What is traditional Chinese medicine?


Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) originated in ancient China and has evolved over thousands of years. TCM practitioners, depending on their education and country laws, use Chinese pharmacopeia, acupuncture, qi gong, Tuina therapy and or dietary therapy to treat and prevent health problems. According to the US National Institute of Health, the therapies utilized by TCM practitioners are generally considered safe, and much of the research encompassing Eastern paradigm into the modus indicates effectiveness as well as no notable side effects. TCM encompasses many different practices, including acupuncture, moxibustion, dietary therapy, tuina therapy, qi gong and tai ji. TCM is rooted in the ancient philosophy of Taoism and dates back more than 2,500 years, with the ancient canons of classical Chinese medicine being the Mawangdui texts, Zhangjiashan Han text, Huangdi Neijing texts (Suwen & Lingshu), and the like.

The concepts of TCM are profound and infinite, and often overlooked as modern allopathic medicine researchers try to compare the value of the TCM therapies. When thinking about ancient medical systems such as TCM, it is important to separate questions about traditional theories and concepts of health and wellness from questions about whether specific interventions might be helpful in the context of modern allopathic medicine and health practices. TCM in it of itself is not just a practice of medicine, but an art of science that utilizes a different paradigm to achieve diagnosis, prognosis and treatment plans. The ancient theories on which TCM is based include the following:

1. The human is a microcosm of the macrocosm; the universe.

2. Harmony between forces of nature, known in Chinese as yin and yang, supports health, and disharmony between these forces results in disease and imbalance.

3. Five elements (fire, earth, wood, metal and water) as well as yin yang theory symbolically represent all phenomena, including the stages of human life, and explain the functioning of the body and how it changes during disease or disharmony.

4. Qi, a word in the Chinese culture that is not easily translated into other languages, is an essential component to human life and all life around us, and with the therapies of TCM, the Qi within the human body can be augmented and steered into harmony.

TCM therapies can be effectively applied to help heal anyone and any health issue no matter the century we are in. It may be an ancient practice, but for this it is also a timeless one, with universal understanding of how the human body, and how life in general can become imbalanced and diseased, and more importantly how to rectify and improve the balance of life. This unique paradigm grew out of a culture that spent thousands of years penetrating deeply into the mannerisms and the way of life, observing the functions and flow of human with nature. At times the conversations of the ancients were not about physical stagnant things that could only be perceived with the five senses, they often discussed changes of nature and how humans reacted to those changes. The truest goal of TCM, and on a deeper level that of classical Chinese medicine, is to help the human life harmonize with nature and the forces in which are embedded into her.

The largest difference between medicine studied in the occidental west and TCM is the very principal of integration. In allopathic medicine, as well as the research and practices that support it, are embedded into a system of reductionism, whereby every illness or disease that a human being could have is reduced down to a part of the body or a system of the body which then is crippled or provoked by harmful artificial entities, essentially inhibiting the body from operating collaboratively with the treatment. In TCM, as well as the ancient canons and classical practices that support it, are embedded into a system of holism, whereby a holistic approach is harnessed in order to consider all aspects of the human life; physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and relational, in order to conclude what imbalances the life is currently enduring and quite possibly promoting. With this holistic image, the TCM doctor is able to derive a plan utilizing the therapies of TCM, which augment and support the body in the process of returning to harmony.