
The sinews are the tendons and ligaments. Note the different roles of the Wood pair:
Liver -> Blood -> lubricates sinews
Gallbladder -> Qi -> creates movement of the sinews

Small Intestine : Minister of Reception

As mentioned in Day 9, the Small Intestine is responsible for separating the pure from the impure. At the time of its activity (1pm-3pm), it is time to start winding down after the peak of day, and to decide what can be done today and what should be left for tomorrow.
small_intestine_refining The Small Intestine enables us to prioritize, a quality of Fire Element. In dysfunction, e.g. ADHD, one is unable to focus and can’t pick out the needle from the haystack of other distractions.

Stomach : Minister of the Mill

1. Enables rotting and ripening of food.
organ_directions_1_spleen The Stomach is one big fermentation crock. It contains both Fire/Yang, as well as Water/Yin, needed for fermentation. A common dysfunction of the Stomach is excessive Fire, resulting in: quick hunger (burns food up too much without deriving pure essence), thirst, foul smell (halitosis), bleeding gums (<- Yin Deficiency), and Rebellious Qi symptoms : heartburn / acid reflux, vomiting, nausea.
Typical Stomach dysfunction: Stomach Fire, Stomach Yin Deficiency (both Heat).
The Stomach sends Yang to the Spleen, while the Spleen sends Yin to the Stomach; they energetically balance each other out when healthy.

2. Controls transportation of food essences.
The Stomach works with the Spleen to provide food essences mainly to the muscles and limbs. Chronic fatigue/weakness in the muscles/limbs is the first sign of weakness of the Stomach.

3. Controls the descending of Qi.
See above diagram, blue arrows.

4. Is the origin of Body Fluids.
See diagram.

The Stomach is linked to the Large Intestine via an energetic channel. Imbalance can produce bloating and gas.

Large Intestine : Minister of Transportation

The Large Intestine moves impure substances (“dirt”) downward and excretes them as stool. The Large Intestine is associated with “letting go” while its Metal complement, the Lungs, is associated with “taking in”.

As Emotions can affect Organs, someone who is afraid of letting go, will also experience constipation. On the flip side, someone who has been abused will want to let go of the trauma and will tend toward diarrhea.

Bladder (urinary) : Minister of the Reservoir

The Bladder is Qi-powered by the Kidneys. It is also one of the Organs involved in the Qi transformation process (see diagram), separating pure from impure, and removes fluids from the body in the form of urine.

In dysfunction, ischuria (urine retention) can be caused by Bladder Dampness (-> urinary tract infection, UTI) or by Kidney Qi Deficiency (no pushing power).

Most of the pure essence/Qi refined by the Bladder goes upward to the Small Intestine.

San Jiao : Triple Burner/Heater/Warmer

1. Responsible for proper functioning of the 3 Jiaos.
3_jiaos The San Jiao regulates (1) body temperature, (2) movement of Body Fluids, and (3) the passage of Qi among the 3 Jiaos. During its peak time of 9pm-11pm, it is important to be laying horizontal (and asleep) in order for it to work best in cooling down the body (Yang -> Yin) for a good night’s sleep.

If the San Jiao fails to do its job, the body will face a serious, systemic problem (heat buildup in some areas, lack of heat in others).

2. Is an avenue for Original (Yuan) Qi.

There are 3 avenues for the Yuan Qi, one of which is the San Jiao. The other 2 are: the Kidney channels, and the Extraordinary Vessels (e.g. the Du + Ren, which are the reservoirs for surplus Qi and Blood).


Why Men Are More Hairy Than Women (Generally Speaking); Ancient Lore Explains Sexual Dimorphism

Day 11

by Gene Chuah


Why do men have more facial and body hair than women, generally speaking? And why does facial and body hair start appearing in menopausal women (or so I’ve been told)? In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the answer lies in the distribution of Blood as a vital essence. In women, especially of childbearing age, Blood is allocated toward the reproductive system (situated in the Lower Jiao, or lower one-third of the body). Men, on the other hand, are more Yang in nature, and remember that Yang tends to rise up (Yang equates to Heat as well, and we know that heat rises up). So Blood that would have been allocated to the ovulation cycle in women are used for growing beards and body hair, in men. Neat huh? For post-menopausal women, however, since the Blood is not longer allocated to the baby-making machinery, you can guess where it gets reallocated. [Note: Dwarven women from Lord Of The Rings are an exception, they have beards just like the men.]


This also explains why most male mammals also have some kind of growth on their heads — antlers, horns, tusks, whiskers, manes, for instance. Come to think of it, most males in the animal kingdom are more colorful, have more muscle mass, or have specific physiological structures that the females do not have. This is called sexual dimorphism, and here are more visuals. Of course, there are exceptions in the animal kingdom, where the male is a total nobody in some species (e.g. spiders, and the triplewart seadevil).


Above: male (L) and female (R) deer.

Interestingly enough, Deer Antler (Chinese: 鹿茸; pinyin: lù róng) happens to be a Blood tonic. This makes total sense — if surplus Blood was used to create it, then it must be good for replenishing depleted Blood! See what the Interwebs has to say on this topic.

TCM recognizes the hair to be an extension of the Blood. “If one’s Blood is nutritionally complete and rich, the hair will be thick, lustrous and keep its color. If Blood is deficient, or if it is somehow obstructed from properly flowing to and saturating the scalp, the hair will wither.” –[source]

It should be noted, however, that head hair is governed by the Kidneys, while body hair is governed by the Lungs, whereby Lung Qi drives Blood outward to the skin to nourish body hair.

In yesterday’s class, we covered all the Organs in greater depth. Prior to this point we had discussed the Organs and their interactions, but never gave them their own spotlight. Now, they get to be the stars of the show.

The Organs are grouped in Yin-Yang pairs by Element (see previous lessons), and the Yin Organs are called Zang, while the Yang Organs are called Fu. When their wonder-twin powers unite, together they are the unstoppable Zang-Fu (臟腑).

Again keep in mind that these Organs do not always correspond strictly to the physiological organ, and in fact one of them, the Triple Burner (San Jiao) has no actual physical form or location. In another example, the physical spleen, according to Western science, works as a blood filter and is part of the immune system; however in TCM it is equated with digestion and providing energy. The important thing is that this is a framework or model of understanding that works. In an extreme example, even if someone has had their Gallbladder surgically removed, the energetic equivalent of this Organ is still there and we can still work with it. Wikipedia calls TCM Organs functional entities. So don’t get confused if they don’t correspond literally to physical organs studied via the Western scientific method.

Here’s the list of the Zang-Fu :

Solid Organs that store vital / pure / essential substances. Yin because less active, and has dormant/potential energy.
Hollow Organs that receive, process and dispense; can be like a gate or pump; Yang because more active.
Liver Gallbladder*
Heart Small Intestines
Spleen Stomach
Lungs Large Intestines
Kidneys Bladder (urinary)
Pericardium Triple Burner (San Jiao)

* Gallbladder is the exception on this list, and is considered an Extraordinary Organ because it is recognized to be BOTH Zang and Fu (it stores essence, but there is also lively movement through it). The other Extraordinary Organs are: the brain, marrow, uterus, bones, and blood vessels.

Now on to the Organs. I will be reusing the directions-of-Qi charts I used from Day 6.

LIVER : The General / Chief of Staff

1. Maintains free/smooth flow of Qi (flowing & spreading).

a. Influences emotional state.
Remember that the Liver is the “energetic fan”, and that emotions are a type of energy (Qi). So, the Liver plays an important role in keeping the Emotions moving — remember that “the only bad emotion is a stuck emotion”. The Liver helps to smooth out one’s moods; without its proper functioning, mood swings and irritability will manifest.

b. Influences digestion.
In the Control Cycle, the Liver (Wood) is the grandparent to, and influences, the Spleen (Earth). When healthy, the Liver supports the Spleen in digestion, but in an imbalance condition, it can negatively affect digestion. For instance, stress->frustration->anxiety manifests in the Liver, causing it to “overcontrol” the Spleen, resulting in IBS.

c. Influences flow of bile.
In TCM, Bile is a surplus of Liver Qi, and a pure essence.

2. Stores the Blood
The Liver stores the Blood (it is like a sponge that fills with Blood especially at its peak of 1am-3am, during which time it is important to be laying down, preferably asleep. The Liver regulates the volume of Blood and circulates it among the Organs.

3. Controls the sinews
Sinews = ligaments + tendons. This includes joint mobility, and in a sense the Liver is important for mobility in general. Stiffness and numbness especially in the joints point to Liver weakness. For instance, arthritis tremors are due to Liver + Gallbladder issues. Remember that Wood is the Element of motion.

4. Manifests in the nails
In TCM, the nails (fingers, toes) are an extention of the Sinews, a surplus of Liver Qi. Nails are an excellent diagnostic tool for the Liver. Specks in the nails, soft, brittle, easily broken nails are a sign of Liver Blood Deficiency. To tonify your Liver, include this organ meat in your diet.

5. Opens into the eyes
The Liver is in charge of vision. Blurry vision, floaters, night blindness, “seeing stars” are all signs of Liver Blood Deficiency. Sensitivity to light, on the flip side, is a sign of Liver Qi Stagnation (Excess).

6. Houses the Ethereal Spirit, or “Hun”
The Hun (Chinese: ; pinyin: hún; literally “cloud-soul”) (pronounceed “hoon” with an upward tone as if asking a question) correlates to the Astral Body. It is “second in command”, whereas the Shen is the highest spirit of consciousness in a person. Like the Shen, it is also immortal, so it does not die with the physical body. The Hun is responsible for sleep and good dreams. 11pm-3am, Wood Element Time, is when the Hun is working hardest, actively driving and processing your nighttime dreaming. Note: some say that when you dream, you travel to the astral world. Recurring “almost-died-from-falling-but-awoke-with-a-start” dreams are a sign of Liver Blood Deficiency.

NOTE: Many traditional frameworks explain that the human body is actually made up of several different bodies that occupy the same space, almost like layers. Explore further here. It is the same idea in Chinese philosophy. For a more detailed breakdown of the soul in TCM, take a look at this article by Giovanni Maciocia. TO DO: map the “Western” planes/bodies to the Oriental “spirits”.

HEART : The Emperor

1. Rules the Blood and blood vessels
The human body can be thought of as a microcosm of a (Chinese) kingdom, with the Heart (Emperor) at the center. The Emperor in ancient times was thought of as God’s representative on earth, and this corresponds with the Heart housing the Shen, which is the spirit, or consciousness, of the person. The ancient Chinese were concerned about keeping out the evil invaders, and this corresponds to the body’s continually shielding itself from external Evil Qi. Because the Shen is sensitive, an emotional root cause can “unseat” it — causing, for example, a Heart Blood Deficiency that results in insomnia, anxiety, poor memory, and “fright palpitations”.

2. Manifests in the complexion.
The complexion reflects the health of the Heart.
e.g. Pale <- Qi & Blood Deficiency
e.g. Pale + dull <- Blood Deficiency
e.g. Purplish <- Heart Blood Stagnation (milder) or Stasis (worse)
e.g. Strong Red <- Heat in the Heart
e.g. Pinkish <- good health!

3. Opens into the tongue.
The Heart, with a balanced Shen, governs coherent speech. Through tongue diagnosis we can tell the health of the Heart. For instance, if the tongue tip is red, it points to Heat in the Heart, which usually means a disturbed, irritable Shen.

4. Houses the Shen.
But you knew this already since we’ve been talking so much about it in my past articles. Shen (Chinese: ; pinyin: shén; means spirit, soul, mind, god, deity, supernatural being) is pronounceed “shurn” with an upward tone as if asking a question, and without rolling the R.

Heart disharmonies caused by: “could be anything” because the Shen is sensitive.

SPLEEN : Minister of the Granary

1. Governs transformation & transportation

The Spleen transform Food into pure and impure essences.

From Li Dongyuan, A Treatise on the Spleen and Stomach (Piwei Lun), 1249:
The Stomach is called the sea of grain and water. Once food enters the Stomach, its essential energy is moved upwards to infuse first the Spleen and then the Lung. In this fashion, the command of spring and summer is being carried out, and the entire body receives nourishment. This is due to the influence of clear heavenly Qi.
Once the ascending motion has reached its climax, this current shifts directions and flows downwards toward the Bladder. In this fashion, the command of autumn and winter is being carried out, and the waste becomes processed and the flavors will manifest. This is due to the influence of turbid earth Qi.

The Spleen sends its nourishing energy (Qi) upwards to the Lungs and mind, as well as to the muscles and limbs. Someone who is low in energy (you need muscle strength to move around) probably has a weak Spleen. Other symptoms are: bloatedness/gas, soft stools, weak concentration, poor appetite, nausea. This is usually equated with Spleen Qi Deficiency -> poor digestion -> unburnt food -> Dampness -> lack of appetite/thirst.

