A Beginner’s Guide To Chinese Medicine


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Traditional Chinese Medicine, TCM, can treat many health issues. While Chinese medicine is well known for pain relief, there is so much more it can do. Improved fertility, digestive disorders, allergies/sinus infections and stress relief, are just a few of the problems that can be addressed with Chinese medicine.

Let me go over some basics. Chinese medicine encompasses more than just acupuncture. It also includes cupping, moxabustion, Chinese herbal medicine and tuina. I will give a brief description of each.

Acupuncture acupuncture is the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body. For thousands of years, practitioners of TCM have mapped out your body’s 12 main meridians, pathways that carry Qi (vital life energy pronounced ‘chee’) throughout your body.

Each meridian is connected to one specific organ, or group of organs, that govern particular bodily functions. Acupuncture points are located along these meridians and, when needles are inserted, they promote your body’s healing abilities by regulating the flow of Qi through these meridians. When Qi flows freely, well-being is restored.

Yin and yang is also essential to understanding traditional Chinese medicine. It’s all about balance and when needles are inserted at the correct points, balance is restored to your body. If you have a chronic problem, several treatments maybe required. If your problem is acute, a couple appointments may do the trick.

Chinese Herbal Medicine – Herbal medicine is the use of plants, flowers and minerals for healing. Herbs are highly specific in their actions and possess diverse qualities and properties that target different aspects of an ailment. Herbs are classified as hot or cold, bitter or sweet, and more. When your illness is warmer in nature, cooling herbs are appropriate.

As an example, let’s take the common cold. Your cold may have heat signs, such as fever, yellow phlegm and a sore throat. So, your herb formula would include herbs of a colder nature to clear the heat from you. From this simple example, you can see how herbal formulas have to be specifically tailored to the individual needs of each patient.

Herbs come in many forms, most popularly pills and teas. When used correctly under the guidance of your TCM practitioner, they are generally safe and rarely have side effects.

CuppingCupping is an ancient technique that involves placing jars on the skin, suctioning out the air and creating a vacuum. The underlying tissue is raised, or sucked, partway into the cup. The purpose of cupping is to enhance circulation, help relieve pain, remove “heat,” and pull toxins from your body’s tissue.

You usually feel a tight sensation in the area of the cup and that often feels good and relaxing for aching muscles. Cups are generally left in place for 5-20 minutes. Cupping causes the skin to temporarily turn red, blue or purple, especially if there is an energetic blockage under the cups. The skin discoloration may last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.

MoxabustionThis technique involves burning the herb known as mugwort a safe distance from the skin to warm an acupuncture point. The Moxa plant, in Chinese is called Ai Ye and is made from the wool of the Mugwort plant.

Moxa creates a comfortable sensation of heat. It helps warm the meridians, opens channels, regulates Qi and blood flow in the body, expels cold and dampness and warms the uterus. There are many forms of moxa. It can be a stick, used atop a needle or used in conjunction with ginger or a moxa bowl. Moxa is Yang in nature and is therefore used mainly to restore deficient Yang conditions.

Some of the main disorders treated with Moxa include; asthma, diarrhea, rheumatic pain, abdominal pain, vomiting, certain gynecological disorders (it is often used to improve fertility), and any kind of pain due to cold or deficiency.

TuinaIs a form of Asian bodywork that involves a massage that can sometimes feel like a cross between Shiatsu and acupressure. It’s especially effective for joint pain (such as arthritis), sciatica, muscle spasms, and pain in the back, neck, and shoulders. It also helps chronic conditions such as insomnia, constipation, headaches, and the tension associated with stress.

Today the style of Tui Na practiced in China is closer to the work of chiropractors, than to that of massage therapists. Most western trained Tui Na practitioners do not do “bone setting,” as do their counterparts in China. It’s taught as a separate but equal field of study in schools of traditional Chinese medicine, requiring the same level of training as acupuncturists and herbalists.

Jennifer Dubowsky, DIPL.A.c. and L.A.c. is a licensed acupuncturist with a practice in downtown Chicago, Illinois, since 2002. She has researched and written many articles on Chinese medicine, presented at several speaking engagements and is a senior columnist for the Acupuncture Now Foundation. Jennifer also maintains a popular blog about health and Chinese medicine and In 2013, Jennifer released her first book, Adventures in Chinese Medicine: Acupuncture, Herbs and Ancient Ideas for Today.

This article was republished from Jennifer Dubowsky’s blog.

See also:
Why More People Than Ever Are Embracing Holistic Medicine
The Personal As Ecological: Chinese Medicine And Climate Crisis

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