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Discovering the wonders of Traditional Chinese Medicine

In parts of the Western world, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is increasingly looked upon as an effective way to restore health and wellbeing.  In fact, this “alternative medicine” has become the go-to medicine for some. But, what exactly is TCM and how is it different from conventional modern medicine?

Let’s discover the wonders of Traditional Chinese Medicine by learning about its fascinating history and unique treatments.

History and principles of TCM

The history of Traditional Chinese Medicine dates way back into the history of the Chinese civilization- an impressive 5,000 years. Of course, as with any form of medicine that remains effective and relevant, TCM has evolved, incorporating science and technology to bring together the best of both worlds. What have remains unchanged are the principles and philosophy of TCM. 

Taoism, a philosophy and way of life that promotes living in harmony with the Universe, has had a core influence on TCM. A central belief in Chinese medicine is the interdependence of everything in the universe, including man within himself, and with the exterior world.  As Man is part of the whole and not an isolated being, he should be studied in a holistic manner that takes into account his relationships with the world.

Central Elements of TCM 

When learning about TCM, you will most definitely encounter terms like yin-yang, Qi, and the five elements. So, what are they? 

Yin Yang

Yin and Yang are two opposing and yet complementary forces, like night and day, that are to be kept in balance in order to achieve harmony.  In the body, the excess and deficiency of Yin and Yang give rise to an imbalance and possible illness. Also, the various organs and parts of our body correspond to Yin and Yang. For example, the heart and lung are Yin organs, while the small and large intestines are Yang organs.


Image Credit: Wiki Commons


Qi is most commonly translated as life force, or vital energy that flows through the body and maintains life. The first source of Qi is what we inherit from our parents at the point of our conception and birth. This Qi is finite and cannot be changed. The second source of i is derived from what we nurture ourselves with, such as the air we breathe and the food we eat.

In TCM, a healthy diet and fresh air enable our body to maintain a good balance and vital energy in our body.

Five Elements

The five elements- fire, earth, wood, metal, and water- are used to represent the various phenomena and stages of life, as well as the relationships that organs in the body have with one another. The Five Elements theory also helps us to associate symptoms to particular organs and afflictions. 

Types of treatments


Mention TCM and the image that’s most likely to appear in your head is a back full of needles. 

Acupuncture works with the meridians of the body. Meridians are channels that conduct Qi, or energy, between the surface of the body and our internal organs. When there are disruptions to the flow of Qi in the body, we could be susceptible to falling ill. Acupuncture stimulates the points under the skin to release and restore the flow of Qi.

In TCM, acupuncture is often used to treat a wide variety of ailments, including chronic illnesses, pain, and even treat infertility.


Image credit: Wikimedia commons


Moxibustion is a technique where mugwort is burned at an acupuncture point to facilitate healing. Practitioners commonly use a burned cigar-like stick around the meridian points. This is usually done alongside with acupuncture, and is believed to work on cold and stagnant Qi.


You can tell if someone has done cupping therapy by the marks left on his back. 

The practitioner would create suction in small to mid-sized cups by lighting a fire, removing the oxygen, and placing it on various parts of the back. The suction pulls the skin and muscles, and results in a pain-relieving and relaxing sensation. 

Cupping is used to relieve stiff muscles, anxiety, migraines, and some practitioners even use it for cellulite. The colour and pattern of the marks are an indication of the level of stagnation in the area. The marks aren’t permanent and will disappear on their own with time. In recent years, cupping has somehow made its way to the red carpet and to the swimming decks!

Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine is most often given as part of a treatment, with thousands of traditional herbal formulas that are used according to the individual’s constituent. 

Thanks to modern technology being employed, you no longer have to spend hours on preparing concoctions that can be downright awful in taste. Today, herbal medicine can be dispensed in the form of sachets of powders or pills.  

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Image Credit: chrisjtse

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About the author

Tilda is a happy sufferer of chronic wanderlust. When she isn't spending a disproportionate amount of time Googling about places and cultures, she's writing, dancing, and navigating a massive career change. She shares stories and photography on Wanderful People, and shares her coffee with no one.


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