Alternative Medicine

The Soul, In Chinese Medicine

Posted by Alternative Medicine on July 25, 2011 in Chinese Medicine with No Comments

In this country, we frequently reference the soul. But when you really think about it, what is a soul? We speak of one being or having a “good soul;” we discuss it at funerals, we worry about our own when we feel we’ve done wrong. The concept of a soul has been around forever, yet we are still unclear about what it actually is. Some of us view it as the piece of us which lives on, after the body’s life has ended. Others think of it as a product of the accumulation of acts and thoughts that we create throughout our lives. Still others perceive it as the ultimate essence of who we are, and what makes each of us an individual. Regardless of what you believe, in our culture most perceptions of the soul are rooted in a philosophy of permanence. We want to believe that a piece of us will live on, beyond death and time.

In Chinese medicine, the soul is seen quite differently. It is more material, more substantial than our version. Its existence is not questioned; it is something that is simply a part of us. Each organ system contains and controls an aspect of the soul, and if that organ is out of balance, the aspect that it controls will suffer.

The Heart is the leader of all the parts of the soul; in a way, it is the face of the soul. The Heart is in charge of the Shen, which is the overall spirit of an individual. A while back we discussed the energetic functions of the Heart, and how it is linked to a clarity of the mind and spirit. If the Heart is out of balance, a person’s Shen will show signs of dysfunction: dull or clouded eyes, a lack of eye-contact, incoherence or manic rambling. In short, the person will seem mentally disturbed.

The Kidney controls the part of the soul that exists as willpower. Having a plan for life, and then having the will to make this plan work, is the Kidney’s function. Without the will, there is no action. This part of the soul is our motivating force to create something out of our lives.

The Spleen is in charge of the intellectual piece of our soul. It has to do with the accumulation of knowledge, and our ability to retain it. Without the Spleen, we lack the information to make any sort of decisions. On the other end of the spectrum, an imbalance of the Spleen can lead to a state of over thinking and obsession with details.

The Lung is the corporeal part of the soul, which means that it is bound to the flesh. It is the animating force that dies with our bodies. The Lung controls consciousness, and since does not have the character of permanence, it tends to be linked with more immediate desires and plans, rather than long-term goals.

The Liver controls the Hun, which is known as the ethereal soul. This is the piece of the soul that lives on after death. It is also the piece that is closest to our perception of what a soul can be; it grants us individuality, has permanence, and has much to do with our interaction with others. It also has a lot to do with sleep; if the Hun is strong, the person will be able to fall and stay asleep easily. If it is weak, the spirit becomes unrooted, leading to difficulty sleeping and a lot of dreams.

The Basics of Pulse Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine

Posted by Alternative Medicine on April 27, 2011 in Chinese Medicine with No Comments

During the course of an acupuncture treatment, you will notice that the practitioner spends a good amount of time palpating the pulses on both wrists. To an acupuncturist, the pulse can be the most important indication of what the treatment requires. Taking the pulse is an art that takes years to perfect, but it is easy to gather basic information about the state of the patient’s health with general palpation.

To begin, there are six positions on each wrist that correspond to the organ systems of the patient. The positions begin slightly above the styloid process of the radius, where the radial artery can be felt. On the left hand, the top position, closest to the hand, is the Heart. If you place your index finger on this position, and then let your middle and ring fingers rest below this finger, the middle finger will be resting on the Liver position, and the ring finger will be on the Kidney. On the right hand, the first position (where the Heart position was on the opposite hand) is the Lung position. Below the Lung is the Spleen, and the furthest position from the hand is the Pericardium.

The pulses of these organ systems can be felt with deep palpation. If the fingers are pressed tightly down, almost to the bone, they will be pressing upon the pulses of these six organs. If the fingers are slowly lifted up, there six pulses that can be felt separately, which rest atop the six deeper pulses. The pulse that rests atop the Heart is the Small Intestine pulse. The Gallbladder pulse is on top of the Liver, and the Bladder is on top of the Kidney. On the right hand, the Large Intestine is the top pulse, followed by the Stomach and Triple Burner.

When the practitioner touches the pulses, he is feeling for imbalances within these organ systems. If the pulse is weak or deep in any of these positions, he can detect a deficiency within the system. If any of the pulses seems to override the others or have too much strength, it can be an excess of that organ. It may also be a sign that there is an external pathogen trying to work its way into the system. For example, if the Lung pulse seems to be excessive or stands out above the rest, it can correspond to an invasion of wind or cold in the body-in Western terms, catching a cold.

The general feel of the pulses can be telling of issues within the body, as well. A slow pulse can mean that there is excess cold in the body, and a fast pulse usually relates to heat. If the pulse feels strong and forceful, almost like beads are flowing through it, the pulse is referred to as “slippery.” This type of pulse can point to issues with fluid distribution within the body. It can also be a sign of pregnancy. If the pulse feels like a tight wire vibrating, it is described as “wiry”. This pulse points to Liver imbalances, stress, anger, and menstrual issues. Although these two pulse types are the most common, there are a number of variations within the pulses that signal any number of disharmonies within the blood and qi of the body.

A trained practitioner can pick up these subtle nuances and use it as a guide to solve the mysteries that are held within each of us.