Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a complete medical system that has been practiced for more than five thousand years. It takes a far different approach from Western medicine. It is an ancient medical system that takes a deep understanding of the laws and patterns of nature and applies them to the human body. It has formed a deep and immense knowledge of medical science, theory, diagnostic methods, prescriptions and cures.
Chinese Medicine, which complete name is the Traditional Chinese Medical Science, is the medical science of ancient Han Nationality which another name is Huaxia. This medical science had a long history of 4300 years since Yandi who was a heroic chief of Huaxia's tribes' alliance as Huangdi tasted herbs.
The theory system of Chinese Medicine is based on the ancient Chinese philosophical theories of Yin-Yang which are two basic opposites of all things, Five Elements including wood, fire, earth, metal and water, Jing-Qi which are regarded as the world origins. Watching, listening, asking and touching are methods of disease diagnosing in Chinese Medicine. Chinese medicines, which are used to cure diseases in Chinese Medicine, are mainly from herbs and other plants. The others are from animals, minerals, and so on.
At the heart of TCM is the tenet that the root cause of illnesses, not their symptoms, must be treated. In modern-day terms, TCM is holistic in its approach; it views every aspect of a person—body, mind, spirit, and emotions—as part of one complete circle rather than loosely connected pieces to be treated individually.
The basic principles of Chinese medicine are rather distinctive. A brief introduction offers some of the key terms and concepts in traditional Chinese medicine.
The Theory of Qi
The true foundation of TCM is Qi, which is loosely translated as vital energy. In TCM, Qi is considered to be the force that animates and informs all things. In the human body, Qi flows through meridians, or energy pathways. Twelve major meridians run through the body, and it is over this network that Qi travels through the body and that the body's various organs send messages to one another. For this reason, keeping the meridians clear is imperative for the body's self-regulating actions to occur. Through proper training, people can develop the sensitivity to feel the flow of Qi.
TCM believes that the human body is a microcosm of the Universal macrocosm. Therefore, humans must follow the laws of the Universe to achieve harmony and total health. The Yin/Yang and Five-Element theories are actually observations and descriptions of Universal law, not concepts created by man. In ancient times, practitioners of TCM discovered these complex sets of interrelationships that exist on deep energetic levels below the material surface. Over time, these insights developed into a unified body of wisdom and knowledge—TCM theories—and were applied to a way of life and to healing the human body. Even today TCM practitioners use these essential theories to understand, diagnose and treat health problems. So the Five-Element Theory is the bedrock of TCM.
Meridians, or channels, are invisible pathways through which Qi flows that form an energy network that connects all parts of the body, and the body to the universe. TCM understands that our body has twelve major meridians. Each one is related to a specific Organ System. The meridian network links meridians with each other and connects all body structures—skin, tendons, bone, internal organs, cells, atoms. TCM also understands that meridians connect the interior with exterior and the upper body with the lower body. This interlinked, animating network through which Qi flows freely makes the body an organic whole.
TCM understands that everything is composed of two complementary energies; one energy is yin and the other is yang. They are never separate; one cannot exist without the other. This is the yin/yang principle of interconnectedness and interdependence; it is not oppositional. The intertwined relationship is reflected in the classic black and white yin/yang symbol. No matter how you might try to divide this circle in half, the two sections will always contain both energies. The energies themselves are indivisible. From the TCM perspective, this is Universal law at its simplest and deepest.
Four Methods of Diagnosis
It is a wonder that Chinese doctors could cure countless patients without any assistant apparatus but only a physical examination. The four methods of diagnosis consist of observation, auscultation and olfaction, interrogation, pulse taking and palpation. Observation indicates that doctors directly watch the outward appearance to know a patient's condition. As the exterior and interior corresponds immediately, when the inner organs run wrongly, it will be reflected through skin pallor, tongue, the facial sensory organs and some excrement.
Auscultation and olfaction is a way for doctors to collect messages through hearing the sound and smelling the odor. This is another reference for diagnosis. Interrogation suggests that doctors question the patient and his relatives, so as to know the symptoms, evolution of the disease and previous treatments. The taking of the pulse and palpation refer that doctors noting the pulse condition of patients on the radial artery, and then to know the inner change of symptom. Doctors believe that when the organic function is normal, the pulse, frequency, and intension of pulse will be relatively stable, and when not, variant.
Major TCM Treatment Modalities
Often Western CAM practitioners and their patients or clients derive their understanding of TCM from acupuncture. However, acupuncture is only one of the major treatment modalities of this comprehensive medical system based on the understanding of Qi or vital energy. These major treatment modalities are: Qigong: an energy practice, generally encompassing simple movements and postures. Some Qigong systems also emphasize breathing techniques. Herbal Therapy: the use of herbal combinations or formulas to strengthen and support organ system function Acupuncture: the insertion of needles in acupoints to help Qi flow smoothly. Acupressure: the use of specific hand techniques to help Qi flow smoothly. Foods for Healing: the prescription of certain foods for healing based on their energy essences or energy signatures, not nutritional value. Chinese Psychology: the understanding of emotions and their relationship to the internal organ systems and their influence on health.