Traditional Chinese Medicine:

A Natural Therapeutic and Healthcare Science in China

Most foreigners in China, whether they live and work here or come as tourists, have heard about traditional Chinese medicine. In use for about two thousand years, many in China's international community are surprised to see just how popular traditional Chinese medicine still is with the local population. Plant roots, leaves and even animal products such as snake powder, dear tail, frog fat and donkey skin glue are used on a regular basis to help maintain good health and to treat illnesses such as acne, skin discoloration, fatigue and menstrual problems.

The basis of traditional Chinese medicine rests on two foundations: humans are products of the natural world, so our well being depends on natural products, and second, normal physiological functions of the body's organs and tissues require a sufficient supply of energy, blood and body fluids, which come mainly from natural foods. These types of foods include various meats, vegetables and fruits. Illnesses come about when the production of energy, blood and body fluids, and their function, are out of balance. Traditional Chinese medicine can help in the healing process by restoring the dynamic balance between the organs and tissues and the human body and the natural world. For these reasons, practitioners of Chinese medicine frequently recommend that people add natural foods and herbal products to their diet as a way to help the human body increase its supply of energy, blood and body fluids.

There are many natural therapies in Chinese medicine that can help restore the balance in the human body, including acupuncture, massage and Qigong. I will discuss some of the available therapies.

Acupuncture Therapy: This ancient therapeutic practice is used in the treatment of sports injuries, muscular and neurological disorders and various illnesses, including tennis elbow, arthritis and apoplexy. The therapy uses metal needles, moxa and cupping to stimulate the points on the body surface, which are connected with the internal organs by the meridians and transmit therapeutic and adjustive messages to restore the dynamic balance between the organs and tissues.

Chinese Herbal Medicine This therapy can be used to treat many types of illnesses, such as hypertension, anemia, fatigue, chronic colitis, insomnia, premenstrual syndrome, sinusitis, etc. The treatments use various types of herbs, depending on the illness, to restore a body's physiological balance. As an example, if a patient suffers from constipation due an imbalance between the yin (cold) and yang (hot), they would be given an herbal combination of the harmonious agents to balance the body's physiology energy. Generally, herbal medicines are mixed with water and taken once or twice a day for at least two weeks.

Chinese Massage Therapy: The Chinese believe that stimulating certain accupoints, groups of muscles or meridian pathways can help relieve and eliminate pain and other forms of discomfort. This method is ideal in the treatment of sports injuries and many types of illnesses or disorders associated with children and adolescents, such as indigestion, anorexia and diarrhea.

Chinese Diet Therapy: The food we eat can have a significant impact on our health and in the case of Chinese traditional medicine, it can also influence a treatment regimen and its effectiveness. Which is why many Chinese medicine doctors will alter a patient's diet while they are under treatment. As an example, patients taking a herbal combination for sinus allergies are advised to stay away from spicy, deep-fried and sea foods, which can produce excessive harmful fluids, the main reason why they seek medical treatment.

Chinese Qigong Therapy: This therapy when done in moderation with certain physical exercises and respiratory techniques can balance the energy and blood to help the body regain its physiological functions. Qigong is often used to support and/or enhance medication normally used to treat chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and migraine headaches.

For thousands of years, the Chinese have used traditional Chinese medicine to maintain good health and treat a variety of illnesses. And the therapies and treatments continue to be as effective as they were thousands of years ago.

In addition to seeing patients, Professor Huang Guoqi is an instructor at Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, with over 16 years of experience practicing and teaching various aspects of traditional Chinese medicine.