The history of medicine has always fascinated me, so I thought it would be a fun idea to start a series which introduces different classical texts that have helped to shape Chinese Medicine (CM). As a practitioner of CM I love knowing that there are thousands of years worth of medical history to look to for inspiration. Hopefully this series gives you some insight into the historical contexts surrounding this ancient medical system.

I guess the best place to begin is the beginning – with one of the earliest, and arguably most influential medical classics: The Huang Di Nei Jing (aka. The Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classic). Compiled over 2200 years ago, The Nei Jing is considered the theoretical basis for Chinese Medicine and all medical classics that came after it. This medical treatise marks a radical shift in thinking when it comes to the way the ancient Chinese viewed health and disease. Historically, illness was believed to be caused by malevolent spirits and demonic influences, following the shamanic origins of ancient chinese medicine. The Nei Jing is one of the first texts that shakes up that old worldview and looks at the natural causes of disease, rather than the supernatural ones. External pathogenic factors (like wind and cold), lifestyle factors, diet, and the emotional causes of disease were all discussed in great detail.

The majority of this book is based in Daoist thinking. Living in harmony with the flow and rhythm of nature results in health, whereas living out of sync with nature results in disease. At its most basic level, illness is caused by an imbalance of Yin and Yang energies. Yin is the cooling, slow, nutritive essence of the body, whereas Yang is the fast, hot, energetic side of the body. If either of these forces is in excess, or deficiency an individual’s health will suffer.

One of the reasons this ancient text is still so profoundly important today is its focus on preventative medicine. In a world of chronic illnesses like diabetes – preventative medicine is as important as ever.

by Jon McDonell, R.Ac

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