Traditional Chinese Medicine is a practice that has developed over thousands of years, with a primary focus on wellness and health via yin-yang body balance, boosting the body Qi (vital life source), and living with the seasons. For a full introduction to modern Traditional Chinese medicine and what to expect in the clinic, click here.
In ancient times, Chinese people would visit their acupuncturists on a daily basis.
Yes, daily. Most people routinely sought tools to readjust the slightest signs of stagnant Qi (energy) in the meridians and would routinely and seasonally change their health regimen with seasonal foods and natural herbal remedies.
Seasonal check-ups were a thing and it was simply just a way of life. Other traditional modalities included Tai Qi, Qi Gong, cupping, gua sha, moxibustion, and medicinal foods were regularly practiced amongst the Chinese communities.
Below is a replica of a Qi Gong exercise silk scroll that was found in a royal tomb sealed in 168 BC. Each posture was said to guide people in exercise for improving health and treatment of pain. Qi Gong or yoga? I can't tell!
In the 1800s, the Chinese people lost their ways to Western medicine, which became quickly accepted at the fall of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911).
Once the country was succeeded by Communist leaders, there was a push to get rid of ancient medical ideas and rid China of what was presumed as non-scientific methods of medicine. Many Traditional Chinese Medicinal practices were banned during the Cultural revolution (1966-1976), while practitioners were imprisoned or killed.
Most of the 17th century saw a huge decline in interest of preserving this tradition and it wasn't until the late 18th century that other countries, including the US, were reintroduced to Acupuncture that began to globalize the practice and usage of Traditional Chinese Medicine, once again.
Fast forward to 2020, Chinese Medicine for the Modern Human.
How have things improved? Many acupuncture treatments today are medically recognized by local healthcare governments and qualify for reimbursement via health insurance providers.
The treatments also contain sterilized needles that have been tested and developed by trusted medical device companies. And while the instrumentation has improved significantly, patients frequent clinics at most once a week because most of our society today aren't practicing the preventative-approaches to self-care in the same way our ancient ancestors did.
In Dr. Sun's clinic, he usually recommends new patients with mild-severe conditions to have intensive acupuncture treatments (+ herbal medicine) up to 2x a week. Once the symptoms have subsided, you have the option of reducing your visits to 1x a week or 1x every 2 weeks. The goal with Chinese medicine is not to keep you on these routines forever, but to help your body restore to a state of having the ability to self-heal chronic health concerns.
When it comes to Chinese Herbal Medicine, there have been advancements in helping most patients adopt these practices through globalization of traditional chinese medicinal foods through pre-packaged chinese herbal formulas available for consumer use.
In addition, many herbalists now can prescribe herbal pills instead of sending their patients home with bags and bags of herbal ingredients to cook at home. The most commonly used classical prescriptions have been converted into pre-processed herbal powders, that are sold in dissolvable formats. So instead of cooking your herbs over a stove pot, you can now take your herbal medicine with you on the go - as long as you have a cup of hot water to dissolve it, that is. As for the efficacy, research suggests the herbal powders are 85% as effective as their natural herbal counter parts. Not bad!
Why is Traditional Chinese Medicine still not the first choice for modern health?
Despite advancements in making Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine more widely accepted, these modalities of Traditional Chinese Medicine are still not the go-to form of body-healing that most people choose.
The quick and immediate ways of Western medicine have created a habit of choosing shorter, quicker, more instant-relief responses in health management. Acupuncture, when compared to Chinese Herbal Medicine, is by-far more "instantaneous", but to actually improve your health for good, clinical research suggests that sustained use of chinese herbal medicine can yields benefits for the long-run.
Regardless of Traditional or Modern, Chinese medicine still believes in taking a holistic approach.
Those that are chronically ill eventually seek the hands of the natural healer because Chinese Medicine takes a more holistic approach and sustainable approach to restoring the body. TCM practitioners not only assess physical conditions, but also the lifestyle and mental state of the patient. We also consider the environment to apply a seasonal recommendation to adjusting the body for that specific time. Not to mention your age - everything matters! Women and men even age in different cycles - more about that here.
By incorporating modern Chinese medicine healing techniques, we can develop a new and holistic way of approaching self-care and preventative wellness for decades to come!
My earliest memories of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) began in the living room of my childhood home, where my dad, Dr. Sun, held his first Acupuncture space. At a young age, I saw the myriad of herbs he would pull together for his patients. Our basement was an apothecary, our kitchen filled with my pieces from my Operator set, and the living room served patients. After immigrating to New York City from Shanghai in the 1970s, my parents, like many other immigrants of New York, left everything they ever knew, to build a brand new life from scratch.
As a first generation American-born-Chinese kid growing up in NYC, it was hard to understand why my parents didn't pack me Capri-suns and Fig Newtons in my lunchbox. Instead of letting me wear short-shorts and slurp Ralph's Italian ices all Summer long, I was taught to always drinking warm water no matter what, make sure my feet were never freezing cold, and to listen to my body and treat it well.
While having practiced Chinese Medicine for a lifetime with my dad, it wasn't until a few years ago that I truly started to feel like I wanted to step into this world and be a champion of this beautiful, complex, and deeply connected world of ancient healing and wisdom. My friends and family were all beginning to seek holistic and alternative forms of health, and they would come to me and I would send them to my dad.
My turning point came when I saw the wellness industry seem to explode with all sorts of Qi Balancing, Yin Boosting, He Shou Wu touting products for this-that-and the other. Appalled by the lack of direction consumers face today in navigating "what wellness products should I take and why", I felt the need to step up and bring clear and medically supported guidance in navigating the natural way to being well.
I am making a step towards building a lineage of Traditional Healers and continuing the legacy that my dad, Dr. Sun, has created. This is inspired by a life long learning of my own culture and heritage that came thousands of years before me. And together we will learn, appreciate, and share the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Welcome to a world of inspiration: here to teach you how to listen to your body, feed it what it needs, and give you the tools to understand how to rebalance the yin to your yang with everyday foods.
Modern Chinese Wellness, from my family to yours.
- Jennifer Sun