Chemotherapy and consuming prescribed medications serve as accepted treatment methods for harmful diseases in the Western world, but medical practices of other cultures can also be helpful to patients. The ancient practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been proven to heal the mind, body and soul in ways beyond what Western medical treatments can achieve.
According to the University of Pennsylvania’s publication Knowledge @ Wharton, Western medicine is based on scientific findings and treats illnesses with medications and surgeries, whereas TCM uses a holistic approach and maintains a cured and balanced body through alternative, more natural treatments.
The Longevity Center of Classical Chinese Medicine states, medical practitioners apply Western medicine once an illness and its symptoms emerge. TCM, however, treats the body as a whole every day and advocates for an overall balanced lifestyle, including healthy eating and exercise, to prepare the body for self-healing when medical problems arise. Experts suggest using Chinese medicine in addition to Western medicine, rather than completely on its own, when treating illnesses.
Qi, pronounced chi, is a main aspect of TCM. It is seen as an energy that animates and brings life to all objects of the world. According to the Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation, Qi exists within the body and circulates among organs along meridians or energy pathways.
The human body is composed of a network of twelve meridians that react in a response to changes in the body’s surroundings. “The meridian network is like a system of highways, roads and streets that links major cities. The highways (meridians) and the cities (organs) make up an entire energy map (the body). It is through this system of roadways that energy (Qi) runs,” said tcmworld.org.
The Five-Element Theory is another component of TCM. According to tcmbasics.com, the theory explains how the world is composed of the five primary elements - wood, fire, earth, metal and water - and relates the elements to the five main organ systems of the human body; the liver/gallbladder, heart/small intestine, spleen/stomach, lungs/large intestine and kidney/urinary bladder.
By connecting the natural world to the human body, the Five-Element Theory helps show how aspects of natural occurrences, such as weather, season and flavor, are related to the way the body functions. Using the Five-Element Theory chart can help determine which illness an individual may have. If an imbalance exists in one of the elements, there is a loss of harmony in the body and often means an illness exists. The Traditional Chinese Medicine World Foundation explains, “the dynamic interactions enable all the Organ Systems to work in one, harmonious greater system.”
Common Practices of Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture is a form of TCM that pinpoints specific areas on the body to help alleviate pain associated with various illnesses and preserves overall health. Studies prove that acupuncture can help reduce symptoms associated with cacner, such as vomiting, nausea and fatigue. According to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, sicknesses arise when the body’s balance is thrown off, which results in blocking the travel of Qi along meridians. When acupuncture treats the afflicted areas, Qi can travel smoothly again and the body can return to a healthy well-being.
Acupressure is similar to acupuncture, but the TCM practice does not use needles to treat ailments. Instead, acupressure uses fingers to apply pressure to the affected area of the body, and does not break the skin like needles in acupuncture.
TCM has compiled lists of specific foods that offer beneficial nutrients to various medical ailments. The practice of food therapy considers the energies foods can provide, as well as the advantages they can have on long-term well-being. Food therapy connects to the Five-Element Theory because the theory’s chart helps show the effects different flavors can have on various illnesses. For a full list of foods and their healing powers, refer to http://www.tcmecc.org/foodtherapy.htm.
Similar to food therapy, herbal therapy applies various herbs to medical issues. The flavors of the different herbs help determine which herb to use to cure an illness and restore health. Tcmpage.com explains how each herb possesses a different flavor that is associated with curing a specific area. For example, a bitter flavor improves appetite and rids excessive heat from the body, sweet flavor treats dry coughs and balances systems in the body, spicy flavor circulates Qi and boosts metabolism, and salty flavor cleanses bowels and softens growths such as nodes.
Qigong is similar to tai chi. The practice brings balance and harmony to the body through breathing exercises and relaxed physical movements. The smooth movements of qigong lead the body and mind to a tranquil state which has been proven to aid stress, sleep, arthritis and cancer. Practicing qigong is especially beneficial in restoring the body to its best overall health when recovering from an illness.
Reviewed July 26, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Shannon Koehle