Yin and Yang in Medical Theory

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Yin and Yang in Medical Theory


The concept of Yin and Yang is quite popular in the Chinese medical theory. The basis of such practical medicine includes the philosophical doctrine stating that the real picture of the world implies the stream of conversions and countless metamorphoses, the constant update of which significantly influences the surrounding world. It means that nothing in the world exists in isolation, apart from each other. Moreover, the connections between things determine the position of the things themselves. Thus, even the smallest thing in the universe has its interweaving with other events. The Chinese doctrine of Yin and Yang identifies the real world as the diversity of Chaos. The coherent doctrine of the two global forces, Yin and Yang, is aimed to describe the interaction of all things in the universe. Yang symbolizes masculine, bright, active principle and heat, while Yin symbolizes femininity, darkness, calm, and cold. The main properties of the doctrine symbolize fire as Yang and water as Yin. Based on the abovementioned, it states that everything in nature applies to either Yin or Yang. In fact, such a philosophical doctrine formed the basis of practical Chinese medicine. Thus, the following paper is aimed to provide an overview of the Yin and Yang concept in medical theory through the prism of the Chinese culture.

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Yin and Yang Concept Overview

The following key statements of the Yin and Yang theory allow describing the world in all its diversity as well as discussing the complex physiological and pathological phenomena in the body.

– Everything that exists in the universe has two opposite principles of Yin and Yang, i.e. any phenomenon has a state of rest and activity, every item has top and bottom, etc.

– Yang and Yin have a set of values, which are interrelated, interdependent, and mutually convertible. For example, the two opposites such as day and night, heat and cold, motion and rest, full and empty, internal and external, etc (Latener and Leon 56).

Based on the abovementioned, the human body is also divided into two opposites where Yang implies external parts of the body, including face, back etc, while Yin implies internal parts of the body, including stomach, blood, etc. Due to the opposite functions, Yin and Yang are mutually restricted, controlling the development and activity of each other. It means that under certain conditions, each of the opposites may be reversed, developing within itself and corresponding to the objective reality. The weakening of one side causes the increase in another side. For instance, the violation of the body’s balance between Yin and Yang leads to the development of a disease or even to death. However, it should be mentioned that the contrast between the principles of Yin and Yang is relative and is determined only by comparison with each other. The tissues and organs of the human body may belong to Yang or Yin, depending on their relative position and functions.

The division of the human body into two components of Yin and Yang is very important for the diagnosis and choice of treatment. The interdependence of Yin and Yang means that they coexist in a single body, constantly interacting with each other. The functional activity of the body requires expenditure of the nutrients, which corresponds to the process of strengthening of Yang and weakening of Yin, while the accumulation of nutrients requires a certain functional activity and leads to the weakening of Yang and strengthening of Yin. The appropriate health state of the individual requires the maintenance of relative equilibrium (harmony) between Yin and Yang. The pathology occurs due to the lack of harmony and can cause a disease. The abovementioned means that the disease occurs as a result of imbalance between Yin and Yang in the body. Thus, the primary goal of treatment implies the return of the relative equilibrium of Yin and Yang.

The harmony of Yin and Yang is represented by a circle, which is divided by a wavy line on the light and dark halves. The outer circle symbolizes the confusion of the entire world in the cycle of Chaos. The wavy line indicates the relative displacement of mutual-generation of Yin and Yang. The bright dot on a dark field and a dark dot on a light box mean the presence of Yin inside of Yang as well as the presence of Yang inside of Yin. In addition, this emblem is oriented in space and time. Yang is born in the north-east in winter and flourishes in summer, while Yin is born in the south-west in late summer, and culminates in the winter in the north (Ames 54).

The interconversion of Yin and Yang means that under certain conditions each of the two principles may turn into each other (Baxter and Sagart 15). For example, after prolonged high temperatures a sharp drop in temperature can happen. This results in the sensation of cold extremities, pulsation, and paleness of the skin. The development of such symptoms indicates that Yang turns into Yin. Thus, the new health state of the individual requires the application of a different treatment. All kinds of Yin and Yang relationships are characterized by interconnectedness and interdependence, which creates the ever-changing world. This results in its unity and harmony as well as the interaction of causes and consequences.

In Chinese traditional medicine, the usage of Yin and Yang theory is mandatory for the diagnosis of a disease and the choice of treatment. Similarly to the modern medicine, the restoration of the balance (harmony) between Yin and Yang includes the restoration of homeostasis by stimulating the body’s defenses. It can be used in modern medicine as a model for the holistic approach to the health care as well as dialectical approach to the understanding of health and disease. All of the processes occurring in the human body as well as the stages of life cycle (conception, birth, growth, decay, and death) can be described by Yin and Yang. For example, the youth is Yang, while Yin implies other periods of the life cycle. However, it should be noted that Yin and Yang are relative, but not an absolute notation. For example, the heart is Yin, but it overcomes compression by pushing the blood through the blood vessels and, therefore, it is Yang. Thus, there is such a thing as Yin in Yang and Yang in Yin. In other words, it can be said that everything has two sides of Yin and Yang. For example, there is Yin and Yang of heart, Yin and Yang of stomach, etc. It is very important for understanding the disease and its correct diagnosis and treatment. However, it should be noted that the ratio of the Yin and Yang in different organs is not the same.

In the course of human life, it is necessary to maintain the balance between the internal processes of the power itself (Yin) and external activities (Yang). Nevertheless, due to the rush of the modern life, such aspects are often neglected. Thus, people should always have some time to restore, as the constant work and stress lead to the overload of Yang. The body cannot spend more than it could compensate for a long time (Latener and Leon 64). The consequence of excessive activity may cause problems with the muscles, joints, and bones, cause heart attack and other diseases. On the other hand, the increased attention to the issue of the internal health may mean that the focus is shifted to the Yin phase, i.e. the person becomes inert and incapable of full activity. Furthermore, the absence of workouts causes the muscle atrophy, weakening cardiovascular system. This contradiction can be removed by reaching equilibrium based on the harmony with the personal rhythms and needs.

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The doctrine of Yin and Yang pervades all aspects of Chinese medicine. The application of Yin and Yang theory in medicine serves as an explanation of the organic structure, physiological functions, and pathological changes in the human body. It also plays the key role in the diagnosis and treatment. In fact, each stage of the treatment, including physiology, pathology, diagnosis, and treatment is based on the fundamental theory of Yin and Yang. Any physiological process, any symptom or feature can be analyzed through the prism of Yin and Yang theory. Ultimately, any therapeutic effect implies the actions within one of four strategies, i.e. to strengthen the Yang or to strengthen the Yin as well as to reduce the excess of Yang or reduce the excess of Yin. The applied value of Yin and Yang theory is supposed to be the most influential in the Chinese medicine. The efficient treatment as well as the healthy lifestyle requires constant maintenance of the balance between the internal process of the power itself (Yin) and external activities (Yang). The harmony and equilibrium of Yin and Yang is supposed to be the key prerequisite of the long and healthy life.