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What is feminine medicine? Applying yin/feminine approaches and therapies within naturopathic medicine.

If the physician clearly perceives what is to be cured in diseases, that is to say, in every individual case of disease (knowledge of disease, indication), if he clearly perceives what is curative in medicines, that is to say, in each individual medicine (knowledge of medical powers), and if he knows how to adapt, according to clearly defined principles, what is curative in medicines to what he has discovered to be undoubtedly morbid in the patient, so that the recovery must ensue -to adapt it, as well in respect to the suitability of the medicine most appropriate according to its mode of action to the case before him (choice of the remedy, the medicine indicated), as also in respect to the exact mode of preparation and quantity of it required (proper dose), and the proper period for repeating the dose; - if, finally, he knows the obstacles to recovery in each case and is aware how to remove them, so that the restoration may be permanent, then he understands how to treat judiciously and rationally, and he is a true practitioner of the healing art.


- Samuel Hahnemann, Organon of Medicine, Aphorism 3


Two years ago in this journal, I presented a theoretical research article titled, "Using the Feminine to Heal the Aggressive Masculine: Designing Acupuncture Protocols through Naturopathic Philosophy for the Treatment of Excess Yang Conditions," wherein the premise was introduce "yin" approaches to treatment plans for cardiovascular conditions (Coomes 2011). The purpose was to emphasize how "yin" or "feminine" approaches to the naturopathic treatment of cardiovascular conditions could be key in reversing some of their root causes (i.e., buildup, heat/inflammation, excess anger, unbalanced Shen energy). Some examples of these conditions would include experiences or diagnoses of excess pressure and throbbing headaches, high blood pressure, anger, frustration, inflammation and heat, erratic joy (mania), swelling, and yelling/shouting (Schoenbart and Shefi 2012; Dehli 2012).

The purpose of this article is to take the relationship between yin and yang and their relationships to disease and disease a step further. It will introduce the "yin," or "feminine," therapies of naturopathic medicine and what Feminine Medicine really is (hopefully, it inspires you!). It will also show how each individual therapy in naturopathic medicine can be used in a yin/feminine approach, whether it is more yang (strong, aggressive) or yin (deep, gentle) in its essential nature. By "yin" and "feminine" approaches, this means tonifying and strengthening the deeper vital organs of the body, which serve to maintain life, with protocols specifically designed for them along with therapies in listening, receptivity, intuition, support, nourishment, and revitalization. In the future of medicine, these Feminine Medicine skills may become equally or even more highly regarded with the quantitative use of labs, established and proven scientific knowledge, and standard of care. So, as we progress forward, we need to understand how to awaken, grow, and perfect these skills in practicality while enlightening the art, heart, science, and research of naturopathic medicine.

What are Yin/Feminine Therapies and Approaches in Naturopathic Medicine?

The concept of "yin" and its relationship to "feminine" comes from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), wherein yin relates to the qualities of listening, receptivity, passive, dark, feminine, root, essential, solid, mystery, introspective, and cold, while yang relates to the qualities of expressive, manifesting, light, aggressive, masculine, branches, hollow, clear, magnetic, extroverted, and heat. Figure 1 shows the relationship between yin and yang and how both are part of the other.


When TCM is applied to naturopathic medicine in how we look at disease/disease and symptoms, the yin is related to the root cause of disease and what is deep in a condition (what is core to the disease), and yang is related to the symptomatology of the disease and what is superficial (expressed in the disease). The yin aspect of disease is understood by listening and seeking to uncover the hidden causes that may not be seen. The yang aspect of disease is often expressed in the skin, signs, temperature of the body, and how someone walks and looks. A laboratory test result is a yang aspect, and the understanding for the cause of a lab test result is the yin aspect. To understand the layers of disease in a person, the first impression of a patient and the vital signs that are taken are the superficial and yang indicators. When a health-care practitioner talks with a patient with complete physical assessments and interviews, the deeper yin indicators of a disease condition are uncovered.

