Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

A medicine of many millenia

Chinese medicine was born out of the vast tradition of the Chinese culture and is dated from even before classical antiquity.

If the Confucian school reveals to us the first writings back in the fourth and fifth centuries B.C., the origins of Chinese medicine goes even further back, because Confucius has said the following:

“I am not innovating; I am only transmitting the teachings that I received from my seniors.”

 

Indeed, in China, traditional Chinese medicine, the YIN-YANG philosophy, the theory of the five elements, the astronomy and the divinatory arts would have been born out of the same melting pot, about 3500 B.C. This takes us all the way back to the posterior Neolithic, over the era of the Emperors FU XI, SHEN NONG and HUIANG DI.

​What is striking in the history of Chinese medicine is that the tradition and its first texts appear as the presentation of a consistent, global, complete and satisfactory doctrine, which several centuries have not been able to notably improve.

"We are facing here a stunning situation that shows a people that, at the very beginning of its civilization is already in possession of astounding knowledge” (Claude Larre - Sinologist).

This medicine considers the human being as a whole, as an entity body-spirit inseparable from each other, and closely dependent on its environment.

According to the TCM, man is a universe and emanates from the universe. The energy, the life enabling him to live, is the same as the life ruling the whole of creation. His good health is simply the balanced state between all the physical, material and spiritual manifestations of this vital energy.

Healthiness is the natural state within the universe.

It is on this elementary principle that traditional Chinese medicine can give back to the body and to the mind the harmony that unifies them together with the world.

Whereas the approach of occidental science leads to complexity as it requires more and more specialists, Chinese medicine is characterized by its simplicity. Instead of separating the human from the universe and fragmenting him into a multitude of organs, it connects him with the world and understands him as a whole.

 

It is the medicine of Unity.

In medical writings, this close connection with the universe is expressed as below:

  “Life is an exchange of energy flow between heaven (energies of the spiritual world) and the Earth (energies of the manifested world). The human protected by heaven is carried by Earth. The couple Heaven/Earth is the mother that conceives and feeds man."

Then, if man lives in harmony with nature and heaven, his energies are in peace. Thus, sickness can’t develop.

In case of separation between the energies of heaven (creative principle) and the energies of Earth, the separation can be illustrated by bad nutrition, excessive stress, burn-out, excesses of all kind, and the sickness can appear. The human is then not in harmony with the spiritual constructive forces of the universe. His vital energies are weakened.

​In other words, life has to flow without constraint in the organism and it has to connect not only all the organs together but also the different layers of our existence: body, mind and spirit. If the vital energy does not flow properly in a given place within the body, the sickness can grow.

Under this fundamental principle, Chinese traditional medicine highlights the symptoms of the ill person and the ground on which they are developing. It also never dissociates the physical and organic manifestations from their psycho-affective or spiritual context.

Traditional Chinese medicine can approach the care treatment through different aspects, as follows:

  • Superficial technics, so-called symptomatics (treatments that are specific to the symptom)

  • Technics having a deeper aim, capable of harmonizing all the energies of the organism (in-depth treatment)

  • Technics aiming to eliminate pathogenic agents responsible for the disease (microbes, toxic substances, psychic aggressions, climatic energy, traumas, etc.).​

Everything that is not expressed is printed within the body.

The pains are a way of expressing as the words are.

médecine chinoise

Position of Chinese medicine in Occident and in the Far East regions

A question is quite often raised: is traditional Chinese medicine compatible and complementary with occidental medicine?

It is useful to say that Chinese medical philosophy is not against the principles and the rules of Occidental medicine if those rules are used wisely and appropriately.

Médecine chinoise

 

China gives us proof that both medicines can be combined. All the hospital services of China are currently offering both kinds of medicine for the best interests of their patients.

Furthermore, as care treatment techniques of Chinese medicine are various (for example, massages, acupuncture, electropuncture, nutrition, psychology, moxibution), they are utilized by all medical care practitioners (medical and paramedical) without betraying their respective deontological codes.

All the countries of the Far East region officially recognize Chinese Medicine: China, Korea, Malaysia and countries of the Indochinese Peninsula, representing approximately two billion people.

 

In China, traditional medicine has its own university centers, hospitals, its research and statistical institutes and its own formal academy.

