Traditional Chinese history describes that thousands of years ago the father of medicine, Shen Nong, was one of the first three divine emperors, and that he devoted his efforts to solving the health and nutritional aspects of humans newly established by the gods on Earth, leaving them a valuable legacy.
The Chinese historical stage of the three divine emperors marks a special period in which the gods lived among men and imparted the knowledge of civilization directly to them. This is the reason why the Chinese have had an enormous “respect for Heaven”.
The shared concept of “respect for Heaven” not only manifests itself as a fundamental basis of Chinese culture, but is the core of a culture bequeathed directly by gods.
For the other two divine emperors of that time the fields of action were different, but no less indispensable: the goddess Nü Wa had created the Chinese from clay and molded them in her own image; in this case she is said to have used yellow earth. For this reason, she is revered as their mother.
As for the god Fu Xi, it is said that he came to Earth to enrich human qualities by teaching people basic behaviors and ways of life, among other activities that would enable them to adapt to their earthly environment.
Contributions of Divine Emperor Shen Nong
Fundamentally, traditional Chinese medicine works to restore harmony and energy balance to the body, which stimulates natural healing and promotes health.
It integrates breathing regulation, special and generally gentle physical exercise, dietary habits related to specific body conditions, and a variety of approaches on how to achieve balance in the body,
Since Shen Nong’s specific fields of action were medicine and food, he went into the mountains where he tried every plant species in his path and could see how they affected his body; with this system he was able to classify at least 365 medicines derived from minerals, plants, and animals that contained elements suitable for restoring health.
Much of the subsequent medical development is based on this compendium, and to understand it, it is necessary to know that Chinese culture believes that, invariably, one of the best ways to treat a disease is through the use of herbs.
The way of connection between man and divinity is established by improving oneself and cultivating the heart in accordance with the Dao.
The Dao is an essential concept whose literal meaning is The Way, a term which for Daoists means the highest and absolute Truth. With teachings such as, “Man follows Earth, Earth follows Heaven, Heaven follows Dao, and Dao follows what is natural”, Lao Tse, one of the most relevant philosophers of Chinese civilization, points out the optimal guidelines for the healthy life of human beings.
Likewise, the Dao of the universe never changes, the universe marches according to the Dao in a natural order, and the Earth follows the changes of Heaven. By following the natural order of Heaven and Earth, humankind enjoys a life full of gratitude and blessings, in the context of the culture treasured for millennia by the Chinese people.
After the recipes and formulations derived from the contributions of the celestial emperor Shen Nong were carefully preserved and applied for many generations, this valuable knowledge filtered down to the West where it has been studied and disseminated, although it is not readily available to the general public because of the priority given by the Western medical industry to its own creations.
The original approach to the healing process
Since ancient times, the subject of recovery of health has constituted a theoretical and practical approach for those dedicated to the study of the human body; however, the original treatments of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) differ substantially from the way in which the symptomatology that characterizes each disease is now understood.
From a deep understanding of the principles of Heaven and Earth, systems of knowledge were developed that allowed the consolidation of medical procedures that had a direct relationship with the flow of the universe.
In this sense, traditional physicians had the ability to understand the relationship between the movement of the universe and its cycles, and the way in which the metabolic process and the disease states of the human body are harmonized.
According to the stories that revolve around health specialists in ancient times, the knowledge they had about life and medicine was such that they even possessed extrasensory abilities with which they could make a much more thorough analysis of the manifestation of diseases.
Among the physicians of that time, Bian Que, Hua Tuo, Sun Simiao and Li Shizhen stood out and went down in history. They detected diseases through an organ activated in the brain, located in the pineal gland, known as the ‘third eye’ or ‘celestial eye’, and thus were able to know the origin of the diseases, which lies in another material space or space-time.
Traditional Chinese medicine often presents the human being as a miniature ecosystem. It emphasizes the similarity of the organism with nature, for example, the bony protuberances are assimilated to mountainous reliefs, the hair systems to forests, and the venous system to rivers.
And even emotions are presented as climates: joy is comparable to good weather; sadness to rain. In this vision, the clinical picture takes on a profound meaning in the healing processes generated in ancient Chinese medicine.
