According to the World Health Organization (@WHO), "#Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." A healthy constitution has been one of the most intriguing subjects that many individuals are interested in pursuing for an answer. The human being seems to devote a lot of energy, time, and money to pursuing and circling the subject “what is a healthy constitution?” at different levels every day. Some people have even tried to seek for solutions to a healthy constitution and longevity and sacrificed many lives as part of the searching process. During the Qin Dynasty (221 to 207 B.C.) in China, Emperor Qin Shihuang was extremely obsessed with finding the medicinal solution to longevity and immortality. He ordered and sent many hundreds of men and women to search for a longevity solution. However, most of them never returned home or came back alive. Therefore, one might ask what a healthy human constitution is and if it is something that we could pursue from outside or within us.
A healthy constitution could be derived from its most fundamental theory such as the Yin-Yang Theory. Everything in the world according to TCM has a Yin and a Yang aspect. The Yin-Yang theory describes that a human constitution or body is divided into two categories. The Yin part is considered the human body which is the physiological and tangible aspect, and the Yang part is the mental activity or Shen, which is the psychological and non-tangible aspect. For the physical aspect, the human body is then divided into two subcategories which describe how the body is originated by the pre-heaven essence and nourished by the post-heaven essence. For the psychological aspect, the mental vitality or Shen is a non-tangible parameter and this parameter is constantly and unpredictably changing under the influence of the environmental stimuli and Qi (energy). The Yin-Yang theoretical principle also states that Yin and Yang are interdependent with each other and mutually consume each other. This is a very important principle because it suggests that to maintain a healthy constitution, the physical and mental aspects of a human body should be maintained in balance too much physical activity could exhaust Qi and affect the human constitution psychologically, and too many mental activities such as emotional stress and sadness could physically affect the human constitution. Therefore, diseases can occur when Yin and Yang are imbalanced and can be prevented from occurring when Yin and Yang are in balance.
In TCM, the holistic approach emphasizes on considering all perspectives of a person’s needs including physical, emotional, and social aspects. A healthy constitution is related to the holistic perspective of a human being. It includes a person’s lifestyle, living environment, physical conditions such as age, height, weight, body development and proportion, and psychological aspects such as emotions, stress, and mental activities. Among all of these aspects, the concept of “balance” is the key that plays the main role in a healthy human constitution. In the first chapter of the Su Wen 素問 (Basic Questions) volume of Huang Di Nei Jing 黃帝內經 (the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classics), Qi Bo 岐伯 states that “in the past, the people practiced Tao, the Way of Life. They understood the principle of balance as represented by the transformations of the energies of the universe. They formulated exercises to promote energy flow to harmonize them with the universe. They ate a balanced diet at regular times, arose and retired at regular hours, avoided overstressing their bodies and minds, and refrained from overindulgence of all kinds. They maintained well-being of body and mind; thus, it is not surprising that they lived over one hundred years of age.” From this passage, we see that the principle of balance is the key to longevity and a healthy constitution and it is very important that one maintains a Yin-Yang balanced lifestyle.
In addition to living over one hundred years of age, perhaps, one could also consider another level of a healthy constitution. In the Ling Shu 靈樞 (Spiritual Pivot) volume of Huang Di Nei Jing, Chapter 72 discusses the type of person that has a well-balanced Yin and Yang. This type of person has a distinguished look, accommodates all kinds of situations and environments, manifests generosity and conciliatory behaviors, and expresses benevolence and righteousness at all times. This person is also known as an honest nobleman and is considered the “well-balanced Yin-Yang” type of human being. If one can maintain such well-balanced Yin-Yang on both physical and psychological levels, not only will this person achieve a healthy constitution as described in the first chapter of Su Wen, but he or she will also be considered a noble, virtuous, and dignified person. Perhaps, this shall be the well-rounded healthy human constitution that we may pursue.
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Dr. Kang P. Tee is a Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, New York State Licensed Acupuncturist and Board Certified Diplomate of Acupuncture and Herbalist by NCCAOM. His interests include musculoskeletal