Traditional Chinese Medicine 101 – Introduction 1

“What can you treat?”

This question is my most frequently asked question since I started my career as an acupuncturist and herbalist. This is also the question that I kept asking myself everyday when I go to work. I believe that there is a solution to every health issue, but a solution does not equal to a cure. Often, the patients just want to feel like “normal” or “everybody else”, and it is my job to make it happen for them. Before I get to my answer, let’s have a little intro on medicine, especially the Traditional Chinese Medicine that I practice.

The mainstream medicine, which I call modern western medicine, is a medicine system that designs treatment based on evidences, so it is also commonly known as evidence-based medicine. Our body is broken into many different parts as this medicine evolves.  Almost everything from our skin to our DNA is tagged with names and definitions. The greatest thing of this medicine is that because of the specializations and clear guidelines, each practitioner only needs to focus the limited energy on the study of the small parts of the medicine, and all practitioners can work as a big team to evolve this medicine together. For the same issue, the treatment received in US would be very similar if not the same to the treatment received in China.

Traditional Chinese Medicine, on the other hand, is a different story. The core principle of this medicine is based on the Yin, Yang, and five elements. From my understanding, this medicine studies the software of our human body. This medicine defines our system by the functions and the relationships between each function. The famous five element cycle is a good example of the system. Of course, there are some specializations, but the line of difference is not as clearly defined as the western medicine. After all, no function in our body system can work alone. For example, the acupuncturist who treats your back pain can also provide treatment for allergy and many other issues.

According to some, this medicine has been around since the Chinese culture existed five thousand years ago because the famous Huang Di Nei Jing (Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon). “Huang Di” is the legendary leader of ancient China, and this book is the medical text based on the conversation between Huang Di and his minister or physician. However, this book was earliest dated to 400 to 200 BC. By any mean, this medicine has been around for a long time. One benefit of the long history of the medicine is that there is lots of information out there for those who want to study this medicine. The disadvantage is that because of the evolution with thousands of years and large geographic location, different schools of the Chinese medicine have been developed. Thus, every practitioner might use different treatment strategies and approaches for one issue. It makes this medicine difficult to be studied the same way as western medicine. I will share my thoughts on this issue in the later post.

So, back to that question. Here is my usual answer. “Pain, infertility, stress, depression and many other issues. What can I help you with?” Then I go on to talk about how Traditional Chinese Medicine is another system of medicine if I have the chance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *