Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) dates back thousands of years as a holistic approach to the prevention and treatment of human diseases. Where western medicine aims to identify and treat disease, Chinese medicine endeavors to achieve balance in an individual’s physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. It considers a person’s overall well-being and energy balance. The main constituents of Chinese medical treatment include massage, physical exercises, meditation, herbal therapy, diet, and acupuncture.
Valuable Insights Before Using Chinese Medicine
Prior to commencing Chinese medicine treatments, make sure to:
- Provide your practitioner with as much information as you can about your current health. Such information is useful in ensuring that you get the right prescriptions for your safety.
- Check the qualifications and experience of any Chinese medicine practitioner you intend to engage for treatment. TCM practitioners vary widely in training and experience; you should determine whether they have the right certifications depending on the legislation in your state.
- Always seek guidance from your regular doctor if you have pre-existing medical conditions. Mixing some drugs with medicinal herbs may be detrimental to your health. Your doctor will understand your health care history and can advise you accordingly.
People use traditional Chinese medicine to improve their health for the following reasons.
- Holistic Health
Many people use Chinese medicine treatments to improve their mental and physical health. The two concepts at the heart of TCM are qi and yin and yang —the latter two being components of the former. When a person is healthy, their qi or energy is said to flow freely through their body but when their qi flow is disturbed, disease can take hold. Chinese medicine regards the well-being of an individual as a whole. In its holistic application, Chinese medicine practitioners focus on the human body’s harmonious existence and its relationship to the external world. One of the therapeutic goals of Chinese medicine is to keep this relationship in balance, reinforcing the immunity of the body by promoting its ability to self-heal.
- Treatment or Management of Common Diseases and Conditions
Traditional Chinese Medicine may be used as an alternative treatment approach for conditions such as:
Chinese medicine may help people at risk of diabetes from developing full-blown diabetes. Diabetes is a condition in the blood where the sugar levels are too high. When the blood sugar level becomes abnormal it strains the production of insulin responsible for blood sugar regulation leading to insufficient insulin levels. Panax ginseng is a well-known Chinese medicine used to help treat diabetes. It’s thought to lower blood sugar levels. The medicine helps regulate and stabilize the insulin levels in the blood.
Hormonal imbalance is often the culprit in infertility. Infertility occurs when there is failure to ovulate, complications with menstrual cycle, failure of an egg to mature, failed implantation, infections, and structural issues with the reproductive system. Tribulus terrestris is a Chinese medicine for fertility. It’s believed to help balance hormones in women to maintain regular menstrual cycles creating foreseeable ovulation.
Constipation and Diarrhea
Constipation and diarrhea are both signs of bowel disturbance and may signal that something bigger is taking place in the body. Cistanche tubulosa is a Chinese medicine used to treat constipation and diarrhea. It helps drain heat, moistens the intestines, and makes the Qi movement smooth, unblocking clogged bowels for easier stool movement.
Sleep plays a vital role in maintaining a healthy body, mind, and soul, so it makes sense that insomnia—a sleep disorder pertaining to difficulty falling and staying asleep—can cause greater health issues. Sleep disorders result from too much stress, long and heavy consumption of caffeine drinks like coffee, or mood disorders. Suan Zao Ren is one of the common Chinese medicines used to improve the quality of sleep. It’s incorporated into the diet of the patient, enriching the blood flowing to the liver and the heart. At the same time, Suan Zao Ren regulates and calms the liver meridian from liver Qi stagnation, lowering depression and irritability and helping the body have healthy sleep cycles.
Cold and Sinusitis
Colds are viral infections that affect the upper respiratory tract (the nose and throat). Sinusitis is a respiratory condition where sinuses swell up with trapped bacteria, mucus, and air. The natural healing properties of Chinese medicine may accelerate healing from flu by enhancing the immunity of the body, calming coughs, and a running nose. Peppermint, field mints, angelica roots, magnolia flowers, and xanthium powders are the most common Chinese treatments for cold and sinus congestion. They are used together with cooling herbs like Scutellarin roots and honeysuckle flowers to help open nasal passages by removing nasal congestion matter like bacteria and mucus trapped in the sinuses.
Fatigue decreases mental and physical activity and can affect the health of the entire body. Some of the most common causes of fatigue are: sedative and antidepressant medications, grief effects, boredom and emotional instability, obesity, poor sleep cycles, and physical inactivity. Many people believe that Chinese medicine has the strength to revive the body’s energy, and reinvigorate its qi. Ginseng root, also known as Panax ginseng, is a widely used herb for treating fatigue. It’s thought to enhance a patient’s cognitive performance and increase their quality of life, appetite, body relaxation, and alertness.