2. Controls Blood.

a. Main Organ in Blood production.
Day 6 seems to agree.

b. Holds the Blood, keeps it in the blood vessels.
Remember that “Qi is the mother of Blood” — Qi moves and holds Blood. The Spleen also is also a key player in “holding” Blood, so with Spleen Qi Deficiency, this capacity is weakened, resulting in things like menorrhagia (excessive menstrual bleeding), hemmorhoids, varicose veins or chronic bruising.
Blood in the stool is a sign of Heat in the Blood. Here is one vicious cycle that could happen with Blood Heat:
spleen_heat_vicious_cycle3. Controls muscles and limbs.
This is true in the sense that the Spleen provides the fuel for the muscles, and it is the first place to look to show Spleen weakness (Spleen Qi Deficiency). Weak muscles & limbs, tiredness, and even eating disorders. Either extreme in eating behavior is Spleen dysfuntion — whether anorexia, or the opposite (overeating). Note the depleted muscles in anorexia. It’s all Spleen!

4. Opens into the mouth, manifests in lips.
The Spleen is the “control center” when it comes to the sensation of taste, allowing us to differentiate among the 5 flavors. Illness or usage of antibiotics will hinder this (antibiotics kill friendly gut bacteria as well). Lip color is a reflection of Spleen health. The usual rules apply:
e.g. pale <- Spleen and/or Blood Deficiency
e.g. purple <- Spleen Stagnation (Qi/Blood)

5. Regulates/controls the ascending Qi.
This relates to (b.) above. Holding power. Dysfunction: prolapse of the uterus, anus; hemorrhoids, varicose veins, hernia, chronic diarrhea (<- rebellious Qi).

6. Houses the Thinking Spirit, or “Yi”.

Yi (Chinese: ; pinyin: yì; means “thought”) is pronounceed “ee” with an assertive tone as if there’s an exclamation mark after it. “Hunger for knowledge”, “food for thought” — these phrases originated for a reason. The Spleen is also called the “second brain”, and in Chinese there is a saying that “a thought originates in the Spleen and culminates in the Heart” (here Heart, as Shen, represents the mind or consciousness). The Yi (intellect) enables cognitive analysis and mental focus/concentration.

Dampness can affect the Spleen, resulting in Worry and Pensiveness (and vice versa, as Emotions can also affect Organs). Like someone lost in a damp swamp, going in circles.

Spleen is Earth Element, which represents stability, family, home, love, caring and warmth. Any harm to the Spleen damages the Yi, which affects the ability to learn. Due to the loss of communal/tribal support in modern society, the Spleen is under threat and learning disabilities are becoming more common, as are eating disorders.

Spleen disharmonies caused by : (1) congenital factors (2) foods that are cold, raw, sugary, dairy, yeast, flour (3) excessive worry, pensiveness (overstudying), and (4) medications, especially antibiotics.

LUNGS : Prime Minister / Foreign Minister

1. Rule the Qi and respiration.

a. Produce pure Qi from the air.
You need clean air in order to produce strong Lung Qi. Polluted air will overburden the Lungs.

b. Control the upper “Sea of Qi”.
The Lungs are the main source of Qi in this region, providing Qi even for the Heart. They also play a part in the energetic circulation through to the Lower Jiao, and if this flow is disrupted, the upper part of the body will get overheated relative to the lower (as in the case of a coma). Since Lungs govern the Upper Jiao, any deficiency will cause coldness in the Lungs and arms. Here is an image from Day 6 to applies to this energetic circulation:

2. Control the 2 directions of Qi.

a. Descending.
Downward to Kidneys. Disharmonies: asthma, shortness of breath, cough (<- rebellious Qi), shallow/faint voice.

b. Dispersing/circulating.
Outward to supply Wei Qi, warming the skin and muscles.
Lung Qi = “mist”, and as it disperses outward as Wei Qi = “spray”.

3. Control sweating via skin pores.
Sweating expels excess Heat generated by the Wei Qi. If Wei Qi is weak, it will be unable to control the opening and closing of the skin pores, resulting in their random opening/closing. This lets in pathogens, or causes spontaneous sweating (cold sweats, a waste of pure essence), or disallows heat to escape by remaining closed (this can also lock in the pathogen).

4. Move and adjust the water passages.
a. Descending. : sends Mist down to the Kidneys.
b. Dispersing/circulating. : keeps skin moist.

5. Control skin and body hair.
As mentioned earlier, Lung Qi sends Blood to the skin to nourish body hair (as opposed to head hair which is nourished by the Kidneys).

6. Open into the nose.
“The nose is the window to the Lungs, the throat is the door to the Lungs.”
Problems with the nose usually points to the Lungs.
Lungs are also known as “the tender Organ”. In the role of Foreign Minister, they are the interface between the body’s internals, and the outside world.
Problems with the throat (e.g. tonsilitis, sore/strep throat) usually points to the Lungs.

7. House of the Physical Spirit, or “Po”.

Po (Chinese: ; pinyin: pò; literally “white-soul”) is pronounceed “p’ho” (aspirated P) with an assertive tone as if there’s an exclamation mark after it. It allows you to feel physical sensations, e.g. skin pain. It dies with the physical body and is not eternal (unlike the Shen or Hun). The Po is equated with physical presence and even confidence, if you will picture a strong male elk or gorilla puffing up its chest to establish its dominance and physicality. Puffing up one’s chest needs a strong pair of Lungs for sure.

The anus is called “Po Men” (pronounced more like “muhn”) (魄 門), meaning “the gate of the Po”, and remember that the Large Intestine is the Yang partner to the Lungs (both Metal). The Large Intestines are related to excretion and “letting out” where the Lungs take in; they are both considered to be the same energetic channel.

Lung Disharmonies caused by: (1) congenital factors (2) external pathogens (3) excessive sadness, grief, worry (4) polluted air (5) poor posture, constriction, sedentary.

KIDNEYS : Minister of Power

1. Store Jing essence, dominant role in: birth, development, reproduction, fertility, ageing/longevity.

2. Rule water metabolism. Control Bladder, urine.

3. Grasp Qi from Lungs.
One of the charts above, shows this.

4. Manifest in head hair. Premature balding, greying, if Kidneys weakened. Hair color is a better indicator of Jing health than balding, since male baldness can vary by race or lineage.

5. Open into the ears. Hearing issues are Kidney-related. Hey, they happen to have the same shape outline too (so do the ovaries and testes, which contain Jing). As Jing diminishes in old age, loss of hearing creeps up as the Kidneys fail to nourish the ears.

6. Control the bones and teeth.
As Jing diminishes in old age, bones and teeth weaken (osteoporosis). Kidneys also nourish the brain (as Jing matter, not the mind), head hair, bone marrow, uterus and testicles.

7. House the Zhi

Zhi (Chinese: ; pinyin: zhì), is pronounced “chir” with a very short/flat vowel, no rolled R, and assertive tone as if with an exclamation mark. Video how-to here (<- tone-neutral).

Jing, as pre-natal life-force essence, is needed for life, correlated with lifespan, and in dire physical situations, is used up rapidly to "save" someone in danger. Think of it as dipping into your life-savings in an emergency. Zhi relates to physical will, because when you are determined to do something (physically), the Zhi mobilizes Kidney Jing to achieve what is needed. There have been wartime stories of soldiers who suddenly had the superhuman strength to throw multi-ton bombs overboard before they could detonate, and stories of mothers who are able to lift cars off their babies -- these could be attributed to Zhi and emergency Jing usage.

Kidney disharmonies caused by: (1) congenital factors (2) diet (too much salt) (3) medications, especially chemotherapy (<- burns Yin) (4) chronic fear (stress) -> Kidney Yin Deficiency (adrenaline is Yang which burns Yin).


The Organs Weep The Tears The Eyes Refuse To Shed

Day 10

by Gene Chuah

“The organs weep the tears the eyes refuse to shed” — Sir William Osler, 18th-century physician.

We now explore the topic of mental and emotional disharmonies in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

We often hear about the mind-body connection in new medicine; sometimes also the mind-body-soul connection. In holistic healing, we do not treat the body and mind as separate — in fact one affects the other, and this is something that the Chinese have known for more than 2000 years. The key principle here is that there is no difference between mental and physical illness!

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we recognize the 7 Emotions and how they cause disease in the body. In TCM, it’s “all about the energy” (Qi), and there is functional (good) energy that flows in the body (and in the aura, according to other systems like Pranic Healing). However, this Qi can get stuck, become stagnant, and manifest as negative or polluted energy, which can cause disease.

Each Organ is also correlated with a particular Emotion, and likewise, can accumulate the stagnated energy of this Emotion if it is in excess, or due to dysfunction. This makes sense if we think of the Organs as energy centers, which are attuned to a specific frequency or wavelength of energy. (In traditional Indian medicine, this is a similar idea to the Chakras (energy centers), each of which governs a particular related set of emotions or abilities; ascending vertically from the primal to the refined.)

Breaking it all down :

(1) Emotions are a type of energy (different Emotions have specific frequencies).
(2) Qi flows through the body.
(3) Qi is energy.
(4) Each Organ is attuned to, and acts as a storehouse for, a specific Emotion.
(5) Excess / blocked / stagnated energy in an Organ manifests as disease.

Therefore, we can deduce that the following are true :

(A) Treating the Organ will help correct the associated Emotional imbalance, and
(B) Addressing the Emotion will help correct the associated Organ imbalance.

Simplified :

(A) Organ –> Emotion
(B) Emotion –> Organ

… and in fact, this is recognized in TCM to be true (see Day 2)! For instance, someone who faces a lot of frustration will experience a lot of Anger, and if they don’t know how to channel this Emotion (a type of energy), it will cause Liver Qi Stagnation, which in turn disrupts the normal functioning of the Liver (causing other problems down the chain). The converse is also true: someone who develops Liver Qi Stagnation, due to other factors not related to Anger, will start to experience Anger more quickly because this energy is not able to flow through their Liver, and it gets stagnated in excess (think traffic jam).

Here are the Organs and their corresponding Emotions :

Organ Emotions
Liver Anger
Heart Joy (overexcitement)
Spleen Worry & Pensiveness
Lungs Sadness
Kidneys Fear & Shock

In treating mental / emotional disorders, Traditional Chinese Medicine actually has more options over conventional medicine, in the sense that :

(1) diagnosis is not locked-down and rigid, and
(2) treatment is possible for “incurable” conditions.

Let’s take a closer look.

(1) Diagnosis is not locked-down and rigid

In conventional psychiatry, a patient is diagnosed for mental illness by looking at his or her symptoms / behaviors, and then figuring out which “label” can be attached to the patient. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is the guidebook used by psychiatrists to label their patients. But does it mean that the “cure” is clear, since we know their diagnosis? How is each diagnosis treated? Could it be that these labels are what psychatrists use when they don’t know what’s really wrong with a patient? What about the in-betweens, the patients who don’t fall neatly into any one category?

Let’s just take a look at some of these classifications: schizophrenia, anxiety, ADHD, dementia, depression, dissociation, mania, bipolar disorder, psychosis, personality disorders. Each one is just a name label with a set of symptoms! Each one is assumed to have no real “cure”, and treatments are mostly drug-based, focused on suppressing symptoms and disease management (that happens to be where the money is too).

Due to the rigidity of diagnoses in conventional medicine today, our treatment options are limited. Why? Simply because you can have a set of symptoms, give it one name, but from patient to patient, it could be different a root cause! There is an excellent article by Mike Adams (with cached snapshot here) that explains this perfectly. He says, “there is a curious tendency in conventional medicine to name a set of symptoms a disease”. My personal opinion is that these disease names have a “paralyzing” effect on the reader’s mind and are intented to obscure the true cause of the disease. “What, she has Shingblington’s Non-Necromicrotizing Sharkinoma? Oh dear, I guess the doctors know best then what pills she needs.” Disease names like these make people instantly shut off their brains and effectively relinquish control of their own health since it is beyond them and no longer intuitive.

In TCM, however, things are not so cut-and-dry, and there is the recognition that each patient is unique, that there are many factors that all work together to cause a set of symptoms or dysfunctional behaviors. By looking at the whole picture in an open-ended but thorough manner, the practitioner is able to piece all the clues together and find the Organ(s) affected, as well as the root cause(s) of the disharmony. Again, there is no separation between physical and emotional / mental issues; so insomnia, anxiety and hysterical mania are really on the same scale and could have the same root cause (Heart dysfunction and/or stress), pointing the way for a treatment approach. This freedom from locked definitions is a good thing, because at the end of the day, we are treating the patient as a unique individual with unique circumstances, and not merely pinning a one-size-fits-all label on them.

