What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (or TCM for short) is one of the oldest systems of healthcare in the world, one that continues to be practiced to this day by practitioners of all backgrounds despite its ancient and culturally-specific roots. Its staying power can be attributed to its effective and holistic protocols, which are built on a foundation of knowledge and wisdom accumulated from thousands of years of observing the interactions between man and nature. TCM heals from core to surface, aiming to treat ailments from their root cause and restore balance in all aspects of one’s being, from the intangible qi to the tangible body and beyond.
There are four main philosophies that guide the practice of TCM:
- You are an integrated whole. From the TCM perspective, your health is affected by the well-being of not just your body, but also your mind and spirit. Your practitioner’s treatment plan for you will be developed with the intention of restoring balance to this all-important trinity.
- You are connected to your environment. Whether we like it or not, our bodies are constantly changing, and much of this change is affected by all the different aspects of the environments we find ourselves in, including climate, geographical location, social factors, and countless others. Since TCM is holistic in nature, your practitioner will take all of these things into consideration and create treatment plans that are tailored to your unique situation.
- Your body tells all. As soon as your body starts to deviate from its natural balance, it begins to put out signs, which can range from the most obvious of externalized symptoms to the subtlest difference in your pulse. Your trained TCM professional can read these signs and understand what your body is asking for, and why; they will then use this knowledge to not only treat what’s ailing you now, but also prevent other current imbalances from getting worse and causing future ailments.
- You are born with the ability to self-heal. The body, like nature itself, institutionally seeks to restore its own balance. This ability can sometimes be slowed or blocked by various factors, which TCM strives to remove in order to allow your body to do what it does best and bring itself back into alignment.
Within the scope of TCM, there are a wide variety of treatment modalities that practitioners can choose from to best help you. Here at Tzu Chi Clinic, we primarily focus on three of these modalities, detailed below.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is one of the many modalities of treatment available to Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners. As a standalone treatment, acupuncture has produced great results in treating numerous disorders, both internal and external; it has also been seen to increase treatment efficacy when paired with other therapies such as massage therapy and Chinese herbal medicine.
In ancient times, acupuncture was performed using needles made of sharpened rocks known as “bian shi”; in modern acupuncture, thin filiform needles made of stainless steel are used instead. These modern needles are hair-like in their thinness, and are usually painless when inserted.
How does it work?
The needles are inserted into specific points on the body—called acupuncture points, or “xue” in Chinese—that are found along the meridians of the body, the channels through which the body’s qi or life energy flows. By stimulating specific points or combinations of points with the needles, your practitioner can redirect, replenish, or dissipate qi, causing reactions in the body that restore harmony and guide it down the path of natural healing.
During treatment, you may feel a dull tenderness or heaviness with the insertion of the needle — this is a normal reaction called de qi, and is a good indicator that the correct points have been selected.
What can Acupuncture help me with?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized acupuncture as an effective treatment for the following conditions and diseases:
Upper Respiratory Tract:
- Acute sinusitis
- Acute rhinitis
- Common cold
- Acute tonsillitis
- Acute bronchitis
- Bronchial asthma (most effective in children and patients who are without complicating diseases
Disorders of the Mouth:
- Toothache and post-extraction pain
- Acute and chronic pharyngitis
- Acute and chronic gastritis
- Acute and chronic colitis
- Acute bacillary dysentery
Neurological and Musculoskeletal Disorders:
- Headache and migraine
- Trigeminal neuralgia (TMJ)
- Facial palsy (early stage, i.e. within six months)
- Pareses following a stroke
- Peripheral neuropathies
- Meniere’s disease
- Neurogenic bladder dysfunction
- Nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting)
- Intercostal neuralgia
- Cervicobrachial syndrome
- Frozen shoulder and tennis elbow
- Low-back pain
What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?
Chinese herbal medicine is an elaborate system of natural healing that is an important component of TCM. Unlike pharmaceuticals, which target specific symptoms, herbal medicine targets the root cause of an illness and is even able to address multiple problems simultaneously. Its organic nature also makes it more compatible with your body than pharmaceuticals, and results in fewer side effects.
Thanks to countless generations of dedicated study and practice, there is an enormous catalogue of herbs available to TCM practitioners, with a wide variety of known properties and interactions that practitioners can draw on to tailor their herbal formulas specifically to your health conditions. Herbal therapy is best for internal illness, especially when used in conjunction with acupuncture.
What can Chinese Herbal Medicine help me with?
Chinese herbal medicine can help you in a variety of different ways, but the method of use may vary depending on what is being treated and what the desired effect is.
When ingested as an herbal soup or tea, it can:
- Boost your immune system
- Boost your energy
- Improve your digestion
- Improve your sleep
- Manage your pain
- Improve your menopausal symptoms
- Help you regulate your menstrual cycles
- Help you with infertility issues
When applied topically as a tincture, cream, or wash, it can:
- Skin conditions such as atopic eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis
- Orthopedic conditions
- Traumatic injuries
TCC Herbal Dispensary
Here at TCC, we have our own on-site herbal dispensary, saving you the extra trip to the Chinese herb store. As an added bonus, all of our herbs come in the form of water-soluble granules, so you can take your medicine quickly and easily with warm water instead of having to spend hours at home carefully cooking raw herbs. We can also provide capsules and pills in cases where the granules might not be the best choice for you.
In addition to being convenient, our herbal medicine has a higher level of concentration, potency, purity, and quality than other granules on the market thanks to a proprietary extraction technique. You can also rest assured that when you purchase herbal medicine from our dispensary, you are receiving a product that has been screened for pesticides, bacteria, and heavy metals such as arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, and chromium. We believe that no herbal formula is able to achieve its fullest effect without using high-quality herbs.
What is Cupping?
Cupping is a modality of treatment in which cups of varying sizes are placed on the skin and secured using suction, lifting the skin and underlying muscles. The cups can either be left in a stationary position or moved back and forth along the body by the practitioner if necessary. Duration of retention varies depending on the condition of the illness.
Cupping may look intimidating at first, but the sensation is akin to a deep tissue massage—most patients would not describe the feeling of cupping as being painful. After treatment, circular suction marks will often be left on the skin; these marks will dissipate on their own in about a week or so, depending on your individual body constitution. The skin may also feel tender immediately after the treatment, but this will usually end after a day or two. In North America, this modality is commonly used to treat pain and tightness in the muscles. It is commonly used by athletes (perhaps most famously by US Olympic gold-medal swimmer Michael Phelps) for post-training recovery and other sports-related issues.
How does it work?
Cupping increases circulation of qi and blood into the area, and brings stagnated energies up to the skin’s surface so your immune system can naturally flush it out. The marks that result from a cupping treatment are unwanted toxins that have been drawn out of the body, such as static blood, lymph, and pathogenic factors. Depending on the condition, the marks can range in colour from light pink to bright red, and even dark purple.
What can Cupping help me with?
Conditions that may be treated by cupping are as follows:
- Back pain
- Shoulder pain
- Leg pain
- Rehabilitation and recovery
- Common cold
- Heatstroke and fevers
- Wind stroke and facial paralysis
- Abdominal pain
- And more…