Tonic Herbalism March 12, 2016 17:18

  1. Tonic Herbalism: The Three Treasures - Jing - Qi - Shen
  2. The Principle of Yin and Yang
  3. The Theory of Five Elements
  4. What is Qi?

Tonic Herbalism: The Three Treasures - Jing - Qi - Shen

The extensive multi-faceted science of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Tonic Herbalism recognizes three fundamental substances, or treasures, that make up our body, mind and spirit. Foundational in nature, these substances are precious to life on all levels of functioning and being. These have been validated for thousands of years and by modern research as a viable method of understanding, in a broad way, how our bodies work and what they may require in the ways of nutrition, exercise, study, and any other relevant activity. The keys to longevity, optimal health, strength, and our capacity to love is affected by the availability and balance of these three treasures. They work synergistically, by being mutually interactive and supportive of each other. Without one of these treasures we will feel less than optimal health and may even achieve an imbalanced dis-eased state of affairs.

Tonic Adaptogens Contain the Three Treasures Locked Within.

1st Treasure - Jing - Essence

Our constitutional lifelong vitality is a direct reflection of how much Jing we have within us. We are born with our individual constitution, and we have the ability to use and develop our Jing over our lifetimes. With little Jing we are weak and cannot resist stress well without a toll being taken upon our health. With much Jing we are strong and can easily overcome challenges in life. Jing is closely associated with glandular and hormonal health and output. It is associated with regeneration, growth, and the power and drive or our sexuality. Jing is found at the base of our spine in our sexual organs, kidneys and adrenals.

A premier Jing tonic is Deer Antler Velvet

2nd Treasure - Qi - Energy

One's day to day energy levels are related to the power of our Qi. The activity of our metabolism and depth of our motivation is the associated with how much Qi is circulating within our internal organs. We have several different types of Qi throughout the body that nourish us, protects us, and give us action. Qi is developed directly from everything we eat and every breath we take. It is most closely associated with digestive, assimilative and respiratory functions as well as our overall immune function. Qi is felt and experienced by our stomach, spleen and lungs.

A premier Qi Tonic is Red Ginseng

3rd Treasure - Shen - Spirit

The manifestation of our emotional, mental, and spiritual health is known as Shen. Summed up simply and quickly it is our Joy-of-Life. Who we are as a personality and the coherence of our thoughts is found in the power of our Shen. Those who are timid, confused, and ruled by their own emotions have little Shen, while those who are expressive, intelligent, and have compassionate control contain plentiful Shen. The depth of our feelings and our capacity for love and bliss are in perfect relation to how much Shen we hold within our hearts as seen by the sparkle in our eyes.

A premier Shen Tonic is Reishi Mushroom

One Treasure Supports Each Other Treasure

Each treasure alone does not make us a complete physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual human being. But the interplay of all the treasures give the strength, energy, and passion to live a full life, in the now, with profound happiness. Jing will be unable to circulate without Qi and ripen into full life-force without Shen. Qi will have no power behind it without Jing and the expressiveness of Shen. We cannot feel the depth of our Shen unless we first fill our Jing to capacity and nourish our Qi.

Many of the most important tonics contain at least one of the three treasures to assist in stress adaptation. The premier tonics contain two, or all three of the treasures, so that a single tonic may have the ability to raise our overall being into greater capacities of health and wellbeing.

The Principle of Yin and Yang

Within the culture, art, philosophy and spirits of the oriental people their is an intrinsic unity to everything - a oneness to all creation. All things and all processes are infinitely interconnected in the cosmic dance of the macrocosm of planets, stars and galaxies, the microcosm of the subatomic, atomic and microbiologic, and even our realm of life and the human organism.

The influences of this unifying theory of all aspects of being is first recognized and understood in the original division of two polarizing forces in the great principle of yin-yang. This is easily seen in cold and hot, take and give, pull and push and the spiritual principle of karma - reaction and action. Even more interesting is, that because of unity, yin and yang are not mutually exclusive. This actualizes the cyclic conceptualization of yin-yang in the taiji, that to keep the polarities charged and lively, we will find the yin within the yang and the yang within the yin. The yin-yang symbol easily expresses this with the fish and eye of each energy.

The manifestations are nearly infinite and woven into the fabric of tonic adaptogens and how we may apply their healing actions and benefits into our own lives and circumstances.


The Yin-Yang Symbol - Taiji - White is Yang and Black is Yin.
One can always find Yin within Yang and Yang within Yin.

Manifestation of the Yin Energy:

  • Black
  • Cold
  • Dark
  • Form (Blood)
  • Potential
  • Receptive
  • Rest
  • Descending
  • Inward
  • Contracting
  • Space
  • Moon
  • Female
  • Earth (Jing)

Manifestation of the Yang Energy:

  • White
  • Hot
  • Bright
  • Energy (Qi)
  • Kinetic
  • Aggressive
  • Activity
  • Ascending
  • Outward
  • Expanding
  • Time
  • Sun
  • Male
  • Heaven (Shen)



      Although this may be confusing and hard to grasp initially, daily contemplation and reflection will offer us greater insights in this mysterious and revealing principle. Practice will help us identify either of the polarities and how to apply yin-yang with tonic adaptogens.

