What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a healing system developed in China more than 2,000 years ago, incorporating therapies that are in some cases millennia older. One of its guiding principles is to “dispel evil and support the good.” In addition to treating illness, TCM focuses on strengthening the body’s defenses and enhancing its capacity for healing and to maintain health.
TCM encompasses how the human body interacts with all aspects of life and the environment, including the seasons, weather, time of day, our diet and emotional states. It sees the key to health as the harmonious and balanced functioning of body, mind and spirit, and holds that the balance of health depends on the unobstructed flow of qi (pronounced chee) or “life energy” through the body, along pathways known as meridians. TCM practitioners see disease as the result of disruptions in the circulation of qi.
Ascribing the healing abilities of TCM to modifying the flow of qi is problematic for many Western scientists and physicians, because qi itself – if it exists – cannot be directly measured, or even detected, through any known means. This has led some in the West to ascribe TCM’s successes to a biochemical mechanism, such as stimulating endorphin production via acupuncture needles to reduce pain. Several studies have shown that insertion of the needles does indeed stimulate endorphin release in the tissues. At least one study suggests it may work via influencing adenosine and adenosine receptors (adenosine is a molecule is considered by biologists to be life’s “energy currency”). Similar mechanisms may be at work for other TCM techniques such as acupressure, moxibustion and cupping.