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The Eight Principles and the Four Couples in TCM

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For professionals teaching Chinese medicine in general or, acupuncture, in particular, it is essential to emphasize the intelligent method practitioners apply for categorizing the symptoms, the structure may be simple but the utilization is complex. The utilization of opposing categories that’s grounded on logic and observation is a classic example of the concept of Yin and Yang penetrating practical medicine.

This impressive Chinese medical system’s development was not accomplished in a single day. Over 2,000 years ago, integrated in a special context of superstitions, customs, knowledge, and at the same time the start of pragmatic and logical thinking, medicine was a hodge-podge of intrusion spirit and ancestor intrusion in daily life, demonology, spells, amulets, and eventually the application of medications for certain disorders.

Centuries were needed in order to create a strong foundation that, based on the place and moment, the schools of thought and dynasties, depended on varied beliefs and took different directions. The outcome was an unparalleled body of knowledge, awesome in quality and replete with great volumes of efficient practices and intelligent theories.

In the last half of the 20th century, a fairly coherent front for the theory and practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in Overland Park was created by the Chinese government. Western minds who appreciated consistency and logic found this new approach more appealing that, in fact, was inspired in part by dialectical materialism. This resulted in the quick acceptance and integration of the Yin-Yang concept into the frame of philosophical dualism.

Among the varied phases of medical teaching and constantly in the chapters of the manuals, the topic that stood out in seemingly great clarity is the Eight Principles. It offered a way of classifying the symptoms. It came just after the collecting of symptoms, and helped produce (in TCM jargon, obviously), the formulation of a diagnosis (as is done in western medicine).

This seemingly simple but remarkable structure was based on order, analysis, and observation. The Eight Principles are segmented in four couples in which opposite qualities define the state of the disorder.

1. Heat/Cold: In this first couple, two universal opposing aspects define the nature of the disease, in terms of their appearance and physical feeling. The collection of symptoms in these two aspects can be simply understood with down to earth reasoning: A cold feeling whether from the touch of the practitioner or from the feeling of the patient himself is Cold, and a pale face could mean also Cold while Hot can equate to high fever, and heat can mean a red face. For the sake of both diagnosis and treatment, it is important that a distinction be made between these two opposing groups.

2. Interior-Exterior: Almost all diseases begin either on the organs that are the first to be in contact with the environment or on the part of the body that is most in contact with the exterior. It can be the skin and the tendons, joint, or muscles (which are the underlying immediate structures of the skin). Two organs that are very susceptible to environmental contact are the nose and the respiratory system. The disorder can either vanish or penetrate the body even more and become Internal, or even manifest at the level of the functions or organs.

3. Deficiency/Excess: In this third couple, two factors imply that a local situation, a function, or an organ is deficient or in excess of positive or negative energy. Signs of excess will manifest in a healthy and young individual suffering from pneumonia while a body exhausted by a debilitating disease will manifest deficient symptoms. Like in the second couple the distinctions made here are vital for the following steps.

4. Yin and Yang: These two opposing forces cover and refine the first three by utilizing their qualities and summarizing all the subtleties and distinctions of the symptoms and their classification into two meaningful, strong, and prestigious groups. The distribution of the signs, the interactions and plays between couples and the combined and simultaneous use of varied Principles offer a very efficient instrument for the diagnosis.

In TCM, Yin represents Deficiency, Cold, and Interior while Yang equals Excess, Heat, and Exterior. Practitioners are aware of the endless variety that the body can live individually and that when it comes to disease the Eight Principles are an indispensable component of the medical approach, but should be viewed as a means, instead of an end. This why it is a powerful tool, more so when the patient is treated with Chinese medications.

Written by Valerie

March 7th, 2017 at 3:29 pm

Posted in Acupuncture