Stems & Branches
Stems & Branches belongs to Chinese philosophy and can be used as a powerful diagnostic tool to help understand how illness manifests in people. Essentially it is a calendar based on seasonal and yearly qualities. In Chinese philosophy these qualities can be described as qi or a type of movement. Yin and yang are two opposing qualities or movements and fundamentally can be seen as water (yin) and fire (yang). In terms of seasons, yin would be associated with cold and winter, and yang would be associated with warmth and summer. Each year has, according to the Chinese calendar, many variations of these basic qualities of yin and yang that manifest in many ways. Therefore in some years there can be a tendency for more cold to be present and others more heat. Other climatic qualities such as wind, dryness and damp can also be more pervasive in particular years.
As Chinese Medicine and philosophy are holistic in their overview, the external environment is seen as a mirror to our internal environment. Therefore just as there is weather outside, we can have our own internal 'weather'. For instance if we have heat within us we can feel excited, active, agitated and busy. If we are cold we can feel inactive, frozen/cold, still and may find it difficult to go out and engage with others. With wind there can be a lot of emotion and change in our lives, a feeling of being unsettled. With damp we may feel lethargic, fatigued and stuck. When dryness is more present we may be critical, analytical, calculating and tend towards being very organised and precise. All of these 'weather' qualities are within us at any moment and help create and propagate our internal lives and how we communicate outwards towards other people and society.
Some people will have a tendency towards being closer or more relatable to these different qualities. For example some people may be said to have more fire or heat in them. They come across as very active, creative and busy, their bodies are warm and they love socialising. Others are more introverted and spend more time within themselves thinking and trying to understand and analyse themselves and their place in life as well as having a very critical angle on what's going on around them - this would be characteristic of someone with more dryness. The problem arises when these qualities that are naturally within us become too strong or overpowering. The fiery and more heated person, due to a lack of water, inactiveness and cold, can burnout over time as the physical and emotional body can't keep up with the excessive activity within. Treating this type of person with acupuncture will be different to treating someone who has a lot of cold within who may need a little more activity in their lives.
So Stems & Branches and the Chinese calendar help the practitioner to determine which qualities are stronger in each individual and therefore can be used as a powerful diagnostic tool to help each person find a better balance within by working with the more excessive and less present energetic qualities.