Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) refers to a broad range of medicine practices sharing common theoretical concepts which have developed in China over nearly 6,000 years and given rise to a number of distinct medical practices including herbal medicine, acupuncture, moxibustion (heat treatment), massage / acupressure (tui na), cupping (reverse massage), meditation and exercise (Qigong), and dietary and other therapies. Though a common part of medical care throughout East Asia, these practices are considered alternative medicine in the Western world.
The true origin of TCM is lost in prehistory before writing was invented during the Shang dynasty (1766-1122 BC). What can be stated is that shamanism, Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism and the “hundred schools” during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) were the major influences that informed its early development. Therefore, unlike Christian or Islamic beliefs that stem from a single source, the Bible and the Koran respectively, TCM did not originate from only one era of Chinese history or from one philosophy, but was built on, added to, and modified throughout history, reflecting the pragmatic nature of the Chinese.
The ideas that gave the greatest impetus were the cosmological notions of Essential qi (universal energy), Yin-Yang (all phenomena consist of two opposite aspects, i.e. birth and destruction) and the five phases, aka the five Elements (wood, fire, earth , metal, and water). The basic theories of TCM describe the physiology and pathology of the human body, disease etiology, diagnosis, and differentiation of symptoms. Other contributing theories include blood (xue), body fluids (jinye), the meridian (jingluo) and the channels and collaterals, the five zang and six fu organs, methods of diagnosis, and differentiation of syndromes / symptoms.
These theories were brought to a mature synthesis in such influential books as the yellow Emperor’s Classic of internal Medicine (Nei Ching) in the 3rd century BC and the Treatise on Cold Damage circa 200 AD where they coalesced into the doctrines that underpin TCM today. In the centuries that followed other books followed to refine and systemise the ideas. The Canon of problems in 2nd century Ad tried to reconcile divergent doctrines from the Nei Ching and developed a complete medical system centered on needling therapy. The AB Canon of Acupuncture and Moxibustion (256-282 Ad) assembled a consistent body of doctrines concerning acupuncture; while the Canon of the pulse (circa 280 Ad), presented itself as a “comprehensive Canon of the pulse (circa 280 Ad), presented itself as a “comprehensive 1976), these precepts were modernized so as to integrate many anatomical and pathological notions from scientific medicine. Nonetheless, many of TCM’s assumptions, including the model of the body, or concept of disease, are not supported by modern evidence-based medicine.
The outstanding feature of TCM is arguably the application of treatments according to the differentiation of syndromes / symptoms rather than just treating individual components of the body in isolation. TCM’s view of the human body is only marginally concerned with anatomical structures, but focuses primarily on the body’s functions such as digestion, breathing, temperature maintenance, etc. The Chinese have no system of anatomy comparable to that of the West.
In general, disease is perceived as a disharmony or imbalance in the functions or interactions of yin and yang, qi , xue, zang-fu, meridians, etc. and/or of the interaction between the human body and the environment. These are all theoretically interconnected – each zang organ is paired with a fu organ, which are nourished by xue and concentrate qi for a particular function, with meridians being extensions of those functional systems throughout the body. Therapy is based on which “pattern of disharmony” can be identifies, thus, “pattern discrimination” is the most important step in TCM diagnosis. It is also known to be the most difficult aspect of practicing TCM. In order to determine which pattern is at hand, practitioners will examine things like the colour and shape of the tongue, the relative strength of pulse-points, the smell of the breath, the quality of breathing or the sound of the voice.
Because TCM treatment stresses the differences of symptoms not the differences of diseases, different treatments for the same disease exist and different diseases can be treated by...