Traditional Chinese Medicine


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Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complete system of healthcare dating back over 3,000 years. References to TCM date back to the Han Dynasty in the ancient Chinese medical text "Huang Di Nei Jing" (The Yellow Emperor's Classic of Internal Medicine), originating between approximately 300 and 100 B.C.E.

TCM encompasses the following 5 branches:

1. Acupuncture
2. Acupressure
3. Chinese Herbalism
4. Chinese Massage & Manipulation (Tui Na)
5. QiGong

Acupuncture is the most extensively studied branch of TCM, which research has shown to be effective in treating a wide variety of medical conditions.

TCM embraces several key principles based on the belief that the body, mind and spirit are one system which is intimately connected to the world in which we live. Vital energy flows throughout all living things, and the balance or imbalance of this energy flow determines our state of health. The goal of TCM is to achieve and maintain a state of balance.


Yin and yang represent the balance of two opposing, yet mutually interdependent forces such as light/dark, hot/cold, male/female.

Yin means “the shady side of the mountain,” and represents the slow or passive principle of life, such as darkness, inertia, quietness, and coldness. Yin organs of the body include the liver, spleen, heart, lungs, and kidneys.

Yang means “the sunny side of the mountain,” and represents the hot, excited, and active principle of life, such as activity, light, and noise. Yang organs of the body include the gall bladder, stomach, bladder, small and large intestines.

Health is achieved by maintaining an appropriate balance of both yin and yang. An imbalance of either force leads to a blockage in the flow of vital energy throughout the body along pathways called energy meridians. Blockages, sluggishness or an excess of this energy flow results in various conditions and illnesses within the body.

During diagnosis, a TCM practitioner will conduct an extensive examination and observe the balance of yin and yang expressed by the patient. For example, fidgeting and hyperactivity is characteristic of excessive yang (or deficient yin), whereas an inhibited patient who is very quiet with a soft voice would be characteristic of excessive yin (or deficient yang).
  The Five Elements

In TCM, everything in the Universe (including ourselves) is governed by five natural elements: fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. This underlies the principle that all things are interconnected, as opposed to the western approach of a separation between mind and body. These five elements interact with one another, therefore if one is out of balance, it can cause another to also become imbalanced.

Each element is associated with specific organs within the body, with the seasons, tastes, and with one of the five senses. Each element is also associated with specific mind/body functions, body types and constitutions:

Fire Early Summer Heart/Small Intestine Bitter Speech
Earth Late Summer Stomach/Spleen Sweet Taste
Metal Autumn Lungs/Large Intestine Pungent Smell
Water Winter Kidneys/Bladder Salty Hearing
Wood Spring Liver/Gall Bladder Sour Sight

These elements possess dynamic qualities and describes changes in the flow of energy.  The build upon eachother and mutually reinforce eachother, therefore if one is out of balance, it can cause another to become imbalanced.

During a treatment, a TCM practitioner will ask many questions to discover the balance of these elements within the body, including information on current health conditions being experienced, medications being taken, emotional health including any stress or anxiety, lifestyle, personality, and predominating emotions and thoughts.
  The 8 Guiding Principles

In TCM, eight guiding principles are used as a diagnostic method to analyze patterns of energetic disharmony. These principles consist of four pairs of opposites (totaling eight):

1) Interior/Exterior (This principle is used to determine the location of a condition)

2) Hot/Cold (This principle is used to determine the overall energy of the patient. A cold condition would be indicated by symptoms such as a slow metabolism or low grade fever. A hot condition would be indicated by a high metabolism, fevers, or a flushed complexion)

3) Excess/Deficiency (This principle is used to determine the strength of an illness. A deficiency would be indicated by a lack, e.g a lack of energy, lack of fluids, or lack of a required nutrient. Excess is indicated by too much of something)

4) Yin/Yang (This principle is a generalization of the former three principles, and helps determine if a condition can be categorized as being primarily yin or yang. Chronic illness is seen as yin, whereas acute illness is seen as yang)

TCM practitioners diagnose health issues by identifying patterns of distress within these opposites. Used in conjunction with the five element theory, these principles provide a complete picture of the energetic state of the patient and help the practitioner determine which branch(es) of TCM would be appropriate.
  Vital Energy

Throughout the body of all living things, vital energy flows.  In various cultures this energy is known as different names.  In China, it is known as “chi,” by the Chinese “qi,” by the Japanese, and “prana” by the Hindus. When exposed to various emotional states, stressful situations, and an unhealthy environment, its nature is to continual adjust and correct any emotional imbalances and retain a state of health and vitality. Vital energy is distributed throughout the body via the meridian system.
  The Energy Meridians

In TCM, there are 20 energy meridians throughout the body, through which vital energy flows: 12 main pathways and 8 secondary pathways which form a network of channels. The 8 secondary channels supply energy to the main 12 channels of the body.

Each meridian is related to an organ or function, the main 12 of which are: lung, heart, pericardum (heart protector), liver, kidney, spleen, small intestine, triple heater, large intestine, urinary bladder, stomach, and gall bladder.

Throughout the energy meridians there are approximately 2,000 "acupoints" in the body. These points are the locations where the energy of each meridian rises the closest to the surface of the body. Of these 2,000 points, more than 400 points are classified by the World Health Organization (WHO). Each point is listed by name, number, and the meridian to which it belongs.

There are 7 main energy centers (known as “chakras”) located down the mid-line of the body from the top of the head to the base of the spine. These chakras act as “control centers” for the energy meridians.

During a treatment, a TCM practitioner will ask many questions to discover the balance of these principles within the body, including information on current health conditions being experienced, medications being taken, emotional health including any stress or anxiety, lifestyle, personality, and predominating emotions and thoughts. Diagnosis of these principles help to determine which TCM treatment(s) would be appropriate. In Chinese Herbal Medicine, each herb is defined in terms of the element(s), and guiding principle(s) it corresponds to, and designated as either yin or yang in its energy. Often practitioners will prescribe an herb or combination of herbs depending on the imbalance.

With the advent of conventional medicine, TCM began to experience a decline until the 1950s, when Chairman Mao realized that, due to cost, there were little to no medical services available to the mass population of Chinese. This triggered a resurgence of TCM as treatments where considered low cost. When the loosening of political ties in the 1970s opened communication with China to the rest of the world, TCM began to grow in popularity in the west.

With growing concerns about the side effects of traditional medications and therapies, along with the growing desire to turn to a more natural and holistic approach to healthcare, TCM is becoming more and more widespread. The growing cost of healthcare within the U. S. is also becoming a significant factor in the resurgence of not only TCM, but natural therapies in general.

TCM is a complex system that takes many years of training to master. Within the U. S. there are educational institutions accredited by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). The NCCAOM is a non-profit organization established in 1982 which offers certification in Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture, Chinese Herbology, and Asian Bodywork Therapy. Many states require certification from the NCCAOM as part of their licensing requirements for Acupuncture. Students who receive a certification in oriental medicine may be designated as a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine (Dipl. O.M.).

The information in this website is for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, nor used to replace, diagnose, prescribe, or treat any ailment, nor does it replace consultation with your medical doctor and practitioner. It is intended only to enhance your knowledge in healing therapies. Please use it wisely. We care about your well-being.
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