Medical Theories with Thousands of Years' History

Chinese medicine was built on the foundation of thousands of years of Chinese medical practice. Combining the success of medical practice and ancient Chinese philosophies, multiple sets of Chinese medical theories were later developed. Until now, Chinese medicine is still widely used by the Chinese around the world. There are increasing research efforts put into this area by Western researchers in recent years.

While the Chinese medicine theories are not completely based on scientific knowledge and are in lack of logical mechanism of action, there are a few successful cases of pharmaceutical companies creating new drugs from traditional remedies. This makes more and more people seeing Chinese herbs as an alternative to health supplements.

In Western medicine, doctors try to find out the specific causes of diseases and conduct treatment on that particular body parts. However, Chinese medicine works in quite a different way, which takes a more holistic approach. This idea is applied at two different levels:

1. Human body itself is one organic whole, with all body parts interconnected, dependent and influencing one another pathologically. The body’s vital energy (i.e. qi) circulates through channels, called meridians, that have branches connected to bodily organs and functions. Maintaining the balances of all body parts is the key to stay healthy.

2. Human existence is closely tied with the universe. Human is just a part of the material world. When there is a change in the natural environment, human bodies would also change accordingly. For example, seasonal changes or geographical changes would result in different climate, water and soil composition, and would then influence our bodies.

Three Major Sets of Chinese Medical Theories

There are three major sets of Chinese medical theories, developed from three different ancient Chinese philosophical ideas:

1. Vital Energy Theory (Jing-Qi Theory)
Ancient Chinese philosophers believed that everything in the world was composed of Qi. When Qi is on the move, we can no see it. When Qi groups together, it forms different objects that we can see. Jing-Qi is the vital essence of Qi and the building block of all forms of lives. Human bodies are also made up of Jing-Qi. A considerable part of Jing-Qi is inherited from the parents. We inhale Jing-Qi from the air and generate Jing-Qi throughout the course of our life from food and drink.

2. Yin-yang Theory
Yin-yang Theory originated from the Book of Changes. Yin-yang describes two opposite forces that are actually complementary to each other in the natural world. Light and darkness or fire and water are thought of as physical manifestations of yin-yang. A balance of yin-yang within human bodies is the key to health. If the yin-yang within our body is out of balance, we would feel sick.

3. Five Elements Theory
The Five Elements Theory also originated from ancient Chinese philosophies. It presumes that all phenomena of the universe and nature can be broken down into five elemental qualities – represented by metal, wood, water, fire and earth. The Five Elements generate action and counteraction on one another.

Correspondence between body parts and the five elements are identified. If one organ is in trouble, it would affect other organs. This is again an illustration of the holistic approach of Chinese medicine.



中醫學的理論源於臨床實踐, 亦受中國古代哲學很大的影響。時至今日, 中醫學在華人圈內仍被廣泛使用, 近年亦越來越多西方國家研究中醫學。雖然中醫藥於科學上的認證仍不足, 但已有藥廠成功將傳統的中藥配方研發成新藥,令世界各地亦越來越多人視中藥為保健產品。

西方醫學著重找出病源, 針對性為身體有病的地方進行治療。但中醫卻完全不同, 很著重整體概念,可大致分為兩個層次:

1. 人體的器官都是通過全身經絡而亙相聯系起來, 維持各系統平衡乃健康之道。
2. 人類活在自然環境之內, 是整體物質世界的一部份。當自然環境產生變化時, 人體也會產生相應之變化。因此, 季節的轉變, 不同的地區, 基於氣候, 水質及土質的不同, 會對人體產生不同的影響。


中醫學有三大學說, 從三套不同的中國古代哲學發展出來:

1. 精氣學說
中國古代哲學家認為, 世上一切都由氣構成。當氣運動時, 是肉眼看不見的; 當氣凝聚在一起時, 就形成看得見摸得著的實體。精氣, 指氣之精粹, 生命產生的本原。人體也是由氣組成。出生之前, 從母體獲得先天之精氣; 出生之後, 通過肺吸入天之清氣, 以及由脾胃吸收水谷之精氣。

2. 陰陽學說
陰陽概念源於易經,為存在於自然界兩種對立但又亙相補足的力量,光與暗,火與水,正是陰陽的一個形體化的代表。人體的正常生命活動, 是陰陽保持協調平衡的結果。如人體內陰陽失衡, 就會出現各種病痛。

3. 五行學說
五行學也是屬於古哲學範疇。五行以金, 木, 水, 火, 土五種自然界的物質為基礎, 以其”相生”及”相剋”的規律以解釋萬事萬物的一種世界觀。

中醫的五行學說指人體的各個器官, 有如五行一樣, 相生相剋。任何一個器官生病, 都會引致其他器官有問題。 這也體現了中醫以整體為觀念的基本特點。