Traditional Chinese Medicine – What You Need To Know?

When it comes to alleviating pains, aches, and symptoms that have been bugging us for a while, you start looking for solutions from new places. Whether your local doctor, GP, pharmacy, or something a little out of your known territory.

Traditional Chinese Medicine - What You Need To Know

Chances are that you’ll have heard of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practices, and have heard a ton of benefits that it can bring you and your health.

However, before trying something new or unfamiliar, especially when it comes to matters of your health, you’ll want to do a little research before, just so you know what you’re getting yourself into.

Luckily for you, we have just the perfect guide to help you understand these practices a little better!

From what exactly it is, to the theory that goes into it, to the sort of results that you can realistically expect, we’ve got everything that you could want to know about this medicinal practice!

What Is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Before we get started, we should probably first what exactly TCM is in the first place. After all, even though it’s been practised for centuries in and around Asia, it’s only just started to gain popularity in many parts of Western Europe and the US in the last 50 or so years.

TCM has been around for thousands of years, with the practice including a range of treatments that range from physical herbal remedies to various physical and psychological treatments, such as acupuncture and tai chi.

The first records of TCM go back to at least the first century B.C.E., where documents, manuscripts, and techniques have been found back to around 200 B.C.E., which implies a tried and tested method that had been established long before these texts were written.

The practice stayed in Asia for thousands of years, before it was then brought over to other parts of the world, such as through Chinese immigrants to the United States and Europe, as well as through high-profile cases that grabbed the public’s attention, such as the case of James Reston, the reporter on Nixon’s 1971 visit to the country.

The Theory Of Traditional Chinese Medicine

So, that’s a little bit of the history around TCM. But what is the actual theory or schools of thought behind it?

Well, the best way to demonstrate how TCM works is to compare it to Western medicine.

Western Medicine Vs. Traditional Chinese Medicine

Western medicines, the practices that we have developed over the last several hundred years, treat the body more as a piece of machinery kind of like a care.

Each section of the physical body is analysed to see what the symptoms are of the issue, and the potential causes of the problem are addressed as questions are answered, and improbable issues are discarded.

It’s a process that is very logical and tangible, and very effective for measuring symptoms against known ailments.

However, that clinical aspect, as well as its focus on treating symptoms, and not focusing on causes, means that treatment is often limited to just one part of the body, not the system as a whole.

TCM takes a very different approach, with the treatment of the body being a much more holistic process, examining the flow of energy around the body, and seeking to achieve harmony of the energies within the body.

This is done by treating the energy, or Qi, of the body.

Qi, Energy, And The Body

In Traditional Chinese Medicine philosophy, there are two core aspects to understanding, Qi, and yin and yang qualities of that energy.

Qi, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, flows throughout the body, and changes as the body does.

Diseases and other ailments can disrupt or otherwise change the flow of this body, and the role of TCM is to aid the flow of that energy to allow those bad energies to be treated and soothed, as well as generally boost the body

This energy is ascribed to one of two kinds of energy, yin and yang.

  • The energy of yin is usually associated with the night, cold, dark, negative, and feminine energy
  • Yang is more often associated with the day, warmth, light, masculinity, and positive energy.

These different energies are balanced in TCM by three major factors: external factors (the environment that you are in), internal factors (your emotional state), and lifestyle factors (your diet, your daily routines, your exercise, etc.)

TCM treatment covers a wide range of solutions, from more famous treatments such as acupressure and acupuncture to nutrition and ingesting herbal remedies to exercises and physical routines such as tai chi. 

All of these treatments treat the body less as a collection of separate parts or organs, but as centres of a larger network that connects the body and its energies in a ton of different ways.

It’s certainly an approach that you can see the logic behind, once the underlying ideas are understood. After all, it’s not hard to understand that if one part of the body is damaged or suffering in some way, the rest of the body isn’t going to react in one way or another!

Traditional Chinese Medicine - What You Need To Know

Effectiveness Of Traditional Chinese Medicine

So, you have an idea of what TCM aims to achieve with its treatments, and the philosophy behind it.

However, the theory is just one aspect behind TCM. How well does it work when put into practice for people?

Well, this is the area where research starts getting interesting.

Western medicine and science have also taken an interest in TCM over the past few decades, and a variety of tests have been conducted on each aspect to see how well they are fair as actual forms of treatment.

Acupressure And Acupuncture

Acupuncture works by stimulating key nerves across the body by using thin needles that are placed at these specific points to release endorphins and pain relief.

At least, that’s the theory. In practice, researchers have struggled to differentiate the results between legitimate acupuncture practices and sham or false practice, which suggests that a placebo effect is at least partly at play here.

However, there is some research to suggest that it may alleviate chronic pain issues in the back, knees, and even with carpal tunnel syndrome.

Overall, so long as the needles used are treated and properly hyphenated, acupuncture has been shown to not have any adverse effects

Tai Chi

Of the many aspects of TCM, tai chi and physical practices like it are probably some of the best unconditional practices that you can try out for yourself.

Tai chi alleviates muscle and joint pain in people who practice it, as well as helps alleviate Parkinson’s disease to some extent, making it a surprisingly effective physical therapy practice.

Herbal Remedies

Herbal remedies in TCM have been some of the most contentious and controversial in their field, mainly due to the massive standards of qualities between herbal products used in TCM.

Some will contain highly toxic heavy metals such as lead or arsenic, or contaminated herbal products of low or dangerous quality.

Generally speaking, this is the only aspect of TCM that we would unconditionally ask anyone looking to learn more to steer clear of. 

Final Notes – Is Traditional Chinese Medicine Any Good?

So, overall, what would we say are the key takeaways when it comes to Traditional Chinese Medicine(see also: Liver Health – What Does Chinese Medicine Say?)? Is it something that you should consider practising yourself?

Well, generally, so long as you are with trained professionals, the physical and acupuncture aspects will range from beneficial to non-harmful, though we suggest staying clear of herbal remedies.

Clare McAfee
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