For Gold, Peace, and Freedom


Traditional Chinese Medicine

September 11th, 2008

yin-yang-chinese-medicine.jpgTraditional Chinese medicine, although practiced in China for thousands of years, generally falls under the “alternative” category in most Western societies. In general, I have noticed that while Western practices are usually better when it comes to managing medical crisis situations (for example, a sudden heart attack), some people are willing to consider the Eastern methods when it comes to general health and preventive care. This article by Lorraine Syratt explains some of the general principles and methods used in traditional Chinese medicine.

As opposed to Western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine looks to the whole person and how the individual relates to his or her environment, not just to the disease or symptoms of the patient. It is used to maintain optimum health as well as treat disease. The basic Taoist and Buddhist philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine is that there are opposing forces in nature and in the body. This practice works to bring these opposing forces into balance. They are known as the Eight Principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine:

  1. Yin or Yang
  2. Superficial or Internal
  3. Deficient or Replete
  4. Cold or Hot

The practitioners look at the whole person when performing a diagnosis. Instead of laboratory tests that look for disease in an isolated way, they use a four step approach to evaluate the whole person.

  • Observe: the practitioner will observe in detail the patient’s posture and gait. The appearance of the skin, hair, tongue, eyes and ears is carefully observed.
  • Hear and Smell: the practitioner will listen to the patient’s voice and pay particular attention to various body smells.
  • Patient’s History: the practitioner will ask detailed questions about the patient’s lifestyle, family, diet, exercise, emotions, and anything else that might give clues to his or her ailments.
  • Touch: touching is probably one of the most important tools. The practitioner will touch and feel various parts of the body looking for areas of warmth, coolness and tenderness. Common areas for touch include chest, back and abdomen. Palpitation of the patient’s pulses in six different areas is considered the most important part of the exam. Again, the practitioner is looking for areas of imbalance.

In order to evaluate the patient, the practitioner will use many techniques that do not involve instruments or cause harm. Once a diagnosis is made, he uses a variety of techniques to balance and heal. Some of the more common and familiar techniques include acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage, and tai chi.

  1. Acupuncture involves inserting and manipulating small needles in different meridians in the patient’s body. This helps to unblock the qi (chi) or life force of the body. While the validity of acupuncture is debated, most professional organizations believe it is safe and beneficial.
  2. Herbal medicine involves the practice of prescribing various herbs, usually in tea form, to help alleviate symptoms and cure disease.
  3. Massage is good for relaxing the muscles and bringing the body back into balance. It also releases blockages and helps the flow of qi.
  4. Tai Chi is a series of martial arts movements, performed slowly and deliberately. It is used to bring both the physical and mental systems into balance.

In the West, traditional Chinese medicine is considered alternative medicine, but is often used in conjunction with traditional Western medicine. In most Asian countries it is primary health care. China, as an ancient country, has practiced these arts for thousands of years. The West has learned much from the ancient wisdom of the East.

One Response to “Traditional Chinese Medicine”

  1. comment number 1 by: Macrobiotic Mom

    I’ve never liked the term ‘alternative medicine’. The wes does not hold the highest level or authority in the medical world to deem certain treatments as alternative. As you said China as an ancient country has been using more effective methods in medicine far longer than a more empirical style of western medicine.

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