(2) Treatment is possible for “incurable” conditions

In TCM, there is no such thing as idiopathic disease. Because the symptoms form a pattern and point to the root cause(s), we can treat it!

With mental / emotional illness, you can either treat the Organ or address the Emotion, or even better, do both. One helps the other, leapfrogging the patient out of the pit. Let’s go back to the example of Mr. Angry. He has a demanding job and a demanding life. We don’t know which started first, his Liver imbalance or his anger issues, but we know that he has both. Let’s see how either approach helps :

(A) Treating the Organ : due to the excess Anger, the patient’s Liver is Stagnated. Treating the Liver for Stagnation enables it to function better and to allow the energy of this Emotion to flow more freely. Because the “traffic jam” is now unblocked, Mr. Angry does not get angry as quickly, has more clarity of thought (anger can cause blind rage, remember the Liver is related to vision), and is able to better deal with the everyday situations that normally provoke him.
(B) Addressing the Emotion : everyone faces problems, that is the nature of existence on this planet; nobody is exempt, but how we deal with problems is the key. Anger does not come from external circumstances; it arises as a response from within. A good TCM practitioner is also a lifestyle counselor, and will help the patient find solutions to the root causes of emotional issues. Anger is usually a result of frustrated goals (blocked energy), and there are ways of dealing with things. At a much higher level we could even say that many of our problems are a result of our Ego asserting itself (Dr. Wayne Dyer) and a big reason for our unhappiness and stress these days is because of our disconnection with God / The Divine / our Higher Self, and our need to “force” things as a result of our feeling inadequate as a result of this separation. Of course this is a big topic, but the point is that Emotions can be addressed directly. Back to our example, by not giving in to Anger, the patient’s Liver is no longer overwhelmed and is able to recover and “process” normally, giving the patient clarity and peace. In TCM, we say that “there is no such thing as a bad emotion, only a stuck emotion”.

As a recap, here are the points we covered in class (some overlap with what we talked about above):

(1) There is no separation between the mental and the physical.
(2) Emotions originate from the Organs (stored in, created by).
(3) Between Organs and Emotions, cause and effect are interchangeable.
(4) Emotions can cause disease when they are (a) extreme in intensity, and (b) prolonged in duration.

Now on to the next topic we covered in class :

Lifestyle Factors That Affect Health (Way of Life)

1. Overexertion

(a) mental & emotional overwork
(b) physical overwork
(c) physical exercise (excessive)
(d) insufficient sleep
(e) over-resting, too much sleep

2. Diet (nutrition, detoxification)

(a) overeating (overindulgence)
(b) malnutrition (it happens even in North America due to soil depletion in conventional agriculture, and overprocessing of foods)
(c) imbalanced eating habits (eating at wrong times)
(d) toxins in diet (hormones, pesticides, antibiotics, additives, GMOs, etc.)

3. Weak constitution

4. Sex (frequency, esp. for men)

5. Excessive childbearing (depletes Kidneys, Jing)

6. Trauma / injury / accidents

7. Exposure to poisons (environmental), parasites (mold, fungus, yeast, bacteria, viruses)

8. Ageing

In regards to frequency of sexual activity for men (ejaculation), in TCM we have a table listing the recommended maximum frequency depending on age. It is best not to exceed these limits, in order not to prematurely exhaust your Jing (as discussed in Day 4) :

Age Good health Average health
20 2x / day 1x / day
30 1x / day every 2nd day
40 every 3 days every 4 days
50 every 5 days every 10 days
60 every 10 days every 20 days
70 every 30 days not recommended

It should also be noted that there are ancient Eastern frameworks that help men “optimize” their sexual energy. The Indian Tantra and Taoist Sexual Alchemy are some examples.


Feeling Lost And Directionless In Life? You Might Not Be Sleeping At The Right Time

Day 9

by Gene Chuah

FORMAT UPDATE: Due to time constraints, from this point on I won’t be covering every detail I learned in class, but will be writing these articles in a more generalized way. They are not meant to be a replacement for class notes, but more of an introduction for readers new to Traditional Chinese Medicine.

This Chinese Organ Clock here below is my new best friend.


Initially I wanted to title this post “Why It’s Important To Sleep At 10pm” but I thought that sounded too boring (the answer to the title will be explained, read on). But really, this article is about going to bed on time, because there are SO MANY reasons why it’s important for your health and optimal functioning. It’s not about how much sleep you get, but also at what time you sleep and wake, because, try as you might, your body simply knows what time it is. Don’t ask me how, but we were designed this way, and after all, we are part of nature, part of the Universe, and undeniably tied to its cycles.

The “graveyard shift” is so-called, for good reason. In fact, many studies show that long-term night-shift workers are at higher risk for many diseases.

Your body is made up of several subsystems, each dependent on the others. They all work together like clockwork. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, they are called Organs, and may-or-may-not correspond to actual organs in the physiological sense. According to the Chinese Organ Clock, each Organ has a “peak time” during which the body focuses on it, sending more Qi and Blood to it, and it becomes “saturated” with this Qi and Blood in order to do its main processing activity. Some of these Organs require that you be in bed (laying horizontal!) and asleep; other Organs provide you with optimal energy for physical activity.

Other than having its “peak time”, each Organ also has its “low time” which is the exact opposite side of the clock, i.e. 12 hours away. This is when the Organ is at its weakest because Qi and Blood levels are at their lowest in the Organ.

Peak-time and low-time are actually one way of diagnosing and pinpointing a problem Organ. We covered many examples of this in yesterday’s class and the one before it. There are 2 key patterns here :

1. During Peak Time, an Organ that is weak/dysfunctional will not be able to handle the surge of Qi and Blood, and there will be Excess-related issues. Imagine a river that is not ready to handle a strong surge of water — it overflows its banks.
2. During Low Time, an Organ that is weak/dysfunctional will be overly depleted by the low levels of Qi and Blood, and there will be Deficiency-related issues. Imagine a river that is already so small and dried up — it cannot tolerate a drought.

Depending on the time of occurence of these symptoms, and the type of symptom (Excess vs. Deficiency), we can pinpoint the Organ that is weak/dysfunctional, and that helps us correctly diagnose and put together our treatment plan.

3AM – 5AM : Lungs (Yin Organ)
5AM – 7AM : Large Intestine (Yang Organ)

Best time to wake up is in this zone. The Lungs are connected to the Large Intestines via an energetic channel. They are both related in the sense of input and output, the Lungs take in while the Large Intestines let out. The Lungs are also connected to the Skin (see chart from Day 7), and in fact you will find that many traditional Chinese people wake up during this time to do breathing (Lung!) exercises (even singing) and “tapping”/slapping their entire body to stimulate their Skin. This is also good for healing Asthma, which is an excess/stagnation condition. This zone is also a good time to defecate (yes, poop). You need to throw out the garbage to make room, before you can take in the new. Don’t worry about making this work, if you’re sleeping at 10pm and waking at 5am, this will happen naturally and automatically. Even at 5am, when the time zone for Lungs has ended, you can still do the breathing exercises due to the energetic link between these 2 Metal zones.

7AM – 9AM : Stomach (Yang Organ)
9AM – 11AM : Spleen (Yin Organ)

Best time for breakfast, and it should be a big one too. Because the Spleen is linked to cognitive ability (clear thinking while working), it is important that you eat a good breakfast when the Spleen is at its most active and ready to give you its benefits.

11AM – 1PM : Heart (Yin Organ)
1PM – 3PM : Small Intestine (Yang Organ)

Best time to work. Fire Element represents productivity, like an engine chugging away, as described in Day 8. The Heart is also associated with self-expression. 11AM-1PM (Heart zone) is the peak time of day, and is the peak time for productivity and self-expression. At 1PM-3PM, it’s Small Intestines‘ zone, and just as this Organ is responsible for separating the pure from the impure, this is the start of the winding-down after the peak, to decide what can be done today and what should be left for tomorrow. This is a good time for a (lighter) lunch and also a good time for a nap (the Latin Americans have the right idea with their “siesta”!).

3PM – 5PM : Bladder (Yang Organ)
5PM – 7PM : Kidney (Yin Organ)

Time to start cooling down (energetically) or you will hurt yourself (engine overheats?). Yin is growing at this time, cooling the body. 5PM-7PM as Kidneys peak during this time, they “grasp” Qi from the Lungs and Heart (from Day 6). Kidneys, which represent physical strength/ability, are strongest at this time and this is actually the best time for exercise.

7PM – 9PM : Pericardium (Yin Organ)
9PM – 11PM : San Jiao (Triple Burner) (Yang Organ)

(We haven’t yet talked about Ministerial Fire, this is not a term we used in class, but I got it from other TCM sources. I assigned it the color purple arbitrarily.)
This is BEDTIME! Many traditional belief systems including Indian medicine, recognize 10PM as the best time for bed. The San Jiao (Triple Burner/Heater) is responsible for regulating energetic temperature (heat vs. cold) among the 3 Jiaos; at this time, to cool down the body. Its work is made easier if it doesn’t have to fight gravity, which means you should be in bed and horizontal in this time zone. The 7PM-9PM zone is interesting — the Pericardium in TCM is thought of as the Royal Guard which guards the Emperor (Heart), and is the door to intimacy, the home, love, safety, the “opening of the heart”, and sex. So this is family time, or time for love, before bedtime.

11PM – 1AM : Gallbladder (Yang Organ)
1AM – 3AM : Liver (Yin Organ)

This is the time to recharge through sleep. Wood Element pertains to vision, goals, and courage. The Gallbladder is tied to courage; the Liver to vision, pioneering, adaptability, exploration, new beginnings (Day 7). Steven Covey (The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) calls it “sharpening the saw”. Since the Liver stores Blood at its maximum capacity in this zone, it’s important for you to be asleep and dormant at this time. If you miss out on Liver Time on a regular basis, you will end up feeling lost, aimless and clouded.

Now on to a new topic we covered in yesterday’s class…

Pathogenic Factors : The Six Evils

- sudden changes of symptoms
- constant migration of symptoms
- upward and outward movement
- tends to attract other pathogenic factors

- Yin pathogenic factor which consumes Yang of body
- contraction and stagnation

- burning and upward direction
- swelling, ulceration, inflammation, even pestilence
- invasion by fire creates movement, stirs up wind, creates disturbance of Blood (think firestorm)
- consumes healthy/true Qi and impairs body fluids

- heavy, turbid/thick, lingering
- viscosity (stickiness), stagnation
- obstructs Qi circulation
- tends to move downward

- consumes body fluids
- interferes with descending function of Lungs

- extreme heat
- upward direction
- often complicated by dampness


Which Element Are You? Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal or Water?

Day 8

by Gene Chuah

Yesterday’s class was the most spirited so far. The energy level, excitement and participation were the highest they’ve ever been since we started. It was a time of deep introspection and discoveries about ourselves and others. We talked about life and death, growing and letting go, how each person has distinct and unique qualities, and self-realization / self-awareness.

Before we discuss the Five Elements as personality types, let’s first describe the properties of each Element, some of them revisited from the last class.

Image from showing how the 5 Elements relate to the seasons :

The beauty of each of these Elements that each and every one of them is needed. There is no one “better” than another; each one has a role to play. Also, in the Generating Cycle, where we traverse Wood -> Fire -> Earth -> Metal -> Water, each phase is necessary and must “ripen” before the next phase can be started.

Again here is the list of the main correspondences of the 5 Elements, from Day 7 :

Keywords: birth, baby, crying, youth, fighting the world, adolescence, seed bursting through shell, growth, change (rapid), impulsive, excitement, unaware, violence, exploration, aggression, raw, rebellious, impressionable, excess, new beginnings, development, curiosity, resilience, innocence, learning, freshness, feistiness, adaptability, idealism, freedom (new breaking from old), revolution.
The Liver is quick to respond, has the qualities of Wood.
Spring cleansing for the body happens in Spring, detoxifying the Liver is important during this time. Many plants that sprout in spring like Dandelion and Stinging Nettle are good for the Liver.

Generally age 30-40. Keywords: achievements, aspirations, creativity, productivity, joy, laughter, unity, understanding, passion, brightness, desire, excitement (with awareness), awareness.
Coffee (Bitter) roasted (Fire) –> goes to Heart. Too much also hurts the Heart (palpitations, high blood pressure, murmurs).
Bitter foods in general affect the Heart (whether positively or negatively).

“Blessed routine” element; generally age 40-60. Time to enjoy fruits of the harvest/labor. Midlife crisis tends to happen here because Earth is at equilibrium in both Yin and Yang components. In this case Yin represents the routine of being settled, while Yang is still present to drive the energy of change (perhaps a career change?).
An apt picture is that of a monastery with singing/chanting and sweet incense (see chart).
Keywords: grounded, stable, settled, centered, maturity, family-oriented, responsibility, accountability, serving the community.

