When it comes to curing a disease or maybe just generally exploring options to stay healthy – mentally and physically, people often resort to various treatments and methods. We must have heard of treatment such as Naturopathic Medicine, Ayurvedic Medicine, Herbalism, Nutritional Therapy, Homeopathy, and many more. Or maybe, we have even tried one of them. But did you ever come across the concept or treatment of Traditional Chinese Medicines?
Well, if you haven’t, don’t worry! In this article, we are going to throw some light on Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCM), its treatment, and various benefits.
Traditional Chinese Medicines, as the name suggests, originated in China thousands of years ago, that holds an enormous variety of desiccated plant and animal material (e.g., snakes, scorpions, insects, deer antlers, etc.) Now here is a fun fact for you – Li Shizhen, a Chinese scholar, published his famous Bencao Ggangmu (Compendium of Materia Medica) in 1578, which lists 1892 drugs and 11,000 formal prescriptions for specific ailments. Interesting, isn’t it? Now let’s dive deep into the topic and understand what Traditional Chinese Medicines are.
What is Traditional Chinese Medicines?
Traditional Chinese Medicines help to prevent, diagnose, and treat diseases. It believes that Qi (the body’s vital energy) flows along meridians (channels) in the body. This knowledge, in turn, helps to keep a person’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health in balance. Traditional Chinese Medicines help to restore the body’s balance and harmony, and any imbalance to Qi can cause disease and illness. An imbalance is due to an alteration in the opposite and complementary forces that make up the Qi. These are called Yin and Yang.
Have you heard of Yin & Yang before? That’s right! It means that everything in life has a bit of its opposite, too, to have a perfect balance. Just like the day light has two sides – the sunny and the shady, by extension, yin and yang represent two opposites of an object or phenomenon. Thus, the aspect of the Yin and Yang conflict also are mutually dependent. Therefore, this theory is a law of the unity of opposites, which means keeping a dynamic balance.
Traditional Chinese medicine targets to regain balance between the internal body organs through the external elements of earth, fire, water, wood, and metal. Together with the theory of Yin Yang, the Five Elements Theory forms the basis of Traditional Chinese Medicines.
Four Key Principles guide the Traditional Chinese Medicines, and they are –
Four Key Traditional Chinese Medicines (TCM) Principles –
1. Your body is an integrated whole.
Each part and every structure in your body is an integral part of the whole. Not only your mind, spirit, and emotions, but also your physical body structures form a complex and interrelated system that is guided by life force and external energy.
2. Prevention is the best cure.
We all agree that our body continuously sends us signals if something is not right externally or within. We would also agree that most of the time we would have ignored these signs until something more complicated arises. Thus, Traditional Chinese Medicines teach you how to interpret and understand what your body is telling you.
3. We are connected to nature
You might have noticed that a slight change in the weather brings about a difference in your body temperature as well. That means changes in nature always reflect in your body. Thus, Traditional Chinese Medicines take into account the season, time of the day, age, genetics geography, and the condition of your body while suggesting treatments for your health issues.
4. You were born with the natural self-healing ability.
As per the TCM belief, individuals are the microcosm of the vast universe. Just how nature has a regenerative ability, individuals do have the same self-healing ability.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatments
Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment includes various methods/techniques to bring about balance and harmony in an individual’s mental, spiritual, and physical health.
Below are 6 very common TCM methods used for therapeutic solutions –
Acupuncture is a form of TCM treatment that involves the practice of inserting thin needles into the patient’s skin at specific acupuncture points to various depths. There are about 2000 acupuncture points on the whole human body, connected by 12 meridians. These meridians then conduct energy or Qi between the surface of the body and its internal organs. Inserting needles into these specific acupuncture points, with appropriate combinations, brings the energy flow back into proper balance. As acupuncture keeps a balance between Yin and Yang, it helps the body restore its mental and physical health.
In Moxibustion therapy, the therapist burns moxa (mugwort root) made from dried Artemisia Vulgaris (spongy herb) to conduct the healing process. Moxa can be rolled into balls, shaped into cones, or made into tiny or long rolls that can be burned directly on the skin at specific points, or at times indirectly on a medium in between the moxa and the skin. The Moxibustion process helps to warm and invigorate the blood, which stimulates the flow of Qi. This flow is essential in achieving health and wellness.
