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What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Theory and Principle

Origins of Acupuncture

The origins of Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) can be traced back to the beginnings of China’s history. Turtle shells with carvings referring to TCM have been traced back to over 4000 years ago. Acupuncture and moxibustion is believed to have originated in the Yellow River Valley, whereas the usage of herbs for medicinal purposes originated in the Yangtze River Valley. These two main forms of medical treatment combined into what is now known as TCM.

One of the earliest and most famous texts regarding acupuncture and moxibustion, “Canon of Internal Medicine (Nei Jin),” dates back to the Warring States period (475 B.C.- 221 B.C.).

Theory of Yin and Yang

yingyangOne of the underlying principles behind TCM is the theory of Yin and Yang. This theory states that there is a duality in everything. As pictured in the Taiji symbol, there is light and there is dark; one cannot exist without the other. Man cannot exist without woman, hot cannot exist without cold, and so on and so forth.

Yin energy is characterized as cold, moist, and dark. Yang energy is characterized as hot, dry, and bright. In the Yin Yang symbol, Yin energy is represented by the black portion and Yang energy is the white portion. Yin and Yang, together, are referred to as “Qi” (Chinese for energy).

This relationship between Yin and Yang is not static– it is dynamic and always changing. There is a constant give-and-take struggle between Yin and Yang. For example, when Yin energy increases, Yang energy decreases and visa versa. Yin and Yang both have the ability to restrict the other. When Yin reaches its highest point, Yang is at its lowest point- but at this point Yang energy begins to increase and reduces Yin energy.

To illustrate this idea, think of a normal day. At high noon, the sun is at its highest point. However, after that moment, the sun gradually declines and gives way to the night. But, again after the peak of night, the darkness begins to fade and gives way to the rising sun. This relationship between day and night is the same between Yin and Yang.

Causes of Sickness and Disease

In each person there is the same struggle of balance between Yin and Yang energy. When the energy is balanced, the body is able to keep itself healthy without any outside assistance. However, when there is a blockage of the natural flow of energy, an excess of Yin or Yang energy develops. When this happens, an imbalance between Yin and Yang occurs, causing the body to be susceptible to disease

Principle behind Acupuncture

Acupuncture seeks to correct the imbalance between Yin and Yang. The goal of acupuncture is to clear the blockages of Qi (Yin and Yang) in the patient. After the Qi is able to flow freely, the patient’s self healing system is able to function properly.

How is it different from Western Medicine?

The main method of Western treatment is to focus on the symptoms at the site of injury. For example, with neck pain, the doctor would prescribe ice packs or pain relievers with the intent of reducing pain at the location of pain. In this case, the acupuncturist, after examination, might determine there is a lack of Yang energy in the patient’s Spleen meridian channel and insert acupuncture needles into acupuncture points on the patient’s legs.

Is TCM effective?

In 1997, the National Institutes of Health issued a consensus statement on acupuncture that “the data in support of acupuncture are as strong as those for many accepted Western medical therapies.” Acupuncture is generally accepted as effective for headaches, insomnia, pain in joints and muscles, etc. New scientific studies are continually being done to test acupuncture for a variety of conditions. However, based on our clinical experiences, acupuncture and herbs are suitable for a wide variety of illnesses.