Typically age 60-70. Keywords: somber (sadness of Lungs), harsh, realizations, retrospection, looking inward (beginning to), asking the questions “What have I accomplished/missed/lost?”, letting go (of illusions, leaves in Fall), “Who am I?”, excellence, sharp/polished, clarity, minimalist, authentic (without fluff/layers/illusions/masks), cold, cutting, a “reality check”. Metal, like Water, are the “spiritual” stages. One way that Metal corresponds to the color white is because the roots of underground bulbs are white. Pungent taste corresponds to Metal because these bulbs/roots (onion, garlic, ginger) are pungent too. Eating these foods expels Sweat from the Lungs. The associated emotion is grief, and we can picture the sobbing / heaving of Lungs while crying. Crying is the release, and I think of Metal as the element of catharsis or letting go.

Age: typically 70+. Keywords: rest, withdrawal, acceptance, surrender (no resistance), enlightenment, stillness, “being” vs. doing, and death. Even though Water represents death, it also represents the “womb” of new beginnings (remember that the next in sequence is the restart of the cycle at Wood). There is water from the uterus at birth — it marks the end/death of a cycle (pregnancy, life in the womb) and it also nurtures new life. Embryos are surrounded by water, and one view is that life began in the oceans.

Life Stages
There is a poetic beauty to this cycle, as applied to the life stages of a person. In youth, there is exuberance, excitement, expansion and drive, with plenty of energy for anger if blocked or frustrated (Wood). Then they mature in their career or life’s path, and are productive, like a fire burning or an engine chugging away (Fire), and doing so with gusto (an aware kind of excitement, not the raw, naive type in Wood). They reach the pinnacle of their productivity in mid-life, and are now “stable” and can reap the fruits of their labour and settle in to a “blessed routine”, with room to help/serve others, including their family (Earth). After the top of the hill, it’s downhill, and with this realization comes some sorrow, perhaps regret while looking back and asking the hard, cutting questions (Metal). Now this is where things get interesting, and this is where I will be adding a lot of my own insights. Of course, to you, they’re outsights, but that’s only cos you’re on the outside. :-)

On the pessimistic side, the Metal stage of life represents “losing what you used to have” (youth, health, energy, anything important to you). But remember, we said that there is no Element that is better than the others, or worse. So, pessimistic as Metal sounds, what is the good side? Metal phase is really the start of enlightenment. Dr. Wayne Dyer says it ever so sweetly and succinctly in his film, The Shift From Ambition To Meaning. Basically (I’m mostly paraphrasing him but also adding my own thoughts), the real motivation behind ambition is the fear that we are insufficient and incomplete until we acquire or attain _______ (fill in the blank). Everything we do in life can be distilled down to these two basic motives, Love and Fear. When you were in the womb, everything you needed was provided for you. It was the ultimate time of peace and all-encompassing Love. After you were born in to this world, somehow you forgot this connection, and the cares of the world started weighing you down. You became preoccupied with defining yourself through (1) what you own, (2) what you’ve achieved, and (3) what people think of you. You took on an E.G.O. (edging God out). Somehow you started thinking that you are separate from the Divine Source of Love (God), the same source that provided for you in the womb. You forgot that you were made in the image of God, which means that a part of God is always within you (remember that God breathed life into Man; that breath is Spirit). You succumbed to fear, and decided to take charge of your own life. The Metal season is a time of looking inward, just as a tree loses its leaves in fall, we still recognize that the tree is still alive — if you were to cut a cross section (although I forbid you to), you would see that the tree is full of life and vitality in its core being, even though it has lost its leaves. This applies to you as well. You are the Soul. You are not your possessions, treasures, achievements or friends. You are already connected to everything in the Universe in spirit, so you never really “lose” anything you don’t already have. (Dr. Dyer goes on to say that all you need is to bring it about, and that you don’t attract what you want, but rather you attract what you are.)

The Metal stage has its own beauty because it may not necessarily have to apply when one hits age 60; in fact it applies when we reach a point in our life when we feel we have lost something that (we thought) defines us (Five Elements applies as much to microcosms as it does to macrocosms). When you are able to make peace with yourself, to see yourself as you truly are (a beloved child of the Universe/God), even in the process of losing your _______ (fill in the blank) which was so precious to you (Smeagol had the same problem), when you you are able to let go of all your leaves, attachments, excess layers of illusion, baggage, you are ready for the next stage.

Which brings us to Water, the element of completion, acceptance, enlightenment. It could mean death, but it could also mean a time of rest before the rebirth. Time for the land to lay fallow. This stage is really a stage of union with God (that’s really what enlightenment is). When we have cast off all our excess baggage, illusions and attachments, we find peace and bliss here. When one is at peace with themselves and others, having said whatever would otherwise have been left unsaid, without any regrets to leave behind, one is ready to pass on. The Water stage is different from the others because it is about “being” while the other phases are about “doing“.

These stages do not strictly correspond to the suggested chronological age ranges; one could be young and still have gone through the cycles — whether in terms of soul realization (attaining enlightenment before physically dying), or on a microcosmic scale. Here’s a working example. As a teen, I had a nice “racer” bicycle whose parts I enthusiastically upgraded over 2 years, and I even gave it a nice custom paint job with fancy decals (which made people think it was a more expensive bike) (Wood). I enjoyed riding it around and gained some recognition for “having a cool bike” (Fire). My bike and I were best of pals, and it took me places on a regular basis (Earth). One day, I lost it to some bike thieves. Of course I went through the pain of loss, but was able to let go and realized that I had become too attached to it in an unhealthy way, and realized that the theft was a blessing in disguise (Metal). Eventually I was at peace with it (Water). Later on, I got a new bike… (back to Wood)

And now, on to our personality types! Which one are you?

The Five Elements as Personality Types and Archetypes

WOOD | The Pioneer
Keywords: leader, entrepreneur, visionary, authentic, direct, sight (Liver corresponds to eyes), goal-oriented, action-oriented, wants to be first/best, thrives on competition, seeks challenges, maverick, rebel, ambitious, driven, quick, flexible, committed, high libido.
Dysfunctional: anger, stress, frustration, aggression, judgemental, impatient, rude, hard on self, intolerant, selfish/egotistical, rigid.
Physical ailments: pain, migrating pain due to Wind, headaches, migraines (high-strung), muscle spasms, PMS, blurry vision (burned Yin), night blindness, sensitivity to light (Liver-related), TMJ, grinding teeth (Liver Wind), high blood pressure / hypertension (also Liver, an outward expanding type of pressure).

FIRE | The Wizard
Keywords: clown, comedian, actor, extrovert, talkative, joyful, excited, jolly & lively. Some examples: Robin Williams (especially when he’s doing stand-up and getting all red), Eddie Murphy, Jim Carey. Also applies to Fidel Castro and Hitler.
Dysfunctional: narcissistic, manic, hysteria, loud, tactless, foolish, irresponsible, suicidal, high anxiety.
Physical ailments: insomnia, palpitations, heart issues, skin rashes, redness, mental disorders, addictions (including psychoactive drugs), constipation.

EARTH | The Peacemaker
Keywords: altruistic, social worker, empathic, serving the community, responsible, “backstage” worker, shuns the limelight, pleasant, stable, supportive, sweet, caring, predictable, nurtring, the “martyr”, “Mother Earth”. Remember that Earth is in the center (see Correspondences chart), just as the mother is the center of a family. Has a relationship with food. Some examples: Albert Schweitzer, Jane Goodall, Oprah.
Dysfunctional: worrying (e.g. about the kids), worrying themselves sick, overcarrying the weight as a subconscious ulterior motive to create dependency (see below, “The Loneliness of The Earth”), possessive, clingy (Earth likes to accumulate, collect), having lots of friends due to insecurity, overthinking, dependent, busy arguing with themselves, self-doubting.
Physical ailments: digestive issues, bloating, edema/distension, eating disorders (dysfunctional relationship with food), overweight/underweight, insatiable or poor appetite, slow metabolism, soft muscles, lympathic problems, soft lumps, swollen glands, varicose veins, slow healing of cuts, bruise easily, lethargy, hemorroids, prolapse of organs, sadness, feeling unappreciated & lonely.

METAL | The Alchemist
Keywords: calculated, organized, logical, likes definitions & boundaries, cut & dry, militaristic, driven by rules, structure, discipline, admires authority, perfection, precise, accurate, cold efficiency, robotic. Careers: engineers, soldiers/police, accountants, ballerinas, bankers, computer programmers.
Dysfunctional: autocratic, rigid, self-righteous, overbearing, strict, formal, impersonal, distant, close-minded, regimented, conformist, sadness/grief due to suppressing emotions and not feeling human / not enjoying life (no juice/fun).
Physical ailments: dryness overall and of skin, hair, nose, throat, asthma, allergies, stiffness of joints, nasal-sounding voice, constipation (mentally as well), poor circulation, anemic/pale, sinus issues, autism. On the other hand, due to their regimented nature, Metal people can also have robust health (good habits/routine).

WATER | The Philosopher
Keywords: self-contained, introspective, self-sufficient, like a cat that always lands on its feet, adaptable, adjusts to situations quickly, smooth, smart, articulate (comes from self-acceptance), clear, self-aware, self-assured (no self-doubt), they flow, independent, perceptive, balanced, inquisitive, curious, seeking knowledge/understanding, prefer to stay anonymous, mysterious. Some examples: Albert Einstein, Indiana Jones.
Dysfunctional: detached, aloof, inaccessible, isolated, lonely, unforgiving, suspicious, manipulative, chameleon-like. Polar opposite of Wood which is direct and authentic. They are the one in your school yearbook that nobody knows much about.
Physical ailments: infertility, sexual/libido issues, impotence, spinal / lower back issues, problems with bones, teeth, prostate; loss of hearing and memory.

The Loneliness of The Earth
We talked about a pattern that Earth people, especially women, fall into. Coincidentally, it was also an issue addressed in Dr. Dyer’s film. Because women tend to be expected to play the role of mother and be the central figure that keeps a home together, they may feel constricted by this and question their self-worth. It becomes a question of “who would I be if I didn’t have this role”? On a personal note, I’ve seen this in families. The mother/wife feels unappreciated, and in some cases even takes on more than her fair share of the responsibilities by not delegating / teaching the kids to share some of the housework; this is done with a subconscious ulterior motive of reinforcing their role and thus their self-worth, since they (erroneously) believe that their worth depends on their role. And yet they feel this emptiness and yearning to be recognized as a whole person, regardless of the role they have been identified with. The solution, again, is what we discussed earlier: to let go of the attachment to their role, and realize that at the core they are already complete, appreciated, and of infinite worth. As Dr. Dyer says (again I paraphrase), they should recognize that in addition to (or despite?) their role as wife and mother, they are equally entitled to contribute something special to this world, to “sing the song they were meant to sing” (my words).

Fun With The Elements

During a class break we had fun categorizing Lord Of The Rings races (thanks Rachel, Ron and Pantea) :
FIRE: Gandalf (not a race, I know)
EARTH: Hobbits
METAL: Dwarves
WATER: Elves

When I got home, I categorized some countries/regions as well:
FIRE: Latin America
EARTH: Switzerland, Asia, any country with a community-oriented culture
METAL: Germany!
WATER: Britain, Canada

Do you know which Element you are?

UPDATE 2013-07-18 :

Here is how I categorized the characters from Kung Fu Panda. It will make sense if you watch Dreamworks’ Secrets Of The Furious Five which explains the origins of each character.

Mantis : WOOD
“The world went by too slow for Mantis.”

Crane : FIRE
Started as a janitor, but through dilligence to his work, “Even his hat was full of confidence.”

Monkey : EARTH
“Find the one thing that you were denied so long ago… Compassion.”

Tigress : METAL
“This game requires discipline, precision, a still hand and a steady heart.”

Viper : WATER
“My deceptive dancing defies your poison-proof armor.”

Po the Panda (the Dragon Warrior) : EARTH and FIRE


The 5 Elements and the Passing of the Seasons

Day 7

by Gene Chuah

Five Elements Theory (Wu Xing) is another important model in TCM, alongside the Yin-Yang Model, for understanding observable phenomena in the universe. I think of it as the “rise and fall model” where everything goes through 5 phases, and repeats the process, perhaps after a “rebirth”. Each phase corresponds to one of the 5 Elements, and each has a unique set of characteristics different from the others. Five Elements Theory has deep wisdom that can be applied to many things, including the lifecycle of stars (astronomy), organ interactions, and the rise and fall of empires.

