What is chi (Qi)?

Henry McCann, DAOM
Alternative & Complementary Medicine

The Chinese language doesn't use an alphabet like English. Instead it uses characters (a type of written symbol that originally was an actual picture) to write words. "Chi" and "Qi" (both pronounced "Chee") are just two different ways to spell the same word in Chinese.

Qi is one of the most important concepts in Chinese medicine, including acupuncture and Chinese herbs. While most people think of Qi as "energy," it is much more than that. When an acupuncturist says that someone's Qi is "weak," they are really referring to the body's normal ability to function.

In the body, Qi is everything from the ability of our lungs to breathe to the ability of the stomach to digest food. Ultimately, Qi is the traditional Chinese way of describing all of your body's normal functions. When someone who practices Chinese medicine uses needles or herbs to treat "Qi," they are really just trying to bring everything internally back into a proper state of balance.



Dr. David L. Katz, MD, MPH
Preventive Medicine
Qi (or chi) takes on various roles in our body. For example, it is the energy that keeps us from falling ill, the energy that forces our heart to beat, or cells to divide. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), Qi is a moving force that travels along pathways in the body noted as meridians. When Qi is flowing without obstruction or without deficiency, we are in a perfect state of health and wellness. It is the moment an imbalance occurs, that we begin to fall ill and manifest in various symptoms of disharmony.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.