Inflammation is a condition where parts of the body swell, turn red, and usually painful. It can be the body’s reaction to an infection, an injury, or sometimes, to drugs. Body inflammation is one of the root causes of common diseases like cancer, autoimmune conditions, diabetes, and heart disease. Acupuncture, acupressure, and herbal treatments are among the most prevalent Chinese medicinal treatments for inflammation. Curcumin and Tanshinone IIA Chinese medicine are also highly anti-inflammatory.
- Wide Variety Of Therapeutic Options
Treatment in Chinese medicine varies from one patient to another because it emphasizes on personalized treatment options. This alternative medical practice holds that patients’ conditions vary, hence the unique approach to treatment prescription based on symptoms. Chinese medicine features a collection of therapeutic methods including herbal medicine, cupping therapy, exercises, tui na, diet and nutrition, and acupressure.
- Diet And Nutrition
Diet and nutrition are top priorities in Chinese medicine. According to the practice, foods with a warming or cooling property have healing powers—nutritional healing in TCM anchors in the influence of food on the health of humanity. Chinese tradition recommends eating food with five flavors on the belief that such a combination of diet has healing properties. The five food tastes include salty foods, believed to dissolve stagnation in the body; sweet foods, believed to nourish the qi; bitter foods for cooling; sour foods for calming; and spicy foods for their warming effects. The practice recommends consuming foods with minimal contamination and shunning processed foods as much as possible.
- Moxibustion Therapy
Moxibustion is a Chinese medicinal treatment that involves the burning of moxa—a dried spongy herb also known as mugwort, believed to have healing properties. It’s widely used as a treatment for women’s menstrual pain, as it may stop prolonged menstruation. Burning moxa is said to warm and stimulate the blood to allow the flow of Qi.
- Cupping and Scraping Therapy
Scraping, also known as Gua Sha, is a Chinese medicine method involving tools to scrape parts of the skin that seem to have toxic buildups bursting the harmful substances from the skin surface. Therapists scrape the skin to the appearance of red spots.
Cupping therapy is typically conducted on the back and the stomach. It’s a specialized type of massage believed to have healing properties. The technique involves the placement of open plastic or glass cups on the body to massage. Often practitioners use flammable substances or cotton balls to empty oxygen from the cups then place them on the skin. In the cup’s cooling process, the air inside reduces forming a vacuum—this makes the cup stick to the skin’s surface.
- Chinese Herbs
Chinese herbs are the heart of Chinese medicine. They are believed to aid in the treatment of respiratory diseases, mental disorders, heart diseases, and strokes. Some familiar sources of Chinese herbs include ginger, cinnamon, select plant seeds, flowers, stems, roots, and leaves from various trees and herbs. Ginseng is the most commonly used ingredient in Chinese herbal medicine. You can get Chinese herbal medicine in different forms, mainly as ground powder packed in small containers and sachet packs. It can also be in the form of granules, fluid forms, capsules, and sometimes as traditional tea.
- Tui Na Massage
Tui na is a centuries-old is Asian massage practice common in China, which aims to harmonize yin and yang. In a typical treatment session, the therapist will ask the patient some health questions before starting the massage treatment. Movements and pressure techniques range from mild, remedying the yin, to intense, stimulating the yang. Tui na is considered most useful for musculoskeletal conditions and chronic pains; the therapist may use ointments and herbal products to complement the process.
As the name hints, acupuncture is a Chinese medicine technique involving the insertion of thin needles into specific muscular sites on the subcutaneous layer of the skin. It’s believed to aid in the treatment of pain and more recently, stress management. Acupuncture therapy in Chinese medicine initiates a balance between the yang and yin, allowing for a smooth flow of energy through the body and helping the body achieve balance. The process involves manipulating the needles on a few of the possible 2,000 acupuncture spots on the human body. These spots connect to the 12 main meridians of the body for the conduction of energy between the internal organs of the body.
For thousands of years, Chinese medicine has been practiced to remedy the body, mind, and soul. In remedying the body’s qi flow, many believe Chinese medicine may improve both physical and mental health—two of the most important facets of the body. People turn to Chinese medicine due to its perceived ability to balance the hormones responsible for the body’s immune system, promoting holistic health. Various forms of Chinese medicine, from herbs to manual treatments, may help treat common diseases like diabetes and fatigue.