Qi-based medicine and its history

  • The US National Institutes of Health reported in 2007 that 3.1 million Americans used acupuncture in the prior year and 2.9 million practiced Tai Chi or Qigong. Worldwide, Qi-based medicine is practiced in over 160 countries.
  • This increasingly popular form of health care includes Traditional Chinese Medicine (acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage and dietary therapy) and many different types of Qigong (Tai Chi is one of the better known forms).
  • All forms are holistic in nature and, since the earliest times, have shared the underlying principles of Qi and the basic tenets:
    • A system in harmony tends towards health, wellbeing and sustainability.
    • All parts of a system need to function in harmony with all the other parts and with the surrounding environment.
  • Qi-based medicine addresses the “whole”, which includes the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of a person, as well as the person’s integration in the world. This is quite a different approach from that of Western medicine, which aims to treat only the diseased or ailing part.
  • The two approaches are not mutually exclusive. Since the '40s and '50s, Qi-based medicine has been increasingly open to Western notions of health, fitness and wellness. As for the West, acupuncture is now frequently prescribed by doctors, and study after Western study add to the evidence of the health benefits of a Qigong, Tai Chi or meditation practice.
  • Qi-based medicine, and Qigong in particular, dates at least to 2700 BCE, when the book of internal medicine, Huangdi Neijing, was written.
  • Through a process of mixing and integrating, Qigong was influenced by and also had influence upon a variety of philosophies:
    • Confucianism - the main principle of Confucianism is "humaneness" or "benevolence" (ren, in Chinese), signifying excellent character, loyalty to one’s true nature, reciprocity and filial piety. Taken together, these attributes constitute the Chinese notion of virtue.
    • Daoism - this philosophy brought meditative cultivation and a concurrent deepening of physical exercise as means to both extend the lifespan and access higher realms of existence.
    • Buddhism - Qigong has incorporated Buddhist meditation and yoga-like physical practices.
  • Today’s Qi-based medicine also incorporates contemporary concepts of health, science, meditation and exercise.
  • Although it is now worldwide, it has historically been practiced in China; hence most of its nomenclature is Chinese.

Medical benefits of Qigong

The widespread practice of Qi-based medicine and its growing popularity in the US have triggered a great deal of scientific and medical research in the last twenty years:

  • The US National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health has published a comprehensive review of 77 RCTs (randomized controlled trials) conducted through 2010 to determine the health benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3085832/ . The review concludes that Qigong and Tai Chi are effective in improving bone density, cardiopulmonary function, frequency and related risk factors of falls, psychological symptoms and immune function.
  • The research cited above, together with more recent studies, has led:
    • Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine to offer weekly Qigong classes for cancer patients.
    • Doctors at the University Medical Center in Tucson, Ariz.to prescribe Qigong to patients with severe heart disease.
    • The Integrated Medicine Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering to offer Qigong classes for both caregivers and cancer survivors.
    • The Wall Street Journal to report that Qigong has been found in recent studies to improve quality of life in cancer patients and to fight depression.
    • The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center to conclude that Qigong reduces depressive symptoms and improves quality of life in women undergoing radiotherapy for breast cancer.