Since I began practicing Chinese Medicine in Calgary quite a few years ago, it has become clear to me that we practitioners have not adequately educated people here in the west about our incredible medicine. In this blog I will give an overview of the different branches of Chinese medicine also known as Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM.
Traditional Chinese medicine is the name of a system of medicine from China which is thousands of years old. The following list of therapies all fall under the category of Traditional Chinese medicine.
Acupuncture is a western term for what the Chinese call “needling therapy”. In an acupuncture treatment extremely fine needles are inserted into acupuncture points in various parts of the body. By stimulating these points properly, the acupuncturist is able to regulate a host of functional activities of the body, to restore or maintain balance for the individual.
Chinese herbs are medicinal substances such as plants, roots, tubers, stalks, flowers, and leaves. Of the many thousand different plant materials available, only hundreds are commonly used as herbal medicine, along with mineral and animal products as well. Chinese herbal medicine comes in a variety of forms today, from raw herbs requiring decoction, to concentrated granules, pills, and tinctures. As well Chinese herbal medicine can be applied externally, typically for external conditions such as pain, laceration, or a variety of dermatological conditions. If used externally, herbs come in the form of
compresses, plasters, poultices, liniments, creams, pastes, and soaks.
Moxibustion or moxa is a form of heat therapy that uses certain combustible plant fibers to heat specific areas or acupuncture points on the body. Moxibustion and acupuncture have been used together since their inception. The Chinese term for acupuncture is “zhengjiu”, zheng meaning acupuncture and jiu meaning moxibustion. Moxibustion treats “cold” conditions of the body, stimulates blood flow, and strengthens the immune system.
Moxa can be rolled into sticks and held above the patient, used in a loose form directly on the patient, or applied to a needle once inserted into the patient.
The word moxa comes from a Dutch transliteration of the Japanese words “mo gusa”, which means to burn a herb.
Cupping is a technique involving the use of suction cups placed on different parts of the body. A cup is heated with fire and swiftly applied to the skin of the patient, once the air cools in the cup, a vacuum effect is created and major tissue expansion occurs. The tissue expansion allows for significant increase in blood flow to the area, making it effective for painful restricted conditions, as well as stretching the fascia around the tissue. As well, cupping stimulates the immune system making it effective in the treatment of colds and flus.
“Tui” means pinching and “na” pulling, and falls under the category of physical medicine. Physical medicine in general has three main components; pressure, massage, and manipulation. Tui na incorporates techniques from all three categories. Tui na is a form of Chinese massage therapy which classically incorporates manipulations and acupressure into the treatment, along with a variety of massage techniques which utilize the fists, knuckles, arms, and elbows.
Chinese dietetics is an advanced system of diet where foods are classed by flavor. Each flavor exerts a dynamic influence on various organs and tissues of the body. Therefore, proper food intake is based on a balanced diet, avoiding the overconsumption or under consumption of a particular flavor. The flavors of foods are also used in the treatment of various diseases or symptoms resulting from organ dysfunction. Flavors are also used based on the season to regulate different conditions related to the individual.
The Chinese developed many forms of physical exercise. For instance one form of exercise is known as “Doayin” which involves guided stretching of tendons and muscles. A more famous form of exercise is known as “Taijiquan”, or better known in the west as “Tai Chi“. Other exercises are taught to patients to strengthen muscles or improve joint articulation for more specific musculoskeletal problems.
Qi gong (pronounced chee gong) means breath work or breath exercise. These famous practices developed from a combination of Daoist breathing exercises and daoyin. Since traditional Chinese medicine places great emphasis on proper circulation of blood and vital nutrients, including oxygen, it follows that a system of breath work would have developed to preserve health. There are many levels to qi gong, but initially one needs to learn how to simply breathe properly. More advanced forms of qi gong include various movements, and directing of blood and vital nutrients to various parts of the body. This requires great focus, and therefore the development of focussed mind called “yi” in Chinese becomes critical to the advancement of the practitioner.
As you can see, Chinese Medicine is replete with therapies to help heal a patient. Once health has been restored, Chinese medicine can give the patient the tools they need to stay healthy and live a high quality life. If you are seeking Chinese medicine in Calgary, please call us to book a Free 15 minute consultation to find out how we can help you.