Of all the core tenets central to Chinese medicine, perhaps the strangest is the concept of Qi. Defined loosely as either "energy" or "breath," Qi is regarded as the animating force separating living beings from inanimate objects.
With a little introspection, however, Qi isn't really that odd at all.
Throughout our daily lives, we all notice as our energy levels ebb and flow: sometimes bursting; other times dwindling like an ember. In Chinese medicine, we consider qi as broadly equivalent to energy – specifically, to how signals and nutrients flow through the body. When Qi becomes stuck, this circulation clogs manifesting as cramps, discomfort, lethargy, and a greater risk of injury.
In Western medicine, such a concept may translate to blood flow or neurologic activity – though, in truth, qi is a much broader concept: "the universal manifestation of all energy." By eliminating this resistance to Qi, we improve the body's flow, unlocking our natural healing processes and physical and mental wellbeing.
What is Qi? And how does it become out of balance?
Like many concepts in Chinese medicine, Qi or chi refers to more than one idea. Qi has two main branches: first, the physical nourishment found in the air, water, and food we consume, and second, the vital fluids and energy flowing through our bodies.
We're focusing on this second form of Qi.
Consider this: when we feel energetic or healthy, it could be said our Qi is abundant. In contrast, fatigue or immunosuppression is a sign of depleted or deficient Qi. Mirroring the circular nature of other concepts, like Yin and Yang, Qi is said to circulate through the body; and can become stagnant or sluggish.
Emotional frustration or a lack of physical exercise are common ways Qi can become stagnant, in addition to physical injuries like contusions, sprains, and strains. The primary symptom from stagnant qi due to an injury is dull achy pain – the pain typically persists until you improve energy flow to the affected area.
When was qi first "discovered"?
The most ancient character for Qi first appeared under the Shang Dynasty: 3,000 to 3,600 years ago. As the centuries marched by, the symbol was refined alongside the concept itself. Where the earliest character depicted a "mist that rises from the Earth to form the clouds," later additions saw the symbol refer to a more ephemeral concept – the breath of life.
Traditional Chinese medical practitioners understand Qi (breath) as being embodied by Jing (essence) and then set in motion to become Shen (spirit). These three aspects are essential not solely to Chinese medicine but to life's existence: matter progresses to energy and energy to spirit.
Daoist philosophy takes the idea one step further: in the Dao De Jing, the entire universe is but one Primordial Breath (Yuan Qi) – the inexhaustible reservoir from which all things are derived.
What are the common symptoms of 'stagnant qi'?
Stagnant qi presents with cramps, discomfort, lethargy, and a greater risk of injury. Here's a breakdown of additional symptoms you may notice by system:
- Digestive system: poor digestion, weakness, bloating, loose stools, reduced appetite, anemia.
- Respiratory system: asthma, shortness of breath, weak immune system
- Cardiovascular system: poor circulation, palpitations, anxiety
- Other symptoms: dry skin, brittle hair, aches, mental fog, weight problems
But the symptoms are emotional as well as physical. People may grind their teeth, bite their nails, pick at spots or sores, and find themselves scratching again and again. Something is off.
If left untreated, physical and emotional ailments will continue to worsen – we rely on movement and diet to improve flow.
How is a stagnant Qi treated?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the secret to treating stagnant qi is exercise and movement. For sprains and strains, "active recovery" through movement, acupuncture, and therapeutic massage work wonders to soothe pain, relieve trapped tension, and improve the healing process.
However, such treatments can always be improved with a topical herbal remedy like Hit! Balm. Loaded with plant-based compounds and Chinese herbs, Hit! Balm is specifically formulated to move stagnant Qi and relieve pain and inflammation.
Ingredients like turmeric, frankincense, or corydalis reduce inflammation, settling our injuries and allowing our swelling and pain to subside. Without any antagonistic ingredients, Hit! Balm is effective for anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects.
But one ingredient works especially well to improve the flow of Qi: Hemp Extract.
Hemp extract: treating pain and inflammation associated with stagnant Qi
Hemp, has been used medicinally even longer than qi has been a concept. Inside the body, hemp extract activates your endocannabinoid system involved with sleep, appetite, pain, and immune system response.
By doing so, hemp extract relieves inflammation and downgrades neurotransmitters, leading to decreased nerve and back pain. Moreover, other studies show hemp extract lower blood pressure in response to stress, decreasing the risk of stroke, heart attack, and metabolic syndrome.
Improve Qi flow through movement and natural herbs
Relieving the effects of stagnant Qi means reducing the tensions locked inside your body. Chinese medicine teaches us to use movement and exercise to begin the process – with practices like massage or acupuncture helping to target the areas most affected by stagnant Qi.
Certain natural ingredients can also aid in our recovery. Herbs and compounds, like turmeric, corydalis, or hemp extract, are potent agents for increasing the circulation of qi in our bodies. When the stagnant Qi is due to an injury, like a sprain or strain, soothing the damaged tendons and facilitating our body's natural healing process is critical to returning us to health and vigor.
Experience Hit! Balm's phenomenal natural properties for yourself, or explore our other posts to learn more about how you can master the "breath of life".