TCM 101

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is not what you think. It's not actually a medicine. The term TCM includes an array of healing modalities that include acupuncture, chinese herbal medicine moxibustion, cupping, gua sha, qi gong, tai chi, and medicinal food therapy. Unlike western medicine, which focuses on isolating and separating disease from the human, Traditional Chinese Medicine emphasizes a holistic approach that treats the physical and psychological as a whole.

The father of Chinese Medical Herbs and Agriculture was called Shen-Nong and was said to have lived around 6000 years ago. He wrote the Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica, Shennong Ben Cao Jing, dating from 206 B.C. and its the earliest Chinese pharmacopoeia documenting 365 herbs. In this classic, herbs are categorized two main groups: herbs to include in the diet for vitality, health, preventing illness and herbs dispensed to each patient as an personalized formula based the the patient's patterns, living environment, and medical diagnosis.

According to the study of Acupuncture, our body has 360+ acupuncture points, where each point contains a pool of Qi (energy). Imagine your body as a highway of interconnected routes - each route is for an organ network, and each exit off of the highway is an acupuncture point. Imagine if there is an accident now off the exit - there's a huge backup of traffic and no one can get anywhere and everything slows down and you're stuck in traffic. That's essentially what happens when you have Qi Stagnation - a common diagnosis term in TCM. To clear up the roadblock, acupuncture needles are inserted into the point to relieve the stagnation - don't worry the needles don't hurt - nothing like the needles you see with injections! See below comparison of needles. See? Nothing to be scared of!

TCM is based on many ancient philosophies, one of which is  Daoism. This naturalist thought sees a person as an energy system where the body and mind are always connected, always in relationship and can influence and balance one another. Chinese Medicine diagnosis of the body is based on the Yin-Yang theory and 5 Phases.

The history of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM dates back to thousands of years). It was first dated back to 2000 BC starting from The Shang People (1700-1100BC) to modern times. While the history is rich and the techniques are abundant, Westerners have only gained exposure to TCM from the late 1970s. Lucky for us because now all of our modern-day health patterns (stress, infertility, IBS, etc) has a light at the end of the tunnel!

Traditional Chinese Medicine modalities has evolved over centuries - while the healing techniques are the same. What's improved? All acupuncture treatments today use sterilized needles that have been tested and developed by trusted companies. Modern chinese medicine also offers more simple herbal supplements that help patients adopt these practices. Through globalization of medicinal foods and modern chinese medicine, most clinics can now offer ready-made classical prescriptions sold as herbal powders that are available in easy-to-ingest dissolvable formats. More on modern chinese medicine here.

So how does it work?

When you first see a Chinese Medicine practitioner, you will be asked to stick out your tongue, give your pulse for a reading. Your TCM practitioner will also ask you a series of questions that will ask you to reveal your physical history and psychological state-of-mind. Why? This is because TCM diagnosis is entirely based on pattern differentiation - we're trained to take a holistic approach to understanding the body and how everything is in relationship with one another.

Once the TCM practitioner performs a diagnosis (Tongue, pulse, and pattern identification) the herbalist will develop a specific formula using the principals behind Pattern Identification. Chinese Herbal medicine is classified into Cold/Cool and Hot/Warm.A blend of these herbs will help restore a yin-yang - so if your diagnosis contains Heat patterns, you will likely receive Cooling herbs, and vice-versa. Every patient diagnosed will receive a different chinese medicine therapy, so even if you and a friend have similar conditions. Each body is very different, and so to resolve the imbalance, it will require different herbal treatments and personalized chinese medicine therapy for healing.

Using natural ingredients and adjusting the body in a comprehensive way, TCM offers a holistic healing approach that continuously adjusts the body slowly, to help your body build strength to fight against illness. Many people have found Traditional Chinese Medicine and its healing modalities to be excellent tools for managing chronic health conditions or for preventing illness.