Updated: May 9, 2020
Qi - One of the guiding principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Qi (pronounced chee) is probably best interpreted as the “life force” within us. Sometimes it is also described as our “vital energy” within our body. The existence of Qi and its associated properties make up the basis of much of the principle of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
TCM looks at life differently to western culture. We view the body as one whole entity with connecting parts that all work in balance to maintain life and health. Everything in the body is interconnected with each other. As such if all the parts of our body are in harmony with one another then we experience health and balance. Disturb one component and there is disharmony and imbalance that ripples through the whole system causing dis-ease and ill health.
All these different components, connecting parts have different types of energetic qualities. Qi, blood and fluids of the body and considered the most important of these qualities. Strong Qi is vital to healthy life.
Where do we get Qi?
Qi is derived from two different sources. We have Qi that is inherited. This is present from conception and is known as “the innate vital substance” Secondly, we can obtain Qi throughout life from our surrounds such as air, food and water. This Qi is "acquired essence" from nature.
There is a multitude of types of Qi, many and varied. Here is an example of 4 types of Qi.
*Prenatal Qi (Yuan Qi) contains the prenatal and congenital properties. Inherited from the parents this Qi is stored in the kidney.
*Lung Qi (Zong Qi) is made in the lungs. It is formed from oxygen taken in by the lungs and food essence from spleen and stomach.
*Nutritive Qi (Ying Qi) governs the nourishment of the body. Derived from food essence created by stomach and spleen. *Protective Qi (Wei Qi) is our suit of armour against illness. Wei Qi is pushed to the surface by the dispersing action of the lungs and circulates on the skin in order to protect the body from external pathogens.
Noticing how many of the different types of Qi are influenced and derived from our food essence makes it clear the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle in order to obtain the vital Qi required by the body for healthy balance.
How does Qi work around the body?
Qi holds many different roles around our body. I have listed a brief description of each to give a picture of the importance of a strong healthy Qi and the impacts and related health concerns of any deficiency or Qi. Qi is an active energy in the body that is necessary for growth and development of our organs and tissues. It also drives the production and movement of blood and fluid around our body. When we encounter a deficiency of qi, these functions will become weak. Symptoms of weakness may include delay in development and growth and poor functioning of our organs leading to a multitude of health issues.
Qi contains heat energy for our body. As a heat source Qi maintains our body at a constant temperature for optimal functioning. Imbalances of deficiency in Qi may result in a lowered body temperature and symptoms such as cold extremities and poor circulation.
As mentioned earlier when discussing protective Qi our Qi acts as an armour against the many “evils” that may lead to illness and dis-ease. “Evils” are environmental factors such as wind, heat, damp, dry, cold and fire. To liken it to a western medicine term our Qi defend against illness in a similar way to our immune system.
Our Qi keeps also works to keep everything in place. It keeps blood flowing in vessels, controls secretion of fluids, stores and conserves sperm, maintains positioning of the organs for optimal functioning. A deficiency in Qi may results in health issues such as, hemorrhage, frequent urination, premature ejaculation and prolapses.
Qi has a transformational function in the body. Aiding the metabolizing of substances to transform them into essence or vital energy. For example, the food we eat is transformed into a food essence with is then further transformed into Qi and blood.
The impact of deficiency and excess on Qi.
The Qi we use in life is extracted in most cases from food we eat and air that we breathe. As such it is imperative that we have access to nourishment from high quality foods and the opportunity to breathe good clean air. Whilst diet and air quality are of the upmost importance a deficiency of Qi can be experienced as an insufficiency of any of a multitude of things that may sustain and nourish us in life. Along with food these would include things like warmth, shelter, mental and physical stimulation, relationships, affection and love.
Qi can also be impacted by negative excesses in life. This refers to the presence of something that is detrimental or in overabundance to our specific needs. Some examples of excess we may experience are, environmental toxins, excess in diet, heat, cold, humidity, emotion – particularly stress, worry, grief and anger or excess physical activity without room to rest and restore.
When restoring health from a TCM perspective strengthening Qi and restoring imbalances is critical to long term success and optimal health.
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