Tag Archives: Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Quinn Nicholson


The concept of qi

Similar to the theory of  yin-yang, qi was derived from ancient Chinese philosophy, which believes everything is related. In traditional Chinese medicine, qi is treated as the fundamental substance of the human body, and its movements explain various life processes. Qi in its physiological sense constitutes, replenishes and nourishes the human body. Qi is often called -vital energy, because it is believed to be the motive energy derived from the essential substance for various vital processes.

Qi is often classified according to what it acts on. For example, the heart-qi refers to the force with which the heart works and the blood circulates, so it regulates the cardiac function; the stomach-qi refers to the force with which the stomach functions, so it regulates the gastric function. The qi that maintains normal functioning for resistance against disease is called zheng-qi, which means genuine energy or body resistance. The qi that warms the body and maintains normal body temperature is called yang-qi, which is similar to the heat energy. Metabolism of materials and energy also depends on the action of qi, including metabolism of blood, fluids and other essential materials.

Qi is formed from the inhaled oxygen, the dietary nutrients, and the inborn primordial qi stored in the kidney, which may be genetically related. Qi circulates along meridians and collaterals. A healthy body requires normal circulations of qi. Health problems occur if the flow of qi is stagnated. The circulation of qi is also closely related to mental conditions. Emotional instability may cause the stagnation of qi. For example, anger may lead to dizziness, headache, distress in the hypochondriac regions, or distention in the stomach with impairment of appetite. On the other hand, the exercise of mind can help the circulation of qi, which is the purpose qigong exercise.

General methods of qigong

Qigong is an exercise to regulate the mind and breathing in order to control or promote the flow of qi. Since qi plays such an important role in the vital processes of the human body, the regulation of qi flow is therefore be used to preserve health and treat disease. Medical qigong, the qi exercise practiced to prevent and treat disease, is different from general physical exercise. While physical exercise is aimed at building up health or restoring physical functioning by enhancing strength, medical qigong is focused on the mobilization of functional potentialities by regulating the mind. In other words, physical exercise is purely somatic, while qigong exercise is generally psycho-somatic. Another important difference between physical exercise and qigong is that physical exercise expends energy by tensing the muscles and accelerating the heart beat and respirations, while qigong works to ease, smooth and regulate breathing to store up or accumulate energy in the body.

Medical qigong can be divided into two main categories: internal qigong, which is practiced by the patients themselves to preserve and promote their own health, and external qigong, which is performed by a qigong master on a person with health problems. Practicing internal qigong requires regulation of the mind, body and respiration. There are many kinds of internal qigong, some with motion and others without. Qigong can be practiced while sitting still, standing upright, or lying on the back or side. The basic requirement is to stay comfortable and relaxed.


The philosophical origins of Chinese medicine have grown out of the tenets of Daoism (also known as Taoism). Daoism bases much of its thinking on observing the natural world and manner in which it operates, so it is no surprise to find that the Chinese medical system draws extensively on natural metaphors. In Chinese medicine, the metaphoric views of the human body based on observations of nature are fully articulated in the theory of “Yin-Yang” and the system of Five Elements.

The direct meanings of yin and yang in Chinese are bright and dark sides of an object. Chinese philosophy uses yin and yang to represent a wider range of opposite properties in the universe: cold and hot, slow and fast, still and moving, masculine and feminine, lower and upper, etc. In general, anything that is moving, ascending, bright, progressing, hyperactive, including functional disease of the body, pertains to yang. The characteristics of stillness, descending, darkness, degeneration, hypo-activity, including organic disease, pertain to yin.

The function of yin and yang is guided by the law of unity of the opposites. In other words, yin and yang are in conflict but at the same time mutually dependent. The nature of yin and yang is relative, with neither being able to exist in isolation. Without “cold” there would be no “hot”; without “moving” there would be no “still”; without “dark”, there would be no “light”. The most illustrative example of yin-yang interdependence is the interrelationship between substance and function. Only with ample substance can the human body function in a healthy way; and only when the functional processes are in good condition, can the essential substances be appropriately refreshed.

The opposites in all objects and phenomena are in constant motion and change: The gain, growth and advance of the one mean the loss, decline and retreat of the other. For example, day is yang and night is yin, but morning is understood as being yang within yang, afternoon is yin within yang, evening before midnight is yin within yin and the time after midnight is yang within yin. The seed (Yin) grows into the plan (Yang), which itself dies back to the earth (Yin). This takes place within the changes of the seasons. Winter (Yin) transforms through the Spring into Summer (Yang), which in turn transforms through Autumn into Winter again. Because natural phenomena are balanced in the constant flux of alternating yin and yang, the change and transformation of yin-yang has been taken as a universal law.

