According to TCM, the internal organs and arms and legs that every one of us have are in fact not enough to make a person really alive. We need some special substances which give us nutrition and stimulate the functions of the organs. They are qi and blood
We all know what blood is – the stream off liquid endlessly running in the blood vessels. The major mission of blood is to provide nutrition for the whole body. So, what is qi?
Undoubtedly, internal organs are indispensable to everyone. However, the organs inside a living person are not fundamentally different from those inside a dead person. What then distinguishes life from death?
Let’s take the example of the traditional way of cooking rice to illustrate the relationship between internal organs and qi. We wash the rice, put it in the pot and add the water, but if we don’t light a fire underneath, no matter how much time passes, the rice will remain raw. But if there is a fire, the rice will be well-cooked in just half an hour.
It’s the same rice and the same water. What makes the difference is the fire. TCM believes that for human body, the role of qi is like this fire beneath the pot. It is because of the existence of qi that our internal organs can function and then we can be truly alive.
According to TCM, because there is qi in our lungs, so the lungs can rule the breath; because there is qi in our heart, so we feel at ease and calm; because there is qi in the spleen, so it is able to assist the stomach and intestines for digestion and absorption; because there is qi in the liver, so we may enjoy a smooth flow of energy; and because there is qi in the kidneys, so the liquid in our body can undergo normal metabolism. The old saying in China goes: “Qi is the pillar of human life”. Surely, we can interpret qi as “breath” here. But in a wider sense, it is not just breath, but a real substance that works throughout our body.
TCM summarizes the four functions of qi – to promote, to warm, to guard and to confine, which cover almost every aspect of human health. There is one important kind of qi called Defensive Qi, according to TCM, which we rely on to maintain a constant body temperature and stay intact in the face of the invasion of exogenous pathogenic factors.
The Defensive Qi is like a safeguard of our body. When we are involved in vigorous activities and the body temperature rises, the Defensive Qi will open the sweat pores, so that the excess heat can be released out of the body with the sweat. When the outward pathogenic factors want to enter the body, the Defensive Qi will close the sweat pores to keep them out of the body. The Defensive Qi will also fight a fierce battle against the pathogenic factors which had already entered the body and protect our health. It works in a manner similar to our immune system.
There are many tangible substances in the human body, such as blood, fluids (like sweat and saliva) and so on. These tangible substances need to stay at their own places so as to carry out separate functions.
For example, blood should run inside the blood vessels, sweat should be confined beneath the skin, and the semen should be held in the kidneys. What is it, then, which holds these substances at their own places? That is qi.
Some people are sweat easily. Just after a little walk, they become terribly sweaty. This is a manifestation of qi deficiency and its failure to confine the sweat. The benign qi helps our body to grow and metabolize. The healthy qi helps us to maintain an ideal body temperature. The strong qi defends our body against the invasion of pathogenic factors. And the properly-functioning qi confines our body fluids and blood in their correct places so that they may not run off easily.
The Relationship between Qi and Blood
TCM describes the relationship between qi and blood as: “Qi is the commander of blood, and blood is the mother of qi.” The task of qi is to drive the tangible blood to run and work normally in the blood vessels, like a commander who leads the army to battle. The responsibility of blood is to give a home to qi, like a mother who gives the shelter to their children. The invisible qi needs to be attached to the physical substance so that it can play its role. If the body doesn’t have enough blood, the qi will lose its dwelling and is easily dissipated. The result is qi-blood deficiency. That is to say, people who suffer qi deficiency don’t necessarily lack blood, but those who doesn’t have sufficient blood, often suffer qi deficiency.
TCM holds that qi is the most essential expression of life and blood is the most powerful support of life. Together, they constitute the energy and physical basis of human health. People who have sufficient qi and blood will be blessed with well-functioned internal organs, rosy complexions, full of spirit and energy, a regular metabolism, good appetite, sound sleep, and every other aspects related to health and beauty.
On the contrary, if the activity of qi grows weaker, people will become feeble, susceptible to becoming tired, drowsy, hard to breathe, lazy to speak, dizzy, anxious, sweaty, and likely to catch cold. Afterwards, the lungs, spleen and kidneys begin to malfunction, causing the decline of immunity and health, and even irreversible damages to the body such as serious illness, chronic diseases and so on.
How to Replenish Qi
When hearing “qi deficiency” or “immunity decline”, most Chinese people will immediately turn to the tonic medicine. Surely, to tonify is important. But you need to take heed of what kind of tonic you are taking. Is it suitable for your body constitution? Can it be absorbed by your body? Many people have already suffered blockage and toxin accumulation inside the body due to excessive nutritional intake. So they should first consult professional TCM doctors to solve these problems before taking more tonics.
Ginseng is a superb tonic herb in the eyes of TCM doctors, known for its strong power to replenish qi. It contains an active ingredient called ginsenoside, which can remarkably enhance people’s immunity, mainly by activating T lymphatic immunity and promoting NK cells and macrophages to release more immune factors and thus activate the entire immune system.
Gaining sufficient nutrition from daily diets, having some spa treatments and TCM moxa-moxibustion therapies are also great ways to replenish qi. Also, make sure that you sleep 6-9 hours every day. Do aerobic exercise regularly. Try traditional Chinese health practices like TaiChi, five-animal exercises (Wu Qin Xi), eight trigrams boxing (Ba Duan Jin), and more.