What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complete medical system that has been used to diagnose, treat, and prevent illnesses for more than 2,000 years. TCM is based on a belief in yin and yang -- defined as opposing energies, such as earth and heaven, winter and summer, and happiness and sadness. When yin and yang are in balance, you feel relaxed and energized. Out of balance, however, yin and yang negatively affect your health.
Practitioners also believe that there is a life force or energy, known as qi (pronounced "chee"), in every body. For yin and yang to be balanced and for the body to be healthy, qi must be balanced and flowing freely. When there is too little or too much qi in one of the body's energy pathways (called meridians), or when the flow of qi is blocked, illness results.
The ultimate goal of TCM treatment is to balance the yina nd yang in our lives by promoting the natural flow of qi. In an interesting analogy, often used to explain its nature, qi is described as the wind in a sail -- we do not see the wind directly, but we are aware of its presence as it fills the sail.
What is the history of TCM?
The first writings about TCM date back to 200 B.C.E. Herbal medicine and acupuncture, including theory, practice, diagnosis, and treatment, were recorded in classical Chinese texts and refined over many centuries.
How does TCM work?
Disease (alterations in the normal flow of qi such that yin and yang are imbalanced) is thought to have three major causes: external or environmental factors, your internal emotions, and lifestyle factors such as diet. Through the use of its therapeutic modalities, TCM stimulates the body's own healing mechanisms. Practices used in TCM include:
* Acupuncture and acupressure
* Moxibustion (burning an herb near the skin)
* Herbal medicine
* Chinese massage (called tui na)
* Exercise (such as tai chi and qi gong which combine movement with meditation)
In TCM, the body's internal organs are not thought of as individual structures, but as complex networks. According to TCM, there are five organ systems (kidney, heart, spleen, liver, and lung) through which qi flows via meridians. Despite their specific names, these five systems correspond to more than individual body parts. The kidney, for example, represents the entire urinary system along with the adrenal glands, located on top of the kidneys. The heart, meanwhile, represents both the heart and the brain.
What is TCM good for?
Over the centuries, TCM has been used to treat countless conditions. Western scientists are still studying its effectiveness for various diseases. Some of the conditions for which TCM is known to be particularly helpful include:
* Diabetes and its complications, such as retinopathy (damage to the retina located in the back of the eye)
* High cholesterol
* Back pain
* Male and female fertility disorders
* Alzheimer's disease
* Parkinson's disease
* Digestive disorders (such as irritable bowel syndrome)
* Recurrent cystitis (inflammation of the bladder)
* Nausea and vomiting
TCM may also be an effective treatment for the following ailments:
* Pain (including childbirth and abdominal)
* Menopausal symptoms
* Infections (respiratory, bladder, vaginal)
* Sleep disorders
* Diabetic neuropathy