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Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine is the ancient health and wellness system that aims to strengthen the body’s natural ability to heal.

 

An Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the ancient health and wellness system based on the idea that everything in nature is interconnected, and humans are no exception.

TCM asks the question “How can this person be treated?”, rather than “How can this person’s symptoms be treated?”

 

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Concepts that lie at the heart of Chinese culture and medicine are Qi, yin/yang and the Five Elements. They are based on exploring and understanding the relationship between objects rather than the object itself. TCM practitioners look at the person’s lifestyle, emotional state, environment and spiritual health when forming a diagnosis. By checking the pulse, voice tone, tongue or odour, they learn more about the patient in general, although seemingly not connected to the symptoms the patient is showing.

 

Qi – life force

Qi (pronounced: chee) is a life force present in every living being and inanimate objects around us. It is made up of yin and yang and flows along pathways in the body called meridians. Yin and yang are complementary forces that, when out of balance, illness, disease and discomfort occur. Qi deficiency can be manifested through digestive issues, lack of energy, breathing problems, mental health issues and a number of other symptoms.

Imbalance to Qi can be caused by internal, external and lifestyle factors. Internal factors are emotions such as anger, sadness or fear and external factors can be cold or heat. Poor diet and sleeping habits are lifestyle factors that impact the flow of Qi.

 

Five Element Theory

In TCM, everything in the universe is governed by the Five Elements. The Chinese term is Wu Xing – Wu means five, but Xing can mean phases, cycles, elements, walking or moving. The Five Elements represent the fundamental qualities of all matter in the universe and the dynamic changes that are constantly happening in nature.

An element can be understood as a process, movement or quality of Qi. These concepts are deeply ingrained in Chinese culture and language, but they can be somewhat abstract and hard to understand in the Western world. The Five Element framework can be compared to the Doshas in Ayurvedic medicine, although there are some differences between the two systems.

Each element corresponds to a life cycle, the internal organ in the body and the senses.

The five elements and the corresponding organs and senses:

  • Wood – gallbladder, liver, eye
  • Fire – small intestine, heart, tongue
  • Earth – stomach, spleen, mouth
  • Metal – large intestine, lungs, nose
  • Water – urinary bladder, kidney, ear

 

The balance between the Five Elements is considered optimal health as it allows the flow of Qi, and TCM practitioners use them to give a diagnosis and prescribe treatments.

Benefits of Traditional Chinese Medicine

How can Traditional Chinese Medicine benefit you?

Scientific studies often cover separate TCM disciplines instead of the system as a whole, which may impose limitations. In TCM, different therapies complement each other, and there is a need for more research on how the combination of the treatments affects overall wellbeing.

As a complete healthcare system, TCM offers benefits for a number of health concerns, such as:

  • Diet and nutrition advice
  • Gut health
  • Body detox
  • Balance hormones
  • Therapies for pregnancy
  • Improve mental wellbeing
  • Manage stress
  • Find balance & harmony
  • Life longevity
  • Improve muscle strength and tone
  • Improve flexibility, posture and mobility
  • Support healthy bones
  • Increase stamina

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Further Reading / TCM Studies

Here are some of the benefits from various TCM treatments according to recent studies:

 

Headaches

Acupuncture is recommended by the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) as a treatment for chronic tension-type headaches and migraines. It is sometimes available on the NHS although access is limited.

 

Fatigue

A systematic review found TCM appears to be effective to alleviate the fatigue symptom for people with chronic fatigue syndrome.

 

Muscle recovery 

This study on sixty-five male weightlifters suggests gua sha can be effective for muscle recovery after training sessions. Practices like tui na, gua sha and cupping improve blood circulation which can help reduce muscle pain. By increasing the blood flow in the body, oxygen and nutrients can more effectively be transported to muscles.

 

Anxiety

One particular acupuncture point, called Yintang in TCM, between the eyebrows is said to release mental tension. In one small study, almost all patients showed positive results when only this particular point was targeted, suggesting the need for further research.

 

Quality of life

Whether you suffer from a certain condition or just want to feel better, TCM therapies can help you achieve that. One of the few studies combining several TCM practices showed improved quality of life for cancer patients, reducing fatigue and gastrointestinal issues. The study used acupuncture, massage, five-element musical intervention, TCM dietary supplements, qi gong and tai chi to assess their effectiveness.

