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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 147-149

Series of interpretation on Yellow Emperor'S Internal Classic (III): Unity of spirit and body: Views from Huang Di Nei Jing (《黄帝内经》Yellow Emperor's Internal Classic)

Research Office of Inernal Classic, School of Basic Medical Sciences, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai, China

Date of Web Publication8-Jan-2019

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Qingqi Wang
School of Basic Medical Sciences, Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Shanghai
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/CMAC.CMAC_42_18

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Human life activities are inevitably affected by the surrounding environment , such as natural and social environment. It is the basic principle of TCM to set a series of medical practice activities. TCM believes that the social environment has an inestimable influence on the mind and body of human beings. This study introduces the unity of spirit and body in traditional Chinese medicine.

Keywords: Body, Huang Di Nei Jing (《黄帝内经》Yellow Emperor's Internal Classic), social environment, spirit

How to cite this article:
Wang Q. Series of interpretation on Yellow Emperor'S Internal Classic (III): Unity of spirit and body: Views from Huang Di Nei Jing (《黄帝内经》Yellow Emperor's Internal Classic). Chin Med Cult 2018;1:147-9

How to cite this URL:
Wang Q. Series of interpretation on Yellow Emperor'S Internal Classic (III): Unity of spirit and body: Views from Huang Di Nei Jing (《黄帝内经》Yellow Emperor's Internal Classic). Chin Med Cult [serial online] 2018 [cited 2019 May 22];1:147-9. Available from: http://www.cmaconweb.org/text.asp?2018/1/3/147/249587

Human diseases have constantly changed with the development of society. Competition in the real world, intensive focus on speed and efficiency, temptations from benefits and interest, and complicated interpersonal relationships will inevitably lead to increased nervousness, gradually further increasing mental illnesses. Therefore, a new science, psychosomatic medicine which studies the human health and the basic laws and prevention and treatments of diseases based on the relationship between the spirit and body, comes into being. With only a history of about 60 years, the psychosomatic medical system has developed rapidly in the international market. It is currently recognized as one of the leading medical disciplines in modern times with broad prospects for development.

In fact, in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), due to the influence of the natural philosophical medical model, the concept of mind and body can be traced back to the ancient times when “medicines were not promoted and needles not used.” If witch doctors pray for the patients, their psychology can be regulated and the recovery of the disease will be promoted. The advent of Huang Di Nei Jing (《黄帝内经》Yellow Emperor's Internal Classic) indicates not only the theoretical system of Chinese medicine has been formed but also the understanding and research on the related issues of mind and body have achieved remarkable achievements. It has a far-reaching influence on the development of later medical science. In recent years, the academic community has paid more and more attention to the research on the mind and body regarding TCM. This is a brand new issue worthy of investigation, which will be of great value for the development of TCM and the improvement of clinical efficacy. Here, an overview is provided for further research.

  Theoretical Principle Of The Mind And Body: The Unity Of Heaven, Earth, And Human Beings Top

Human life activities are inevitably affected by the surrounding environment (natural and social environment). Therefore, it is the basic principle of TCM to set a series of medical practice activities such as diagnosis, treatment, and prevention in natural and social settings by analyzing functional state and considering various environmental changes. People's physical and mental activities are affected and restricted by changes in the natural world, and the mind and body have the ability to adapt to natural changes. TCM also believes that the social environment has an inestimable influence on the mind and body of human beings. Therefore, doctors are required to have a comprehensive command of “astronomy, geography, and people.” The people here refer to social and interpersonal affairs, ranging from politics to economy, to interpersonal relationships. All these affairs are related to the body and mind. Modern psychosomatic medicine emphasizes that human beings have the dual characteristics of biology and society. Human diseases and health result from the combination of biological-psychological-social factors, and the internal and external environment. This view is consistent with the theory of the unity of heaven, earth, and people in TCM.

  The Essence Of The Mind And Body: Unity Of Shape And Spirit Top

The “shape” here refers to the body, including zang-fu organs, meridians and collaterals, qi, blood, and fluids, while the “spirit” refers to mental activity and physiological functions of zang-fu organs. Coming from ancient Chinese philosophy, the issue of shape and spirit has been enriched and perfected with the development of TCM. The essence of the mind and body issue is the relationship between shape and spirit. TCM believes that human life (spirit) is based on the essence from parents (shape). Man is the unity of shape and spirit which are interdependent. Spirit cannot exist without attaching to shape, while the shape without spirit is merely an outer form, as Lei Jing (《类经》Classified Classic) said. The harmony between shape and body is the symbol of health. On the contrary, the disorder is the symbol of disease. The concept of unified shape and spirit represents the outlook on life in the view of TCM and also the main basis of the theory of the unified heart and body. The significance of psychosomatic medicine is that it emerges as a challenge to the deep-rooted concept of mind and body separation and simple biomedical model of modern medicine. It encourages people to recognize the essence of life, health, and disease with a holistic medical point of view.

The physiological and pathological basis of modern psychosomatic medicine is the theory related to cerebral cortex and viscera. The internal organs and nervous system are all part of the whole body. On one hand, the nervous system can regulate the functions of various organs and unite them into a whole and, on the other hand, it itself depends on the body. The effect of the advanced cortex on visceral function plays a very important role. In recent years, psychobiology research has confirmed that psychosocial factors mainly affect the function of organs in the body through the autonomic nervous system, endocrine system, neurotransmitter, and immune system as intermediaries. TCM regards the heart as the supreme commander of regulating psychological and physiological activities. The psychosocial factors first hurt the mind and then the function of the internal organs.

