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Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) originated in ancient China and has continued to evolve over thousands of years. TCM encompasses many different practices including herbal medicine, acupuncture, moxibustion (burning a herb above the skin to apply heat to acupuncture points), cupping, gua sha (scrapping of the skin to improve circulation), tui na (Chinese therapeutic massage), nutrition, and tai chi or qi gong (practices that combine specific movements or postures, coordinated breathing, and mental focus).
The TCM approach is fundamentally different from that of Western medicine. TCM is used to identify, treat and prevent illness with the underlying view of the human body and the mind as an interconnected energetic system. Key concepts of TCM include Qi (energy), Yin Yang, five elements, the meridian system and Zang-fu, making it a unique medical system.
Traditional Chinese healers aim to strengthen a dynamic balance between two complementary forces, yin (passive) and yang (active). They believe a person is healthy when harmony exists between these two forces and illness results from a breakdown in the balance of yin and yang.
When a person is healthy an abundant supply of Qi (pronounced chee) or ‘life energy’ flows through the body’s meridians (a network of non-physical channels throughout the body). If there is an inadequate supply of Qi or the meridians become blocked, the body fails to maintain harmony, balance and order, leading to illness. This can result from stress, overwork, poor diet, disease pathogens, environmental conditions and other lifestyle factors.
Zang-fu is a collection of organs that create and regulate Qi within the body. Unlike in Western medicine, these organs should not be thought of as anatomical structures, but rather as interconnected functions that explain how Qi is produced within the body. The functions performed by each organ are referred to as the organ’s qi (e.g. Heart Qi). In total, there are 11 organs, five Zang and six fu.
Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood are the five elements of TCM. Each element is awarded set characteristics with many aspects of life and the world being attributed to a certain element. They also correspond with certain internal organs, tastes and emotions. The five elements are dynamic, they create, control and constantly interact with each other, and any disturbances in this can give rise to symptoms of illness.
Traditional Chinese Medicine can be beneficial in supporting a range of health complaints including immune system health, low energy, liver detoxification, hormonal imbalance, pain and inflammation and skin health.