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What is Chinese Medicine?

Ancient knowledge of medicine for modern times

The Art and Science of Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an ancient healing system developed from over five thousands of years of observation, investigation, and clinical experience. Unlike conventional medicine, TCM’s philosophy and techniques have changed very little over thousands of years due to its effectiveness as a healing art. Its modalities include acupuncture, acupressure massage, and herbal medicine.

Chinese medicine is based on the principle of balance. It emphasizes the importance of creating and maintaining balanced energy or Qi (pronounced ‘chee’), which flows in channels throughout the body.

Energy moves along pathways within our bodies called meridians. At various points these pathways come to the surface of the skin forming an acupuncture point. Stimulation of these acupuncture points helps our organs, cells and tissues by allowing energy to flow more evenly. Although known primarily for pain relief, acupuncture has an almost unlimited array of uses from digestive disorders to mental calming and infertility.

Yin and Yang

The ancient Chinese proposed that every living thing is sustained by a balance of two opposing forces of energy, called Yin and Yang. Together these two opposing energies make up the life essence, also known as Qi. Yin is the nourishing aspect of the body, which acts like wood. Yang is the burning aspect of the body which gives off energy. Half of certain organs and meridians are governed by Yin and the other half by Yang. When Yin and Yang are out of balance in the body, this causes a blockage of Qi and a subsequent illness. Yin and Yang imbalances can be caused by stress, pollution, toxicity, poor diet, emotional upsets or infection. For diagnostic purposes, Yin and Yang are further subdivided into interior and exterior, hot and cold, deficiency and excess conditions.

The Five Elements

The TCM philosophy proposes that everything, including our bodies, is composed of five elements: fire, earth, metal, water and wood. Similarly herbs are also classified into five categories – sweet, salty, bitter, pungent and sour. Each herb corresponds with one of the five elements; for example, because skin is a metal element (Yang organ), it would be treated with a pungent herb.

The Five Element Theory also looks at the environment, diet, lifestyle, family history and mental-emotional state as equally important factors in a person’s well being. TCH is based on individual diagnosis and treatment protocols specific to each patient rather than the general condition; therefore, two patients who are both experiencing a headache may receive different protocols since the cause of the headache can differ between them.