Chinese Medicine Alternatives to Health and Happiness
By Debbie Mandel
When my Western eyes first read books on the subject of Chinese medicine, I liked the stories, but considered the practice to be more art than science. I grew up with Western medicine which is analytical and biochemical. In contrast, Chinese medicine was more energy-oriented and used nature as a guide to good health. For example, a high fever with a dry cough is clinically delineated as wind heat invasion on the body. The antidote is cooling herbs to restore the balance. And it is balance that stands at the heart of these “stories.”
What a refreshing alternative for our pharmaceutical society to consider more natural options without the toxic side effects of drugs! After all the bad PR Vioxx and Celebrex received along with recent research findings on the uselessness of cough medicines (better off drinking hot chocolate), etc., I began to appreciate nature’s vast pharmacy. The more I read, the more I realized how much Chinese medicine poetically emphasizes the harmful role of stress in upsetting the emotional and physical imbalance leading to a weakened immune system. Western medicine is just beginning to tap into stress as the root cause of many illnesses and as a major obstacle in disease management. Chinese medicine has been doing it for over 5,000 years.
Here’s the basic story outline: We are all made up of five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. The key to health, longevity, happiness, creativity and good relationships, etc. is quite simple – keeping all five elements in balance. Also, each one of us has a personality which corresponds predominantly to one of the five elements. Through knowledge of our dominant element we can reach a greater emotional and physical understanding of what we need to do to improve our health and well being. In other words, when we understand who we are and what we need, we can manage our stress levels. Chinese medicine asks us to take stock of ourselves. I think this is a brilliant and direct approach for taking care of the self from head to toe!
The essence of Chinese medicine can be incorporated in our daily Western consciousness by respecting the healing aspects of nature, treating the whole patient, emphasizing disease prevention and living in balance: diet, exercise, home and work. Here are the five elements and what each one represents. Which one best describes you?
To learn more about the role of Chinese Medicine in stress management listen to Debbie Mandel's radio interview with Dr. Laurie Steelsmith, a naturopathic doctor, practitioner of Chinese Medicine and author of Natural Choices for Women’s Health.
- Wood – Type A, achievement oriented, aggressive. When you are in balance, you are easygoing and motivated; when you are not, you are angry and frustrated. Physical attributes: prone to migraines, can’t relax, thrive on exercise and movement and are an overall workaholic.
- Fire – Passionate, fiery. When you are in balance, you are joyous; when you are not, you are anxious. Physical attributes: laugh when you are nervous, crave caffeine, prone to insomnia and pale complexion.
- Earth – Nurturing, compassionate. When you are in balance, you are grounded; when you are not, you are wary and confused. Physical attributes: crave sweets and dairy products, gain weight easily, prone to digestive problems, food allergies and tend to overdo and get tired.
- Metal – Spiritual and artistic. When you are in balance, you are creative; when you are not, you are filled with grief and pessimism. Physical attributes: fast metabolism, stomach problems, respiratory infections, rashes and a craving for spicy foods.
- Water – Philosophical. When you are in balance, you are confident; when you are out of balance, you are fearful and insecure. Physical attributes: urinary tract infections, bladder problems and stiff and painful joints.
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com