What is Chinese Medicine?


Traditional Chinese Medicine is a term that refers to medicine practices developed in China and other parts of Asia.  Traditional Chinese Medicine generally covers many types of modalities including acupuncture and moxibustion, Chinese Herbal remedies, Tui Na or Chinese Medical Massage, as well as other manual therapies including gua sha (spoon massage or coining) and cupping.

In China, the term Chinese medicine (in Chinese it is called Zhong Yi 中医) often refers to the practice of Chinese herbal medicine.  Although it can also refer to the entire practice of Chinese medicine. While acupuncture refers to acupuncture and moxibustion.

Some of these therapies are performed only by experienced physicians, such as prescribing complex herbal formulas or doing acupuncture. But others are considered more home remedies.  This may include  folk herbal remedies for common colds or manual therapies such as gua sha which can be used for nausea, car sickness, the common cold, and other common illnesses.

Common ideas in Chinese Medicine

While the therapies are diverse, done both by physician and family members, they all rest on the holistic view of the body and health that developed over 2000 years ago.   A primary idea is that health is a state of balance in the body and between the body and the environment.  The body has qi, energy, which flows through channel and meridians.  Also, that environmental factors such as cold, heat, and dampness can cause illness.  And these environmental factors represent certain illness within the body.

For example, if you have a cold, a physician may write an herbal prescription to release the heat to help you get rid of the cold.  But the home remedy of gua sha spoon massage on the neck and upper back can also release the heat.

Chinese Medicine: An Evolution of Ideas

Many of the dominant concepts in Chinese medicine were discussed in the early books of the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classics as well as the Treatise on Cold Diseases.  Although they referenced older works, they are no longer in existence.    Over the years, physicians and scholars have debated these ideas evolving into the contemporary tradition of modern Chinese Medicine.

Yet, it is important to understand that Chinese medicine is an evolving tradition.   These are not static concepts, but ideas that scholars, physicians and even individual family lineages have expanded on and explored.  Chinese medicine has a strong tradition of writing, discussion, and debate. There is a great diversity of ideas.  Through experience and training a Chinese Medicine practitioner will develop their own style.

For example, certain physicians believed that the best way to use Chinese medicine for psoriasis was to clear heat and toxins from the body.   However, other physicians believed that psoriasis developed from internal cold and the body must be warmed. These debates continue today.

In fact, some of the significant therapeutic strategies of modern Chinese medicine physicians were not developed until recently.  As I mentioned in my last post, the development of electro-acupuncture for pain was only developed within the last century, a relatively short time for the history of Chinese medicine.

Joseph Alban

Joseph Alban, L.Ac.

Joseph Alban is a Doctor of Acupuncture, New York Licensed Acupuncturist, and NCCAOM Board Certified Herbalist providing the highest quality Acupuncture and Chinese medicine care tailored to your needs.

Acupuncture and Moxibustion

Feeling Better

you might also be interested