When the deepest roots of a disease/disease are uncovered, a higher success can be achieved in choosing the correct method of treatment that will be effective and curative for disease/disease. This is why both yin and yang approaches and therapies are necessary, while yin approaches and treatments will work more deeply at correcting the root cause. Once the level of disease is established by determining if the dis-ease/disease condition is yang (acute, superficial) or yin (chronic, life threatening), a health practitioner can apply the therapy or treatment that will specifically best suit that level of disease. Figure 2 shows relationships between the yin and yang organs of the body along with a sample of emotions and heart conditions.
Figure 2: Yin and Yang Organs and Conditions

Source: Delhi 2012; Schoenbart and Shefi 2012

Yin Organs, Tissues, Conditions    Yang Organs, Tissues, Conditions

Heart                              Small Intestine

Pericardium                        Triple Warmer (Regulates
                                   temperature in the body)

Spleen                             Stomach

Lung                               Large Intestine

Kidney                             Urinary Bladder

Liver                              Gallbladder

Ligaments                          Muscles

Bones                              Blood

Joints                             Skin

Angina                             High Blood Pressure

Grief                              Anger/Frustration

Depression                         Anxiety  Excess Yang Additives:
                                   Coffee, Cigarettes

In reality, any practice of medicine can be seen as yin or yang, depending on how you use it; however, based on what has just been shared, two specific therapies in relationship to naturopathic medicine can be seen as "yin/feminine" therapies for specific reasons. There are others and this leaves room to ponder, but here are a few examples as well as considerations for how to approach other naturopathic therapies from a yin/feminine perspective:


Acupressure is a key yin/feminine therapy as its primary goal is to listen to the body through touch on specific acupressure points to help balance and remove energetic blockages that can manifest into physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual conditions. To learn what is core to the energetic imbalance, a health care practitioner must listen to a patient talk about the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual sides of his or her complaint and then apply a protocol that is most suited to the root causes of the chief complaint. The practitioner looks at relationships within the Five Elements (Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood) to find imbalances in control and support cycle relationships. When the energetic balance is brought to the relationships between the five elements and their corresponding organs, the health in the body is restored. Figure 3 shows the five element relationships along with the corresponding support and control cycles.


In theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the "imbalance of yin and yang is one of the basic pathogeneses of a disease" (Li 2011). This is often termed as "preponderance" or having a greater influence of the yin or yang energy in the body where the equilibrium or homeostasis of the body is disturbed (Li 2011). This disturbance affects the "vital essence" or the essential energy that gives life, and it is in the vital essence or vital force where disease begins (Li 2011; Hahnemann 2003).

When there is preponderance or excess of yang, there is "hyper-function of the organism and heat manifestations" and "yang in excess makes yin suffer" (Li 2011). If there is a deep damage to the yin energy, the yang energy suffers as well. When the yin organs and functions are disturbed (i.e., the vital organs), the repair, replenishing, and restrengthening of the vital essence (life energy) is a must. Root causes of disease and disease are often found in the yin organs and functions, though the manifestation of disease is often found as an expression of yang through symptoms, signs, and skin problems (Guilin Sino-Western Joint Hospital Chinese Medicine Advisory Department 2003).

The purpose of explaining these health relationships in Traditional Chinese Medicine is to show more deeply the nature of how excess yang conditions are related to our cellular states, our cultural and community states, the way medicine is practiced, and thus health. When yang energy is imbalanced, it is "considered weak yang because it has little to no healthy yin balance," and "to strengthen weak yang, you first strengthen yin" (Pokea 2010). The natural state of yin is "weakened whenever it is not permitted healthy expression to weak, out of control, driven yang." In the mind, this out of control yang can manifest in a "perceptual delusion in thinking that you can live ruthlessly in continual conflict with others and force your own, unrelenting, independent identity." On a collective level, many "human bodies" can be shut down by this yang experience, which is expressed in the body as autoimmune disease, or the body attacking itself (Pokea 2010).


Homeopathy, by its nature of practice, focuses on getting to the depth of an individual and to the essential root cause of the disease/disease source. It goes about it, however, a bit differently than acupressure. By definition, homeopathy is based on the premise of "like cures like" and seeks to match the energy of the disease/disease with the energy of its medicines. Homeopathic medicines can be of a plant, animal, or mineral original source and they are diluted hundreds to thousands of times so that only the energetic imprint of the medicine remains (Bioenergetic Medicine for Practitioners). The medicines are not a material source in the dilutions used to treat a patient, and they work on a level that is equivalent to the energetic "vital force" or life force of an individual (Hahnemann 1997).

