Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a holistic type of medical system that incorporates herbal therapy, Chinese physical therapy (Tui Na), and acupuncture that has been practiced for thousands of years as a way to heal the human body. But since it has not been commercialized and is unfamiliar to most people, it tends to be ignored or overlooked.
The methods of TCM does not heal the human body per se. It actually aids in healing because the human body really has the ability to heal itself and is ultimately designed to do so. The TCM remedies of herbal medicine and acupuncture help balance the body which leads to healing. They are not designed to treat the symptoms of an illness. Rather, they target the underlying cause of the illness and treat it.
In Chinese medicine theory, the human body is infused with life energy called Qi or Chi. This concept of a universal energy flow is not a new one. In the West, physicists have theorized that matter, which is everything, can be converted into energy and vice versa. Within the body circulates Qi via energy channels called meridians and when this circulation moves without any impediments, the body is in balance. When something stagnates of blocks this circulation, illness occurs.
One good analogy to this circulation or flow is a free-flowing river. The constant flow keeps the water clean and well-oxygenated with the rocks in the river helping filter the water. Then one day, imagine that a branch or a tree has fallen into the river blocking its flow like a mini dam. Water begins to build up in the area where the tree has fallen and flow starts to slow down or even stop. Algae begin to thrive on the rocks and stagnant water. Detritus and debris get ensnared in the dammed up part of the river resulting in bacterial growth that eventually escapes and goes downriver.
TCM Diagnosis and Treatment
The diagnostic procedure of a TCM practitioner is very different from that of a Western-trained medical physician. In TCM diagnosis, there are no blood tests but there is a pulse examination that determines the type of circulation going on inside your body. The quality of your pulse, your pain or pains, and your appearance (condition of your skin, tongue, etc.) are sufficient enough.
Both Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture serve to address qi stagnation and blockages, which may be the underlying root cause of your pain and ailments, and may be simultaneously utilized to treat one or multiple conditions. Acupuncture needles are, for example, used at point(s) where a blockage(s) have developed while herbal formulas are given to boost the movement and flow of blood and qi.
If your TCM physician is a licensed or qualified herbalist, he/she will know how to ideally combine the herbs which may come in the form of ointment, tea, or pills. Don’t expect to find Tylenol or ibuprofen in a Chinese pharmacy. Instead, what you’ll find are herbs… lots and lots of them. Actually, the first pharmaceutical drugs in Western medicine were herbs. But, unfortunately, because Western medicine is mostly driven by profit, it is not interested in curing sickness and disease. It manufactures drugs that are only designed to palliate the symptoms on a short-term basis. This is why more and more people are abandoning “Big Pharma” products and turning to “alternative” and more natural long lasting treatments that sometimes can even cure illnesses.
Occasionally, the underlying cause of your pain is a chronic physical condition or an injury. Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, and Chinese physical therapy (tui na) can be just as effective at resolving orthopedic trauma. Most kung fu practitioners and a lot of athletes swear by these treatments.
Injuries may be due to stagnation and blockages, especially in terms of circulation. You could use an herbal ointment to remove those blockages and restore normal blood and qi flow to an injured site such as a sprained ankle. The ointment contains herbs that have their own distinct properties. For example, turmeric boosts circulation and can help alleviate inflammation and when inflammation is reduced, pain is also reduced. Turmeric, therefore, is often contained in ointments designed for pain relief.
In Chinese medicine, therapeutic massage and Tui Na are basically one and the same. The aim of Tui Na is to bring back balance in the body by enhancing blood and qi through the meridians, muscles, and joints.
The Best of Both Worlds
Healing can be maximized when Western and Eastern medicines are integrated. We can incorporate certain aspects of the two systems to attain balance and treat or even cure an illness. In several instances, surgery or a lifetime of taking medication is necessary. When the best practices of Western medicine (including nutrition) is combined with TCM, we oftentimes have all the tools necessary to attain wellness and health.