Today I'd like to guide you through the four pillars of Chinese medicine. Then, throughout this week, I'll go into more detail regarding each one, offering my perspective in language I hope you will understand.
Before I do, I'm compelled first to broach the subject of Chinese culture. Suffice it to say that this culture, these people, their language, their lifestyle and mostly everything in and around the word Chinese is radically different than the way we understand things in the west.
Not only are there multitudes of words and concepts in Chinese that have no literal translation; but Chinese is comprised of two different languages (Mandarin and Cantonese) and two accepted standards for translating them to English (Wade-Jiles and PinYin). If you research Chinese culture (even to support what I am explaining here), you will find the same name or concept spelled five different ways, and each explanation can be as different as red is to blue.
Most words in Chinese have four different meanings, depending on the tone of the speaker (like singing notes). Most phrases mean two or three or four things at the same time because they are morphed from old, old Chinese proverbs. These points do not make Chinese weird. They simply illustrate how different things can be.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is the most developed and employed methodology of Asian origin. From Thailand to Korea, Japan to Mongolia, TCM is respected and utilized in the same way western medicine is used in the west. The difference is, here in the west, we don't amalgamate the two schools the way they do in Asia. In the clearest terms, Traditional Chinese Medicine is the preventative maintenance required for good health. In contrast, western medicine fixes it when it's broken.
The first and most recognizable of the four branches is acupuncture. A highly-trained Chinese doctor inserts five or more super-fine needles into specific points in order to stimulate chi (western medicine theorizes that the needles stimulate nerves and the release of endorphins & hormones). Although is sounds freaky to westerners, acupuncture is extremely relaxing and most people experience dramatic results.