Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, is one of the oldest healing systems in the world, dating back more than 2500 years ago. It is one of the many systems of medicine classified as “Oriental medicine”, a term that encompasses diverse medical theories and applications developed and practiced in the Far East.
Practitioners of TCM use herbal medicines and various mind and body practices to treat or prevent health problems. Today Chinese Medicine continues to develop and is used by millions of people around the world.
The concept of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Unlike Western Medicine, Chinese traditional medicine has a way of looking at everything as a whole and considers everything in context. This perspective is referred to as “taking whole”.
This perspective is applied to everything affecting our health and wellbeing. TCM not only identifies and treats illness and prevents disease, but also optimizes health, wellbeing, and sustainability in our lives.
The ancient beliefs on which TCM is based include the following:
- The human body is a miniature version of the larger, surrounding universe.
- Harmony between two opposing yet complementary forces, called yin and yang, supports health, and disease results from an imbalance between these forces.
- Five elements—fire, earth, wood, metal, and water—symbolically represent all phenomena, including the stages of human life, and explain the functioning of the body and how it changes during disease.
- Qi, a vital energy that flows through the body, performs multiple functions in maintaining health.
What are the different forms of Chinese Medicine treatments?
There are several forms of Chinese Medicine practiced; the following are amongst the most common ones used today…
- Herbal Medicine – Chinese herbal medicine is the practice of combining individual herbs into formulas to promote health. Herbs are carefully selected, processed, and dried. They are given to a patient in a tea or pill, or in the form of pharmaceutical grade extracts—the growing choice for most patients and practitioners.
- Acupuncture – Acupuncture entails stimulating certain points on the body, usually with a needle penetrating the skin, to alleviate pain or to help treat various health conditions. The general theory is based on the premise that there are patterns of energy flow (Qi) through the body that are essential for health. Disruptions of this flow are believed to be responsible for the disease.
- Cupping – In cupping a therapist puts special cups on your skin for a few minutes to create suction. People get it for many purposes, including helping with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation and well-being, and as a type of deep-tissue massage.
- Scraping – Scraping, or “Gua Sha”, uses pieces of smooth jade, bone, animal tusks, horns, or smooth stones to scrape along the skin to release obstruction and toxins that are trapped at the surface of the skin. The scraping is done until red spots then bruising cover the treatment area.
- Tai chi – Tai chi is a centuries-old mind and body practice. It involves gentle, dance-like body movements with mental focus, breathing, and relaxation. It has evolved over centuries to become a means of alleviating stress and anxiety, a form of “meditation in motion.”
- Qigong – Qigong encompasses physical postures, breathing techniques and focused intention. The word Qigong (Chi Kung) is made up of two Chinese words. Qi is pronounced chi and is usually translated to mean the life force or vital energy that flows through all things in the universe.
How safe is Chinese Medicine?
Generally, most forms of Chinese Medicine Practices are considered safe. However when using herbal medicines, just as with western medicines, there are potentials side effects, risks, and interactions to be aware of.
If you are considering using TCM, be sure to tell your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care