Traditional Chinese Medicine evolved over thousands of years in a society that had no microscopes, no concept of microbiology, yet developed an articulate way to explain the phenomena of health and disease. It can help an extremely wide array of issues, including arthritis, skin problems, behavior issues, seizures and endocrine diseases.
The TCM five elements of fire, earth, metal, water and wood are linked to yin and yang organs and other things from time of day and year to emotion, sound, taste, color and odor. For example, the lungs and large intestine are the yin and yang organs of the metal element. The metal element is related to the sound of weeping and the emotion of grief. It is most susceptible to dryness and is associated with the color white, the direction west, autumn and a rotten odor.
Each of the five elements also has related meridians, which are pathways on the surface of the body related to the internal organs. These meridians are the map used to find the most effective points for acupuncture or acupressure.
Remember patience when trying TCM. Sometimes you can see results overnight, but for more deep-seated chronic problems it may be a few weeks before any changes are evident.
In conjunction with the Five Elements practitioners use the Eight Principles in diagnosing. According to Cheryl Schwartz, DVM, in Four Paws Five Directions, “this system [the Eight Principles] is based upon the quality, quantity and location of a problem. The Eight Principles include the categories and concepts of: Yin and Yang; Interior and Exterior; Cold and Hot; [as well as] Deficiency and Excess.”
Also integral to TCM is the concept of Qi. It encompasses the idea of life force or energy. Schwartz writes, “Qi is vitality. It is not a palpable entity, but a function…[it] has three main components. The hereditary qi…nutritive qi that is derived from the food we eat…and cosmic qi that is from the air we breathe.” It is the flow of Qi through the body that creates harmony. Blockages or other problems with this flow create imbalance and disease.
All of these concepts and more are put into play when a TCM practitioner makes a diagnosis. The initial exam is usually quite involved. The question and answer period is extensive, and then the physical exam is more comprehensive than in conventional medicine. For example, the tongue and pulse are examined closely, as these give essential information about the patient's internal environment.
Clients are asked detailed questions about the nature of the presenting complaint, their animal's past, his habits and preferences, and his personality. The animal's home environment and diet will be discussed as well.
Using the information learned from the initial exam, a TCM practitioner will make a diagnosis from a Chinese standpoint. It’s at this time that you may hear such terms as Wood Constitution, Yin Deficiency and Internal Wind to describe your dog’s condition.
The practitioner then prescribes the appropriate treatment for your dog. It may include specially blended Chinese herbs, acupuncture or diet changes. These methods are used to bring the body and various organs back into harmony.
Of course TCM isn’t always the best course of action in all cases. Sometimes acupuncture can be helpful in an emergency situation, but as a general rule western medicine is better suited for acute crises or critical care cases.
Remember patience when trying TCM. Sometimes you can see results overnight, but for more deep-seated chronic problems it may be a few weeks before any changes are evident. The other thing to remember is diligence. Chronic problems have many layers. Timely rechecks and repeat treatments are essential to monitor progress and adjust treatment.
Four Paws Five Directions:
Cheryl Schwartz, DVM
Holistic Guide for a Healthy Dog
Wendy Volhard and Kerry Brown
The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine
Ted J. Kaptchuk
The Well-Connected Dog:
A Guide To Canine Acupressure
Nancy Zidonis & Amy Snow