The name Five Elements is somewhat of a misnomer, as “element” implies something that is static. The truth is that this model has both static and dynamic aspects. Some other names that have been suggested are: Five Phases, Five Movements, Five Activities, and Five Agents. In any case, each phase is represented by an element, and they are : Wood (木 mù), Fire (火 huǒ), Earth (土 tǔ), Metal (金 jīn), and Water (水 shuǐ).

Taken from another angle, the Five Elements can be translated as follows (Needham):
Wood : solidity, workability
Fire : heat, combustion
Earth : nutrition
Metal : solidity, congelation, moldability
Water : liquidity, fluidity, solution

In another variation (Cosmological Sequence), the Earth element is placed in the center.

The 5 Elements can be traversed in 4 Sequences:
A. Generating Sequence (Promotion/Creation/Supporting) [node+1, node-1 if insulting]
B.1. Controlling Sequence (keeps in check, but also gives benefit to) [node+2]
B.2. Overcontrolling/Overacting Sequence (grandparent abusing grandchild) [node+2]
C. Insulting Sequence (grandchild disrespecting grandparent) [node-2]

Generating (Sheng) Sequence (and yes it goes by other names) :

Diagram from showing Generating, Controlling, Overacting, and Insulting Sequences :

Some of the main correspondences of the Five Elements :






Yang Organ Gall Bladder Small Intestine Stomach Large Intestine Bladder


Yin-Yang Lesser Yang Utmost Yang Balanced Lesser Yin Utmost Yin


Seasons Spring Summer End of season, or
Fall Winter


Climate (pathogenic) Wind Heat Dampness Dryness Cold


Time First half of day;
Second half of day; Noon/afternoon Afternoon/evening,
or Transition
First half of night Second half of night


Compass Directions East South Center West North


Movement Outward (expansion) Upward
Center/neutral Inward (contraction) Downward


Nature Birth;
focus on roots/bulbs


Human Development Birth Growth Maturity,


Color Green Red Yellow White Black


Taste Sour Bitter Sweet Pungent/spicy Salty


Sounds Shouting Laughter Singing Weeping/crying Groaning/


Sense Organ Eyes (sight) Tongue (speech) Mouth (taste) Nose (smell) Ears (hearing)


Body Tissue Sinews, tendons, ligaments Blood vessels Muscles, flesh Skin, body hair Bones


Emotion Anger Joy Worry/pensiveness Grief/sadness Fear


Tongue Location (diagnosis) Sides Tip Center Posterior of tip Root

Descriptions of the Five Elements

Keywords: birth, baby, crying, fighting the world, adolescence, seed bursting through shell, growth, change (rapid), impulsive, excitement, unaware, violence, exploration, aggression, raw, rebellious, impressionable, excess, new beginnings, development, curiosity, resilience, innocence, learning, freshness, feistiness, adaptability, idealism, freedom (new breaking from old), revolution.
The Liver is quick to respond, has the qualities of Wood.
Spring cleansing for the body happens in Spring, detoxifying the Liver is important during this time. Many plants that sprout in spring like Dandelion and Stinging Nettle are good for the Liver.

Generally age 30-40. Keywords: achievements, aspirations, creativity, productivity, joy, laughter, unity, understanding, passion, brightness, desire, excitement (with awareness), awareness.
Coffee (Bitter) roasted (Fire) –> goes to Heart. Too much also hurts the Heart (palpitations, high blood pressure, murmurs).
Bitter foods in general affect the Heart (whether positively or negatively).

“Blessed routine” element; generally age 40-60. Time to enjoy fruits of the harvest/labor. Midlife crisis tends to happen here because Earth is at equilibrium in both Yin and Yang components. In this case Yin represents the routine of being settled, while Yang is still present to drive the energy of change (perhaps a career change?).
An apt picture is that of a monastery with Singing/chanting and Sweet incense.
Keywords: grounded, stable, settled, centered, maturity, family-oriented, responsibility, accountability, serving the community.

Remaining Elements to be covered in next class (I don’t write these subtopics in the same order they were presented in class). We ran out of time.

Examples of the Overacting Sequence (from textbook) :

The Liver overacts on the Stomach and Spleen: if Liver Qi stagnates, it “invades” both the Stomach, impairing its function of rotting and ripening, and the Spleen, impairing its function of transforming and transporting. In particular, when Liver Qi invades the Stomach, it prevents Stomach Qi from descending, which causes nausea, and it prevents Spleen Qi from ascending, which causes diarrhea (see Day 6 for Organ Qi directions).

The Heart overacts on the Lungs: Heart Fire can dry up the Lung fluids and cause Lung Yin Deficiency.

The Spleen overacts on the Kidneys: when the Spleen holds Dampness, this can obstruct the Kidneys’ function of transformation and excretion of fluids.

The Lungs overact on the Liver: Lung Heat or Phlegm Heat may be transmitted to the Liver.

The Kidneys overact on the Heart: if Kidney Yin is deficient, Empty Heat forms and this can be transmitted to the Heart.

Examples of the Insulting Sequence (from textbook) :

The Liver insults the Lungs: Liver Qi can stagnate upwards and obstruct the chest and breathing. Liver Fire may also obstruct the descending of Lung Qi and cause asthma.

The Heart insults the Kidneys: Heart Fire can infuse downwards to the Kidneys and cause Kidney Yin Deficiency.

The Spleen insults the Liver: if the Spleen retains Dampness, this can overflow and impair the free flow of Liver Qi.

The Lungs insult the Heart: if the Lungs are obstructed by Phlegm, they can impair the circulation of Heart Qi.

The Kidneys insult the Spleen: if the Kidneys fail to transform fluids, the Spleen will suffer and become obstructed by Dampness.

Examples of Pathology in Generating Sequence (from textbook, with some “improvements”) :

These can be summed up into 4 categories:
1. Mother not nourishing Child element (Deficiency)
2. Mother over-nourishing Child element (Excess)
3. Child taking too much from Mother element (Deficiency)
4. Child taking too little from Mother element (Excess)

The Liver (mother) affecting the Heart (child): this happens when the Liver fails to nourish the Heart. Specifically, when Liver Blood is deficient, it often affects Heart Blood, which becomes deficient; palpitations and insomnia ensue.

The Heart (child) affecting the Liver (mother): if Heart Blood is deficient, it can lead to general deficiency of Blood, which will affect the Liver storage of Blood. This causes scanty periods or amenorrhoea.

The Heart (mother) affecting the Spleen (child): the Mind of the Heart needs to support the mental faculties and capacity for concentration, which belong to the Spleen. Another aspect of this relationship is in Heart Fire deficient being unable to warm Spleen Yang and leading to cold feeling and diarrhea. Ultimately however, the physiological Fire of the Heart is itself derived from Kidney Yang.

The Spleen (child) affecting the Heart (mother): the Spleen makes Qi and Blood and the Heart needs a strong supply of Blood. If the Spleen does not make enough Blood, the Heart will suffer, and palpitations, insomnia, poor memory and slight depression will ensue.

The Spleen (mother) affecting the Lungs (child): if the Spleen’s function of transformation and transportation of fluids is impaired, Phlegm will be formed. Phlegm often settles in the Lungs and causes breathlessness and asthma.

The Lungs (child) affecting the Spleen (mother): the Lungs govern Qi and, if Lung Qi is deficient, Spleen Qi will be affected causing tiredness, no appetite and loose stools. In practice, Spleen Qi and Lung Qi deficiency often occur together.

The Lungs (mother) affecting the Kidneys (child): Lung Qi normally descends toward the Kidneys, which “hold” it down. Also, the Lungs send fluids down to the Kidneys. If Lung Qi is deficient, Qi and fluids cannot descend to the Kidneys, causing breathlessness (Kidneys unable to receive Qi) and dryness of the Kidneys.

The Kidneys (child) affecting the Lungs (mother): if Kidney Qi is deficient it will fail to hold Qi down; Qi will rebel upwards and obstruct the Lungs causing breathlessness.

The Kidneys (mother) affecting the Liver (child): Kidney Yin nourishes Liver Yin and Liver Blood. If Kidney Yin is deficient, Liver Yin and/or Liver Blood will be come deficient and give rise to tinnitus, dizziness, headaches and irritability. This particular relationships is one of the most important and common in clinical practice.

The Liver (child) affecting the Kidneys (mother): Liver Blood nourishes and replenishes the Kidney Essence. If Liver Blood is deficient over a long period of time, it can contribute to deficiency of Kidney Essence, causing dizziness, tinnitus, poor bone development and sexual weakness.

Summing Up The Cycles :

Each Element can be out of balance in one of 6 ways :
1. it is deficient and fails to nourish its Child (GIVES TOO LITTLE)
2. it is in excess and over-nourishes its Child (GIVES TOO MUCH)
3. it is deficient and is insulted by another (Insulting Sequence)
4. it draws insufficiently from its Mother causing her excess (TAKES TOO LITTLE)
5. it draws excessively from its Mother element causing her deficiency (TAKES TOO MUCH)
6. it is in excess and overacts on another (Overacting Sequence)

On another topic… Body Fluids :

The Spleen is a crucial originator of Body Fluids which include nasal mucus, sweat, tears, saliva, gastric fluids and bile.

The Kidneys regulate the “mist” in the Upper Jiao (Heart + Lungs) (remember that the Kidneys are the source of Water and Fire).

Predominant Yang can be caused by external factors like stress, which burns Yin and thus depletes Body Fluids (Yin Deficiency). On the other hand, Body Fluids can be in excess (e.g. due to Kidney Yang Deficiency), causing excessive mucus/phlegm. This in turn can affect the mind/Shen, e.g. mental fogginess.

Sweat is actually considered a “pure” Body Fluid and should not be wasted (sweating is a necessary evil). Excessive sweating (e.g. from too many Hot Yoga or sauna sessions back-to-back) will burn up valuable Sweat which ultimately will burn up Kidney Yin. Another way of saying this is: if you already have a Kidney Yin Deficiency, avoid excessive sweating!

The quality of Sweat is different during the Day vs. at Night. Day Sweat is more Yang (more diluted), whereas Night Sweat is more Yin (thicker, cooler). However Night Sweats are not the norm, and are indicative of Yin Deficiency (insufficient Yin to keep the Yang in check, which opens pores an expels Sweat). This is destructive to health in the long term.

Body Fluids have 2 subtypes :
1. Jin : more Yang, thinner, clear, nourishes, moistens, skin, muscles (exterior), Day Sweat
2. Ye : more Yin, thicker, lubricates organs, nourishes bones, brain, Night Sweat


Overall, Body Fluids are considered Yin (e.g. relative to Qi, and because they’re wet/cooling). In Yin Deficiency, all Body Fluids can be in shortage. Dehydration happens from the outside->in. For example, excessive sweating will start to pull Yin from Blood, causing Blood Yin Deficiency, which in turn will deplete Jing. Insufficient water intake can cause this (starting with Jin-Ye depletion). Night Sweats are called “thief sweats” because they steal from the Blood, then from Jing.

Recap: difference between Yang Excess and Yin Deficiency :
Yang Excess: Day & Night Sweats
Yin Deficiency: Night Sweats, hot flashes

Disharmonies of Body Fluids

1. Deficiency: dryness of tissues: mouth, eyes, etc.
2. Accumulation (excess): edema, phlegm, etc.



Rebellious Qi: Rebel With A Cause

Day 6

by Gene Chuah

It’s natural law. To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. What goes up must come down. Things that get blocked, don’t stay blocked for very long. If something is pent up, it will explode at some point. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, “Rebellious Qi” is basically any energy flow that breaks out of the established pattern. But we’re not talking about James Dean, being a rebel just for the sake of it. Purposeful rebels are not always a bad thing. Gandhi was one. Mother Theresa in many ways was one too. Even Jesus in his time, was such a rebel that they killed him. And the Rebel Alliance definitely had The Force with them.

But before we can rebel, we need to understand the establishment. All organs and “organ groups” (common pairings or sets in TCM) have established directions of Qi flow. Let’s take a look at the 5 main organs: the Spleen, Lungs, Kidneys, Heart and Liver. Keep in mind that most of the time, Rebellious Qi is disruptive; however the point is that there is always a reason (purpose?) that it came about. Seeing the correct flow of things helps us understand why or how Rebellious Qi might arise. Time to break out the drawing tablet and make some pretty pictures:

1. SPLEEN Established Qi direction: Upward

Carbs (esp. refined) are bad for weak Spleen.
Weak Spleen: stagnation, bloating.
Healthy Spleen: clear mind, focused (energy goes upward to mind)
Don’t be puzzled, the Stomach is in this diagram but compared to the Spleen, it is somewhat secondary. The Stomach is responsible for initial processing of food, and sends its products to the Spleen for finer processing. The Spleen (again, recall that we really mean “function of the intestines”) has a bigger role overall in TCM.
Notice the Rebellious Qi here in orange.

