Is it yin, or is it yang?

By Michael Côté

As an acupuncturist and Chinese medicine practitioner, I am frequently asked,:

  • how does it work?
  • will it work for my condition?
  • how long will it last?”

There are different ways of looking at “It” and I’ll attempt to explain the Chinese medicine point of view.

The key to understanding Chinese medicine is that rather than treat disease, the goal is to restore homeostasis. Homeostasis, put simply, is our body’s sophisticated method of maintaining equilibrium and health.

The ancient Chinese described this phenomenon as harmony between yin and yang. Yang is the presence of the sun and all that it represents and Yin is the absence of the sun and all that represents.

If the sun stopped rising and setting each day we couldn’t live. The same is true of our body; it needs to go through cycles like being awake and asleep.

Therefore, treatments in Chinese medicine focus on restoring homeostasis and all the tools we use (acupuncture, herbs, diet, exercise, lifestyle changes) are employed with that goal in mind.

When you have a health issue, we want to determine if it is a yin problem or a yang problem and what organ systems are involved. Then, based on that diagnosis we recommend a course of action.

Whether Chinese medicine will help your particular health problem depends a number of factors; especially on the ability of the practitioner of Chinese medicine to make a correct diagnosis and to utilize the proper tools correctly.

If I’m not certain of the diagnosis, or if I lack the right tools, I refer to someone who I think can help. If you crash while riding your bike, get a concussion and a broken collarbone, which what happened to my wife two years ago, I’m sending you to the emergency room.

Let’s look at a case I observed in 2009 at the Chengdu University Hospital in China:

A 45-year-old woman I’ll call April, complained of wheezing. She had shortness of breath, was constantly thirsty, and had thick copious yellow difficult to expectorate sputum.

April’s tongue had a greasy yellow coating, and her radial (wrist) pulses were rapid, slippery, and floating. She was therefore diagnosed with Ding Chuan, which roughly translates to a type of asthma.

April was prescribed a course of acupuncture, cupping, and the herbal formula Ding Chuan Tang, which contains ephedra among other herbs, to dissolve sputum and improve lung function.

April was also asked to get tested for tuberculosis and cancer to rule out other things that can cause breathing problems. She chose not to get acupuncture and preferred to only use herbal medicine.

The results of the TB testing came in later that day and was negative. The cancer screening took a bit longer and was also negative.

One week later, after taking the herbs appropriately, she no longer had wheezing, her tongue looked normal, her pulses were slippery, and she had some cramping with her bowel movements.

April was told to do some breathing exercises and to avoid spicy and rich foods so the bowels problems could clear up without the need for further medical intervention.

That’s how we approach health problems from a Chinese medicine perspective. We like to keep it simple and logical.

If your body lacks harmony, we need to restore it. If you’re too cold we need to warm you up; if you’re too hot, we need to cool you down.

The time required to feel better depends on a number of factors including the nature of the problem and what type of treatment plan you choose to follow.

For more information about current research in Chinese medicine check out: The Acupuncture Evidence ProjectAcupuncture Now Foundation or the British Acupuncture Council.

Michael Côté, R.TCM.P, is a registered practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He can be reached at the Okanagan Acupuncture Centre at 1625 Ellis St. in Kelowna — 250-861-8863, [email protected]

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


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