Traditional Chinese Medicine
What is it?
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is an ancient system of medicine that uses a wide variety of methods for diagnosing and treating many different medical conditions.
Although it began over 2000 years ago, it still plays an important role in the healthcare system in China. TCM has also become popular in many Western countries. However, many practitioners of TCM are not legally recognized or licensed in North America. Some people who practice TCM have a “Doctor of Oriental Medicine” degree (OMD or DOM), but there are no clear standards for this degree.
TCM uses many herbs and combinations of herbs. But some of these herbs can be misidentified, which can lead to the accidental use of possibly poisonous plants. In several cases, TCM herbal products have also been found to contain high levels of heavy metals including lead, arsenic, and mercury. Other products have been found to contain prescription medications.
Insufficient Evidence to Make a Determination for …
- Traditional Chinese medicine is an ancient system of medicine that uses a variety of treatments including herbs, specific combinations of herbal ingredients, acupuncture, acupressure, moxibustion, qi gong, and tai chi. See specific therapies for effectiveness information.
In TCM, diagnosis of conditions or diseases is conducted using methods called “pulse diagnosis” and “tongue diagnosis.” Pulse diagnosis uses the pulses on the arms to provide information about the internal organs. Tongue diagnosis uses the appearance of the tongue, such as moistness, coloring, or coating, to suggest certain conditions.
In China, yin and yang are the two forces that are believed to control the universe. Virtually all medical problems are considered to be due to imbalances in one of these forces. Yin is the feminine side of nature and includes tranquility, darkness, cold, wetness, and depth. Yang is masculine and represents light, heat, activity, dryness, and height. Yin and yang are not the same as good and bad. Instead they are forces that work together to complete each other. Chinese therapies intend to correct imbalances of these forces to cure disease.
Qi, pronounced “chee,” refers to the total energy of the body. There are 12 meridians forming a continuous pathway throughout the body. Qi circulates through the body on these meridians. Qi gong and tai chi are exercises that use physical movements or meditation to stimulate qi and maintain or correct energy flow and balance. Some other therapies used to correct this flow include acupuncture, acupressure, and moxibustion.
TCM also uses herbal products to help balance bodily processes. Most herbs are taken as a fixed formula or a fixed combination of several herbs. Each individual herb is thought to address a particular imbalance in an ill person. Specific formulations are prescribed based on TCM-diagnosed imbalances. In each herbal formula, there is usually a main ingredient combined with several other supportive ingredients.
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