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Concept of Holism in TCM
Addtime:2016-11-04 21:30:05 Hit:514

The theoretical system of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has evolved in the long course of clinical practice. It originates from practice and, in turn, guides the practice. This unique theoretical system is essentially characterized by the concept of holism and treatment based on syndrome differentiation.


1. Concept of holism

The concept of holism emphasizes the integrity of the human body and the unity between the body and its external environments. The holism permeates through the physiology, pathology, diagnostics, syndrome differentiation and therapeutics.


The human body is regard as at organic whole. Its constituent parts are inseparable in structure, interdependent in physiology, and mutually influential in pathology. The unity of the body is realized through the five zang-organs, with the assistance of the six fu-organs and the communication of the meridian system. Since the human body is an organic whole, treatment of a local disease has to take the whole body into consideration. For example, the heart opens into the tongue and is related with the small intestine internally and externally. So, oral erosion (ulcerative stomatitis) may be clinically treated by clearing away the fire from the heart or small intestine. There are a number of therapeutic principles in TCM developed under the guidance of the concept of organic whole, such as “drawing yin from yang and drawing yang from yin; treating the right for cure disease located on the left, treating the left for curing disease located on the right”; “needling the acupoints on the lowing part of the body for the treatment of the disease located in the upper part, and needling the acupoints on the upper part of the body for the treatment of the disease located in the lower part.”


Man lives in the natural world and the natural world provides man with all the necessities indispensable to his existence. At the same time, the changes in nature directly or indirectly affect the human body. Take seasonal changes for example, usually spring is marked by warmth, summer by heat, late summer by dampness, autumn by dryness and winter by cold. Under the influence of such changes, the living things on the earth will also change to adapt to environment variation, such as sprouting in spring, growing in summer, alternation in late summer, ripeness in autumn and storage in winter. The human body is no exception and it also makes corresponding changes to adapt to the changing seasons. For example, in spring and summer, yang qi goes outward and flourishes, qi and blood of the body tend to circulate superficially, consequently leading to more sweating and less urination. And during autumn and winter, yang qi goes inward and astringes, qi and blood of the body tend to flow internally, causing less sweating and more urination. In this way the body keeps its balance of water metabolism and avoids over consumption of yang qi.

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