Tui Na Massage is a form of therapy based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicines. It is a combination of massage, acupressure, and other types of body manipulation used in China for centuries. The name of this massage comes from the two words describing actions in the treatment: Tui means ‘to push’; and Na means ‘to grab or squeeze.’ This therapy works along meridians throughout the body, where the practitioner taps into these energy points to balance the body’s Qi. Practitioners may use herbal compresses, heat, and ointments to enhance these techniques. Tui Na massage helps restore physiological and emotional balance by unblocking channels of Qi that have been blocked by poor health or any stress.
Cupping is a type of alternative therapy that originated in China a long time ago. It consists of placing several glass or cups with open spheres on the skin to create suction. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners warm them using a cotton ball or other flammable substance, which is then placed inside the cup to remove all the oxygen. The air inside the cup cools down to create a lower pressure inside it. Then, a vacuum gets created to allow the cup to stick to the skin. It thus facilitates healing with blood flow. This technique is preferable to ease out muscle pains and stress.
5. Chinese Herbs
Chinese herbs are a part of the large healing system of Traditional Chinese Medicines. These herbs are mainly plant-based, but some preparations include minerals or animal products. TCM practitioners sometimes recommend specific herbs to their patients as the case may be. However, at times they combine several different herbs in formulas selected as per the patient’s need. These formulas can be in the form of tea, capsules, tinctures, or powders. The most commonly used Chinese herbs are – Astragalus, Ginkgo Biloba, Red yeast rice, cinnamon, ginger, ginseng, Gotu kola, yu xing cao.
6. Chinese nutrition
Traditional Chinese Medicines have some foods that can strengthen the system, improve health, or prevent aging. In Chinese nutrition, a balanced diet is one that includes all five tastes – spicy, sour, bitter, sweet, and salty. In TCM, nutrition is the most integral factor in keeping health at bay. The Chinese Nutrition recommends the use of uncontaminated produce and least processed food to get the maximum benefit.
Now that we have seen the techniques used in TCM; let me now tell you about the benefits Traditional Chinese Medicines have.
Benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicines
As of now, western scientists have not done extensive research on the health benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicines, or to the extent the treatments are useful or not. In my opinion, this has mainly to do with the fact that Chinese Medicine is not patentable, thus, not profitable for the Pharmaceutical Industry.
However, TCM is used to address the following health conditions –
- Back pain
- High blood pressure
- Menopause symptoms
- Parkinson’s disease
- Acne, Eczema, and other skin disorder
- Muscle Pain
In TCM, the treatments target the underlying imbalance and are specific to an individual’s requirements.
Traditional Chinese Medicines are a gateway to craft the life you truly wish to live as it empowers you to unite your body, mind, and spirit. TCM also teaches you to lead your life with balance, wellness, and harmony.
On the flip side, reports and studies have shown that Traditional Chinese Medicines have found concerns relating to the safety of these techniques. Some Chinese herbal products might be intoxicated with toxic substances, pesticides, microorganisms, etc. which may harm health. This is why it is of extreme importance to consult a TCM practitioner, who knows the right amounts of herbal products to use, to avoid intoxications. Literally everything in life must be used in the right amount. If something is overused or overdone, from healthy it becomes unhealthy!
Also water, the most pure, beneficial and healthy element of life, if overdrunk can lead to water intoxication (causing Hyponatremia).
Even if Traditional Chinese Medicines are not proven studies, many people have been benefitting from it.
In my experience, TCM is perfect for preventing health issues, and great to be combined with modern medicine treatments (as a supporting treatment). If you are currently taking modern drugs, make sure you do consult your health expert once before switching or replacing your current drugs and treatments with TCM. If you have severe health conditions or muscle pains, do let your doctor know once before trying out Chinese herbal products or massage techniques.
In my experience, I tried Acupuncture and Cupping. I can happily say I enjoyed their healing effects. These treatments helped me overcome the issues I had with the upper-left area of my back. I hope the same will happen to you too J
Well, to me, Moxibustion does sound very interesting, and I would love to try it under guidance. What about you? Did the Traditional Chinese Medicines techniques make you excited and feel like trying it once?
If, in any case, you have tried at least one technique, I would be happy to know your experience, so please mention it in the comments below. 🙂
Also, have a look at my article on Naturopathic Medicine that talks about the natural way of healing your body.
Wishing you a great day, and life 🙂
Wellness Explorer & Lover