It is to clarify that according to the knowledge of TCM, in the human body there are meridians or conduits through which qi (vital energy) flows and which form a network inside the body. When the normal circulation of qi is blocked, it causes pain or illness.
In these cases, the function of TCM is to restore the flow of qi with the application of various techniques, including the application of pressure on the affected part, the insertion of needles, suction or heating of hundreds of specific points along the meridians.
Once the origins of energy imbalances were understood, Chinese physicians developed special procedures to provide relief, one of which is cupping, as described by Jennifer Dubowsky, a licensed acupuncturist with a degree in Kinesiology from the University of Illinois, USA.
Cupping cups are small glass, bamboo or plastic containers specially placed on the patient’s skin to create suction. Traditionally, this was done by lighting small fires inside the jar; this action causes the underlying tissue to be sucked partly from the suction cup.
One of the effects is the sensation of tightness in the area on which this system acts, which is pleasant and relaxes the sore muscles, which were previously subjected to overwork or extreme sports. If muscle tension is excessive, the practitioner can adjust the amount of suction to provide greater comfort.
Cupping is also effective in improving circulation, helping to relieve pain and removing toxins from the body’s tissues. It often works well for patients suffering from chronic fatigue, flu, colds, back pain, coughs, allergies, muscle pain, fever, bronchial congestion, arthritis and anxiety.
Another of the healing techniques bequeathed by ancient Chinese medicine is moxibustion: “The moxibustion has a dual effect of tonification and purgation in TCM theories, which are based on two aspects: the actions of the meridian system and the roles of moxa and fire,” according to authors Hongyong Deng, and Xueyong Shen.
Moxa is a small combustible compound made from the finely chopped leaves of the mugwort plant, whose smoke exhales a mild and light odor during combustion, generating a variety of biological activities.
Although much research work has been carried out and some progress has been made in the West, its healing mechanism is still far from being fully understood.
In its application, acupuncture points are heated with burning moxa wool that does not harm the skin. Its effect can drain meridians and regulate blood qi, and has been used to prevent and cure diseases for thousands of years.
“When physical and chemical factors act on the acupoint receptors, the signal enters the central nervous system through the peripheral pathways and outgos after being integrated, adjusting the nerve-endocrine-immune network and circulatory system, so as to regulate the internal environment of the body, in order to achieve the effects of preventing and curing diseases,” Hongyong and Xueyong explain.
The oldest written account of this healing system was found in silk books discovered in a Han Dynasty tomb (circa 168 BC) located in Mawangdui, a Chinese archaeological site in Wulibei, a few kilometers east of Changsha in Hunan province.
The work is entitled: “Moxibustion Classic of Eleven Foot-hand Meridians and Prescriptions for Fifty-two Diseases,” which documents the use of moxibustion to treat complex diseases.
One of the most widely used TCM procedures is acupuncture, a technique in which practitioners stimulate specific points on the body along the meridians by inserting fine needles through the skin.
In the West: “Results from a number of studies suggest that acupuncture may help ease types of pain that are often chronic such as low-back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis/knee pain. It also may help reduce the frequency of tension headaches and prevent migraine headaches,” states the official website of the U.S. National Institutes of Health [NIH].
The effectiveness of acupuncture was demonstrated in a German study of more than 14,000 participants in which its application to relieve neck pain was evaluated. The researchers found that participants reported greater pain relief than those who did not receive it.
It has also relieved low back, knee and hip pain caused by osteoarthritis. For migraines and tension headaches it was more helpful than other methods.
Also: “The results of a systematic review that combined data from 11 clinical trials with more than 1,200 participants suggested that acupuncture (and acupoint stimulation) may help with certain symptoms associated with cancer treatments,” the NIH reports.
Evolution of traditional Chinese medicine
TCM has boomed in Western research centers and has brought relief in many cases, but the power of the pharmaceutical industry and its lobbyists has prevailed so that it has not been able to spread widely.
It is to be considered that in TCM no secondary harms derived from its practice by professionals, or iatrogenic harms, are noted, and as these harms have increased their incidence in modern Western medicine, the appreciation of TCM has broadened.
For its part, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) recognize TCM as a proven evidence-based medical science.