Traditional Chinese medicine holds that human life is a physiological process in constant motion and change. Under normal conditions, the waxing and waning of yin and yang are kept within certain bounds, reflecting a dynamic equilibrium of the physiological processes. When the balance is broken, disease occurs. Typical cases of disease-related imbalance include excess of yin, excess of yang, deficiency of yin, and deficiency of yang.


Before discussing the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, I think it would be interesting to the readers and students of African holistic medicine to know of the African influence of ancient Chinese healing theory.

        The African role in early Asian civilization has been submerged and distorted for centuries.  Asia’s African roots are well summarized in “African Presence in Early Asia” by Ivan Van Sertima/Runoko Rashidi, and “African Presence in Early China” by James Brunson.  The original oriental people were Black and many of them still are Black – in southern China and Asia.  The earliest occupants of Asia were “small black (pygmies)” who came to the region as early as 50,000 years ago.  In “The Children of the Sun”, George Parker writes “….it appears that the entire continent of Asia was originally the home of many black races and that theses races were the pioneers in establishing the wonderful civilizations that have flourished throughout this vast continent.”  Reports of major kingdoms ruled by Blacks are frequent in Chinese documents.  Chinese historians described the Fou Nanese people of China as “small and black”.  The Ainus, Japan’s oldest known inhabitants have traditions which tell of a race of dark dwarfs which inhabited Japan before they did.  Historians Cheikh Anta Diop and Albert Churchward saw the Ainus as originating in Egypt!  There is archaeological support for this.  In addition, ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia records the “Anu” (Ainu).  The Anu are the same people who occupied Egypt for thousands of years.  These same people are recorded to have made large migrations to the Asian continent taking with them thousands of years of African-Egyptian knowledge and influence.

        This explains the existence of man-made pyramids in China and Japan! China’s pyramids are located near Siang Fu city in the Shensi province. The Chinese do not know how they got there, but it is believed that Africans of the Nile Valley were the builders. (J. Perry: The Growth of Civilization, p. 106, 107).

African Development of Ancient Chinese Medicine

        Ancient Chinese medicine dates back to the Shang Dynasty founded by the African-Mongolian King T’ang, or Ta. (1500-1000 B.C.).  The Shang (or Chiang) and Chou dynasties were credited with bringing together the elements of Chinese medical theory. The Shang were given the name of Nakhi (Na-Black, Khi-man).  Under this Black dynasty, the Chinese established the basic forms of a graceful calligraphy that has lasted to the present day.  The first Chinese emperor, the legendary Fu-Hsi (2953-2838 B.C.) was a woolly haired Black man. He is said to have originated the I Ching, or The Book of Change, which is the oldest most revered system of prophecy. It is known to have influenced the most distinguished philosophers of Chinese medicine and thought.

        Many of the great concepts of Chinese medical science which was compiled during the Shang period were later developed during the Han Dynasty (168 B.C. to 8 A.D.).  During this period, medicine reflected the philosophical ideas associated in the earlier Chou and Shang period.  The Han began to fuse Shang medical concepts with outlooks from the philosophical ideas of Confucius (551-479 B.C.).  Toward that end, they generated a scheme which explained all phenomena in relation to the whole.  Under this system, all natural phenomena including the human body and the organs were organized within the system of “Yin” and Yang” and the “five elements”, or what is also called the “five phases” theory.

        Han Dynasty physicians created great classic works, such as the Pen-ts’ao and the Nei Ching, or Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine (3rd Century B.C.), drawing its inspiration from more ancient sources rooted in Afro-centric thought. (See Diagram 1.)



           The Nei Ching, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, a medical book reportedly written in the second century, B.C. before the birth of Hippocrates, the co-called father of Western medicine.  According to Chinese legend, the Nei Ching was created through a dialogue between the legendary ruler Huang-Ti and his court physician, Chi Po.  From the Nei Ching, thousands of books have been written about Chinese medicine.

        Given these considerations, Chinese medicine echoes the logic of the Ancient Egyptians, which viewed the universe as process-oriented in which there are no boundaries between rest and motion, time and space, mind and matter, sickness and health.  The Chinese looked at reality as a unified field, an interwoven pattern of inseparable links in a circular chain called the Tao.  From the Tao flowed all things and events in nature: seasons, color, sound, organs, tissue, emotion, climate, matter and energy. (See Diagram 2.)



According to the Tao Te Ching, out of the One came the duality of Yin and Yang, and the immaterial breath (Chi), from which all physical matter and energy was created.  This idea by Chinese philosopher, Lao Tzu was borrowed from the earlier ancient Egyptian concept of “Nu” (formless water)”, the duality of Shu and Tefnut, and the Nahab Kau (Tree of Life).

