Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine

Practitioners of Western style medicine are beginning to recognize the value of Chinese medicine. Here is an introduction to Chinese medicine for your edification.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the name given to a system of medical practices that was developed over a period of several thousand years. It deals with the theories, diagnosis, and treatment of illness, but it does so from a completely different approach than Western Medicine. TCM views all of the processes of the human body as being interrelated and also in a state of constant interaction with the environment. It would tend to search for any sign of disharmony in the external and internal environment to arrive at the proper method to understand the cause of illness. Once this environmental cause is understood, it would suggest the proper way to treat the illness or to prevent it in the first place.

There are several methods of treatment in TCM. The use of herbal medicine, acupuncture, and massage are common treatment methods. There is much more philosophical basis in Traditional Chinese Medicine than can be found in Western Medicine. The Yin/Yang is one such philosophical way of approaching medicine. This is reflected in the idea that illness results from a lack of balance in the body. The way to treat the disease is to restore balance.

Other theories that are found in TCM are the five elements and the Meridian Theory. The five elements are wood, fire, earth, metal, and water. The idea behind the use of the five elements in TCM is again balance. The Meridian theory claims that the vital energy of the body, known as the qi, circulates along certain specific and interconnected channels within the body. The Meridian theory is the basis of acupuncture.

Traditional Chinese Medicine developed from an older discipline that is known as Classical Chinese Medicine. Classical Chinese Medicine, or CCM, fell into disfavor after the Communist Government took control of mainline China. The cause of this disfavor was the spiritual and religious thrust of CCM. The cost of Western Medicine has proven too high to be able to reach the poorer areas of China, however, and the belief of the people in Chinese Medicine never really faltered. Eventually, the Government of China began to revisit CCM, and produced a new system that had a bit less reliance on spiritualism. This is what is now termed Traditional Chinese Medicine. The more Classical version is still widely practiced in Chinese areas outside of mainland China, and even there, the classical version has not entirely disappeared.

Although there is a great deal of difference in all elements of TCM and Western Medicine from the approach to the treatment, there has been some cooperation between those trained in each system. In China today, both systems seem to work in more harmony. Chinese have no problem seeking Western treatments in cases of acute illness, but still tend to rely on TCM for the prevention of disease and the maintenance of good health.