In each major city, the research institutes establish statistics of success and failure based on data compiled from several thousands of ill people that enter the hospital systems each day.

The different branches of Chinese Medicine

The Massages

Massages are done with “Linear” or “Pinpoint” movements practiced on the acupuncture points or on the energy channels, known as “meridians.”

Thanks to translations done over the past decades, we know that the practice of Chinese massages goes back at least to the dynasty of ZHOU, back to the time of Confucius, about 500 B.C.

médecine traditionnelle chinoise
 

In Chinese, the characters used to define the word “massage” translate the idea of an action produced by the hand to harmonize the energy of the body. The Chinese massage is actually a technique that mobilises the corporal energies in order to stimulate them when they are deficient and to reduce them when they are over-accumulated in certain body parts.

Knowing that each of the energies that we refer to, corresponds with a precise organic function, the massage will have as effect to stimulate or to drain the organs and the obstructed, infected, inflamed, fibrosis, or deprived tissues.

Massages, in their mode of action, are very comparable with the needle treatment (acupuncture). Depending on the targeted therapeutic effect and the zone requiring treatment, several techniques can be used to energize or calm a spot or an energetic channel. Some techniques are named “pinpoint” as they are practiced on the spot itself and others are “Linear” as these are done on the channel of the meridian.

Finally, for some pathologies (dermatosis, for example), a small instrument with a flexible handle made of plum tree can be used to stimulate with small impacts the particular spots on the body without hurting the individual. This instrument is known as a “plum-blossom” or “seven-star needle”.

Acupuncture and Moxibution

Compared to other treatment options of Chinese medicine, acupuncture is the most widely known technic in the Occident. It is an age-old technic that uses needles to balance the circulation of energy.

As with massages, some number of maneuvers are used to energize or to reduce the vital energy depending on the required needs of a given unbalanced part of the body. The goal is ultimately to balance the energy where needed.

 

Moxibustion is also an ancient technic that uses small mugwort sticks or small mugwort balls that the therapist lights to get them close to the patient's skin to heat specific spots. Moxibustion is practiced to bring heat to the cold surface of the skin. It is done over body parts that have an insufficient level of vital energy. This practice is used for the following:

  • Chronic symptoms (rheumatism, tendonitis, retractile, adhesive capsulitis, etc.)

  • Nervous system-related issues (nervous breakdown, paralysis, etc.)

  • Infectious states of the organism

  • And pathologies more serious and exhausting for the organism

Traditionally, we use a cigar and balls of dried and incandescent mugwort that we bring over the spots to stimulate the skin, without touching the skin and without hurting the patient. The results are astonishing.

 

In the traditional texts, moxibustion is introduced as a true panacea.

In China, acupuncture and moxibustion are practiced in hospitals of traditional medicine but also in the care service centers of Occidental medicine.​​

Moxa
Moxa
The use of suction cups
cupping, ventouse

Small suction cups are placed on the points of the back or of the limbs to complete the acupuncture work in chronic illness and congestions (ex: lower back pain; lumbago, etc.)

This technic is also used nowadays by some athletes during their physical preparation and after their competition to help and accelerate their muscle recovery.

 
The Electropuncture

Electropuncture is a modern technic that uses several kinds of electric current to produce a stimulating or analegesic effect. In the 70s, anesthesia along with electropuncture surprised the occidental world and turned the attention of occidental science towards Chinese medicine.

l'électropuncture
 

Less known, electrostimulation is a technic using electrodes placed directly on the acupuncture point or right on the needle inserted under the skin dermis in order to activate vital energy circulation in the context of chronic affections or anergic patients.

The Nutrition
diététique

Chinese nutrition obeys the doctrine of the five elements. It aims to reinforce the function of the organs and of the deficient tissues.

Its action over the energy is fundamental and its therapeutic power assured.

According to Chinese tradition, food is not only foodstuff that maintains tissues and meets energetic needs. It is also a substance that, depending on its quality, has a precise effect on the different organic functions.

 

Further details are provided on the page "Nutrition in Chinese Medicine".

 
Phytotherapy (herbal medicine) and the traditional pharmacopeia

The traditional Chinese pharmacopeia consists of mineral, vegetal or animal substances. There are around 800 medicinal plants, and among them, 500 are frequently used.

