What Is Traditional Chinese Medicine?
At Advanced Acupuncture & Herbal Clinic in Toronto we offer holistic, natural therapies based on Traditional Chinese medicine.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a combination of different practices including nutritional therapy, Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage (TuiNa), moxibustion (艾灸), cupping (拔罐), and qi-gong (气功).
Traditional Chinese medicine is different from conventional medicine in two important ways:
- it treats patient holistically, and
- treatments are based on analyzing, differentiating and recognizing disease syndromes presented by each patient, rather than on anatomy or the disease itself.
Holism means unity and integrity. In the case of Chinese medicine this means paying attention both to the unity and integrity of the body, and the interrelation between the human body and nature.
Traditional Chinese medicine recognizes that the human body is composed of organs, tissues, blood and nerves which all have their own respective individual functions but which also interact with each other to make the whole body function and which can likewise influence each other in the case of disease.
At the same time, TCM views humans as just one intrinsic part of nature and considers that therefore any changes in nature may directly or indirectly influence the body, and accordingly cause physiological or pathological reactions.
Concept of Chinese Medicine: Wholism and Syndrome Differentiation
Unlike modern medicine that treats anatomy or the disease itself, TCM treats the specific disease syndromes that a patient presents. These can change at different stages of a disease, and different diseases may present the same syndrome and so be treated in the same way. In addition, each disease may present differently depending on each patient, and so patients suffering from the same ailment will not necessarily receive the same treatment.
Concept of “Qi” (pronounced chee)
Traditional Chinese medicine aims to ensure that qi (pronounced chee) is able to flow unimpeded throughout the body. Qi is the life force or vital energy that warms us, protects us from external pathogenic factors, promotes the body functions and holds our organs and tissues in place. Qi, together with blood and body fluids, flows continuously around the body to provide energy for the physiological activities of the organs, tissues and meridians. At the same time qi, blood and body fluids are dependent upon the normal physiological activities of tissues, organs, and the meridians for their own healthy existence and function. Chinese medicine seeks to prevent and remove any blockages that may impede the flow of qi, blood and body fluids and that may be indicative of, or the cause of, disease.
Concept of Yin-Yang and the Five-Element Doctrine
It is easiest to understand the abstract concept of yin and yang by looking at concrete examples. We all know the differences between opposites such as hot and cold, light and dark, sweet and sour etc. We also know how temperatures can rise and fall and rise again, how day turns to night and back to day, how there is a whole range of degrees of sweetness before a substance can actually be thought sour. In the same way, yin and yang represent both the complementary opposite faces and the overall unity of the same thing. Nothing can ever be absolutely yin or yang because everything is in a constant state of change and one cannot exist without the other.
According to TCM, everything in our universe has these dual, mutually dependent, interconnected, ever changing characteristics, including parts of the human body and body functions. Ailments and disease are thought to occur when the harmony between yin and yang forces and elements becomes out of balance in some way.
Meridians are the pathways or channels along which qi (life energy) flows. The meridians interconnect all body parts on a physical, spiritual and emotional level. In all there are twelve main meridians interconnected to each other and different body parts by collateral meridians.
Traditional Chinese medicine seeks to keep qi moving smoothly along the meridians so that the body’s organs can work in harmony. Blockages in different points along meridians may cause or be indicative of different ailments.
Acupuncture points are the places at which one or more meridians interconnect and where blockages in the flow of qi may occur. In acupuncture, fine needles are inserted at meridian intersection points in order to release blockages and stimulate the smooth flow of blood, body fluids and qi. Depending on the condition being treated, the needles may be heated, rolled, or activated with a mild electric current in order to influence the flow of energy.
Moxibustion: In moxibustion, dried mugwort (artemesia vulgaris) herb is burnt and used to heat different acupuncture points either directly or indirectly, with or without the use of acupuncture needles. This technique is used for maintaining general health, strengthening the blood and stimulating the flow of qi. Moxibustion warms the meridians and so is used on patients with a stagnant or cold condition.
In cupping, the practitioner uses various methods to create a vacuum on the patient’s skin in order to eliminate pockets of stagnant blood and lymph and stimulate the flow of qi.
Qi-gong is the practice of exercises that center around physical postures, mental focus and breathing techniques and is an excellent system for maintaining health, increasing vitality and promoting healing.
Five elements: The five elements are the most basic elements in nature: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Just like yin and yang they simultaneously each have their own properties and are mutually interconnected, promoting and restricting each other and in a constant state of change. The five elements represent the characteristics of physiological function, changes in pathology, syndromes and treatments of the human body.
If you live in Richmond Hill, Aurora, Markham, Toronto or anywhere in the GTA and would like to find out more about Chinese herbs, acupuncture or any other aspect of traditional Chinese medicine please feel free to call us on 416 399-3888 and we will happily answer all your questions.
Chalmers Medical Building
328 Hwy 7 East Suite 201,
Richmond Hill ON L4B 3P7
Tel: 416 399-3888
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