2. LUNGS Established Qi direction: Downward and Outward

Qi of Lungs (from breathing) powers the Kidneys.
Poor air or breathing leads to weak Wei (Defensive) Qi. Symptoms: cold hands, recurring colds, spontaneous cold sweats on slight exertion; “pores too weak to remain closed”. Conversely, with good breathing and air quality, Wei Qi is strong.
The Lungs & Kidneys are correlated in health. One affects the other. In good health, one is able to have full inhalation and exhalation.
Cough is considered “rebellious Qi”. Weak incessant coughing usually due to weak Lungs or poor air quality. In this case Kidneys are unable to “grasp” the Air Qi from Lungs (could be weak Kidneys too). In many cases coughing is purposeful: to unblock the Lungs.
Allergic asthma: main symptom is whistling sound when breathing. This is due to phlegm in the nasal passages.
Allergens in TCM are considered Wind Heat. They burn up fluids of the Lungs (Yin). This makes sense considering saline nasal spray, nose drops or the Neti Pot are effective treatments for most breathing allergies. Saline = salt and Salt = Yin, which counteracts the Yang-burn.

3. KIDNEYS Established Qi direction: Upward and Downward

Lungs deliver “mist”/”vapor”/”moisture” to Kidneys to be harmonized energetically (e.g. more hot or cold).
Kidneys send Water to Lungs if they’re dry, or Fire to strengthen. Kidneys send to the Heart in the same fashion; this is to regulate the energetic temperature of these organs.
In old age, weaker Kidneys affects urination (takes longer to start and stop), particularly for men.

4. HEART Established Qi direction: Downward

Heart needs to move Qi downward as an outlet. Otherwise if blocked somehow, one symptom is heart palpitations. If this is triggered by only slight exertion, then look to Heart Qi Deficiency as the culprit. Blocked Heart Qi can also result in insomnia. Since the Heart houses the Shen (spirit), too much Heart Heat can cause anxiety (spirit is restless).

5. LIVER Established Qi direction: Outward and Upward

The Liver is the “Energetic Fan”. No you silly, I’m not talking about a Toronto Maple Leafs spectator. The Liver, although one of the Yin Organs, has a Yang energy to it because it is constantly moving energy, particularly the energy of emotions. The Liver allows you to move on from one emotion to another. Liver Qi stagnation is equated with frustration, irritability and anger. Here’s the interesting thing: in TCM, the 7 emotions each has a corresponding Organ. Too much of one emotion will affect the corresponding Organ. Conversely, dysfunction of an Organ can result in the manifesting of its corresponding emotion. Cause and effect can happen in either direction (see my previous blog post on this phenomenon). This means that you can treat the Organ by lessening the emotion, but it also means that you can treat the emotional issue by treating the Organ.
Back to the Liver: main causes of Liver Qi Stagnation are: stress, inability to express yourself (e.g. under oppression), frustration. Without an outlet, a pent-up explosion of anger will occur. Constant sighing is a sign of Liver frustration (i.e. anger).
For more on the 7 Emotions of TCM, see this snapshot taken from

Combined view for Lungs, Heart, Kidneys

So far we’ve focused on each Organ and its directions for Qi flow. Above here’s a combined view of the ones that intersect.

Overall Qi as a function of age

Overall Qi levels rise and fall over a lifetime. If one’s Kidneys are already weak in childhood, they will also face Kidney-related issues in old age. One of the symptoms is difficulty in inhaling fully. In mid-life, however, things shift and if there is difficulty in exhaling fully, it points to Lung and Spleen issues. Conversely, a sign of good health is when one can inhale and exhale fully.

Pathologies of Qi

1. Deficiency of Qi
Can usually be pinpointed to an Organ.
* Tiredness <-- Spleen, Lung, Kidney Qi Deficiency (the Qi-generating Organs!)
* Tiredness, slow digestion, soft stools <-- Spleen Qi Deficiency
* Shortness of breath, spontaneous cold sweating <-- Lung Qi Deficiency
* Paleness, heart palpitations (on slight exertion) <-- Heart Qi Deficiency

2. Qi Sinking/Collapsing (Extreme Qi Deficiency)
Oh boyoes! In extreme Qi Deficiency, you get a collapse. The house falls because its foundation is gone. Symptoms: prolapse of organs, pathological hemorrhoids, chronic cold diarrhea. In serious cases, expect fainting, unconsciousness, or even coma. Without energy, there can be no spark of life.

3. Qi Stagnation (excess)
To recap from Day One: Excess will cause blockage or stagnation, which leads to pain. Think traffic jam. This can manifest (1) in an energetic channel, causing local pain, or (2) in an Organ, causing pain (e.g. Lung Qi stagnation -> chest constriction) or internal/systemic problems (e.g. Liver Qi stagnation causing frustrated emotions).
Excess/blockage/stagnation can actually be caused by a Deficiency farther up the chain. For example: Spleen Qi Stagnation (maybe due to Weak Spleen) reverses normal upward Qi flow from Spleen, causing bloating/distension.
Sometimes Excess can also be caused by a sudden (external?) disruption, for example stubbing your toe. A Yang reaction happens in response to the sudden Qi blockage/stagnation.

4. Rebellious Qi
Any Qi that flows against, or is different from, the established/regular order/pattern, is considered Rebellious Qi. As mentioned, most of the time it is “out of place” or disruptive, but it can also be beneficial in the sense that sometimes it initiates an “unblocking” or a change that is needed (albeit uncomfortable at first). Sounds like Marin Luther King Jr, no?

Now that we’ve covered enough on Qi, we move on to another Fundamental Body Substance, Blood.

Blood Basics
* Blood is denser form of Qi (more Yin).
* Blood is inseparable from Qi.
* Qi moves (pushes) Blood; Blood is the mother of Qi.
* Qi gives life and movement to Blood, but Blood nourishes the Organs that produce Qi.

When we speak of Blood in TCM we can mean the physical kind that flows in blood vessels, as well as the energetic kind that flows in Qi channels. Blood and Qi are interdependent; one needs to be strong for the other to be strong, and vice versa.

Pathologies of Blood/Qi:
* Qi weak, Blood strong –> heart attack (Qi can’t push Blood)
* Qi stagnant –> Blood Stagnation/Stasis
* Qi+Blood Deficiency (usually go together)
* Blood Deficiency –> dizziness, lack of mental focus, premature greying/baldness
* Blood Deficiency <-- shallow breathing <-- Lung dysfunction

Creation of Blood

This looks very similar to our Qi Synthesis Flowchart from Day 5, but one key difference is the role of the Heart. The Heart makes the Blood circulate in its vessels, but we knew that already. What we didn’t know was that in TCM, the Heart is the Emperor who gives the Blood its red color by stamping it with his official seal using red ink. He approves mightily.
Pathologies of the Heart:
* coldness <-- Heart Qi/Yang Deficiency
* low energy <-- Heart Qi Deficiency
* poor appetite <-- Heart Qi Deficiency
* pale complexion <-- Heart & Blood Qi Deficiency

The Spleen is the main Orgain in Blood production (see flowchart). The Spleen is also the “governor” for Ying (Nutritive) Qi (contrasting with Lungs which govern Wei (Defensive) Qi). Yin Qi is considered part of the Blood. Blood, as well as Ying Qi, are important for the nourishment of internal organs. Too much mental stress weakens the Spleen, which causes a vicous cycle (see Day 5). Adding stress as a factor here goes something like this :

Stress -> Spleen damage -> weak Spleen -> crave & eat Sweet foods -> more Speen damage -> tiredness, brain fog, inability to cope -> more stress -> repeat cycle.

Quick recap of the circadian rhythm, or “Chinese clock” in TCM: the Liver stores Blood at night, e.g. it is active and processing at 1-3am. The Liver is responsible for the quality and quantity of Blood. There is an excellent interactive “Organ clock” here, with (static) screenshot here.

Functions of Blood

1. Nourishes the body
Blood circulates, transports substances and nourishment to organs, skin, muscles, tendons, sinews, ligaments, orifices, etc.
* Dizziness <-- lack of nourishment of Shen from the Blood
* Poor eyesight, floaters, night blindness <-- weak Blood (/Liver)
* Numbness of limbs <-- Blood Deficiency, or Blood not flowing in its channel; contrast this with Western (mis-diagnosis) of nerve dysfunction
* Numbness/tingling due to sleeping without turning <-- Blood Stagnation <-- Qi Deficiency

2. Moistens body tissues
Soft, supple skin and hair for instance. As one ages, their overall Qi as well as Blood health declines, and body tissues are not as moist; as we age, we tend to “dry up”. Menopause is actually a form of Yin Deficiency, exhibiting symptoms like vaginal dryness. Excess Heat can also be to blame. Dry sinews tear easier (prone to sports injuries, for instance). Another symptom of weak Blood is dry eyes (feels like sand).

3. Mental activity
When Blood is strong in terms of quality and quantity, one is mentally calm, happy, and able to focus (Shen is balanced). Blood “grounds” the Shen (spirit), housed in the Heart. Pathologies include anxiety, insomnia, sadness, disturbed dreams. Remember that the Spleen (intestines) is crucial in Blood creation? The new science shows that there is gut-brain connection. Studies performed by Dr. Wakefield and duplicated by others, prove this. Google this topic here, they tried to shut this whistleblower down so it’s worth exploring both sides (be careful, one side is motivated by money, not truth).

Disharmonies of the Blood

1. Deficiency due to poor diet, trauma/shock causing loss of blood, or Organ dysfunction (e.g. Spleen, or Lungs).

2. Heat in the Blood. Symptoms: fever, excessive sweating, red complexion, insomnia, disturbed dreams/hallucinations, mental restlessness/illness (bipolar, manic-depressive), skin conditions (ulcers, carbuncles, furuncles), meningitis->psoriasis, cold sores (this one is a misnomer, should really be heat sores). Chemotherapy and radiotherapy cause excessive Heat in the Blood (very damaging). Other causes: too much coffee, red meat, spicy foods, alcohol, even toxic emotions. We could say that Blood Excess Heat = Toxin Overload (physical or emotional). Also, lack of sleep or sleeping out-of-cycle long-term will cause Heat in the Blood.

3. Blood Stasis: it’s not moving! Symptoms: usually sharp, strong/stabbing pain. If the case of Heart Blood Stasis, heart attack is the result, or angina pectoris (chest pain <-- obstruction or spasm of the coronary arteries). In the brain, Blood Stasis could be caused by blood clotting <-- brain aneurysm. This is very dangerous because the brain in TCM is considered one of the Jing-carrying substances as well.
Etiology (causation): excess Cold. Here is how this typically progresses: extremities get cold first --> pain –> numb (no Blood flowing) –> Cold has “conquered” –> turn blue or bluish-purple –> lose a limb, oh noes !!

Now on to our next Wonder Substance, or as the proper folk like to say, Fundamental Substance… the oft-mentioned but never-fully-explained Shen, or spirit.

Shen (spirit)

I actually know someone Chinese with this name. The actual word in Pinyin is Shén and the vowel sounds more like the one in “stern” than in “men”. Hear it at Google Translate and to see the Chinese character. Yes folks, it’s true, we each are a trinity of Mind, Body and Spirit, a fact recognized in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

The Shen also represents vitality, consciousness and mental health. In TCM it resides in the Heart, is housed (grounded, nourished) by the Blood. Shen is responsible for wisdom, creativity, emotional intelligence, insight, intuition, sixth sense, and awareness of ourselves as distinct from the environment. The Shen enables one to be aware of (and choose to follow) social norms. This reminds me of a concept I studied in Psychology, self-monitoring.

If the Shen is disturbed in a person (e.g. due to trauma), it will not be grounded, and in extreme cases can be dispersed or even temporarily displaced. The results vary: restlessness, anxiety, mindlessness, confusion, even terror or insanity.

Shen enters the body upon conception, and leaves during death. It is eternal, being Spirit; it is the part of us that never dies (law of conservation of energy: energy can be neither created nor destroyed, but can be transferred) and many belief systems subscribe to the idea of reincarnation. Whatever you believe, the concept of Shen is essential in TCM because it explains and helps predict many things. Shen is considered pure (Yang) energy and because it is so pure, is easily disturbed.

Now for the fun (but possibly scary) part… we learned how true the adage “the eyes are the window of the soul” is, with the concept of “sanpaku” (Japanese word, meaning “3 whites of the eyes”). It’s a big topic but I’ll let you research it yourself here in words or in pictures (each worth a thousand words). Now wait a minute, why is the eye on the US dollar bill a sanpaku eye?

