The Four Vital Substances

Mirror imageChinese medicine is very different than Western medicine.

These differences are highlighted when we consider the “ingredients” of a person. What is the concrete material of a human? How does the body function? What do we need in order to be healthy and alive?
The answers to these questions vary from culture to culture.
The Four Vital Substances of Chinese medicine are the necessary “building blocks” of a human. According to Chinese medicine, we need to have these substances in abundance, balance, and harmony in order to flourish in Mind-Body-Spirit.

Vital Substances of Chinese Medicine:

  1. Jing – Essence refers to our genetic inheritance. Essence provides the basis for the physical body.
  2. Xue – Blood refers to the blood in our vessels and all other fluids in the body.
  3.  Qi – Energy refers to the energy of life that travels through the meridian system. There is no equivalent for “Qi” in western medicine.
  4.  Shen – Spirit refers to our consciousness or psyche. Western medicine separates Spirit from the practice of  medicine (except in psychiatry).

The Organ Systems all play a role in the maintenance and balance of these Four Vital Substances. Evaluating health and disease, is based on observations and assessments of these Vital Substances.

Cindy Black

Cindy Black is the Founder of Big Tree School of Natural Healing and the author of Meridian Massage, Pathways to Vitality. She is appreciated for her ability to make the complex accessible, fun, and practical.


  1. Savitri-Frizzell on June 11, 2017 at 4:23 pm

    This website is great for individuals to understand the concepts of their own bodies in relationship to eastern medicine.
    No one can use this understanding to become an acupuncturist right?
    Or is this so through a person could sit for the exam to become licensed

    • Cindy Black on June 12, 2017 at 4:17 pm

      You are correct – this information is for continuing education and personal interest.

  2. Ann on December 1, 2016 at 8:58 am

    I am interested in Chinese medicine.

    • Cindy Black, L.Ac., LMT on December 1, 2016 at 9:22 am

      Hi Ann,
      You should check out my new 3 month immersion course. It is an in-depth study of Chinese medicine for beginners – here is the link We begin in Jan. 2017

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