Yin/Yang Theory and the Concept of Chi

        Chinese medicine places primary emphasis on the balance of “Chi” (Qi, or Ki), or Life energy constantly flowing throughout the body.  There are 12 major meridians, or pathways for chi, and each is associated with a major vital organ or vital function.  These meridians form an invisible network that carries chi to every tissue in the body.  In health, it is properly balanced, but if it becomes unbalanced, the result is disease.  It is the job of the Chinese doctor to restore the balance using diet, acupuncture, and herbal formulas.

        The Life energy comes in two, but complementary parts: Yin and Yang.  The Yin nature includes the earth, moon, night, fall and winter, cold, wetness, the feet, the female sex, tissue growth and a passive temperament. The Yang counterparts are the heavens, the sun, day, spring and summer, heat, dryness, light, the head, the male sex, tissue breakdown, and an aggressive temperament. All individuals have both male and female polarities which consist of the combinations of Yin and Yang, requiring the Chinese doctor to tailor treatments to the individual’s needs. (See Diagram 3.)



The Chinese Five-element system was heavily influenced by the ancient Egyptian’s four-element conception.  Each element relates to one season, one color and two organ systems, and they interact in subtle, and complicated ways through the energy of chi.     

        An important part of the Chinese doctor’s evaluation is the overall relationship between the Yin and Yang balance in the patient’s body.  This is “Chi”.  Furthermore, we must bear in mind that Yin and Yang are complementary and not contradictory.  There is no such thing as “good” and the other “bad”.  Rather, one seeks to find a harmony between the two energies.  The ancient Egyptians first  put forward this idea, explained in terms of “Shu” and “Tefnut”, the dual complementary energy that flows in the universe.  It was later adopted by the founders of Chinese medicine to distinguish between the Yin and Yang qualities of a person’s character, or the constitution of one’s illness.

        The application of Yin and Yang is an important step in the process of making a traditional diagnosis and treatment.

Treating Conditions Through Chinese Medicine  

Based on the assessment of Yin and Yang energy imbalance, the Chinese herbalist looks for patterns of distress in the patient’s pulse, as well as tongue, face, and physical characteristics.  The pulse system is highly developed in Chinese medicine, and consist of six positions on each wrist, and various pulse beats can be determined by the trained practitioner.  According to Traditional Chinese medical text, the pulse corresponds to different organ networks, areas of the body, meridians or energy channels, and physiological processes like breathing, digestion and elimination.  These are thought to function in phase with Yin and Yang principles and also the energies represented by the five elements: Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire. Some general diagnostic correspondence are:







Lower section

Upper section



Inner organs

Outer organs


Chi (Life energy)





In general, the basic treatment principles are to tonify or stimulate in a case of deficient Yin or Yang energy, and to sedate or disperse when the energy pattern is one of excess.  Herbal formulas are then tailored to fit the individual’s need, or designed to fit the overall condition of the patient.

        Special herbal formulas have been traditionally used for thousands of years by Chinese herbalists for such ailments as fever, colds and flu, headaches, infections, menstrual problems, ulcers, high blood pressure, cancer, infertility, and diabetes to name a few.

        For example, “Gan Mao Ling”, a two thousand year old formula, has been traditionally used for symptoms such as runny nose and scratchy throat.  By taking six tablets of this formula every three hours, one can stop a cold in its tracts before it can take root.  Chinese remedies are very effective and versatile.  You can purchase Chinese herb formulas in many forms such as pills, tablets, extracts, or bulk to overcome numerous conditions and diseases.

    Today more than ever, Western doctors are bearing witness to the effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Medicine and are just beginning to realize that the Chinese masters understood profound aspects of the human mind and body without the aid of technology or sophisticated medical devices.  China is heir to the secret healing arts which has been passed down by ancient Khemit.  I feel that it is time that the Afrocentric roots of Chinese medicine be made public which has been ignored for too long.  This and future articles seek to correct this oversight.


1.  The Destruction of Black Civilizations, Chancellor Williams.

2.  The Missing Pages of History, Indus Khamit Kush

3.  The Five Lost Books of Africa, Dr. Khallid Al-Mansour.

4.  The Children of the Sun, George Parker.

5.  African Presence in Early Asia, Ivan Van Sertima/Runoko Rashidi

6.  The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra

7.  Chinese Herbal Medicine: Formulas and Strategies, Dan Bensky and Randall Barolet.

8.  African Medicine: A guide to Yoruba divination and Herbal Medicine:, Tariq M. Sawandi

(in press).

9.  Chinese-Planetary Herbal Diagnosis, Michael and Lesley Tierra.