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Introduction to Health Maintenance in Chinese Medicine
Ancient Chinese sages developed a wide variety of healthcare approaches.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), physicians emphasize prevention rather than treatment. This comes from the belief that treating diseases or illnesses that have already caused damage in the body is much more difficult then preventing them from occurring in the first place. Not surprisingly, TCM physicians who keep their patients healthy and disease free are considered to be the greatest doctors, rather than those who achieve a high cure rate.

Ancient people knew nothing about disease. In order to avoid pathogenic influences and stay healthy, they could only follow their basic instincts to try to fit in with their harsh environment. This awareness of the changes in nature and their corresponding response to it, turned out to be crucial to their ongoing survival. The yin-yang and five elements theories evolved from the study of natural laws, and these theories further promoted this adaptation with nature by the constant monitoring of their overall health. The TCM foundation of health maintenance is based on human beings being an integral part of the universe and thus cannot be separated from its changing nature. This changing nature influences the body either directly and indirectly and makes corresponding physiological and pathological changes. As a result, how the body correlates with the external environment and adjusts to it is crucial. The central principle is for all-around balance, harmony, appropriateness, interrelationship, integration, interaction, regulation and coordination.

In terms of general health assessment, TCM uses three abstract concepts: É‹ É‹ É‹

Shen (spirit) refers to mental activities, consciousness or thought. It governs every aspect of the physical body, and also serves as a general presentation of vitality;

Jing (essence) is the constitutional and nutritious basis of the body;

Qi (vital energy) is the life force, the source of body activity and movement as well as the functions of different organs. Qi makes the physical body and the mind integrated as a whole.

These three concepts are regarded as the "three treasures" of the body in TCM, and they exist in a complementary and interactive way. They ensure a strong physical body with vigorous vitality. Abundance in these three aspects ensures good health while depletion will bring out various diseases. Therefore, replenishing the qi (vital energy), preserving the jing (essence) and cultivating the shen (spirit) are considered the major aims in health maintenance.

Generally, TCM believes health maintenance is something that you have to do all your life, thus lifestyle and behavior are determinant factors for good health. One should attentively take care both of physical and mental aspects in accordance with different life stages by actively adapting to the natural environment so as to keep an optimal physiological state; employing various approaches such as herbal medicine, acupuncture, moxibustion or massage to dissolve disharmonies at the earliest stage; and through self-practice exercises to cultivate and integrate the mind and body to attain a better quality of life as well as deter aging. Over the centuries, a wide variety of approaches had been researched and developed by ancient sages in China; these approaches have been handed down in the Yang Sheng Fa (Principles for Nourishing Life), which literally means knowing how to maintain and protect health, prevent disease and live a better life. These Chinese practices encompass not just medical healing, but a way of multi-layered yet integrated personal living that fulfills our real needs.

Nowadays, it is increasingly difficult to kill bacteria and viruses because of the over-use of antibiotics. Our bodies are equipped with its own natural defense system and TCM strategies can fully evolve our potential power to make us less susceptible to these pathogens or enable us to mutually coexist with them without harm.