 

Immune system

Our immune system keeps us healthy by fighting diseases and adapting to the changes happening in our bodies. By allowing qi to flow freely, we strengthen the body’s ability to heal itself. Chinese nutritionists offer dietary guidelines and qi gong a set of practices that can be used in everyday life to strengthen the immune system.

 

Skin conditions & Allergies

TCM has long been used to treat topical skin conditions, and new research suggests TCM has the potential as a safe and effective therapy for food allergy and eczema. Further research is needed for botanical drug development for use in western medicine.

 

Sleep

Some traditional Chinese herbs such as Suan-Zao-Ren-Tang and Yang-Xue-Qing-Nao are known for their sleep-inducing properties. Research shows Suan-Zao-Ren-Tang is effective in improving sleep quality and sleep efficiency among methadone-maintained patients with sleep complaints and appears safe in combination with methadone.

 

Anti-inflammatory

Wu-Zhu-Yu is an extract prepared from the small berry fruit of Evodia rutaecarpa and is reported to have anti-inflammatory properties. Research demonstrates that compounds found in E. rutaecarpa can have powerful anti-inflammatory activity when applied topically to human skin.

 

PMS and menstrual pain

Clinical evidence suggests that traditional Chinese medicine can ease premenstrual syndrome and premenstrual dysphoric disorder symptoms.

 

Weight control

According to one review, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture were more effective than placebo or lifestyle modification in reducing body weight in people. They had similar efficacy as the Western anti-obesity drugs but with fewer reported adverse effects.

 

Common cold

Chinese medicinal herbs are commonly used to treat the common cold in China and have been found to shorten the symptomatic phase in patients with the common cold. However, more evidence is needed to establish which mix of herbs are most effective.

Types of Traditional Chinese Medicine practices

Types of Traditional Chinese Medicine practices

Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine may use one or more of the following therapies when helping their clients.

 

Together with acupuncture, Chinese herbalism is probably the most used TCM therapy. Based on your diagnosis, you will be prescribed a premade herb formula that matches your condition. Although there is a combination of herbs for every condition, the herbalist will modify it according to an individual’s specific needs. As the condition changes during the therapy, the formula will be modified as well.

One ingredient that became widely used in the West is ginseng, which has long been used in TCM to improve immunity and lower blood sugar.

Not only is the food that we eat important, the way we consume it can influence the changes to our yin and yang. TCM Practitioners advise patients on the dietary changes based on their medical history, age, sex, environment, activity level and season of the year.

Nutrition therapy is a key aspect of TCM and offers general guidelines when it comes to consuming food:

  • Eat in a relaxed manner without rushing
  • Try not to watch TV or read while you’re eating
  • Chew food thoroughly
  • Avoid eating late at night
  • Avoid eating too much or excessive fasting
  • Choose whole, unprocessed foods as much as possible
Choosing the right TCM Practitioner for you

Choosing the right TCM Practitioner for you

The Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture UK provides a list of qualified TCM practitioners in the UK and accredited educational institutions. TCM practitioners are trained in acupuncture, herbal therapy, massage and breathing exercises. As the TCM is very broad, it is advisable to research the qualifications of the practitioner.

 

What to expect in your first appointment?

When you visit a TCM practitioner, they may advise you on how to maintain good health and improve wellbeing. If you already have an issue you want to address, the practitioner will use a couple of techniques to give you a diagnosis.

The diagnoses are given to the patients usually correlate to western terms and diseases, however, the assessment of patients’ state is done differently. By looking at the patient’s body, checking the tongue and complexion, TCM practitioners visually assess patients’ states. Other methods include pulse checking, listening to the sounds the patient is producing (respiration and voice tone), and asking questions about symptoms, lifestyle and medical history.

The treatment that will be prescribed depends on what is needed to bring yin and yang back in harmony. If there is a deficiency in one of the elements, the treatment will be directed towards restoring it, and vice versa. As you could be prescribed one or more TCM therapies, there is no standard procedure.

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Medical concerns

Holistic disciplines can assist you in your wellbeing, though they are not a substitute for medical care. This information should be used as a guide only to help you explore which holistic disciplines may assist you. We recommend researching the discipline and speaking with a practitioner before choosing to book any service.

This information is not, nor is it intended to be used as a medical diagnosis. Any information provided must be considered as guidance only, and not a substitute for obtaining a diagnosis from a medical professional. Please see the full terms and conditions of use. Always consult your doctor for any medical concerns.

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