Eastern Medicine or Traditional Chinese Medicine is a system of health care that has been constantly evolving over the last 3000 years. This health care system is a unique, holistic way of approaching healthcare that incorporates the universal concepts contained in the spiritual concepts of Daoism. The results of this practice are a sophisticated, well rounded, set of practices that not only can cure illness but also to promote health and maintain wellbeing.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a blanket term that includes many different modalities such as acupuncture, herbal remedies, diet, Tuina massage, meditation, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, among others. These seemingly disparate modalities share similar principles regarding the human body and its relation to the universe.
The Daoist point of view describes a universe where everything is symbiotic and collaborative. Nothing is independent and cannot be considered separate from the whole. This can be explained through the concept of Yin and Yang. Early observers noticed that all natural phenomenon’s can be grouped into mutually dependent opposites. Without dry there would be no wet. Without Hot there can be no cold. Yin and Yang is for all intents and purposes a way to think about life on Earth that describe all the dynamic interactions that are the basis of life in this universe.
The theory of five elements is also important to understand in Eastern Medicine. The five-element theory is derived from observations of the various interactions of groups of characteristics, processes, and functions on Earth. These interactions relate to not only the natural world but the internal energies of mankind. These include wood, fire, metal, and water. In addition to these principles there are substances that round out the known elements in our universe. These are Qi, Jing essence, Shen or mind/spirit, and the body fluids.
Energy Pathways called Meridians are another important concept in Chinese Medicine. Acupoints along these Meridians have been located and mapped out and can be stimulated by acupuncture or acupressure. Recently Western Medicine has begun to employ these practices as compliments to western medicine and the evidence is growing to support their efficacy.
Is It Safe?
- Acupuncture is generally considered safe when performed by an experienced practitioner using sterile needles. Improperly performed acupuncture can cause potentially serious side effects.
- Tai chi and qi gong, two mind and body practices used in TCM, are generally safe.
- There have been reports of Chinese herbal products being contaminated with drugs, toxins, or heavy metals or not containing the listed ingredients. Some of the herbs used in Chinese medicine can interact with drugs, have serious side effects, or be unsafe for people with certain medical conditions.
Is It Effective?
- For most conditions, there is not enough rigorous scientific evidence to know whether TCM methods work for the conditions for which they are used.
Keep in Mind
- Tell all your health care providers about any complementary health approaches you use. Give them a full picture of what you do to manage your health. This will help ensure coordinated and safe care.