Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a comprehensive medical system which consists of Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, moxibustion, Tui Na, exercise, diet, lifestyle advice etc.
The core theories of TCM are yin-yang and five elements. Yin and yang are two opposites that in constant motion, creating a fluctuating balance in the healthy body, while five elements are wood, fire, earth, metal and water that interact in a way to maintain the constant motion and growth in a relatively balanced state.
TCM has a different way of making diagnosis comparing with conventional medicine. A full medical history is taken including current complaints, appetite, urine, stools, sleep, preference to coldness or warmth, emotion, period, etc. Tongue is examined and pulse is taken. They both require certain skills (and may be a novelty to the first-time-patient).
TCM sees person individually and holistically. Therefore, one has headache might find his feet treated, or vice versa. Also two persons have the same disease may find themselves have completely different treatments, or two with different problems have the same treatments.
The theory behind acupuncture is meridians. Qi, the energy of life, circulates along a system of meridians. There are 12 principal meridians and many other collaterals. Each meridian is intimately connected with one of the viscera. When the flow of Qi becomes unbalanced, illness may result. By inserting and manipulating fine needles into specific points, energy flow will be re-balanced. This allows body’s natural healing mechanism to take over.
Although the original practice involves needles, there are come modifications depend on various conditions. Some times there is no needle involvement such as acupressure, while other times there may be stronger needle stimulation such as electro-needle.
Chinese herbal medicine
Herbal remedies are used as much as, if not more often than, acupuncture to treat energy imbalances and illness. Herbs are often described according to four basic qualities and properties: nature, taste, affinity, and primary action. They are normally recommended in combinations so that they can be customized to each patient. The prescription of herbal remedies takes a TCM practitioner years to master because it requires a deep understanding of medical theory and the complexity of herbs.
Moxibustion is a technique that involves burning moxa, or mugwort herb.
Mugwort is warm in nature and gives out aromatic odour. It can help regulate Qi and blood, expel cold and dampness, warm the meridians, stop bleeding and calm the fetus. Moxa is not only good at producing heat but also penetrating, which is the main why mugwort has been chosen as the material for moxibustion.
Moxibustion is often applied to cold, stagnant, chronic and deficient conditions. It has been effectively used in pain management. Because of its special effect on uterus, it has been extensively used in gynaecological area, with good reputation in correcting breech presentation and relieving menstrual cramps. It is good for promoting ovulation as well.
In comparison with acupuncture, moxibustion is prone to tonification. Therefore, it is a good substitution for acupuncture among those who are too weak to take needling.