Some Other Items We Discussed In Yesterday’s Class

* The Brain is known as the “Sea of Marrow” and contains Jing like the Kidneys and spinal cord.
* Diabetes in TCM is not classified as a Blood dysfunction, but overall Yin Deficiency.
* Too much sleep is unhealthy because it creates Yin Excess –> Dampness. As compared to too little sleep which has the opposite effect, burning of Yin (mentioned in Day 4).


Put on your Defensive Qi, it’s cold out!

Day 5

by Gene Chuah

“Put on the full armor of Wei Qi so that you can take your stand against Evil Qi’s schemes.”

What is this miraculous Jing essence we talked about in last week’s class? Jing is actually just one of the several types of Qi (synonyms: Ki, Chi, Prana, universal energy, The Force) coursing through our bodies. In the latest class yesterday, we went into further detail on the other types of Qi in the human body, and the flowchart, or map, of its creation and end products (defensive and nutritive Qi).

First, continuing on Jing. This Pre-Natal Essence, whose level is determined at birth, is stored in the Kidneys, and is responsible for: body growth, reproduction, development (vital in growth of genitalia, bones, teeth, hair) and constitutional strength especially at birth. The quality and quantity of Jing that you have also determines your lifespan and strength of your immune system. Insufficient Jing can cause issues like absent or underdeveloped genitalia.

Your Jing level (quantity, quality) is influenced during conception and pregnancy, by 3 types of factors : (1) Chronic (e.g. smoker parent(s)), (2) Acute (e.g. emotional shock during pregnancy), and (3) Environmental (e.g. time of day, season, astrology at birth).

Jing actually has 2 subtypes. Now here’s where the naming gets a bit tricky, but it’s really simple if you use my made-up names. See table below :

Correct names Jing (Pre-Natal Essence) Yuan Qi (Original, Primary Qi)
Gene’s made-up names Yin Jing Yang Jing
How they’re different More “Yin” than its twin; moves slower. More “Yang” than its twin, moves faster; helps move Jing and circulate it through the channels; think of it as the transporter (it’s still Jing though).
How they’re similar Both are actually Pre-Natal Essence (just different polarities) — stored in Kidneys, endowed at birth, with finite quality/quantity determined at conception/pregnancy; responsible for growth, reproduction, development, health maintenance etc.; direct correlation with immune strength and lifespan; consumed at a low “baseline” rate unless facing physical overexertion; is needed for life to continue. Also consumed via: pregnancy, lactation, and ejaculation.

Now on to our most exciting Qi Synthesis Flowchart :
Qi Synthesis Flowchart

Pretty self-explanatory isn’t it? A picture is worth a thousand words… (granted, this is a picture with words in it). This diagram is actually an amalgamation from what I learned in yesterday’s class plus other TCM material I gathered from around the Web.

A word on True Qi (Zhen Qi). Related concepts: Good Qi, Correct Qi, Upright Qi, Righteous Qi, and Central Qi (see this snapshot discussion). In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is a continuous war between Good and Evil that happens in all our bodies. Evil Qi is usually equated with the external elements, and you need a surplus of Good Qi (True Qi) in order to overcome Evil Qi (continually invading from the outside) in order to maintain good health. So, a cold draft at night is definitely one of Evil Qi’s henchmen, better make sure you defend against it. Defend with what? Thankfully your True Qi has 2 components : Defensive Qi (Wei Qi), and Nutritive Qi (Ying Qi). You could think of one as the Ministry of Defense and the other as the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment. Defensive (Wei) Qi is your knight in shining armor, ready to defend your body against the orcish hordes. Defensive Qi is more Yang compare to Nutritive Qi, which is Yin in contrast. Think of Nutritive Qi as the citizens of the kingdom, peacefully going about their lives, building, trading, cooking, cleaning and pursuing the arts. They wouldn’t know a thing or two about warfare… and in fact they are more dormant during the daytime (the Yang half of the day), during which Defensive Qi is more active. At night when you go to sleep, the balance shifts from Defensive to Nutritive Qi so your body can heal itself and do all sorts of nifty things like regenerating your cells. Which is why it is important to make sure you are protected from the elements when you go to sleep at night — because your army is asleep and you are more vulnerable to attack. That open window bringing in a draft will make you catch a cold much easier, even if you’re too slow to catch a cold.

Take note that in fact, in Traditional Chinese Medicine, this “kingdom” allegory of the human body is actually used, and was documented in the Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine) as follows :
Nei Jing Kingdom Allegory

Also, an important note here regarding the Organs. You’ll notice that I used the uppercase O for Organs. From this article on, I’ll be adopting this naming scheme where TCM organs will have the uppercase (e.g. Spleen, Stomach, Kidneys). This is to differentiate them from the *real* physiological organ documented in modern medicine (non-TCM). The reason there is this is distinction, is because very often in TCM the Organ doesn’t not correlate 1-for-1 with the actual organ in function and even physical appearance and location. For instance, we know that in modern medical terms, the spleen’s main function is to filter the blood and participate in the immune system. However in TCM, the Spleen performs the function of the intestines. This a very important concept to grasp when studying Traditional Chinese Medicine. The key thing is that we are using models that describe the processes and subsystems of the body, and these models are indeed very accurate in describing how the body works, and how to correct health imbalances as a practitioner. TCM is not concerned about the minute details of physiology — who cares what atoms make up the molecules that make up the proteins that make up the hormones that send messages to notify some transglobuleraseic lammunotamic fluid about its zygonomitrous underundulamations? It’s too easy to fall into this trap of empirical reductionism and not see the forest for the trees. Sometimes less is more.

Now back to Evil Qi’s plotting and his plans for world domination. Defensive (Wei) Qi works hard to keep you protected from him, and when the battle heats up, your body literally heats up too. This is because Wei Qi is Yang (warm, energetic) in nature, and in order to win, more Wei Qi is allocated by the body to the battlefield (at the expense of Nutritive (Ying) Qi). Defensive Qi works mostly around the skin and muscles, and includes responses like vasodilation, vasoconstriction, shivering, and fevers, whereas Nutritive Qi works mostly in the body’s interior, particularly the Organs. Yes, fever is a classic example of a fierce, hot Yang battle going on, and in fact, the stronger one’s immune system, the more intense the battle (higher fever, worse symptoms) — but it is all over quickly, as opposed to a long-drawn-out illness. Sweating during a fever is seen in TCM as the body’s way of expelling the pathogen; the pores let the “evil” out.

Incidentally… lately in the world of modern medicine there has been a renaissance of “letting fevers run their course” instead of bringing them down immediately. This is a good thing, and rightly so — there has been some deeply entrenched scaremongering about fevers causing brain damage, but the incidence of this extremely low, and only happens when the hypothalamus is malfunctioning (extremely rare) (e.g. due to infection), causing a runaway fever. Having a good fever and “sweating it out” will often cure a patient, whereas patients on fever-lowering medications (very common OTC drugs) take much longer to get better. Take a look at these pro-fever articles.

If Evil Qi should get past the Wei Qi defense though, it can “hide” in the body and continue to cause problems (an infection in modern terms). In serious cases, this pathogenic “evil heat” permeates Ying (Nutritive) Qi — yes, it becomes part of the body Qi (e.g. hepatitis, HIV).

It is important to “make hay while the sun shines” when it comes to cultivating Defensive (Wei) Qi. It is best cultivated Daytime vs. Nighttime, and Summer vs. Winter. This makes sense as during the Day we are awake an able to proactively take care of our health (good food, exercise, etc.). Also, during the Summer months, it is easier to grow fresh food and get plenty of sunshine — to build up your Qi reserves before grumpy Old Man Winter comes around again. Be careful, he’s a good friend of Dr. Evil Qi!

Other cool things we learned in yesterday’s class (in no particular order, and I may jump around) :

The Kidneys are a source of both Fire and Water. The Ming Men, located between the Kidneys, is the “gate of vitality” or “gate of fire”. Together with the Kidneys, both Jing (Water) and Yuan Qi (Fire) are distributed to the body in the needed proportion.

An Acupuncture point, “Du 4″, corresponds to the Ming Men. It is located on the back, on the latitude 3 finger-widths below the belly button. Together with some other Acu points on the same latitude, they are great treatment points for Kidney Yang Deficiency. Use moxa (moxibustion) for these points. Especially useful for treating low fertility. The uterus tends to be cold; fertility issues in general are due to lack of heat (both physical heat and TCM Yang). You need warmth to incubate new life; moxa and herbs have been very successful in treating infertility especially in China where there is widespread acceptance and practice.

Each of the 12 main Acupuncture channels has a Yuan Source Point, through which Jing can be brought in. Typically this is used when an Organ needs it; the channel that feeds the Organ is selected for needling on the source point. Think of these Yuan Source Points as faucets and the Meng Men as a pump.

Shen, or spirit, resides in the Heart. Emotional or physical trauma can “unseat” the Shen and cause a person to be in a disoriented/wandering state (he hasn’t been himself ever since…). In extreme traumatic situations (shock), Jing can be lost from the Kidneys as if they were wrung out, and Shen can be “dispersed” — in some cases this is a permanent loss. This helps explain comas, and cases where someone’s head hair turns grey in a very short span of time.

The placenta contains a lot of Jing. Animals in nature eat it after giving birth, to regain lost Jing. Some human mothers are doing this as well (Google: Placentophagy).

There is also a growing awareness in the medical field that after birth, the umbilical cord must not be cut until at least 2 minutes has passed. See these articles. There is still blood and stem cells being pumped through the umbilical cord after birth (and in fact some proponents vouch for not cutting it at all, and letting it fall off naturally). The benefits extend beyond the early neo-natal period and babies delivered this way are healthier (more stem cells and immunoglobulin through the blood, stronger immunity). Here is a photo that was making its rounds on Facebook, showing how the umbilical cord changes over time as it “loses” blood to the baby (if not cut too early):
umbilical cord changes color over time There is research to back this up — see this study, “Mankind’s first natural stem cell transplant“.

One interesting revelation: stem cells contain Jing. There is a connection between placental stem cells and anti-aging. Remember that Jing correlates to lifespan, and that it is endowed at birth? Both the placenta and umbilical cord are also rich sources of stem cells, and it looks like this precious resource of Pre-Natal Essence has led to all sorts of commoditization around it. See also : placenta cord banking. Is it worth more to the mother eating it or selling it? How much is a year of your lifespan worth?

The quality of Gu Qi (Food Qi) is dependent on the suitability of the food or drink to the individual, as well as the healthy functioning of their Spleen.

Spleen Yang is needed to “burn” food. With Spleen Qi Deficiency, the stool will be soft/runny (diarrhea), and the patient will be tired. My analogy is “incomplete combustion” — a cold engine will produce a stronger smell of “wet” gasoline due to not enough “burn”.

Sweet-tasting foods feed Spleen Yang. However, too much Sweetness and/or the wrong kind (refined sugars) will wreck the system and cause a vicious cycle by weakening the Spleen, which in turn results in excess Damp (obesity, tiredness, brain fog). A weak Spleen will cause one to crave Sweet foods, perpetuating the vicious cycle. In TCM, rice is a “good” kind of Sweet food, supplying good Spleen Yang. In TCM, Sweetness corresponds to carbohydrates — it may not have to be actually sweet-tasting to be classified as Sweet (hence the classification of rice). It’s no surprise that rice is a staple in traditional diets, particularly Asian diets. The body prefers a certain regularity when it comes to diet. Traditional Asian diets are quite constant — rice along with side dishes, usually prepared the same way (some variations like steaming, boiling, stir-frying, but mostly a “wet” style as opposed to baking, roasting, frying). The ingredients may vary, but it’s not as big of a swing as, say pizza one day, pasta another, then steak on yet another day.

The Guardian of Wei Qi is the Lungs; the Guardian of Ying Qi is the Spleen.

Signs of low Wei Qi : cold limbs, weakness, low energy, susceptible to colds/flus. Signs of sufficient Wei Qi : redness, sweatiness.

Not all Evil Qi is external; some can originate from within. For instance, excessive anger or worry can manifest as disease (psychosomatic causes).

Eat Yang foods for breakfast to boost Defensive (Wei) Qi (a Yang energy). Conversely, eat Yin foods before bed to boost Nutritive (Ying) Qi (a Yin energy).

4 Functions of Qi :
1. Transforming (think of electricity powering a microphone)
2. Transporting/Moving (physical+mental : voluntary+involuntary actions)
3. Holding (you’ll be surprised what starts falling out when Qi levels are lower, e.g. in old age)
4. Protecting (via Defensive Qi, as discussed above)
5. Warming

When the Heart (where the Shen or Spirit resides) is at peace, one is able to speak their mind clearly. The flip side is stuttering, incoherence or even mental illness. Also, too much pathogenic heat at the Heart can disrupt the Shen and cause mental illness.

