Traditional Chinese medicine

An article from the Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association outlining what traditional Chinese medicine entails and the role of practitioners.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a system of primary healthcare that includes acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, remedial massage (anmo tuina), exercise and breathing therapy (such as qigong) and diet and lifestyle advice. In Australia, the most popular forms of TCM health care are acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has an uninterrupted history of development in China and other parts of East Asia dating back thousands of years. The primary feature of modern TCM is the premise that good health relies on the restoration and maintenance of harmony, balance and order to the individual. TCM takes a holistic approach to understanding normal function and disease processes and focuses as much on the prevention of illness as it does on the treatment.

When healthy, an abundant supply of qi (pronounced chee) or ‘life energy’ flows through the body’s meridians (a network of invisible channels through the body). If the flow of qi in the meridians becomes blocked or there is an inadequate supply of qi, then the body fails to maintain harmony, balance and order and disease or illness follows. This can result from stress, overwork, poor diet, disease pathogens, weather and environmental conditions and other lifestyle factors and becomes evident to TCM practitioners through identifiable signs of body dysfunction. TCM practitioners look carefully for these signs of health and dysfunction, paying particular attention to not only the presenting condition, but also the medical history, general constitution and the pulse and tongue.

Clinical assessment, diagnosis and treatment principles are based on the theoretical frameworks of TCM which seeks to identify underlying symptom patterns that indicate how the body is or has become dysfunctional. Treatment is focussed on the underlying condition as well as treating the presenting symptoms. Clinical decision-making and patient management strategies are also influenced by contemporary western approaches to healthcare, including infection control practices and known interactions of herbal medicines with pharmaceuticals and other therapeutic substances.

TCM treatments work on the basis of individualised formulae for each patient.

About acupunctureAcupuncture treatment involves the insertion of fine, sterile needles into specific sites (acupuncture points) along the body’s meridians to clear energy blockages and encourage the normal flow of qi through the individual. The practitioner may also stimulate the acupuncture points using other methods, including moxibustion, cupping, laser therapy, electro-stimulation and massage, in order to re-establish the flow of qi.

As a natural form of healing, acupuncture has the following benefits:

  • Provides drug-free pain relief 
  • Effectively treats a wide range of acute and chronic ailments 
  • Treats the underlying cause of disease and illness as well as the symptoms 
  • Provides an holistic approach to the treatment of disease and illness, linking body, mind and emotions 
  • Assists in the prevention against disease and illness as well as the maintenance of general well-being

About Chinese herbal medicineMost diseases or illnesses present with a core set of recognisable signs and symptoms, but the actual presentation of a particular disease or illness will vary from person to person. For this reason, people with similar health conditions may be provided with quite different Chinese herbal medicine prescriptions.

A qualified practitioner is able to prescribe a Chinese herbal formula that specifically matches and treats your individual health problem. As your condition changes and improves with treatment, the Chinese herbal treatment is also adjusted and modified until the desired health outcome is achieved.

Today, there are over 450 substances commonly used in Chinese herbal medicine — most are of plant origin though some animal and mineral substances may also be used. You may find some in your kitchen, such as ginger, garlic and cinnamon, while others such as chrysanthemum and peony flowers, are more likely to be found in your garden! Many of the substances used will be unfamiliar to you and have names like chai hu (bupleurum), di huang (rehmannia) and huang qi (astragalus). Some substances that were used traditionally are no longer part of modern professional Chinese herbal medicine practice. For example, traditional remedies that are derived from endangered species have been replaced by other substances with similar actions.

Chinese herbal medicines are prescribed either singly or made into formulae, which take into account the individual therapeutic action of each herb and well as the effects when combined together. A well constructed formula maximises the effectiveness for treating a particular condition, while counteracting and minimising the unwanted effects of an individual herb.
In addition to providing effective treatment for a wide range of health disorders, Chinese herbal medicine may also be used to assist with general health maintenance and disease prevention. By strengthening and enhancing normal body functions, the immune system is boosted and a general sense of well-being promoted.

Studying TCMIn Australia, to qualify for the practice of acupuncture or Chinese herbal medicine, AACMA recommends the completion of an approved four to five year bachelor degree programme majoring in acupuncture and/or Chinese herbal medicine. A copy of the AACMA recognised course list can be downloaded from the AACMA website.

Provided by The Australian Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Association Ltd (AACMA)
www.acupuncture.org.au

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