What is TCM?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is rooted in the ancient philosophy of Taoism and dates back more than 5,000 years. This medical model, which encompasses Tui Na, acupuncture, and herbology, differs from Western medicine in a number of ways. Today, TCM is practiced side by side with Western medicine in many of China’s hospitals and clinics.
TCM is widely used in the United States. Although the exact number of people who use TCM in the United States is unknown, it was estimated in 1997 that some 10,000 practitioners served more than 1 million patients each year.
The differences between Western medicine and TCM are fundamental. Western medicine views the body basically as a machine; disparate parts which can be addressed separately from one another. The physician does the healing, and the patient is a passive recipient. Treatment is generally focused on symptom relief.
Underlying TCM is a view of the world and the human body that is different from Western medicine concepts. This view is based on the perception of the human body as a microcosm of the larger, surrounding universe—interconnected with nature and subject to its rhythms and cycles. The patient is a participant in the healing process; the body is a garden, and the practitioner is a gardener.
The theoretical framework of TCM has a number of key components:
- Yin-yang theory—the concept of two opposing, yet complementary, forces that shape the world and all life—is central to TCM.
- In the TCM view, a vital energy or life force called Qi circulates in the body through a system of pathways called meridians. Health is an ongoing process of maintaining balance and harmony in the circulation of Qi.
- The TCM approach uses eight principles to analyze symptoms and categorize conditions:
- TCM also uses the theory of five elements—fire, earth, metal, water, and wood—to explain how the body works; these elements correspond to particular organs and tissues in the body.
- There are 12 Organs and their corresponding Meridians-
- Fire- Heart/Small Intestine, San Jiao/Pericardium (overindulgence)
- Earth- Spleen/Stomach (worry/pensiveness)
- Metal- Lung/Large Intestine (sadness/grief)
- Water- Kidney/Urinary Bladder (fear)
- Wood- Liver/Gall Bladder (anger/frustration)
These Organs are defined not necessarily by the physiological organs that we are familiar with, but by a set of functions.