Traditional Chinese Medicine



Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a history dating back two to three thousand years. It has formed a unique system to diagnose and correct illness by combining the use of medicinal herbs, acupuncture, food therapy, massage, and therapeutic exercise. In comparison to Western medicine, the TCM approach to health is fundamentally different. TCM searches for the underlying causes of imbalances and patterns of disharmony in the body, and views each patient as being unique. Generally, Western medicine provides treatment for a specific illness, whereas Traditional Chinese Medicine looks to address how the illness manifests in a particular patient and treats the patient, not just symptoms of the disease.

The philosophy of TCM is preventive in nature and views the practice of waiting to treat a disease until symptoms are full-blown as being similar to "digging a well after one has become thirsty." In TCM the human body is viewed as a reflection of the natural world-the part containing the whole-the TCM doctor practices in analogies within this concept. The flows of energy or fluids in the body are recognized as channels and rivers, seas and reservoirs. A diagnosis from a TCM doctor might describe the body in terms of the Elements-Wind, Heat, Cold, Dryness, Dampness. Although the concept may sound poetic, TCM is not folk medicine but a comprehensive and complex professional health care discipline.



The terms yin and yang are used by TCM doctors to describe the various opposing physical conditions of the body. These terms arise from a basic Chinese concept that describes the interdependence and relationship of opposites. Much as how hot cannot be understood or defined without first having experienced cold, yin cannot exist without opposite yang, and yang cannot exist without yin. Together, these two complementary poles form a whole. For example, when applying these concepts to the human body, yin refers to the tissue of an organ, while yang refers to it's activity. A yin deficiency in thyroid hormone levels, the raw material of the thyroid gland, would eventually lead to a yang deficiency in the thyroid, as its function becomes impaired by the lack of hormones. Likewise, poor thyroid function, a yang deficiency, would eventually result in a yin deficiency, as the gland's output of hormones are decreased.

TCM also introduces a major component of the body, known as qi (pronounced "chee") that Western medicine does not acknowledge. Qi is recognized as the "life force" and is inclusive of the many types of energies within the body. This life energy flows throughout the body through pathways known as meridians. These meridians flow through the surface of the body and through the internal organs with each meridian given the name of the organ which it flows, such as "heart," or "liver." Organs can be accessed for treatment through their specific meridians channel and illness can occur when there is a blockage of qi to these channels. It is imperative that qi smoothly flows in order to maintain optimal health. In a healthy individual, an abundance of qi is flowing through the meridians which allow harmonious support of each other's functions.

Evaluation of a syndrome consists of the mechanism, location, and nature of the disease, confrontation between the pathogenic factor and body resistance, not only the cause. Patients with identical disease may be treated in different ways and different diseases may result in the same syndrome but treated in similar ways. This is because treatment is not only based on syndromes, but the differentiation of syndromes.



People generally visit a health care provider when they are feeling sick or when something just isn't the way it should be. In the world of Chinese medicine, people are encouraged to consult with a TCM doctor before something goes wrong so that they may be advised how to maintain their health, optimize their well-being, and prevent illness from occurring in the first place. Typically, in treating a patient, a TCM practitioner first looks for patterns and at details of the clinical observations of their patient. The purpose of this is to allow the practitioner to uncover the disharmony in the system of the patient. Unlike Western medicine, first-time patients may be surprised to learn that diagnosis in TCM does not require procedures such as blood tests, x-rays, endoscopy, or exploratory surgery. Instead, four noninvasive methods of investigation are preformed:

1. Inspection of the patients complexion, general demeanor, body language, and tongue.

2. Hearing the sound of the patients voice and smelling any body excretions such as the breath or body odor.

3. Questioning the patient about their current symptoms, medical history, diet and lifestyle, duration of the condition, previous therapies and/or treatments received, medications, etc.

4. Palpation of the pulse at artery locations of both wrists (pulse diagnosis), abdomen, and the and acupuncture points.

Through pulse diagnosis, the strength or weakness of qi and "blood," which includes lymph and other bodily fluids, and how these effect the organs, tissues and layers of the body can be assessed. The practitioner will also take into consideration the impact of a wide range of personal and environmental factors. Once the TCM practitioner has identified the pattern of disharmony and has made a diagnosis, both the patient and practitioner will work together to resolve the imbalance. The primary focus in TCM is always on you, the patient, not the disease. As a result of this, the treatment strategy is highly personalized, taking into account not only the condition, diet and lifestyle, but motions, activity, sex, food, drugs, weather, and the seasons of the year. Each of these factors can each have an influence on health and the healing process.



TCM is used to treat a wide range of health disorders and can be particularly effective for chronic illnesses such as asthma, allergies, headaches, high blood pressure, gallbladder disease, lupus, diabetes, infertility, gynecological disorders and much more. TCM also treats acute, infectious illness that may have multiple causes and may also be used to assist with general health maintenance and disease prevention. A treatment strategy will be tailored for the patient and may include dietary advice, herbal formulas, acupuncture, massage, or a combination of one or more therapies.

For more information and to learn more about Traditional Chinese Medicine contact a TCM practitioner near you.