Some science behind the scenes
A hormone is a chemical released by a cell or a gland in one part of the body that sends out messages that affect cells in other parts of the organism. Hormones are carried in the blood stream and stored in endocrine glands – see Endocrine system. Only a little amount of hormone is required to alter cell metabolism. In essence, it is a chemical messenger that transports a signal from one cell to another.
In TCM hormones are called Original Qi or Chi.
Most hormones initiate a cellular response by initially combining with either a specific intracellular or cell membrane associated receptor protein. A cell may have several different receptors that recognize the same hormone and activate different signal transduction pathways, or a cell may have several different receptors that recognize different hormones and activate the same biochemical pathway.
A variety of exogenous chemical compounds, both natural and synthetic, have hormone-like effects. Their interference with the synthesis, secretion, transport, binding, action, or elimination of natural hormones in the body can change the homeostasis, reproduction, development, and/or behavior, just as endogenously produced hormones do.
Functionally hormones can trigger a whole host of systems which may result in the following:
- stimulation or inhibition of growth
- mood swings
- induction or suppression of programmed cell death
- activation or inhibition of the immune system
- regulation of metabolism
- preparation of the body for mating, fighting, fleeing, and other activity
- preparation of the body for a new phase of life, such as puberty, parenting, and menopause
- control of the reproductive cycle
- hunger cravings
- sexual arousal
Some example hormones include