An Overview of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, is a vast subject that takes years of study to fully comprehend.

There are however a few basic principles of TCM that are fairly easy to learn, and which can be applied to our animal companions to help manage a wide array of health conditions.

TCM divides health, and foods, into Yin and Yang. In the most basic terms, Yin is cool and Yang is warm.

A Yin Deficiency means an animal (or person) is too hot or has insufficient ‘coolness’, and may suffer from conditions such as excess panting, as well as dry skin, a dry cough, restlessness and gastric ulcers. The animal will be cool-seeking and a red, dry tongue.

A Yang Deficiency may present as cold ears, nose, back and limbs. Yang-deficiency arise when the animal has a deficiency of Qi and is warmth-seeking; Qi deficiency conditions include general weakness, diarrhea and weight loss as well as asthma, urinary or fecal incontinence and a tongue which is pale and wet.

Blood Deficiency is another condition recognized by Traditional Chinese Medicine. Symptom include dry eyes, dry skin, cracked paws, lack of stamina, restlessness and being easily frightened. The tongue is pale and dry.

Food Therapy in TCM

Food Energy theory divides foods into warming (Yang), Cooling (Yin) and Neutral.

  • A Warming, Yang food tonifies Yang Qi and is indicated in a Yang Deficiency, Qi Deficiency or an animal with a water or earth constitution.
  • A Cooling, Yin food is used to clear heat, drain ‘fire’, cool the blood and generally nourish the animal. It is indicated in animals with excess heat.
  • A Neutral Food is used as a general Qi Tonic, Blood Tonic and to balance or Harmonize Yin and Yang.

Yin Tonic (Cooling) Foods include: turkey, duck, rabbit, eggs, pork, cheese, honey, string (green) beans, spinach, apples, mangoes and pears.

Qi Tonic Foods include: beef, chicken, lamb, herring, mackerel, millet, oats, pumpkin, squash, sweet potato, yam and figs.

Yang Tonic (Warming) Foods include: venison, lamb, prawn, ginger, fennel, basil and rosemary.

Blood Tonic Foods include: beef, liver, pork, sardines, eggs, carrots, parsley, apricots and dates.

Our favorite book for understanding the principles of Traditional Chinese medicine is called Four Paws, Five Directions by Dr Cheryl Schwartz DVM.

Meet the Author: Lucy Postins

Lucy Postins is founder of The Honest Kitchen as well as its Mother Hen and CEO. She is a companion animal nutritionist who started The Honest Kitchen in her kitchen in 2002. She is passionate about advanced nutrition and holistic health including complementary modalities such as herbalism and homeopathy. Considered an expert in her field, Lucy frequently writes articles for local and national media, conducts radio interviews and educational spots, and occasionally holds educational seminars for pet owners on the importance of good nutrition. She also recently authored Dog Obsessed, a guide to a happier, healthier life for the pup you love.

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