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Traditional Chinese Medicine 101: Yin and Yang

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, health is a condition of balance between Yin and Yang within the body. Yin and Yang are natural forces that govern all life in the universe. In general, Yin pertains to darkness, cold, moisture, grounding, feminine energy, inward reflection, and rest whereas Yang pertains to daylight, movement, heat, outward and upward movement, masculine energy, growth, and expansion. An imbalance in Yin and Yang can result in an extreme of one set of these conditions. 

For example, an individual with a Yin deficiency is seen as having a relative excess of Yang signs and symptoms - he or she feels too warm, ungrounded, irritable, and/or may have difficulty relaxing or sleeping because of the lack of Yin energy. Yin deficiency is actually a common TCM pattern for perimenopausal women experiencing hot flashes and night sweats.  An individual with a Yang deficiency, however, does not have enough Yang energy in the body and may experience symptoms like diarrhea, a deep feeling of cold, or lethargy.

The main goal of both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine treatments is to balance Yin and Yang.  Some acupuncture points can be used to strengthen Yin, some can strengthen Yang, and some can reduce pathological effects when (usually) Yang energy is too strong compared to Yin energy. 

Foods can also be seen as having Yin and/or Yang properties.  Likewise, for a person with Yin deficiency (as described above), we may recommend the any of the following moistening and cooling foods/dietary suggestions:
  • Grains: barley, quinoa
  • Vegetables: alfalfa sprouts, artichokes, asparagus, potatoes, string beans, zucchini, beets
  • Fruits: apples, apricots, avocados, bananas, lemons/limes, mangoes, mulberries, pears, pineapples, tomatoes, watermelon
  • Bean/bean products: adzuki beans, black beans, soybeans, kidney beans, lima beans, tofu
  • Proteins: fish (especially clams, crabs, oysters, sardines), chicken
  • Dairy: cheese, eggs, milk
  • Herbs/spices: marjoram, nettle
  • Condiments: honey, malt
  • Supplements: American ginseng, royal jelly

On the other hand, foods that are warmer in nature and supplement Yang include:
  • Grains: oats, sweet (glutinous) rice, wheat germ
  • Vegetables: leeks, mustard greens, onions, radishes, scallions, squash, sweet potato, turnips, garlic, kale
  • Fruits: cherries, litchis, peaches, raspberries, strawberries
  • Nuts: chestnuts, pinenuts, pistachio nuts, walnuts
  • Proteins: anchovy, lobster, shrimp, trout, chicken, lamb, beef
  • Herbs/spices: basil, black pepper, caper, cayenne, cinnamon bark, clove, fennel seed, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, horseradish, nutmeg, rosemary, sage, tumeric, thyme
  • Teas: chai tea, jasmine tea
  • Supplements: Algae, pollen, royal jelly (royal jelly tonifies both Yin and Yang)

2 Comments to Traditional Chinese Medicine 101: Yin and Yang:

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frances Murray on Thursday, March 03, 2011 9:28 AM
i have too much yang; i am going to get some fish and greens to increase my yin
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Goji Berries on Thursday, December 29, 2011 6:04 AM
Chinese herbal remedies seek to get the body back into a natural state of balance so that healing can occur and any imbalances are eliminated.
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