An Introduction to Traditional Chinese Medicine
Presented by Jeanny Chan of Tranquility Health Center
The focus of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is to maintain balance and prevent illness. One of these concepts is Qi, which is considered a vital force of energy responsible for controlling the workings of the human mind and body. Qi flows through the body via channels.
There are a total of 20 channels: 12 primary channels, which correspond to specific organs, organ system functions, and eight secondary channels. Imbalances in the flow of Qi cause illness. Correction of this flow restores the body to balance. Traditional Chinese Medicine is a complete modality that takes into account the whole person, her body, mind, emotions, and spirit.
The basis of all traditional Chinese medicine is " Qi" (pronounced chee), which is translated as energy. Beyond science, its foundation is the understanding of our body as an inseparable energy system with all parts in constant communication and this energy is the force that enlivens every cell. In the human body, Qi is a kind of bioelectrical force that flows throughout the body, carried by an extensive network of channels called "Meridians".
There are twelve major meridians that run through the body. Qi travels throughout the body through the meridians into various organs and send messages to one another.
Acupuncture is a method of prevention, correction and treatment of a disease, illness, injury or pain by encouraging the body to promote natural healing and improve functionality.
Acupuncture involves inserting hair-thin needles at various points on the body to heal and relieve pain. According to Chinese medical principles, a system of channels carries the "vital energy" and blood throughout the human body. The channels connect the internal organs with the superficial tissues, thus making the body an organic whole. Certain points on the body represent the places of direct connection to a particular internal organ.
A smooth flow of qi through the body is essential for good health, but it's often interrupted by factors such as stress, poor diet, or injury. The result is chronic pain or disease. By inserting needles at the correct points on the body, it can regulate the flow of vital energy and blood to that internal organ, thereby curing the ailment originating from its source. In Chinese there is a saying "There is no pain if there is free flow; if there is pain, there is no free flow." Many patients do not feel the needles at all. Others feel a twitch or a quick twinge of pain that subsides as soon as the needle is inserted. This feeling is a good sign because it signifies the arrival of Qi to the acupuncture point.
Acupressure is a method of treatment involving the application of finger pressure at acupuncture points. Pressing on these points relieves muscle tension, headaches, lowers stress, and improves sleep.
Acupressure can promote the circulation of blood and Qi to aid in the healing process.
"Let your food be your medicine." Hypocrates ( 460-370 BC)
Those who take medicine and neglect their diet waste the skill of the physician. - Chinese Proverb.
Traditional Chinese medicine uses the essences of food, spices and herbs for their healing qualities. Diet is considered an important influence on health and illness in Chinese medicine. Irregularity in quantity or quality of food, or in time of eating can disrupt bodily harmony. Chinese dietary therapy includes many types of food, combinations of foods, and methods of preparation, that are sometimes prescribed in medical literature. Each meat, vegetable, or fruit has it's own taste, temperature and channels it effects. Food has an impact on the body's internal energy or Qi.
For example: Pears have a cold essence and enter the Lung and Large Intestine meridians. It is very good for relieving heat in the Lung, or any kind of dry cough, skin problem, or constipation. The Lung itself dislikes the condition of dryness and pear essence can bring soothing moisture to this organ.
In Chinese tradition, soup constitutes an important part of the diet. With the addition of some special herbs, soup can be eaten in order to prevent ailments or address certain physical conditions.
Modern Chinese Herbology has developed from a 3000 year-old practice, and is used in conjunction with Acupuncture for acute and chronic conditions. Herbs are categorized by four properties (hot, cold, warm, cool ) and Five Flavors (hot, sweet, sour, bitter, salty), in relation to channels and organs. Herbal prescriptions are prepared after a careful diagnosis of each individual in accordance to the specific nature of the disease.
Today, many research efforts have concentrated on integrating Chinese and Western medicine in concert, to achieve a complementary effect. For example, it is not uncommon for cancer patients who receive chemotherapy/radiation therapy to supplement these therapies with herbs that offset the side effects of these treatments.
Herbs usually do not produce an immediate cure, and their effects can take hours or even days to manifest. When they "cure" an illness, they also bring the body to a better overall condition. Many Chinese herbs have preventive capabilities, and their effects are gentle on the body. Many can be used as an ingredient in ordinary cooking to enrich the nutritional value as well as the taste of foods. Ultimately, it guarantees better health and a lower cost.
In the West, herbs are often selected in accordance with symptoms, e.g., dong qui is beneficial for menstrual problems; ginseng is good for low energy.
Cupping is a type of therapy designed to stimulate the flow of blood and Qi within the superficial muscle layers. It is used for treating diseases through local congestion or blood stasis by using a small jar in which a vacuum is created by introducing heat, then attaching it by suction to the skin surface where the selected point is located.
The cupping method is utilized in numerous diseases, but mainly in diseases like arthritis, especially on the lumbar region. Cupping therapy is also used for injuries of soft tissue, sprains, pain in the extremities, paralysis, bronchitis, asthma etc…
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Chinese translation of Sha literally means "sand". This technique is often used to release muscle tension, tightness and constriction. The area to be treated is first lubricated with oil such as sesame oil or Vaseline. Then, it is scraped with a ceramic spoon until the red papules become fully visible and coalesce.
The raised bumps are most often red, but can be blue, purple or black, which will quickly dissipate.
Moxa or Moxibustion utilizes an herb called "mugwort." Mugwort may be burned on the handle of the needle, above the skin, on salt or a slice of ginger. This is used to "warm" acupuncture points or areas in order to quicken the healing process.
In Western medicine, moxibustion has successfully been used to turn breech babies into a normal head down position prior to childbirth at an acupuncture point on the Bladder meridian. Also, it may reduce the symptoms of menstrual cramps.
Qigong (or ch'i kung) refers to a wide variety of traditional chinese medicine, philosophy, and martial art practices that involve methods of accumulating, circulating, and working with Qi or energy within the body. Qigong is sometimes mistakenly said to always involve movement and/or regulated breathing; in fact, use of special methods of focusing on particular energy centers in and around the body are common in the higher level or evolved forms of Qigong. Qigong is practised for health maintenance purposes, as a therapeutic intervention, as a medical profession, a spiritual path and/or component of Chinese martial arts.
Today millions of people in China and around the world regularly practice qigong as a health maintenance exercise. Qigong and related disciplines are still associated with the martial arts and meditation routines practiced by Taoist and Buddhist monks, professional martial artists, and their students. Once more closely guarded, in the modern era such practices have become widely available to the general public both in China and around the world.
*The text of this section is derived and should be credited to a previous iteration of the Wikipedia.org article on the subject of Qigong
A combination of massage, acupressure and other forms of body manipulation, Tui Na works by applying pressure to outpoints, meridians and groups of muscles or nerves to remove blockages that prevent the free flow of Qi.
It is used to relieve muscle pain, tension, inflammation and heal injuries.