TCM Anti-cancer / June 26 ,2013

Traditional Chinese Medicine TCM

Traditional CIntroduction to TCM

You may sometimes notice athletes or celebrities with purple circles on their skin from cupping. Or maybe you know someone who swears by acupuncture for their back pain or herbal teas for colds. More and more, people use practices like these from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to not only fight disease, but also prevent it.

What Is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (中医 or zhōngyī in pinyin), also called “TCM,” is an ancient system of traditional medicine developed in China over thousands of years. Although seeking TCM treatment is still somewhat uncommon in the West, it’s hard to spend much time in China without realizing that TCM still enjoys a booming popularity there. Western medicine focuses mainly on treating disease. But TCM looks at your entire well-being.

With a history of 2000 to 3000 years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has formed a unique system to diagnose and cure illness. The TCM approach is fundamentally different from that of Western medicine. In TCM, the understanding of the human body is based on the holistic understanding of the universe as described in Daoism, and the treatment of illness is based primarily on the diagnosis and differentiation of syndromes.
 The TCM approach treats zang--fu organs as the core of the human body. Tissue and organs are connected through a network of channels and blood vessels inside human body. Qi (or Chi) acts as some kind of carrier of information that is expressed externally through jingluo system. Pathologically, a dysfunction of the zang-fu organs may be reflected on the body surface through the network, and meanwhile, diseases of body surface tissues may also affect their related zang or fu organs. Affected zang or fu organs may also influence each other through internal connections. Traditional Chinese medicine treatment starts with the analysis of the entire system, then focuses on the correction of pathological changes through readjusting the functions of the zang-fu organs.
 Evaluation of a syndrome not only includes the cause, mechanism, location, and nature of the disease, but also the confrontation between the pathogenic factor and body resistance. Treatment is not based only on the symptoms, but differentiation of syndromes. Therefore, those with an identical disease may be treated in different ways, and on the other hand, different diseases may result in the same syndrome and are treated in similar ways.

The clinical diagnosis and treatment in Traditional Chinese Medicine are mainly based on the yin-yang and five elements theories. These theories apply the phenomena and laws of nature to the study of the physiological activities and pathological changes of the human body and its interrelationships. The typical TCM therapies include acupuncture, herbal medicine, and qigong exercises. With acupuncture, treatment is accomplished by stimulating certain areas of the external body. Herbal medicine acts on zang-fu organs internally, while qigong tries to restore the orderly information flow inside the network through the regulation of Qi. These therapies appear very different in approach yet they all share the same underlying sets of assumptions and insights in the nature of the human body and its place in the universe. Some scientists describe the treatment of diseases through herbal medication, acupuncture, and qigong as an "information therapy".chinese Medicine

What Kind of Practices Does TCM Use?
   Herbal medicines
   Chinese herbal medicines (中药 or zhōngyào) are widely prescribed by TCM doctors. In most cases, patients are prescribed a mixture of various herbs which are boiled in water to make a tea-like brew. Thousands of different plant and animal species are used in TCM.
TCM makes use of a vast array of medicinal plants with antiviral, antibacterial, and immunomodulating properties.Some TCM formulas combine eight to 12 herbs and may be prescribed in pill or extract form or as dried herbs to make a tea.
 Dr. Weil has said that many Chinese remedies appear to have significant therapeutic value and that some work on conditions for which Western doctors have no pharmaceutical drugs.

Thousands of different plant and animal ingredients are used to make medicines in TCM.
   TCM practitioners make medicines by boiling various natural ingredients in water.
   Acupuncture (针灸 or zhēnjiǔ) involves inserting thin needles into a patient’s body at specific points along the meridians in an effort to rebalance the flow of qi.
   One of the more popular TCM treatments outside of China, acupuncture is used to treat a variety of ailments from chronic pain to infertility. As with other Traditional Chinese Medicine practices, the debate continues concerning the effectiveness of acupuncture.
   Acupuncturists believe inserting needles at certain points along the body's meridians helps redirect the flow of qi.
   Often used together with acupuncture, moxibustion (艾灸 or àijiǔ) involves burning an herbal mixture either on an acupuncture needle or directly on strategic points on the patient’s body. The heat that results from the burning herbs is thought to facilitate the flow of qi along the meridians.
   Like acupuncture, moxibustion is focused on redirecting the flow of qi within the body.
   Massage (tuina)
   Tuina (推拿 or tuīná) is a special type of TCM treatment that combines massage and acupressure techniques. Practitioners apply strong, deep pressure to specific points along the meridians to help improve the flow of qi.
   Those looking for a relaxing experience may be surprised by the deep pressure applied by tuina practitioners.
   Cupping therapy (拔罐 or báguàn, also commonly referred to as 拔火罐 or báhuǒguàn) involves placing inverted rounded cups onto the skin to enhance the flow of qi. Before placing the cups, practitioners usually burn a flammable substance inside them to create a vacuum effect, allowing the cups to stick tightly to the skin.
   When removed, the cups leave circular dark purple bruises that can take up to three weeks to disappear. Cupping is used to treat headaches, nasal congestion, and various other types of ailments and pain.
   While cupping looks painful, many people believe the practice can actually enhance relaxation and well-being.
   Guasha (刮痧 or guāshā) involves using a tool to apply pressure to and rub the skin in an attempt to increase the flow of qi and stagnated blood within the body. Guasha is often used to treat joint and muscle pain.
   Like cupping, this treatment leaves bruises on the skin which take some time to heal. For a fascinating exploration of East-West cultural misunderstandings with regards to guasha, check out the movie The Guasha Treatment.
   Guasha is another painful-looking TCM practice that's thought to have many health benefits.
   Qigong and tai chi

