Three Treasures of TCM
Qi, Jing, and Shen in Chinese Medicine
1. Qi gives us the ability to activate and move our bodies and it the most refined Treasure
2. Jing, or Essence, is the source of life and is the most dense of the Three Treasures
3. Shen is the most subtle of the Three Treasures and is the vitality behind Jing and Qi
Qi (pronounced “chee”) is generally thought of as the vital force within our bodies. Qi in its yang form is responsible for animation of the human form. Qi travels through the 12+ meridians (channels) very much like blood through vessels. Chinese medicine works to insure that Qi is able to move freely, that it is moving in the correct direction, and that there is an abundant availability of Qi. It is acquired through food, air and herbs. Qi corresponds broadly to energy and matter, and every phenomenon in the Universe is a manifestation of Qi. When Qi is condensed it can manifest matter (Yin form) and when it disperses it manifests energy (Yang).
A quote from Chang Cai explains this concept: “Every birth is a condensation and every death is a dispersion. Birth is not a gain, death is not a loss. When condensed, the energy becomes a living being and when dispersed it is the substratum of mutations.” Qi could be likened to the String theory of quantum physics as it manifests differently depending on its vibrational quality; to simply say that "Qi is Energy" is a gross over-simplification.
Chapter twenty five in the Simple Questions contains the following quote: “A human being results from the Qi of heaven and earth. The union of the Qi of heaven and earth is called a human being”.
- Qi is the source of all movement of the body: ascending, descending, entering and leaving
- Qi protects the body against external and internal pathological factors
- Qi is the source of production and transformation of Blood, tears, sweat, and urine
- Qi governs over the body’s ability to retain substances such as Blood and Organs
- Qi warms the body
Qi mechanism (or Qi movement ,or Qi Ji 气机) is described in ancient Chinese medical texts which explain: “If there is no ascending or descending , there is no birth, growth,maturation and decline. If there is no entering /exiting, there is no birth, growth, transformation,receiving and storage. If the Qi Mechanism functions well there is room for birth and transformation. If Qi mechanism is disrupted, there is fragmentation and no birth or transformation.” The improper direction of Qi is called "rebellious Qi" or "counter-flow Qi".
The directional movement of Qi is very important for good health as such:
- Spleen Qi ascends to combine with air in the Lungs where it combines with the Heart Qi and makes Blood. The Middle Burner, or Middle Jiao, is the moderator of Qi flow. The Spleen and Stomach energetic organ system are located in the Middle Burner and pertain to the Earth element in the Five- elements phase theory. Both coordinated fulfill the functions of transporting nutrient substances to nourish Zang and Fu organs and the whole body. Therefore , the Spleen together with Stomach is said to be nourishing Earth of the Middle Burner.The Middle Burner is the switch of the Qi-mechanism; it regulates the correct direction of Qi both up and down and resolve Qi-stagnation associated with many diseases. When Spleen-Qi descends instead of ascending. It can not carry Food-Qi ascending to the Lungs, therefore the whole production of Qi is disrupted and this may result in Qi deficiency. Moreover, when Spleen-Qi descends, it may cause loose stools or prolapse of the organs.
- Stomach Qi descends and allows for unusable food to move downward to the intestines. The Stomach sends impure Qi downwards to the intestines.When Stomach-Qi ascends instead of descending it causes acid re-flux, hiccups, nausea, vomiting and belching. As the Stomach carries food essences to the whole body, the ascending of Stomach-Qi also disrupts the production of Qi and Blood, and may result in Qi deficiency.
- Liver Qi ascends from the right side. Over-activity of Liver Qi can become too ascending and cause emotional problems. The Liver controls the movement of Qi in all directions and is central in the correct flow of Qi. The Liver can also heat up due to Liver Qi Stagnation and attack other organs such as the Stomach causing an abnormal rising of Qi and acid reflux.
- Lung Qi descends from the right side.
- Ren Mai (a channel that runs up the mid-line of the body to the mouth) Qi descends- if it travels in a counter direction, or up, it causes coughing and asthma.
- Gathering Qi is yet another type of Qi in the body. Spleen sends Qi upward ( to the Lungs and Heart) and the Food-Qi( Gu Qi 谷气) to the Lungs to combine with air to generate Gathering-Qi (Zong-Qi 宗气) It has two main functions:
1. It exits through the throat projecting the breath that influences the voice.
2. It fills the heart with Qi energy promoting the circulation of Qi and Blood.
Essence (a Yin characteristic) is that aspect of the body that is the basis for all growth, development, and sexuality. Congenital Essence is that part of the body’s Essence that is inherited from ones parents. After birth this Essence, which is akin to an inborn constitution (DNA), determines each of our growth patterns. Congenital Essence can never be replaced if lost, but can be supplemented by acquired Essence, which is derived from food and herbs. Many of the best tonic herbs for healthy aging support the essence. It is important to maintain abundant qi through proper diet, breathing exercises and meditation, and tonic herbs so that you do not consume essence. Properlifestyle habits, such as proper, sound sleep at night also help to preserve essence.
Essence is Yin in nature, and is the primary substance responsible for growth and development, metabolism, and plays a role in daily activity especially when Qi is depleted. Essence can be regarded as substantial Yin, and spirit, or Shen, as the counterpart Yang.
Kidney Essence produces marrow, which then produces bone marrow and then fills the spine, bone marrow and spinal cord. This is why Kidney tonics are so important in the full recovery of back injuries.
Kidney Essence rules over growth, reproduction, and development, and Kidney deficiencies can manifest as improper growth and maturation, sexual dysfunction, ED impotence, infertility, premature aging and birth defects.
The Shen represents the forces that shape our personality including mental and spiritual aspects. The Heart houses Shen and it can be observed by trained practitioners through a certain brightness of the eyes. Shen disturbances generally refer to mental disorders. While the Shen is often referred to as the spirit, it should not be confused with the Christian idea of the spirit; it is more about a person's inner light. Our Shen allows us to think and discriminate, and shapes our personality. Shen is the most immaterial of the Three Treasures in Chinese medicine.