Qi and blood are two of the vital substances of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). They both have a number of important functions and a good supply of qi and blood is key to maintaining good health and preventing disease.
What is Qi?
Qi (pronounced chee) is most often translated as energy. Light and insubstantial, qi cannot be seen or heard, but it is one of the most important substances in TCM. It flows around the body in channels called meridians. Each of these meridians corresponds to a particular organ and it is these which can be accessed and influenced by using acupuncture.
The easiest way to visualize this is to imagine that the meridians are rivers, and qi is the water that fills them. So long as qi is plentiful, it flows freely throughout the body, nourishing all the tissues, muscles and organs as it goes. It warms, nurtures and protects us from disease.
Sometimes, the flow of qi can be interrupted. It might be blocked due to a physical injury or structural imbalance. A poor diet and lifestyle can also lead qi to become deficient, meaning that it is unable to move as it should. In these situations, acupuncture can be used to remove any obstructions and build qi back up, allowing it to flow freely again.
There are also different types of qi. We get qi from the air we breathe and the food we eat. We are also born with what is known as “original qi”. This can be compared to our genetic make-up. These three types of qi come together in the body to form “nutritive qi” which nourishes our organs and “defensive qi” which protects us from invasion by pathogens such as bacteria and viruses.
When we have enough qi, we will feel vibrant, energetic and remain healthy and free from disease. If we are lacking qi for some reason, we will quickly become tired, lethargic, weak and prone to falling ill.
Blood in Traditional Chinese Medicine
According to TCM, blood has a number of important functions beyond those recognized by western medicine. As well as transporting oxygen and nutrients around the body, blood is responsible for warming, moisturizing and nourishing our organs. Blood is also closely related to the heart and plays an important role in mental health, as blood is said to house the spirit. TCM views that problems such as anxiety and insomnia can both be caused by blood deficiency.
Blood is formed in a similar way to qi, and one of the most effective ways to nourish your blood is by eating a healthy diet. Some foods which are particularly good for the blood are red meat, liver, eggs, black soy beans and seaweed.
If blood is plentiful, we will have a radiant complexion and feel warm and nurtured. If it becomes deficient, this can lead to sallow or dry skin, restlessness and menstrual problems in women.
The Relationship Between Qi and Blood
Qi and blood are closely connected to one another. Qi is said to be the yang aspect of blood as it is light and quick. Blood is the yin aspect of qi as it is thick and heavy. There is a saying in TCM:
“Where qi goes, blood follows”
This means that qi is responsible for moving blood and ensuring that it does not get stuck and stagnate in the vessels. If qi stops moving for some reason, it is likely that blood will also grind to a halt. Qi and blood stagnation can result in symptoms such as bloating, bruising and pain
Another famous TCM saying is:
“Blood is the mother of qi.”
This means that qi needs blood to nourish it, and provide a solid anchor to keep it from floating away. These two sayings show that qi and blood are inseparable and problems with one will surely lead to problems with the other.
The best way to keep your qi and blood healthy is by eating a balanced, nutritious diet, sleeping well and getting enough rest as well as regular exercise. Acupuncture, massage and Chinese herbs are also an effective way to keep your qi and blood flowing and reduce your chances of disease.