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Chinese Medicine
by Jim Martin
What do the ancient Chinese Taoist masters, ‘Ice Man,’ the mummy recently discovered in a Tyrolean glacier, and many skilled practitioners of modern holistic medicine all have in common? An understanding of ‘Qi.’...

Tattoos found on the 5300-year-old ‘Ice man,’ exactly corresponded to the energy centers classified by ancient Chinese as acupuncture points. Using piezoelectric and other scientific techniques, these points have been identified as focal points of electromagnetic energy having unique energetic properties. This strongly suggests that the existence of ‘Qi’ (pronounced ‘chee’) energy and its circulation in the body has been known in various cultures around the world for millennia. Yet, it is only in the past few decades that the principles and practice of Chinese Medicine have come to the attention of the general American public.

Thousands of years ago, the ancient Chinese studied and recorded the fundamental principles they observed in themselves and in their universe. These qualities, including harmony and the balance of opposites, the characteristics of weather and the nature of energy that they called 'Qi', formed the core of their philosophy and the basis for their medicine. Today, Chinese Medicine is one of the world's great medical systems, used by a quarter of the earth's population, and is rapidly being incorporated into mainstream medicine in America.

According to Chinese Medicine, a smooth flow and balance of energies in a person is necessary for optimum physical and mental health. Disharmony resulting from such factors as injuries, emotions or weather produces symptoms of illness. Balancing the energy flowing through the organs and meridians restores harmony and wellness. In addition, by keeping the body and mind 'in tune' like a car, we can prevent many disease conditions.

In addition to balance and harmony, several other principles form the foundation of Chinese Medical philosophy. One concept more familiar to Americans is that of Yin and Yang, the inter-relation of opposites. All phenomena are divided according to their natures into these two opposing yet mutually creating and controlling categories. Yin qualities include female, passive, cold, dark and internal, and therefore a cold internal disease process such as a stomachache. Yang qualities include male, active, hot and external and would define a condition such as a hot, red skin inflammation. In its farthest extreme each becomes the other. As such, summer eventually returns to summer, and vice versa. Neither category is totally pure yin or yang, as evidenced by stars (yang, fire) seen in the black night sky, or the male hormones present in a woman's body.

Another relatively well known principle is the Five Elements, more accurately translated as the Five Phases, as each category is in fact, transient and constantly in flux. All universal phenomena can be divided into the qualities of wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Wood, for example, includes the spring season and new development, the color green, the eyes, the Chinese 'organs' of the liver (yin) and gallbladder (yang), and emotions of anger and frustration. As such, a woman experiencing excesses of anger and frustration at work could develop a 'liver' condition such as PMS, which could manifest in the spring.

While these ancient reference systems of Yin/Yang and Five Elements are interesting in their own right for examining and organizing the world around us, they are crucial in aiding the practitioner of Chinese Medicine to develop an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment of disease. As many health disorders involve imbalances in our body energies, which may not be easily detected by modern Western medical techniques, Chinese Medicine offers a powerful complementary system for maintaining optimal health and well-being.

For those of us concerned about our outward physical appearance, and with easy access to quality Chinese medical treatment, the good news is that it is absolutely unnecessary to tattoo the locations of the acupuncture points on your skin, as was the case with 'Ice Man'. The insertion of very thin stainless steel needles by a highly trained and skilled acupuncturist will do the job very nicely.

Jim Martin, Lic. Ac., Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM) is director of Columbia Acupuncture and practices acupuncture and Chinese Medicine in Hillsboro, McMinnville and Scappoose. He can be reached at 503-543-3196 or