Basic Traditional Chinese Medical Principles
Acupuncture is the practice that most often comes to mind when thinking of Chinese medicine, but TCM represents a much broader system of medicine that includes herbs, massage, diet and exercise therapy. The underlying basis of TCM is that all of creation is born from the interdependence of two opposite principles, yin and yang. These two opposites are in constant motion, creating a fluctuating balance in the healthy body. Disease results when either yin or yang is in a state of prolonged excess or deficiency.
Acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of healing art known to mankind and it was originated in China nearly five thousand years ago. The word “acupuncture” is divisible in two parts, acu- and puncture. Acu- in Latin means needle and puncture comes from Latin to pierce with a pointed instrument. Acupuncture is a practice of insertion of needles into specific exterior body locations to relieve pain, to induce biological changes, and for therapeutic purposes.
Acupuncture points are located and joined together in “channels” or “meridians”, along which Qi (life energy) flows. The points used in treatment are carefully chosen by acupuncturist to disperse any blockages and to bring the patient's Qi into balance.
Most acupuncturists in the USA are now using fine, sterilized, and disposable needles in practice. The needling induced pain is minimal and adverse reaction is very rare. Moxibustion is the process whereby a dried herb is burnt, either directly on the skin or indirectly above the skin over specific acupuncture points to warm the Qi and Blood in the channels. In modern clinic, a substitute device called TDP lamp is often used for the very same purpose of moxibustion.
Herbal Medicine Treatment (中藥)
Herbal Medicine cures patient by taking care of the root of the cause rather than trying to cover a patient’s symptoms. It is also a 100% natual healing method with no or minmum side effects.
In China, herbal remedies are used as much as acupuncture to treat energy imbalances and illness. When considering the appropriate herbal remedy for a patient, practitioners of TCM apply medical theory - the Five Elements and Eight Guiding Principles - along with tongue and pulse diagnosis.
Herbal Medicine in traditional Chinese medicine describes formulae which are made from the roots, stems, bark, leaves, seeds or flowers of many plants, as well as some mineral and animal parts.
The herbs are usually decocted into a tea. Some come in ready-prepared pill or powder, called “patent” herbal remedies. The herbal medicine is usually taken in the form of a “recipe” called a prescription. To make up a prescription, a practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine carefully blends together a number of herbs which have specific functions.
Most Chinese medicinal herbs are regarded as dietary supplements in the USA. So far, there is no FDA-approved medicinal herb as a drug (herbal medicine) in this category. Therefore, customers/patients should not expect to have “prescription” of herbs for the treatment or diagnosis of diseases.
All hospitals in China that are devoted to Traditional Chinese Medicine include a massage clinic along with acupuncture and herbal medicine. Chinese massage was developed over 2,000 years ago and was popular in the Tang, Ming, and Qing dynasties. The Chinese call this therapeutic bodywork tui na, which literally means "push" and "pull".
Tui na works with the energy system in the body (Qi), which flows through channels called meridians. By stimulating or subduing the energy in the body, practitioners help bring the patient’s body back into balance. To determine what meridians need work, tui na practitioners feel the patient’s wrist pulse. Because it is based on the same meridian points as acupuncture, tui na is often called "acupuncture without needles.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, diet plays an important role in maintaining good health by contributing to an optimum balance of vital life energy (Qi). In fact, the Chinese believe that diet is one of the three origins (diet, heredity, and environment) or sources of qi. Therefore, according to TCM, the foods we eat directly influence the excesses and deficiencies in our bodies.
Unlike the American diet, which emphasizes a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, the Chinese approach to diet is grounded in the five elements and eight guiding principles theory. Foods are seen as having yin and yang, warming and cooling, drying and moistening properties. Certain foods are better for some people than others, depending on their type and condition. A person with a "cold damp" condition should not eat a diet of raw fruits and vegetables (which are yin), because they would further exaggerate the loss of body heat and fluid secretion. Conversely, foods that are fried, broiled, high fat, or spicy are seen as warming (yang) because they generate heat and stimulate circulation. A person whose diagnosis is "hot dry" should avoid these foods, according to TCM.
In general, the Chinese approach to diet is to optimize digestion and increase qi, moisture, and blood, and aid the organ function. In this sense, it can be seen as an extension of herbal medicine.
Exercise (Qi Gong 氣功)
In addition to diet, TCM includes a form of exercise called Qi gong, which is believed to optimize the flow of Qi in the body. Qi gong incorporates posture, movement, breathing, meditation, visualization and conscious intent in order to cleanse or purify the qi.
There are two types of Qi gong practiced: internal and external. Internal Qi gong: Used by individuals to maintain health by regulating Qi and harmonizing the internal energy of the body. Internal Qi gong uses certain movements and breath work or visualization to gather and circulate Qi in the body.
External Qi gong: The practice of transferring the practitioner’s Qi to another person for healing purposes. This form of Qi gong is similar to other body work modalities in the West, such as therapeutic touch.
The movement postures of internal Qi gong have become the most common form of practice today and have been used as the basis for Tai Chi and other martial arts practices.