Let’s talk about Qi … and TCM.

Apr 1, 2022

We’ve mentioned Qi several times over the last few weeks. But what is Qi?

Usually you will see Qi (pronounced chee) defined as “energy”. 

However, if you were to look up the word Qi in a Chinese dictionary you would not see this definition at all. The two most common definitions are “gas” and “air”. 

The Chinese character for Qi (shown at the top) depicts a pot of rice boiling on a fire with the lid being lifted by steam. 

The ancient Chinese did not have the tools of modern science, so the early practitioners of Chinese medicine described various physiological functions of the body using the metaphor of Qi , simply through what they could perceive with their five senses. 

They could see that there were some things in the world that had function but no form. Wind, gas and steam are examples of this. You can see the effects of wind blowing but you cannot see wind itself. 

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Ancient Chinese physicians were doing surgery as well as dissection of cadavers as early as the second century AD and they could see that there was nothing physically different between the living body and the dead. 

They concluded that there must be something intangible that they were missing in their observations. This is the origin of the term Qi, which is most accurately translated as “vital air”.

Essentially Qi is the word that these ancient physicians used to describe function. 

This concept of “vital air” describes those aspects of the human body that are not seen by the naked eye. Oxygen, hormones, neurotransmitters and nutrients that are carried in blood as well as nerve conduction are all elements of Qi.

A French diplomat and scholar named George Soulie de Morant  first defined Qi as “energy” in the 1930’s.  In physics energy is defined as “the capacity to perform work”.  So this is actually not a bad translation. 

Physiological functions of the body are what turn flesh and bone into a living, breathing being.  Chinese medicine works by improving the flow of blood throughout your body, and your nervous systems to regulate normal function. It impacts your health through its effects on hormones, neurotransmitters and the immune system. It promotes relaxation, healing of injured tissues, and balances the function of your autonomic nervous system.

The concept of Qi, along with others such as Yin/Yang and the Six Evils – pathogenic environmental forces, allows us to evaluate and diagnose dysfunction in the various systems of your body and treat them using the techniques of acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

Qi is an essential concept in the practice of acupuncture and it forms the work that we do helping you to restore wellness, relieve stress and take charge of your health. 

Our acupuncturist Naheed can evaluate and explain how Qi relates to a dysfunction or discomfort you’re experiencing.  

Naheed is at Thrive every Wednesday.