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  • Breannah Slaney

What’s in a name... TCM vs Western organs

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) gives a special focus to the discussion of the visceral organs. Much like western medicine we are accustomed to. However there are some difference in the roles and the ways that these organs are talked about between the two.

The first thing I want all clients to know is when we discuss your organs in our Acupuncture appointment I am not talking about having a kidney disease, or you liver starting to fail or your heart about to seize way to angina. So rest assured! Your organs are not rotting away inside your body!



I have often had a good laugh with a client or two when I have forgotten myself and begun rattling on about organs and deficiencies and pathogens. I remember watching a woman’s face go white as I began discussing how the issues of her heart Qi deficiency and how it may be causing her symptoms. She very quickly blurted out “does this mean I am going to have a heart attack?”! I remember seeing her eyes scanning me for some subtle sign that may indicate what she is in for.  I quickly chuckled and  reassured her she is not in any danger that I could tell.



You see, TCM goes beyond just talking about the pathology or what disease can inflict an organ. There is a visceral picture theory that helps understand what functions and influences all of the organs have on the body and how these reflect on the outside manifestation of the body. The visceral picture theory associates functions, emotions, endocrine glands, hormones, and even sensory organs to each of the internal organs. This means that the signs and symptoms people often notice and complain about, are actually telling us about the internal organs they are associated with. It tells us what’s needs to be treated and are not functioning  properly or balanced with the functions of the other organs. It does not mean you have an impending heart condition or something of the such!



The visceral picture theory takes anatomical knowledge as it’s basis and it is often easy to see why correlations exist.  A great example of this is the Liver. Often people only think of the Liver as sorting out the toxins from that late night drinking around a bonfire. But in a full visceral picture theory, the function of the liver is to store blood and control the volume in circulation. When blood comes to the liver, the toxins are absorbed out of the blood and into the organ. The liver is designed to be able to process these toxins for elimination. When the liver is not working properly, too much or too little blood is taken and “scrubbed” and this can manifest in yellowing eyes and skin. This is a very small summary of the many functions of the liver and is a very common western example. However you can see that taking outwards signs tell us about what is happening inside. 



Most of the time, a trained TCM practitioner sees all the subtle signs long before they manifest to major pathology requiring western medical intervention. Sometimes major diagnosis have occurred, but Acupuncture can help restore proper function and help with the course of the treatment of an advanced illness.

So while TCM organ picture and function is broad and very multi faceted and in some ways more specific, it is often possible to recognize bits and pieces of it in Western medical practice. 



Healing with TCM takes all the signs and signals (symptoms) of your body, no matter how subtle they can be, and bring your vital organs back to their optimal function and health!


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