Basic Concepts of Oriental Medicine


Space, human beings and nature combine into one element, the universe, in oriental medicine. The internal human body is divided into parts which do not function independently, but as an organic entity with mutual influence and in harmony. Similarly, mountains, seas and forests (the earth) while separate, are connected and influenced by each other, and harmonized among one another to exist. The universe, comprised of nature and people, is not fixed but continually changing.

Yin and Yang philosophy

The principle of oneness, dividing everything in the universe into yin and yang, is the core of Chinese ideology. Yin represents shade: darkness, cold and tranquility. Yang symbolizes light; brightness, heat and activity. The attributes for both yin and yang are changeable. Yang is at its peak when sun is the strongest. Yin steps in and after sunset becomes stronger. When yin is at maximum strength, yang will reappear.

In daily life, yin is dominant when asleep, and yang when awake.

Yin and yang exist in the human body as well. Yin comprises five internal viscera: heart, lung, spleen, liver, and kidney. Yang includes six digestive organs: large intestine, small intestine, stomach, gallbladder, urinary bladder and San Jiao (“triple burner”). The stomach is categorized as yin, the back as yang. People show more yang tendencies as children and more yin with age. In summer, yang is prevented from becoming too strong through perspiration. In winter, yang protects itself by closing sweat glands to prevent heat loss. When the balance of yin and yang is broken, for example through entering in or exiting of an air-conditioned room or through a radical change of temperature, disorder occurs in the body. This lack of balance is the root cause of many diseases.

Yin and yang do not remain the same forever, but change according to time, location, and relationship – yin is present in yang and vice versa.


Yin: night time women fall and winter stomach five internal viscera blood earth inside of body cold
Yang: daytime man spring and summer back six digestive organs ki(chi or qi) heaven body surface hot

A Chinese Old Wives’ Tale: It is a good idea to bathe in the moonlight of the full moon when the power of the moon is at maximum strength. Moonlight is considered so strong in yin that it can increase the charm of women, by aiding the parasympathetic nervous system to work predominately and activate the secretion of female hormone.

Concept of mibyou

In western medicine, diseases are determined from abnormal laboratory findings. One is labeled malaise (rather than sick) if abnormal data is not detected. While the practice of treating medical problems with antibiotics or surgery often yields wonderful results, western medicine falls short when handling cases of people diagnosed with malaise.

In oriental medicine on the other hand, general malaise falls under the category of “mibyou”, the period of disease before the occurrence of actual physical disease. The mind and body are considered as one. Attention is paid to the constitution and life habits of a person. The amount and flow of ki (chi/ qi) energy, and the flow and balance of body fluids are arranged to find balance between the mind and body. The natural human healing power is enhanced to enable one to overcome disease.

Categories of mibyou

  • Lifestyle diseases: No subjective symptoms make illnesses difficult to treat. Diseases often progress unawares until detected by medical checkups. Lipid abnormality, high blood pressure,hyperglycemia, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, etc.
  • Malaise: Are medical complaints but not supported by medical testing. Headaches, dizziness, edema, shoulder stiffness, insomnia, irregular heartbeat, etc.
  • Stress: Symptoms attributed to mental or physical suffering. Diarrhea, constipation, headache, nauseas, insomnia, excessive sensitivity to cold, loss of appetite, etc.
  • Allergic disease: Oversensitivity to physical substances such as pollen, house dust, mold, pet dander and food. Allergies, atopic dermatitis, asthma, etc.
  • Mental: confusion. Have trouble socializing in public and achieving ∙Depression, fatigue, irritation, loss of appetite, etc. goals.
  • Constitution: Inherited attributes from parents, Weak constitution, hypometabolism, low blood pressure, excessive vitality, etc.

Mibyou is categorized in three types as follows:

1. here are subjective symptoms despite the fact that no abnormality is found by the medical examinations. These subjective symptoms can be severe.

2. Abnormality is detected by a medical examination without any subjective symptoms. The diseases often found in the serious stage due to no subjective symptoms.

3. There is no feeling of being cured after medical treatment is completed.

The philosophy of five natural elements

Ancient Chinese philosophy categorizes everything in the universe in five elements which are to some extent related to human life as a material or as phenomenon which actually happen, and seeks to explain mutual relationship among each other. That is a category theory coming from a peculiar cultural climate of china. Five elements should be considered north, south, east and west with the centre.

Five elements are 木(tree), 火(fire), 土(earth), 金(metal) and 水(water).

  • 木(tree): The symbol of spring when all things begin , the state of plants budding and growing up.
  • 火(fire): The symbol of summer when all things grow, the state of fire blazing up, the quality of heat.
  • 土(earth): The symbol of the earth and, linked to each season, This grows and protects all things, is linked to four seasons, represents the transition of seasons and symbolizes the earth.

  • 金(metal): The symbol of the fall, the meaning of harvest, this represents the quality of being solid, sharp and shiny like metals.
  • 水(water): The indication of water gushing out of springs. The water under the ground brings up life and symbolizes the winter.


Remembering the order of the phrases:

Wood feeds Fire;
Fire creates Earth (ash);
Earth bears Metal;
Metal carries Water (as in a bucket or tap, or water condenses on metal);
Water nourishes Wood.

Terms for this cycle include “begets”, “engenders” and “mothers.”


Wood parts Earth (such as roots; or, trees can prevent soil erosion);
Metal chops Wood;
Fire melts Metal;
Water extinguishes Fire;
Earth dams (or muddies or absorbs) Water;

Terms for this cycle include “controls”, “restrains” and “fathers”.

Ancient Chinese people sorted out all things happening and existing on earth into the five natural elements to figure out all the phenomena through the reciprocal interaction and interconversion among the five natural elements.

The same philosophy was used in the medical field. The idea of dividing all things was applied to explain the structure of the body, physiology, pathology, diagnose, medical treatment, foods, and the understanding of the environment, etc. according to the philosophy of the five internal viscera and six digestive organs, the liver and gall bladder are 木(tree), the heart and intestine are 火(fire), the spleen and stomach are 地(earth), the lung and colon are 金(metal) and the kidney and bladder are 水(water). In the concrete manner of explanation, また、ほかにも以下のような関係等があるとされています。