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Traditional Chinese Medicine - History, Nature, and BenefitsAcupuncture, acupressure, Qigong, herbal medicine, Chinese psychology, mental health therapy, and foods for healing are all considered major treatment modalities of Traditional Chinese medicine.
Traditional Chinese medicine is a complete medical system. In places like mainland China, TCM is an integral part of the health care system, whereas in Westernized culture, it is simply viewed as an “alternative medicine.” TCM takes the position that to cure ourselves of illness we need to go to the root of the problem. In other words, if we only treat the symptom, the problem will usually keep recurring.
A central tenet of traditional chinese medicine is that the body has the power to cure itself if the proper techniques are utilized for this purpose. At the center of TCM, of course, is the belief that we are made of energy and this energy must flow freely throughout the body.
History of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), also called Chinese Medicine, isn’t new, but, rather, has been around for at least 3,000 years. The only other medical system that rivals it in antiquity is India’s ayurvedic system.
Traditional Chinese medicine reached its peak during the Ming Dynasty. During this period, Li Shih-chen wrote Pen ts'ao kang mu, or "The Great Herbal". This great pharmacology text was extensive, summarizing everything that was known about herbal medicine up until the late 16th century. Li Shih-chen was 35 years old when he began to compile his masterwork which took him over 27 years to finish.
Nature of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine contends that everything in the universe, including our health, is connected and, thus, our physical bodies are both a part of, and connected to, nature. Not surprisingly, TCM incorporates chinese concepts such as the five elements of nature (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water) and the concept of Yin-Yang.
In the clinical application of traditional chinese medicine, these concepts are applied to syndrome differentiation. How did the ancient Chinese formulate the elementals and yin-yang? They developed them by observing nature's own cycles and changes.
Perceptions of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Though this type of medicine has been practiced in China for thousands of years, the fundamental conceptual basis of traditional chinese medicine can be difficult for many westerners to accept. Compounding this, of course, is the fact that when western culture refers to traditional chinese medicine, it often refers only to the practice of acupuncture. However, TCM includes far more than acupuncture and, in fact, acupuncture is only a small aspect of TCM. (Note: not all acupuncturists are trained in the precepts of TCM. TCM is extremely complex and takes added years of training).
Traditional Chinese medicine has been reported to offer many benefits for individuals who use it. It is reputed to have the ability to improve a person's general health, is usually less costly than traditional medicine, and is not dependent on pharmaceutical products that very often cause side effects and sometimes require the use of additional pharmaceuticals simply to combat such side effects.
As traditional Chinese medicine is based on differentiation of symptoms, not everyone will be treated the same way for the same problems. Thus, each person's treatment is personalized. As opposed to traditional western approaches to diagnosing and treating illness, TCM places more emphasis on the pattern of the symptoms involved. In treating the body, TCM practitioners focus on harmonizing the entire body because the body, mind, and spirit are united. It goes without saying, of course, that TCM should only be received by a skilled and qualified practitioner.
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