  Pathogenesis Of Psychosomatic Diseases Top

What is a psychosomatic disease? In short, it is a physical disease in which psychological factors play an important role. Psychosomatic diseases, also known as psychophysiological disorders, should generally have three basic pathological features: clear physical symptoms associated with organic pathological processes, clarified psychological factors regarded as important pathological factors and vulnerability to psychological diseases due to personality defects. Psychosomatic diseases must be distinguished from neurosis or psychosis. Expressed in terms of TCM, the psychosomatic related diseases refer to pathological changes of zang-fu organs, qi, and blood caused by mental factors, belonging to the category of spirit damaging shape (Introduction to Psychosomatics).

The pathogenesis of psychosomatic diseases is based on the above-mentioned “principle of mind and body.” The causes of psychosomatic related diseases mainly include two major aspects: psychosocial factors and personality defects.

The pathogenesis of psychosomatic diseases can be as follows:

  1. Emotional factors first block qi movement and then injury zang-fu organs. Disorder of Qi movement is caused by different emotions, for example, rage causing Qi rising, overjoy causing Qi to slacken, fear causing Qi sinking, overgrief resulting in Qi consumption, terror leading to Qi disorder, and pensiveness generating Qi binding. Qi stagnation leads to blood stasis. Stagnant Qi transforming into fire also impairs essence. Qi counterflow leads to bleeding. Qi gathering generates phlegm in skin and zang-fu organs. Qi debilitation gives rise to blood deficiency. All pathological changes like these eventually injure zang-fu organs and lead to diseases in the body and heart
  2. Emotional factors can also directly damage the five zang-fu organs, such as anger damaging the liver, overjoy impairing the heart, grief impairing the lung, thought damaging the spleen, and fear impairing the kidney. Admittedly, from the perspective of clinical practice, emotional damage to the organs is an extremely complicated process, not so mechanical. However, some scholars abroad have proposed the theory of “organ selectivity.” It is believed that organs injured early are those which are weakly developed (i.e., organs are weakened) and have strong susceptibility
  3. Emotional factors first hurt the heart and then damage five zang and six fu organs. According to Nei Jing (《内经》Inner Classic), the heart is the matter of five-zang and six-fu organs…, therefore, emotions such as grief, sorrow, and worry do damages to the heart, which further impairs all zang-fu organs. The heart controls the mental activity and governs the whole-zang-fu organs. Thus, emotions impair spirit and then cause the dysfunction of the whole-zang-fu organs.

Modern psychosomatic research has proved that when the stress stimulation of social psychological factors exceeds the body tolerance threshold, there will appear abnormal function of the immune system and hormone secretion system, imbalance of neuromodulation function, and pathological changes in the target organs. The first to collapse is the weakest organ tissue of the individual. These weak organ tissues and target organs produce various pathological changes and interact with psychological factors to form psychosomatic diseases. Once the disease is formed, it becomes a new source of stimulation. In addition, personality defects increase the sensitivity of the body, thereby aggravating the pathological process of psychosomatic diseases. This is an important reason why psychosomatic diseases are difficult to heal.

  Principle Of Prevention And Treatment Of Psychosomatic Diseases Top

The theory of mind and body of TCM regards the shape and spirit as well as the body and mind as a unified whole. Therefore, the treatment of psychosomatic and related diseases should be treated with both the spirit and the mind. For shape, the treatment should contain Chinese Materia Medica, acupuncture, and tuina. For spirit, psychological therapy should be used to regulate the mental activity and harmony of the mind and body. Meanwhile, the two can foster each other. For example, (1) the shape can be treated by regulating the spirit. Through psychotherapy, the positive sentiments can be activated and the passive ones can be relieved. Once Qi movement is regulated, Qi and blood of zang-fu organs can flow frequently, thereby, healing diseases. (2) The spirit can be healed by treating the shape. Diseases in shape can lead to emotional disorders. Therefore, psychological status can be improved by treating physical diseases. Modern psychosomatic medicine refers to the physical diseases caused by psychological factors as psychosomatic diseases, and the psychological abnormalities caused by physical diseases are called physical and mental diseases. Therefore, the former emphasizes the adjustment of the heart to treatment the body, and the latter mainly stresses the adjustment of the body to treat the heart.

  Research Prospects Top

  1. It is required to carry forward the characteristics of TCM. The theory of the body and mind reflects the holistic view of TCM and the combination of shape and spirit. The core idea is to respect the patients and care for patients, emphasizing that human health and disease should not only be determined from biological variables but also should be combined with society. Psychological factors should be taken into consideration in carrying out research and treatment. These medical guiding ideologies are the characteristics and advantages of TCM, and they are also the trend of medical development in the future
  2. It is supposed to improve the pathogenesis. Research on pathogenesis and pathogenesis emphasizes the relationship between emotional factors and disease development, and further studies the internal mechanism and its evolution law to understand the nature of the disease and improve the pathogenesis of TCM
  3. Efficacy of treatment should be improved. Any drug treatment is not a panacea. Under the premise of clarifying the characteristics of psychosomatic and related reactions, attention should be paid to the comprehensive prevention and treatment principles of viewing physical and psychological treatment as a whole to improve the treatment efficiency, minimize the pain of patients, and provide a reasonable medical plan
  4. Mental health awareness should be strengthened. Human health referred to the WHO must include physical and mental well-being and good social adaptability. Strengthening mental health awareness can reduce the incidence of psychosomatic diseases and improve people's psychological quality and the ability to adapt to nature and society.

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