To understand this better, it is to say that disease/disease leaves an imprint of cellular memory in our physical body whether it comes from a physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual trauma. You can see under a microscope what a healthy cell looks like and what a diseased cell looks like, but there can be various causes to how a cell becomes diseased. It can be genetics, lifestyle, malnourishment, physical injury, or environmental toxicities or chemicals (Diaz 2010). Our emotions and mental patterns can also change cells, since increased stress that comes from extreme or constant emotions, trauma, or post-traumatic stress can change how cells receive nourishment and energy (Diaz 2010; Block 2010). When a body's cells become diseased over time and change the normal functioning of an individual on either emotional, mental, physical, or spiritual level, there is a specific energy that is connected to that which has its root in either an animal (survival), plant (sensitivity), or mineral (structural) energy (Sankaran 2004; Block 2010; Diaz 2010). The key is to find the essential match between that core issue/energy in the disease/disease state and that of medicine.

Homeopathy is a yin/feminine therapy because is seeks to find the deepest and core state of an individual, the state that defines the disease energy. By providing a medicine that matches the disease state nearly exactly, the patient can work toward a curative state because such a medicine will work at a level deeper than the disease on repairing the vital force energy (Hahnemann 1997). While science is still determining how this works, the theory is that the energy of the homeopathic medicine eliminates the disease state because the medicine is stronger and deeper than the disease state when the dose is chosen correctly by assessing the level of the disease between the yin and yang levels as mentioned earlier (Little 2007).

Yin/Feminine Approaches

Now, before there is a discussion about men, boys, women, and girls, it should be said that "feminine" medicine or a "feminine" medical approach is not way of saying "take the man out" of medicine. It has nothing to do with being a man or a woman, since each man, woman, boy, and girl has both masculine and feminine energies. It does, however, define an approach to medicine that focuses beyond standard of care and into the home of individualized medicine. Just as yin/feminine energy is deep and core, understanding an individual's uniqueness along with the uniqueness of his or her disease is also a yin/feminine endeavor. Naturopathic medicine is known for setting itself apart from Western medicine by individualizing treatments that don't necessarily fit with an approved standard of care for a condition but with the root cause of disease/disease and the essential nature of a patient. This is why it is essentially natural that naturopathic medicine could otherwise be known as a Feminine Medicine. The work of naturopathic medicine is feminine/listening/yin, and to apply its took is masculine/manifesting/yang. Here are a few ways to look at the specific therapies within naturopathic medicine through a yin/feminine approach:

* Physical Medicine/Naturopathic

Manipulation Physical medicine can be approached from a yin or yang perspective and the softer and intuitive manipulations represent more of the yin approach while the force and aggressive manipulations are more of a yang approach. At times both may be necessary; however, with patients who have history of deep trauma (either emotional, mental, physical, or spiritual) or great sensitivity, a yin/feminine approach may be more suited in physical manipulations because they are more gentle and the patient is likely to receive this approach without awakening unwelcome aggravations.

* Environmental Medicine/Nature Cure

Naturopathic hydrotherapy, by its nature, can be an invigorating yang therapy because of its contrast between the use of heat and cold in a strong (but nonharming) range to help reset the circulatory patterns in the body needed to eliminate disease. To apply a yin/feminine approach to a yang therapy is to watch the reaction of the body and the person through each phase of the treatment and understand how to adjust the treatment to bring out the best invigorating response to the vital force. Like homeopathy, it is a discovery of the correct dose that is just deeper than the disease state. This is judged often by assessing the patient's vital force state and disease state. If a patient has a high vital force (i.e., the immune system is strong), then the patient will likely be able to receive strong hydrotherapy treatment with higher frequency. If the vital force energy is low (i.e., the immune system is weak), the duration, strength, and frequency of the hydrotherapy treatments also have to match this level of energy in order to prevent aggravation or deep worsening of a patient's condition.

* Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine is based on understanding the doctrine of signatures of each plant to understand how to apply the plant's medicine to an individual's disease (National Institute of Medical Herbalists, nd). A doctrine of signature of a plant is a method of looking at the characteristics of a plant and predicting how that plant might be used in the body (The National Institute of Medical Herbalists). It can be anything from the shape of a plant predicting which organ of the body it can be used for to the physical characteristics of the plant predicting the type of action it would have in the body (National Institutes of Medical Herbalists).