The San Jiao or Triple Warmer is an Organ that regulates heat by moving warmth between 3 main vertical regions :
A. Chest, Lungs, Heart (more Yang)
B. Spleen, Stomach, Liver
C. Kidneys, Bladder, Intestines, Uterus (more Yin)

The Heart benefits from Zong Qi (Gathering Qi). With good Zong Qi (see Qi Synthesis Flowchart above), the heart beats stronger, more rhythmically. Correlated with cardio strength, and can be cultivated. A marathon runner is able to extract Zong Qi more efficiently than an armchair dweller.

The Spleen is directly related to our capacity for thinking and concentration. See this excellent snapshot page from for the Functions of the Spleen.


Why Burning The Midnight Oil Leads To Early Death, and Why Women Age Faster Than Men

Day 4

by Gene Chuah

God is fair, and everything is a trade-off.

“Men, save your seed!” That was one of the many valuable lessons we learned from yesterday’s class. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, you are endowed with a fixed amount of “life force” at birth. At the moment, there is no known technique for adding to this “savings account” — it was created for you during conception by your parents’ contributions using a portion each of their own life-force, and also determined while you were in the womb (your mom chipped in big-time). Called Pre-Natal Essence, or Jing, this vital energy determines your lifespan, because it is always being used up — in the best case of good health, only at a trickle’s pace, but in the worst case (always burning the midnight oil, daily stress, overexertion, poor diet, lack of exercise, toxin burden, excessive grief etc.), you will be “burning Jing” as a much higher rate and this, to put it simply, “will be the death of you” (so that’s how the saying came about).

A quick recap of my Day 3 entry — I had mentioned “burning Yin“, where Yin is the nurturing/soothing force that helps balance the aggressive, active fire of Yang — however in modern society we are burning up Yin much too fast. Pre-Natal Jing Essence is one of the Yin factors that gets burned up in the fires of excessive Yang. Thankfully there is non-Jing energy that we can use to keep this fire in check. It’s called Post-Natal Qi (which in turn contains Yin and Yang polarities, Yin being useful here), which you can acquire daily from food, drink, and the air. Think of this as your “checking account”. A quick step into the world of Pranic Healing reveals to us that there are actually 4 sources of Qi (also known as Prana) : (1) Solar (2) Air (3) Earth, and (4) Tree Prana. If you are honoring your body and in harmony with the laws of nature (living healthy in all aspects), then this Post-Natal life-force is like a daily paycheck that will keep you out of debt and keep you from dipping into your precious Jing savings account. Other types of non-Jing Yin substances are Blood (TCM concept), body fluids, and Yin forces that reside in the organs. Yang fire burns any type of Yin though, so you’d better have plenty of Yin to spare and to shield precious Jing with.

Why is it so important not only to get enough sleep, but to also (ideally) sleep when it gets dark, and rise at dawn, like our ancestors did? If we look at the earth’s day and night cycle, it looks something like this :
Ebb and flow. During the Day, Yang is the predominant force. This is quite evident — daytime is hotter, has more activity (even if you choose to sleep, the birds and bees will be abuzz), and has a high energy level compared to Night which is cooler, quieter, and low-energy, even dormant. Day and Night need each other; if the Earth stopped spinning, one side of the planet would get fried while the other would be frozen.

Now here’s the poetic (but true) part. Since we are a microcosm within the macrocosm of the Earth, this cycle also applies to us, and it needs to coincide with the larger day/night cycle of the Earth. After all, we are Yin relative to our planet, so it makes sense that we should submit to its laws. If you’re not taking the time to “throttle down” and relax at the end of the day, and if you live a Yang-excess lifestyle (too much noise/activity, not enough quiet/rest), then you will be “burning up Yin” in an attempt to maintain balance. When Yin is weak or insufficient, your Yang energy will not be kept in check and will “flare up” when you’re trying to sleep, causing tossing & turning, insomnia, or even nightmares :
This is not too bad until you keep pushing it and eventually run out of spendable, Post-Natal Yin-Qi and start burning up Pre-Natal Jing Essence. So remember to take it easy (a parting wish common to Western society but unheard of in traditional Asian culture). There’s also a phrase in Chinese that my father used to quote to me, translated thus: “early to sleep, early to rise, the body is healthy”. Easier said than done, I know… it boils down to whether or not you want premature death. :-)

Coincidentally, honoring the day/night cycle is also known to the Western mind via the Circadian Rhythm which says that 10pm to 6am is actually the ideal time-block for sleep.

Now on to our next exciting topic. Why does it seem that women mature faster (think teens) than men, and why does it appear that women age faster too? You know the thing about younger women and older men. And people do say “men seem to age better”. Surprise surprise, according to TCM, women run on 7-year cycles while men run on 8-year cycles. Now — if not for offsetting factors — one of them that men lose Jing through ejaculation — men are supposed to outlive women.

Hmm… I had always suspected that women are “overclocked” compared men, so this now makes sense. Given the same energy, a higher-frequency wave (women) travels less far than a lower-frequency one (men) :


Of course, again, we know that this is not the only factor because women end up living longer than men. But this picture shows us, for example, that a woman has reached her 5th milestone at age 35, while a man reaches it at age 40, given the same expenditure of energy. God is fair. In many ways, women run circles around men, and we all know it. Here is the list of gender trade-offs that we touched on in class :

Men Women
Age slower, but have shorter lives Age faster, but have longer lives
Free from having to give birth Give birth, using up Pre-Natal Essence (Jing)
Orgasms use up Jing Orgasms are “free”
“Age better” Develop faster

But 7/8-year cycles of what? Every cycle, each person gets an “infusion” of Jing (from the Kidneys, where Jing is stored). Think of it as a big withdrawal from your savings account every 7 or 8 years. You use this “money” differently depending on your age. In your younger years, you’ll be using it for growth (the second cycle is puberty), but in later years, the withdrawals are smaller, and you’re using it mostly as fuel to maintain your body. I didn’t get a clear answer on this in class, but I imagine it to be more of a “smoothened sawtooth” wave rather than a pure sine wave, diminishing over time (note to self: needs further research).

I can imagine that all this may not come as good news to both men and women reading this, but “it is what it is”. For the men : some of you may remember this Internet meme. I guess it’s not too far off from the truth in the sense that this is not a “free” transaction. Now before you come at me with the pitchforks, also know that in TCM there is a “recommended schedule” (to be covered in a later class) for men so that you don’t burn up your Jing too fast, which means, abstinence isn’t the rule (in case you were concerned).

Also, some people are endowed with more Jing from the get-go (in terms of quantity as well as quality) (millionares, we call them), explaining how some women can have 20 kids and still be more than fine. Not all is lost, however; even if you started out with a small Jing bank account, you can still do a lot and go far by generating and living off good Post-Natal Qi with a healthy lifestyle, according to our instructor. Related idea : parable of the “talents”.

Here’s what’s written in the Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine) (I plucked this off somewhere; needs verification) :

Female Jing Cycles of Seven

A woman’s Kidney energy becomes prosperous at seven years of age (1×7).
Her menstruation appears as the ren (sea of yin) channel flows and the chong (sea of blood) channel becomes prosperous at the age of 14 (2×7).
Her Kidney qi reaches a balanced state, and her teeth are completely developed at the age of 21 (3×7).
Her vital energy and blood are substantial, her four limbs are strong and the body is at optimal condition at the age of 28 (4×7).
Her peak condition declines gradually. The yang ming channel is depleted, her face withers and her hair begins to fall out at the age of 35 (5×7).
Her three yang channels, tai yang, yang ming and shao yang, begin to decline. Her face complexion wanes and her hair turns white at the age of 42 (6×7).
The ren and chong channels are both declining, her menstruation ends, her physique turns old and feeble, and she can no longer conceive at the age of 49 (7×7).

Male Jing Cycles of Eight

A man’s Kidney energy is prosperous, his hair develops and his teeth emerge at the age of eight (1x 8).
His Kidney energy grows and is filled with vital energy, and he is able to let his sperm out at the age of 16 (2×8).
His Kidney energy is developed, his extremities are strong, and all of his teeth are developed by the age of 24 (3×8).
His body has developed to its best condition, and his extremities and muscles are very strong at the age of 32 (4×8).
His Kidney energy begins to decline, his hair falls out and his teeth begin to whither at the age of 40 (5×8).
His Kidney energy declines more, the yang energy of the entire body declines, his complexion becomes withered and his hair turns white at the age of 48 (6×8).
His Liver energy declines as a result of Kidney deficiency; the tendons become rigid and fail to be nimble at the age of 56 (7×8).
His essence and vital energy is weak, as are his bones and tendons. His teeth fall out and his body becomes decrepit at the age of 64 (8×8).


More nuggets we picked up in yesterday’s class :

Menopause is classified as a Yin deficiency.

In order of Yang to Yin, it’s : vodka, red wine, white wine, then beer. Beer has both Yang and Yin components. Too much beer causes a beer belly due to excess Damp.

Yang-excess and Yin-deficiency are similar, in that Yang overpowers Yin. However, in Yang excess, Yin is near the normal absolute; in Yin deficiency, Yang is near the normal absolute. Both conditions are similar but because Yang-excess is higher-energy, the symptoms, although similar, are greater in magnitude. Some differences though : Yang-exc gulping vs. Yin-def sipping (thirst), Yang-exc heat symptoms throughout the day, but Yin-def mostly in evening and night. For both conditions: rapid hunger, thirst, constipation, sweating, irritability, scanty/dark urine, preference for coolness. Hmm, this gets me thinking… in Western society we say someone is “cool” — maybe because they are really full of Yang fire (a positive trait in Western society) but are also balanced with “coolness” (a calm demeanour?) — the magnitude of their Yin reflecting on the magnitude of their Yang?

The flip side of the coin are the “cold” conditions : Yang Deficiency and Yin Excess. Similar symmetry relative to each other; general symptoms are : feeling cold, low energy, needing to sleep longer, poor circulation, poor digestion, anemia, paleness, soft stools or diarrhea, no thirst, abundant urine, preference for warmth. Yin Excess is more rare but symptoms are more serious and usually involve pain (Qi blockage).

Kidney beans are good for the kidneys. For both kidney Yang, Yin, and Jing. The “doctrine of signatures” seems to apply here.

Continuing from last week, the 4th principle of Yin and Yang is its constant transformation. For example, in the food chain, grass is Yin, eaten by a deer, which is Yang relative to it. The deer is Yin to a lion, which is more Yang. When the lion eats the deer, it is satiated and becomes more Yin, feeling relaxed (also 3rd principle of mutual consuming-supporting). But when the lion dies, it becomes Yin, providing nourishment to Yang decomposing bacteria (its Yang energy also gets released to Heaven, or back to Source). So as we can see, Yin and Yang are constantly being transformed, its balance continually shifting within any one “actor”. This principle also applies to one’s actvities during their daily cycle — which ties into the importance of “winding down” the day as mentioned earlier (shifting gears, not Yang all the time).

Best time to exercise is around 5pm when Kidney Qi is strongest. Kidney supports physical strength. This is similar to the Base Chakra’s function in Pranic Healing. I’ve also read about the 5pm peak from other articles on circadian rhythm.

Qi energy in TCM organs follows a specific direction — each organ has a prescribed direction. For the Stomach, it is downward. During an imbalance, if it flows upward, it is considered “rebellious” and nausea is a symptom.

Different foods are cooling (Yin), warming (Yang) or neutral. An imbalance in your diet will cause you to become closer to one pole, which will also affect your behavior (e.g. aggressive, high-energy vs. calm, low-energy). Cultural diets in most cases support (cause?) cultural expectations of behavior. However sometimes you’ll have people whose inborn traits make them a misfit in their society (anti-war vegan at a UFC barbecue or punk rocker born to Zen priests?). Well whaddaya know… meat is Yang, and vegetables are Yin. Which culture eats more of each?

Jing energy is vital for health in old age — think of it as your pension fund. Jing-poverty in old age means weakened teeth and bones. The kidneys store Jing so any kidney impairment will also affect Jing supply.

Jing is considered a Yin energy. If you think of a seed, it is dormant (yet has great potential). It is small. It belongs to the earth. All Yin qualities. It should also make sense that semen is Yin (in fact it is), as it also is a type of seed, and it carries Jing essence. Semen is also carried in an external pouch designed with the main purpose of “cold storage” — and Cold == Yin. Also, tying back in to the Pranic Healing world, the lower chakras (Base, Sex chakras) are considered “lower” energetically and are of lower vibration/frequency. Being “lower” is also a Yin quality.

What a great class !!


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