What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Traditional Chinese Medicine, also referred to as TCM, originated from China thousands of years ago and encompasses a broad range of different practices. This includes the use of herbal medicine, tai chi, or acupuncture to treat a variety of different diseases and uses ancient concepts that are based on Taoism.

It differs from modern medicine in the sense that it considers and treats the whole body rather than one specific part in case of an illness. For example, if an individual has dermatitis, the practitioner not only takes a look at the skin, but the person’s entire body and lifestyle are taken into consideration.

Complementary Approach

TCM is often used as a complementary approach in the West and is generally used in conjunction with modern medical treatments.

The main premise of the practice is centered around the restoration and maintenance of the harmony and balance of the whole body to promote good health.

The Different Therapies or Approaches of TCM

There are two main forms of TCM, which are the use of Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture. Several other approaches include tai chi, moxibustion, and a range of other Chinese therapies.

Chinese Herbal Medicine

Practitioners typically use several parts of plants to prepare a concoction of herbal medicines for patients. Leaves, flowers, stems, roots, and seeds of an antiviral or antibacterial herb are usually blended to create tea, liquid extract, powder, granules, or capsules. A typical Chinese herbal medicine contains about 8-12 different herbs.

The 5 Elements or Blocks of TCM

There are 5 elements of TCM, which are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water. Each element has a specific meridian or internal organ in the body through which the Qi passes through. Abundant flow of Qi throughout these organs promote good health and well-being while inadequate supply leads to symptoms and diseases. The goal of TCM is to promote proper flow of Qi through these elements and restore good organ functions.

The Concept of the Qi

TCM revolves around the concept of the Qi, pronounced as “chee,” which is also referred to as “life energy” or “vital energy.” According to Chinese medicine, a person is considered healthy when an abundant flow of Qi flows throughout the different parts of the body. When the Qi is blocked or when the body has insufficient supply, the body loses harmony and diseases follow.

Common causes of inadequate supply of Chi include stress, environmental pollution, poor diet, poor lifestyle choices, or disease pathogens.

The Concept of the Yin and the Yang

Ancient Chinese believe that everything in the world is made of polar opposites, which include the human body. These opposing elements are called the Yin and the Yang, and balance between the two is necessary to maintain good health.

The qualities of the Yin include moisture, coolness, and structure, and encompasses the functions of the lungs, spleen, liver, kidney, and heart. The qualities of the Yang include light, activity, dryness, and heat, and responsible for the function of the stomach, intestines, gallbladder, and urinary bladder.

The concept of the Yin and Yang is the foundation for the diagnosis and treatment in TCM. For example, when there is an abundance of Yin over Yang, the body experiences cold limbs, pale face, poor blood circulation, and low levels of energy. When the body has more Yang over Yin, the symptoms include hot flashes, headaches, sore eyes, sore throat, and hyperactivity.

The goal of practitioners is to restore the balance between the Yin and the Yang to treat various types of symptoms in the body.



This method involves puncturing certain acupoints on the body with the use of filiform needles. Studies in the US have shown that this approach successfully relieves a wide range of symptoms such as migraines, lower back pain, chronic pain, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, emotional disorders, and promotes overall general well-being. Acupuncture is also known to help treat addiction to alcohol and illicit drugs.

Other Therapies

Cupping – This approach involves the use of special cups that are filled with heated air and then applied on the surface of the skin. As the cups cool, the volume of air shrinks and suctions the skin, which then increases blood flow to the area, improving the flow of Qi.


This mind and body practice enhances Qi through the integration of different postures and movements in the body.


A form of massage and different body movements, this approach helps to open up blockages of the Qi and to stimulate movement in the meridians. The practitioner brushes, kneads, rolls, presses, and rubs the areas between the arms and leg joints.


– This involves the application of heat on the body’s acupoints to promote better Qi flow.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has been practiced for thousands of years and has been a popular option for alternative medicine throughout the rest of the world. Western medicine such as drugs and other forms of treatments are known to promote side effects and contain toxic elements in the body, which are eventually detrimental to overall health in the long run.

Chinese herbal medicine and other forms of TCM therapies use natural ingredients and methods that are non-invasive and have little or no side effects to the body, making them a healthier option for individuals who may be suffering from certain symptoms or diseases.