This is a 5,000-year-old mind-body practice as well as an energetic form of movement done to enhance the flow of qi in the body. By integrating posture, body movements, breathing, and focused intention, Qigong is designed to improve mental and physical health.
Tuina (pronounced tway-na)

    Slow, meditative martial arts-inspired exercises like qigong (气功 or qìgōng) and tai chi (太极 tàijí, also called 太极拳 or tàijíquán) require practitioners to engage in a series of movements paired with controlled breathing exercises. These practices are thought to promote health and help balance patients’ qi.
   Tai Chi is thought to help balance one's qi.
   Diet and nutrition
   TCM practitioners believe certain foods are either “hot” (阳 yáng) or “cold” (阴 yīn) foods. Certain diseases are thought to result from an overabundance of either yang or yin in the body.
   Adjustments to one’s diet can correct this overabundance. For example, patients whose ailments are due to too much yang might be encouraged to eat “cold” foods like mung beans, and patients with too much yin might be asked to eat “hot” foods like mutton. TCM traditions also encourage people to make seasonal adjustments to their diets by changing the foods they eat depending on whether it's winter or summer.
   In TCM, certain foods are said to be "hot" while others are said to be "cold," regardless of their actual temperature.

Is It Safe?
Experts believe it’s safe, if you go to someone who knows what they're doing. This is especially true of acupuncture, tai chi, cupping, and moxibustion.

Herbs can be a little trickier. They don’t go through the same FDA process as drugs. That means there’s not as much research on them, and it can be hard to know exactly what’s in them. Plus, herbs can have side effects or impact other medicine you’re taking. Again, it’s important to go to someone who really understands their practice. And always check with your doctor first.

Does It Work?
TCM is an approach that covers a lot of ground, and results vary. The practices haven’t been studied in the same way as Western medicine. More research has been done on herbs and acupuncture than other treatments. But studies show a lot of promise:

Acupuncture is commonly accepted as a treatment for a number of conditions, including pain relief and limiting side effects from chemotherapy.
A number of herbs used in TCM are also used at well-respected, Western medicine clinics to treat anything from trouble sleeping to arthritis to menopause.
Tai chi seems to improve balance in people with Parkinson’s disease.
Cupping may help relieve pain from shingles.
Who Should Use It?
That’s a personal decision. People use TCM for anything from carpal tunnel syndrome to lowering stress. Sometimes they use it along with Western medicine. It may be a good choice if you:

Have a lot of different symptoms with no clear cause
Need to treat side effects from drugs
Have tried Western medicine but didn’t get results
Want to prevent illness

Who Should Avoid TCM?
In general, doctors suggest you don’t use it to totally replace Western medicine, especially if you have a serious condition like cancer or liver disease.

They also urge caution, especially with herbs, if you’re:

Pregnant or breastfeeding
Scheduled for surgery (some herbs could lead to bleeding problems or prevent drugs used during surgery from working)
Taking other medicine as well
Treating a child

What Do Traditional Doctors Think of TCM?

They want to see proof that something is safe and works well before they suggest you try it. That often makes it hard for them to recommend TCM. But on the whole, research and interest in TCM is on the rise.

You can also find many leading health care centers, like the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic, and Johns Hopkins offering TCM practices such as acupuncture and herbal treatments.

How Do I Find Someone Who Practices TCM?
Your best bet is to find someone certified by the Accreditation Committee for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (ACAOM). They accredit schools that teach TCM, and you can check their website to find someone.

Chinese vocabulary related to Traditional Chinese Medicine

中医zhōngyītraditional Chinese medicine
qi; vital energy
yīnyin; female, cold and dark cosmic force
yángyang; male, hot and bright cosmic force
中药zhōngyàoChinese herbal medicine
推拿tuīnátuina; Chinese massage
拔火罐báhuǒguànanother word for cupping
太极tàijítai chi
太极拳tàijíquánanother word for tai chi
中医四大经典zhōngyī sìdàjīngdiǎnthe four great classics of Chinese medicine
赤脚医生chìjiǎo yīshēngbarefoot doctor


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