To apply a yin/feminine approach to herbal medicine would be to listen to the patient's complaint deeply and thoroughly to find what specific action of a plant is needed, which specific organ and function is related most to the root cause of the complaint, and how the vital force of the patient relates to the strength of the plant's action. Stronger and more aggressive plant actions are more yang in nature and are suited for patients who have the vital force level to bear the action of the plant's medicine through a potential healing crisis to eliminate the disease/disease state. More milder and soothing plant actions can be yin in nature by the nature of being nourishing and gentle. Another aspect to look at in a plant action and nature is to assess if a plant medicine will act more superficially and quick or long and deep. Take a guess at which is yin and yang in its approach and how you would apply them to a patient's disease state and vital force.

* Nutritional Medicine

For nutritional medicine, as the saying goes, food becomes medicine if it is used for its medicinal properties at the right time and in right dose. Whether the food is a protein, mineral, or vitamin source, it is a matter of matching the disease state with the deficiencies and needs of the condition along with the vital force level of the patient. It is also good to question if nutritional medicine will answer the problem alone or is a more aggressive therapy needed. Nutritional medicine can be seen as a yin/feminine therapy and approach because changing a diet or treating therapeutically through nutrition can achieve deeper and more long lasting changes, which is a yin characteristic, but it may be slower.

Changing a diet quickly would be an example of a yang approach to treatment, while making gradual and therapeutic changes with the level of the vital force would be more of a yin approach. Choosing the correct foods and doses of the foods is also important too. Some foods, due to the nature of their biochemical makeup, can have various gentle or aggressive affects when combined or when used in small or large amounts. For dietary doses, amounts of foods are often used to meet a basic level of nutrition to provide an adequate amount of vitamins and minerals. For therapeutic doses, a larger amount of the vitamin, mineral, or protein source is used to help treat specific disease states and conditions, and thus it is more aggressive in changing the state of the vital force for a patient. Therapeutic doses can become more nourishing if used in a lesser frequency and longer duration than a high frequency and shorter duration characteristic of a yang approach. Using a yin versus a yang treatment approach depends the level of vital force and the needs related to reversing the disease/disease state of the patient.

Conclusion: What's Yin Got To Do With It?

It has anything and everything to do with naturopathic medicine and its practice, if the receptivity is there. To understand naturopathic medicine in its continuous gifts, its yin and its yang. It is about experiencing the great revelations, joys, deep sorrows, humble frustrations, the erratic, the crazy, the misunderstood, the funny, the ahha's, the mystery, and the beautiful surprises that come through trying to understand patients and their disease states to bring cure and health. These understandings come often by going deep and going into new territories as a student, doctor, and patient. We are teachers for one another in that task. We are in charge of awakening and catalyzing health. It is not a cookie cutter's masterpiece, nor it is one size fits all, and to show new ways of looking at naturopathic medicine is a way of revitalizing the vital force and the heart of its wisdom. It brings the root (yin) to its fruit (yang) so that we can see it and use it.

There will always be more to learn about the heart of naturopathic medicine, just as there is always more to learn about life. If there is that opportunity to truly follow the path of healing with someone, and we are courageous enough to walk it in its various mysterious (yin) and enlightening (yang) forms, then we are forever changed for the better for the wisdom learned. If we let our humility lead our work instead of our ego, we can continue to learn and share with receptivity which can help the art (and science) of naturopathic medicine stay alive and continue to grow. That is what naturopathic medicine teaches us at its root, at its heart: To let innate wisdom live and keep on thriving. It has something to say and tell us, if we listen. It is our divine way to rise to become medicine women and men, healers and sages. We are capable. So, until we meet again, let's do good and keep on discovering. Let's make our world healthier and a better place to be, beyond all of our feistiness and frustrations. Take some Feminine Medicine with you along the way!


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by Jennifer Coomes, BA, RYT Arizona State University, Clinical Research Management MS Program

Jennifer Coomes, BA, RYT, a vital lover of the art, heart, and science of naturopathic medicine, has been a student of Traditional Chinese Medicine for 12 years. She is a first-year graduate student at Arizona State University, studying clinical research management, where her studies have been influenced by her four years of training in naturopathic and homeopathic medicine. She plans to finish her medical degree in the future in naturopathic medicine with emphasis in environmental medicine. It is with great honor to the path of her own healing as well as promoting the healing within others, especially in the heart, that she brings consciousness to the feminine perspective in understanding personal and environmental health. She is devoted to the practice of preserving our innate wisdom and our ability to practically innovate in the field of medicine while staying rooted to the sustainability of the Earth. Jennifer newly resides in the state of Washington and can be reached at
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Author:Coomes, Jennifer
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Date:Feb 1, 2013
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