Traditional Chinese Medicine
What Is It?
How Does It Work?
What Happens During Treatment?
What Is It Used For?
What Is It?
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a medical system which originated
in China around 2500 years ago. It is based on the belief that illness
is caused by disruptions and imbalances in the flow of the body’s
vital energy, qi (also written as chi and pronounced “chee”).
In ancient China, traditional medicine was used as a complete system
which combined acupuncture, herbal medicines, massage, dietary therapy
and forms of exercise such as qigong and Tai chi. Today it is often
fragmented into these separate components.
Unlike many conventional doctors, who are trained to treat specific
organs or body systems in isolation, practitioners of traditional medicine
use a holistic system which sees the body as a whole, with strong connections
between all parts of the body and mind, as well as between the individual
and the environment.
How Does It
The aim of traditional Chinese medicine is to restore balance to the
body’s vital energy, qi. According to the philosophy of this
system, our body’s vital energy is influenced by our environment
- by the food we eat, and our lifestyle, for instance if we get enough
exercise, or if we smoke or drink too much alcohol. Two fundamental
concepts are central to the Chinese way of thinking about how our health
relates to our environment:
Yin and Yang - two opposite but complementary forces
in the universe which create movement in all areas of our lives. Yin
represents things that are dark, cold and inactive, while yang represents
things that are light, hot and active. The human body is also governed
by these opposing forces, and good health requires balance and harmony
The Five Elements - in Chinese philosophy the universe
is governed by five basic elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water.
Each of our internal organs and body systems resonates with the energy
of one of these elements, and imbalances in the natural harmony of
these elements can cause illness.
A TCM practitioner seeks to understand the complex relationship between
our body and the universe, and diagnose any imbalances in qi, yin-yang,
and the five elements, and correct them with appropriate therapies.
These therapies include acupuncture, massage, dietary changes, herbal
medicine and qigong.
Chinese herbal medicines are preparations containing mixtures of herbs
which were designed centuries ago to restore balance and to treat specific
What Happens During
Your first visit to a TCM practitioner will involve a thorough examination
and history-taking. You will be asked about your diet, lifestyle, bowel
movements, whether you are sensitive to changes in temperature, and
how you react to stress. The practitioner will examine your eyes, skin,
tongue, hair and three different pulses on each wrist, and may note
the way your body smells and your posture.
This examination is used to diagnose any imbalances in the body, and
to choose a treatment which suits your needs. The practitioner may
recommend a combination of dietary changes, acupuncture, massage or
qigong, or prescribe herbal medicines.
The length of treatment will depend on your condition.
What Is It Used
Traditional Chinese medicine is used to treat a wide range of ailments.
Chinese herbal medicines are used for colds, flu, migraines, fibromyalgia,
menstrual problems, eczema, malaria and irritable bowel syndrome. Acupuncture
is helpful for treating chronic pain, nausea from chemotherapy and
addictions. Chinese massage, known as tui na manipulates acupoints
to unblock qi and relieve stress and aches and pains.
See separate entry for acupuncture.
Caution should be taken when using Chinese herbal medicines. Find
out what is in them and any adverse affects they might have. Check
with your conventional doctor if you are unsure about taking them.
Find a Traditional
Chinese Medicine Practitioner
Prices are in US Dollars
The Web That Has No Weaver : Understanding
Ted J. Kaptchuk
Completely and thoroughly revised, The Web That Has No Weaver
is the classic, comprehensive guide on the theory and practice
of Chinese medicine. This accessible and invaluable resource
has earned its place as the foremost authority in the synthesizing
of Western and Eastern healing practices.
Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine: Zhong Yi Xue Ji
English translations of traditional Chinese medical texts
rarely have conformed to the standards required of a contribution
to sinology. One exception has been the first edition of
Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine, a ground-breaking translation
of the Zhong Yi Ji Chu Xue which demonstrated that not only
was it possible to meet scholarly expectations for the translations
of T.C.M, but that the cooperation of living Chinese speaking
clinicians could reveal nuances of practice. Beyond beginner's
manuals, it gives English-speaking students of TCM a chance
to appreciate the qualitative details available to their
Chinese-speaking colleagues. It offers readers the rare opportunity
to understand Chinese medicine, not as it is perceived by
a Western writer, but as it is perceived and taught in China,
because Chinese descriptions of TCM that confound Western
expectations have not been expunged from the textual translation.
Contents include yin and yang and the five phases; qi, blood,
essence, and fluids; the channels; the organs; diseases and
their causes. Pattern identification and treatment of eight-parameter,
organ, qi-blood, pathogens, and exogenous heat conditions
are discussed in detail, as are the principles and methods
of treatment. Illustrative acumoxa therapy has been added
for Western acupuncturists.
The revised edition includes explanations of terms and an
entire materia medica and formulary sufficient to practice
the treatments described by the text. As such it is not only
a unique, absolutely-defined and referenced text, but a self-contained
and inexpensive course of study. The revised Fundamentals
of Chinese Medicine is a bridge between scholars and clinicians
in both East and West.
Between Heaven and Earth
Two of the foremost American educators and healers in the
Chinese medical profession demystify Chinese medicine's centuries-old
approach to health. Combining Eastern traditions with Western
sensibilities in a unique blend that is relevant today, BETWEEN
HEAVEN AND EARTH opens the door to a vast storehouse of knowledge
that bridges the gap between mind and body, theory and practice,
professional and self-care, East and West.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Books
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