What Is Chinese Medicine?
When we are healthy, our body abounds in qi, the force that animates and informs all things. This is the foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM as it is also known.
In Australia, Chinese medicine is a system of primary health care. It works holistically and is based on the belief that to be healthy, we must maintain or restore balance, harmony and order in our bodies. Rather than looking at symptoms, TCM aims to get to the root of illnesses. And rather than waiting for illness, TCM advocates a preventative approach.
The origins of Chinese Medicine go back thousands of years, and it is a complete medical system, though it follows a different model to allopathic, or western, medicine. While it recognises the same organs and structures as western medicine does, it conceives of them in terms of functional interconnected systems, and organises them differently.
A doctor of Chinese Medicine may look at your tongue and take your pulse, and ask about your lifestyle to understand what lifestyle factors are causing you to present signs of illness or imbalance. These could be stress, your diet, being overworked, macro elements such as the weather or environment, even your emotions come into play. The TCM doctor will be able to detect signs of all these and more in the consultation. The practitioner may give you acupuncture, prescribe Chinese herbal medicine, give you a remedial massage or even prescribe breathing exercises such as qi-gong.
Qi – the life force
Chinese medicine works with the philosophy that balanced and free-flowing qi results in health, while stagnant or imbalanced qi leads to disease.
The qi is the vital energy that flows through the body’s meridians, a network of invisible pathways that run throughout the body. Chinese medicine works on clearing – or keeping clear – these subtle energy channels as the basis for good health. That’s how acupuncture works – by stimulating the flow of qi through the meridians and clearing blockages or stagnant energy.
According to Chinese Medicine’s meridian theory, "As long as qi flows freely through the meridians and the organs work in harmony, the body can avoid disease."
A Holistic System
Chinese medicine is truly holistic in its approach and believes that the body, mind, spirit and emotions are all interlinked. It has a deep understanding of the laws and patterns of nature, and believes that the microcosm (the human body) reflects the macrocosm (the natural world). It recommends that we as humans follow the universal laws of nature to achieve total harmony and health. This is where the idea of yin and yang come in. Though yin and yang seem to be opposites, they complement and interact each with within a greater whole as part of a dynamic system – balance in all things is key.
Preventing illness or disease through harmonisation with nature and balance within the body is one of the main reasons why Chinese medicine is so prevalent in the West today – it’s much better to remain healthy and feeling great than try to work your way back to health from a position of illness.