Understanding Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Part 1

Posted by Lloyd on November 10, 2011
Alternative Medicine

Diagnosing and Treating Patterns

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complete system of medicine that has been used for thousands of years (estimated anywhere between 2000 and 6000 depending on the source). The major components of TCM are acupuncture, herbal medicine, and Tui Na (Chinese massage). TCM has been used to treat every known ailment, some more successfully than others.

Recently, acupuncture and herbalism have experienced a significant increase in popularity in the United States. With this increase in popularity, there have been attempts to integrate acupuncture into western medical treatments and to explain their effects within the context of western medicine. We know that acupuncture effects hormones and neurotransmitters that result in the relief of pain and inflammation. We also understand that there are active ingredients in herbs that cause them to have certain effects. This knowledge explains very little of the effectiveness of TCM. We are truly just scratching the surface. It will likely take years to understand these things from a western medical perspective.

So what are we to do? Does this mean we should not be using acupuncture or Chinese herbal remedies? Rather than wait until we can explain or prove things from a western medical perspective, most practitioners of TCM believe we should proceed with the model we already know ? the TCM model. This model has withstood the test of time. It provides a framework from which we can identify and treat illness. It is significantly different than our western medical model and requires several years of training, but it is quite effective for many conditions. It is not inferior or superior to our western medical model. It is just different.

One of the major differences between western medicine and TCM is in the way an ailment is defined. Western medicine uses a reductionist approach. That is, there is an attempt to isolate key factors common to an ailment and treat them. The TCM approach is holistic.

Instead of isolating the ailment, the TCM model defines a pattern of imbalance by looking at the way an ailment is manifesting itself within the individual. This pattern discrimination is the hallmark of TCM.

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