The History of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?
Although records of disease have been found from around 1600 – 1046 BC in China, due to a lack of clear records before the second century BC, this is when Traditional Chinese Medicine is said to have been born. This is known to be the third oldest form of medical practice, predated only by the Egyptians and Babylonians. Because ancient China was made up of many different smaller territories, often at war with each other, treatments and ideas on TCM often differed between regions. Students developed techniques based on the teachings of scholars who came before them, and it wasn’t until the 1950’s that the Chinese government created the systemized form of Traditional Chinese Medicine that we recognize today. Since the 1970’s, Traditional Chinese Medicine has swept outside of its borders and has had far reaching effects on many other countries. The main reason it did not take hold before that is due to an isolation of the Chinese before borders were opened up and the world was introduced to this still often practiced and heralded tradition.
Traditional Chinese Medicine holds at its very center the idea that to treat an ailment, one must take into consideration the entire patient; body, mind, and soul. Treating one without balancing the others will only result in further episodes of symptoms. TCM uses treatments such as herbal remedies, acupuncture, diet, exercise, and massage to treat a variety of ailments and to make the patient whole again. The premise of TCM holds that the body contains channels of energy (also known as qi or chi) which flow throughout and connect to different organs or bodily functions. If an organ is failing, this could mean that the channel has been blocked, cutting off the energy that it needs to stay healthy and survive. Some of the more commonly practiced TCM methods are as follows:
Acupuncture. This is a process whereby needles are twisted into the skin of the patient. Thin, sterile needles penetrate and stimulate different areas of the body, at times reducing pain or promoting circulation. The idea is that the needles help to unblock qi and improve the body’s natural ability to heal itself. This is a treatment used for everything from headaches to anxiety, allergies to fibromyalgia.
Chinese Herbal Medicine. Herbs have been used by ancient peoples the world over, although they differ based on what could be grown in each region along with ideas about the origin of the herb itself and how it connects to the universe. Chinese Herbal Medicine also incorporates the use of animal products and minerals, many of which are outlined in the manual “Materia Medica”, often used in the practice of TCM. Herbal medicine could be the use of ground up material, tea infusions, or capsules, and treat many ailments including upset stomach or a sore throat.
Tai Chi. This is an ancient practice whereby the patient uses slow, fluid movements to increase intentional breathing, relaxation and increase focus.
Most of the time these days TCM is used in conjunction with western medicine to help a patient improve his or her body, mind and soul as a flowing and connected unit.