Glossary of

Traditional Chinese Medicine Terms

When we refer to an organ like the Liver or Kidneys, we are always referring to the Chinese Medicine organ system which has a broader lens of associations, actions and functions in the body than the Western Medicine biological organ system model.

Blood

This term is used to describe the physical substance of blood in the body. The function of blood is to moisten and nourish the cells, tissues, muscles, skin, hair and organs. The blood serves as an anchoring and cooling energy for fire in the body.

Blood Deficiency

There is a lack of proper nutrients, minerals and/or bioavailable components in the blood. This does not mean you do not have enough blood in your body. Symptoms associated with this can be dryness (skin, hair, eyes), fatigue, anemia, issues concentrating, poor memory and pale skin.

Calmative

Produces a calming or sedative effect on the nervous system and mental activity.

Cold

Cold in the body, also referred to as Yang Deficiency, is when there is a lack of essential warming functions for organ systems in the body. This can present as poor circulation, body aches, fatigue, pain in the joints, poor digestion and/or a “hypo” functioning such as hypothyroidism.

Damp, Dampness

Dampness is the pathogenic presentation of excessive or sticky fluids in the body. Symptoms associated can be low appetite, abdominal bloating, nausea, a feeling of heaviness in the body, swelling, weight gain and achy stiff joints.

Damp Heat

A condition in the body when dampness and heat combine to produce symptoms like burning at the rectum with bowel movements, eczema, hepatitis, urinary problems, or thick yellow mucus secretions.

Deficiency

When there is an insufficiency or weakness of Qi, Blood, Yin, Yang or Essence in the body.

Deficient Heat

When heat or inflammation flares in the body due to an insufficiency of yin or blood. Symptoms can include night sweats, heat sensations, anxiety, insomnia or weakness.

Empty Heat

A further progression of yin deficiency when the yin fluids have become more depleted. Typical with hormonal changes, especially for perimenopausal women.

Essence

A special crystalline fluid substance that only resides in the Kidneys also referred to as Jing Qi. This substance carries the basic building blocks for reproduction, growth, development, sexual power, conception, and pregnancy. Essence is the material foundation for all Qi and blood in the body and acts as our savings account of vital substance to boost our vitality and move through more difficult depleting times. It provides a reservoir of resilience and resources to the body and is the vital component passed on to our offspring.

Excess Yang

When there is excessive heat in the body. This can present as systemic inflammation, irritation, hypertension, restlessness, anxiety or fevers.

Excess Yin

When there is an imbalance of fluids in the body resulting in fluid retention and dampness. This can present as swelling, fatigue, memory issues, and bloating.

Meridians

The 12 major pathways for the Chinese organ systems. The meridians are like our body’s highways and road in which Qi, blood and fluids travel within supplying energy and nourishment to the body. Each meridian is connected to an organ which designated acupuncture points along these pathways to be used to correct imbalances in the flow in the body.

Phlegm

A progression of dysfunction internally that may or may not be visible. Can present as sticky mucus in throat or nose, but also can be a metaphorical indication for reduces flow of Qi resulting in restlessness and irritation.

Qi

Pronounced “chee” Qi is the basic energetic building block of all things. The vital energy or life force which flows through the meridians to protect, transform, warm and nourish the organs, tissues and shen.

Qi Deficiency

When the vital force or energy in the body is lacking causing symptoms like weakness, low energy, slow metabolism, shortness of breath, sadness or depressed mood.

Qi Gong

A style of practice that includes breathing techniques, gentle movement and guided meditative awareness. It is helpful for moving and generating Qi thereby maintain and regaining physical, emotional and spiritual health.

Seven Emotions

Also referred to as the spirits in Chinese Medicine. Emotions that are considered potential causes of illness are sadness, fright, fear, anger, grief, overjoy or excitability, and pensiveness.

Shen

The spirit or soul that govern all mental faculties of a person. The Shen is a symbol of vitality in the individual including their charisma, responsibility, ability to have self-control, intellectual, emotional and spiritual capacity shown by the spark in the person’s eye.

Stagnation

A blockage, congestion or buildup of Qi and/or Blood that impedes the free flow of Qi.

TCM

Abbreviation for “Traditional Chinese Medicine.”

Tao

The ancient philosophy of oneness in the natural world.

Tonify

To strengthen, nourish and support Qi, blood, body fluids in the body or weak organ functioning.

Wei Qi

Defensive Qi associated with the immune system.

Yang

The fire or heat in the body that fuels function. Yang generates and maintains warmth and circulation in the body.

Yang Deficiency

Symbolizes a lack of the warming and functional quality of yang. Typically represents a cold condition internally will symptoms like low back pain, painful periods, low sex drive, fatigue, poor digestion and cold body.

Yin

The substance and anchoring function in the body. Yin includes blood, body fluids and cerebrospinal fluid that soothe and moisten the organs and tissues.

Yin Deficiency

Symbolizes a lack of cooling, calming and moistening function in the body. Typically symtoms can be dry eyes and throat, dizziness, vision issues, insomnia, heat sensations in the face, hands, feet and chest, nervous tension, restlessness, anxiousness and night sweats.

Zang Fu

Zang fu is the name for the Chinese organ system. Zang describes the solid organs that store vital nutrients and substances. The hollow organs are referred to as the fu organs and are responsible for transportation and release in the body.

Organs

The Chinese organ system, also referred to as the Zang Fu, have a broader range of symptoms, associations, functions and actions than our understanding of the organ systems in Western Medicine. Although we still use the name Liver, Kidney, etc. The Chinese organs includes emotional, psychological and spiritual aspects of each element/organ pair.

The Five Main Yin Organs

Heart

Houses the shen (spirit), governs blood circulation, brain, nervous system and mental health.

Liver

Acts as the traffic conductor in the body controlling all movement. Includes digestion, circulation, detoxification, regulating endocrine function, and processing all emotional/mental states.

Spleen/Pancreas

The center point for nourishment and wisdom. Responsible for digestion, absorption of nutrients, producing nutrient rich blood, circulation of fluids and water metabolism. Associated with the lymphatic system.

Lung

The refresher of oxygen, and container of ancestral soul lineage. Responsible for respiration, expiration, water and blood circulation, controls the pores and Wei Qi or defensive Qi in the body to boost immunity.

Kidney

The savings account of life force. The Kidneys include the urinary and reproductive systems, growth, development, the endocrine system, hormones, the brain, nervous system, metabolism, hair, and the bones.

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