Likewise, the ancient medical practices inherited from Shen Nong have expanded and their applications are still current. In this regard the book Essentials of Chinese Materia Medica and Medical Formulas, published in 2017, condenses in 800 legal-sized pages a part of this wisdom, compiled by researchers Shengyan Xi and Yuewen Gong.
Unlike Western books on medicine, this one retains common names for ailments that often affect health, rather than complex names derived from Greek language roots or names of exotic little-known chemical compounds, most of which are rightly derived from plants and other resources available in nature.
With chapters dedicated to herbs that: “promote digestion, expel parasites, stop bleeding, invigorate the blood, dissolve phlegm, relieve coughs, calm the wheezing and soothe the liver”, it quickly orients with usual terms the people who might be interested in its contents, either because they are health professionals or because they already have experience in the use of the recommended plants.
Likewise, in other chapters it refers to the regulation and stabilization of body functions that are very typical of the ancestral wisdom of Chinese culture, such as: Herbs that supplement the deficiency of qi, yang, and yin, referring to energy levels and to masculine and feminine principles whose management is of greater care.
On the other hand, while the Tang dynasty experts of 1,500 years ago believed that 100% of TCM could be derived from plants, other practices have pushed the use of wild animal parts and with it the commercialization of these on a large scale, bringing the species most in demand to the brink of extinction, especially pangolins, tigers, leopards and rhinoceroses. This adverse situation becomes one of the threats to the practice.
“The $74bn (£60bn) wildlife trade in China, pointed to as a likely source of Covid-19, has been largely perpetuated by superstition and confusion about the benefits of animal parts,” noted author Michael Standaert in 2020.
In turn, Dr. Lixing Lao, president of the University of Integrative Medicine in Virginia, USA, clarifies that the exploitation of wild animals is due to commercial ambition.
“This is not as much a Chinese medicine practitioner issue, it is more the industry, the people who make money,” Lao said, adding, “This makes Chinese medicine look bad. They use our TCM name for their own purpose but we’re innocent.”
In this context, the Asia director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) Grace Gabriel claimed, “Why, why do you want to destroy your good name and associate with that? The only conclusion that I can come to, is that the wildlife farming industry [in China] has hijacked TCM’s name.”
She added, “As a Chinese [person] I really respect TCM, and one of the underlying principles is to achieve balance within one’s own body as well as with the outside world.”
Notably, the Chinese regime promotes TCM as one of the ways to lift millions of people out of poverty. By the end of 2020, China’s State Council expected the total value of this industry to reach about $420 billion, according to a white paper published four years ago.
The report estimated that there were 900 million TCM practitioners in 183 countries, and that number was growing. TCM hospitals and clinics in China recorded 1 billion visits in 2017, and that number is increasing by about 6% a year.
On the other hand, the high expense of inland health care is striking, given “that … the cost of treatment is disproportionately high for the rural population. Even with near-universal public health insurance, out-of-pocket costs in China accounted for 28.3 percent of all healthcare expenditure in 2019 compared to 11 percent in the United States,” the U.S. China Economic and Security Review Commission of the United States noted in 2021.
It also reflects significant disparities in the healthcare services provided by the Communist Party of China (CCP), as “China’s hospitals account for a small fraction of healthcare providers (3.5% as of 2019), but handle 45% of all outpatient visits.”
And that, “Even among hospitals, level 3 hospitals (which generally have the highest quality of care) are disproportionately congested, handling 24 percent of China’s 8.74 billion outpatient visits in 2019 despite accounting for only 0.3 percent of all healthcare institutions.”
Furthermore, it is to be considered that everything changed drastically for the purity of TCM practice with the advent of communism, raising a big question: how can a regime that disavows the gods bring health and wellness with a system that was granted by the gods?
The CCP was built on atheism, which propagated that people do not believe in gods, eroding human morality. It is also anti-religious and persecutes citizens who profess their ancient spiritual traditions, such as Falun Dafa practitioners, Christians, and Muslims, setting up another threat against TCM.
The “respect for Heaven” on which TCM is founded not only manifests itself as a fundamental basis of Chinese culture, but constitutes the core directly bequeathed by the gods, and it is to be feared that it will lose its healing essence when it is taken away from them.
The content of this article is only informative, it is not intended to intervene in the healing processes of the readers, so it is recommended to consult with the corresponding health professionals.