True medicine, it developed in Asia over the period of Antiquity, parallel with acupuncture.

Over the 20th century, despite a great growth in Occidental pharmacology, the Chinese preferred, by far, their traditional medicinal herbs over the chemical molecules.

phytothérapie
 

The whole organism is treated, not only a symptom. The prescription is precisely codified in accordance with the rules of Chinese medicine. Most of the time, it consists of a “main medicinal herb”, which is indispensable, and some “minor herbs” whose role is to activate or to slow the action of the initial main herb, or to conduct the needed information to an organ, a tissue or an area of the body.

The harvest of those herbs follows a precise calendar. Then, they are washed to remove the impurity, dried under the sun, and sometimes toasted or whitened.

The final preparation takes the shape of a powder, syrup, maceration, infusion, pills or soft extracts…

Traditional Chinese phytotherapy is considered as an extraordinary natural treasure, able to cure a multitude of diseases. It is used as much for functional sicknesses as for rheumatism, inflammatory disease and diabetes, for example.

For the past decade, this medicine has been growing strongly all over the Far East region. Medicinal herbs can be found all over, in stores, pharmacies, markets, and herbalist’s shops.

Some areas grow thousands of hectares to supply the laboratories, and the factories where the plants are stored. Numerous anti-cancerous herbs, anti-rheumatism or immune stimulant plants are subject to advanced research and constant investigations by the research centers and hospital services.

 

Nevertheless, the herbs that are used have to be reliable, harvested over very specific conditions and prepared with great care under the rules of the tradition.

Qi Gong (Chi Kong)

Since antiquity, the Chinese have noticed that the gymnastic exercises based on breathing, relaxation and movements of the body, were capable of harmonizing the energy flow.

From this, was born the QI Gong, itself from the Tai Ji Quann (Tai Chi Chuann) and Gong Fu (Kong Fou).

Briefly, those gymnastic technics recall that breathing is not a phenomenon purely thoracic but extends to the functioning of all the corporal tissues and mainly of the internal organs that are, as a result, fed through this process.

Qi gong
 

Indeed, according to the Chinese tradition, breathing with the main organs involved in the process – the lungs – dispenses the energy to the different meridians and organs of the overall organism. This process can:

  • Remove energetic stasis and deficiencies,

  • Strengthen the elimination and immunity system,

  • And clarify the mind.

 

The QI Gong, excellent for remaining healthy, is taught at universities of Chinese medicine for therapeutic purposes.

Currently regarded as an official branch of Chinese medicine, it possesses its own teaching centers, its own services in the hospitals, and several research institutes, the most important being in Shanghai.

The training of doctors of this specialty requires a perfect knowledge of Chinese medicine and about ten years of practice.

Qi Gong

The vertebral and articular therapy

Some doctors obtain a specialization in vertebral and articular technics, which are very close to the ones of osteopathy and Occidental chiropractic practices.

 
ostéopathie

Some statistics about Acupuncture Treatments - Available from the University of Shanghaï

 

SICKNESS                                                          DAYS OF TREATMENT                           % OF HEALING

Acute viral Hepatitis B                                      - 20, in average 10 days                                      92%

Acute bacillary dysentery                                  - 9 days                                                                83%

Malaria                                                                Data not available                                               83%

Asthme                                                                Data not available                                               71%

Coronary heart disease                                     Data not available                                   84,6% of improvement of                                                                                                                                                     clinic symptoms , 55% over ECG   

High blood pressure                                          3 to 6 months                                      82% of cases, among them 80%                                                                                                                                                                 don't relapse 

Normalisation of the blood fat levels             Data not available                                75% of the cholesterol and                                                                                                                                                                       triglycerides

Stomach Ulcers                                                  Data not available                                               93%

Diabete non-insulindependent                       Data not available                                38% healed and 33% improved

Hyperthyroidism                                               Data not available                             43,2% considered as healed, and                                                                                                                                                              33% improved

Scleroderma                                                       Data not available                                                57%

Chronic Cholecystitis                                        Data not available                              75% of healing and 80% of the                                                                                                                                      treated ill- people have released lithiasis

Induction of ovulation in infertile women    Data not available                                               98%

Abnormal foetal position from the                 Data not available                                               77%

32th week                                          

Principle of the Traditional Chinese Medicine explained in 52 sec ;-).