      Tonic adaptogens that give us energy and increase metabolism are considered yang and they will promote liveliness and activity in their own specific ways. These help us overcome work, promote play and performance, and enliven our spirits.

      Tonic adaptogens that assist rest and decrease metabolism are considered yin and they will promote calming and inactivity. These help us become restful, promote relaxation and meditation, and make us more accepting of circumstances.

      Below is a brief summary of tonics that are either yin or yang. As a note the principle of formulation of several tonics often attempts to balances the energies of each tonic with their opposite to further the idea of yin and yang existing within each other and promoting each other for greater healing, health, and well-being.

      Yang Tonic Adaptogens

      Yin Tonic Adaptogens

      Yin-Yang Tonic Adaptogens

      The Theory of Five Elements

      From the interaction of the polarities of the great principle of yin-yang is born the theory of five elements. If we are to imagine the movement of the yin-yang symbol and its interactions we will begin to see the transformational energies of these polarities manifest as differing elements of creation. These elements are seen in every manifestation of creation including the human body. The yin would further separate into the two elements of water and metal. The yang polarity would further separate into the two elements of wood and fire. Earth represents the balance of both forces. As yin and yang transmute into one another, so do the five elements through their cycles of transformation.

      Shen Cycle - Engendering Cycle

      Each element will have natural attributes of action that will engender the next element in the cyclic process of creation. Within the five elements theory this can been see as: water nourishes wood, wood fuels fire, fire creates earth, earth manifests metal, metal melts into water. Although it may take a bit of imagination, this creative and symbolic way of understanding broad characteristics unifies our perception. As an example; water creates the woody growth of life, which when burned in fire turns to ash and becomes earth soil, descending and hardening into metal ore that will become heated within the interior of the earth and become fluid completing the cycle. Concerning tonic adaptogens, this cycle is important to understand as they assist the building up of deficiencies and correcting towards homeostasis. Where we are lacking in elemental strength is simply the adaptogen we require to continue the cycle.

      Ko Cycle - Controlling Cycle

      Each element has another element that is controlled by its actions of manifestation. This can be seen in the five element theory as: water cools fire, fire melts metal, metal overpowers wood, wood lives in earth, earth directs water. Once again we can come up with interesting ways of understanding these relationships. As it concerns tonic adaptogens this cycle is another understanding of how to implement them with efficacy. If we are overheating, the consumption of adaptogens that cool our fires and strengthen our water element - an example of this is American ginseng.

      Table of Elemental Attributes

      Element Color Power Season Emotion Flavor Sense Yin Organ Yang Organ Body Part
      WOOD Green Birth Spring Anger Sour Sight Liver Gall Bladder Joints
      FIRE Red Growth Summer Joy Bitter Tongue Heart Small Intestine Vascular System
      EARTH Yellow Transformation Late Summer Worry Sweet Taste Spleen Stomach Muscles
      METAL White Harvest Autumn Grief Spicy Smell Lungs Large Intestine Skin
      WATER Blue-black Storage Winter Fear Salty Hearing Kidney Bladder Bones


      We can use this theory to greatly assist our tonic adaptogen program so that we may choose which elements we wish to cultivate physically, mentally and spiritually. Although many of the tonic adaptogens will generally contain the potential for nearly all the elements, they will always have a predominant element that they strengthen that element more than the others. For example, many of the medicinal mushrooms are predominantly wood elementdeer antler velvet is predominantly a fire element, and red ginseng is predominantly earth

      What is Qi?

      Qi (氣) , pronounced "chee", also spelled chi or ch'i, is believed to be the pulsing life force energy of the human organism. There is no direct translation into English which is why we must use the Chinese word to describe this electrical and magnetic energy of our bodies. Qi can be seen in the meridian channels, colored aura, and chakras energy centers of the body.

      Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners believe and measure this invisible force by various indirect ways such as pulse diagnosis, the condition of one's tongue and through the acupuncture points upon the body. The qi of an individual can be viewed from the overall whole aspect of one's being, as well as the individual parts found in the organ systems. It travels through the organs and acupuncture meridians.

      Qi is Thought of as Electro-magnetic Energy and Imagined as Electricity

      Many Ancient Cultures and Modern Scientist Measure and Study the Existence of Qi

      Health within the TCM system is understood as a form of active balance of qi within our body. Full vitality, energy and growth is created from the interplay of Yin and Yang. Too much Yang qi and one may be overexcited often, hot, have a fast pulse. Too much Yin qi and one may be lethargic, cold or have a slow pulse. An active balance of these forces within will yield plentiful active life force. To understand the principle of Yin and Yang and how to easily identify the duality of existence please read the following blog post on The Principle of Yin and Yang.

      Within the Three Treasures System, Qi specifically represents the vital life force of one's being which is easily understood as energy. In this system our quantity and quality of qi is determined by the food and air we breathe and the organ health associated with respiration and digestion.

      The quintessential qi tonic is Ginseng. Visit our Ginseng Collection and add your own qi tonic to your Tonic Adaptogen supplement program.