Chinese herbal medicine is all about patterns of function. The medical language is full of metaphors and terms that are used to describe what is going on in the body and how that affects how a person feels. Herbs are applied to change the dynamics to help a person regain balance in how their body is functioning. An important functional factor is the age of the person. Age affects how the body will respond to the environment and therefore what herbs or other medicines are appropriate for helping that person.
A good example of this concept is a condition in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) called "rising heat". The human body runs on heat energy just like all mammals. Food or calories are converted to heat which keeps us warm and drives bodily functions. In our modern society where food is in overabundance, we can create too much heat in the body. Our bodies should dissipate that extra energy. The human body does that in different ways at different ages leading to various common conditions that are age specific.
In infants the body directs all extra energy to growth and development. In Chinese Medicine the energetic system that controls that growth has a channel that runs up the side of the body to the ear. Excess energy (in the form of too much food introduced too soon) is diverted to growth and rises up to the ear creating an environment that can lead to ear infections. Food does not cause infection, however the wrong foods are seen as providing the environment where an infection can thrive.
In children, the body is trying to move as well as grow. The child is trying out muscles and is excited to run and move. Any extra energy in the system is sent to this system making a child restless and hyperactive. Candy, calorie dense fast food and a lack of cooling vegetables and fruits commonly compound this situation.
As a child moves into the teen years, many things change. Hormones start to kick in. The teen is now focused on taking in information and sorting through who they are and what do they want to do. This is a process of internalizing rather than the hyperactivity of the younger kids (although we still see some aspects of it). The result is that heat is held in and has to find its own way out. For the teen who is focused on absorbing the world around them the stomach is seen as important. The control channel for the stomach rises to the face. This results in an environment that encourages facial acne. For the teen that is sorting things out, the TCM concept of the small intestine is more important and results in more acne on the shoulders. Chinese medicine recognizes that acne is a bacterial infection, but like ear infections, the view is that rising heat is forced to exit through the skin (red swellings) and creates the proper environment for common bacteria to thrive.
In adults rising heat varies with the disposition of the person. Some are "hyperactive" and may crave fast cars, dangerous sports or stimulant drugs. In other people the heat and energy is stored, creating obesity. Still some others become red faced angry people. In all of these cases the person has developed a way of dealing with too much energy or heat in the system. The best answer to all of problems caused by rising heat is to increase the amount of cooling fruits and vegetables and herbs, decrease the calorie dense,greasy, sugary foods. Increasing aerobic exercise can also help the body to learn to redirect and disperse excess energy in a healthy way.
— David Bock
This article was from David's LakeCountryOnline.com column, "The Practical Herbalist"
David Bock, C. Ac., Dipl. OM, FABORM
Wisconsin Certified Acupuncturist
National Board Certification in Oriental Medicine
Fellow American Board Of Oriental Reproductive Medicine
Bock Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine
888 Thackeray Trail #206
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin 53066