What is Chinese Medicine

Chinese Medicine had its origins over 4000 years ago. In the last 2000 years, it has evolved into a highly sophisticated form of healing which is both science and art. It recognises the interaction of various physiological systems and focuses on the underlying cause of illness as well as the symptoms. Chinese Medicine not only treats serious illness but can also treat it at the early stage before it becomes serious. Some patients come regularly for a tune-up to maintain good health. There are not the side effects associated with some modern drugs and it can be used safely on a regular basis. It is effective used alone or when used in conjunction with other therapies.

How does it work?

Illness occurs when the body’s natural functions are disturbed. Chinese Medicine uses herbs, acupuncture, cupping, gua sha & tuina to stimulate and regulate the natural functions of the body to restore health. For instance, it does not work by introducing replacement hormones, enzymes, blood cells, but instead, it assists the body to resume its normal function of producing them. This process takes more time than some modern therapies which might introduce foreign substances to the body to control the body’s reactions. However, although the results of Chinese Medicine are not always instant, they are safe, effective and long-lasting.

YIN & YANG The concepts of Yin and Yang (pronounced to rhyme with ‘young’) underpin the Chinese understanding of health, food and the environment. The concept of Yin incorporates moistening, cooling, nourishing, lubricating energies. It is seen as having a substantial basis and is sometimes compared to water or oil. The concept of Yang incorporates activating, warming, regulating, controlling forces. It is seen as having little substance and is sometimes compared to fire. The two must be in balance. They can control each other (like fire and water) but equally, can be mutually dependent (like the fire and water of a steam engine). Problems occur when there is too little or too much of one or the other. Chinese Medicine also understands how food and the environment can influence our health.

THE ORGAN SYSTEM Apart from Yin and Yang, Chinese Medicine looks at five main energy systems. These bear the names of organs but are not the organs themselves. Each organ system is a group of functions which includes the organ but is not limited to it. The functions generally parallel those of modern western medicine but include many more subtle functions which are not part of the paradigm of western medicine. Each organ system incorporates not only the organ but a system of pathways or channels leading to and from the organ and also connecting each system to other systems. Acupuncture points are located on these channels and allow us to influence the organ systems. Chinese Medicine sees the interrelationships of the various organ systems as being essential in understanding and treating illness.

Western medicine looks at the physical organ, whilst Chinese Medicine looks at the functions. For instance, having diagnosed that there is a problem with the Liver, western medicine will then look at the tissue, then perhaps the cells, then perhaps narrowing the search further to examine the chemicals. This is why western medicine is so good at screening.

Chinese Medicine, on the other hand, might diagnose something as a ‘Liver’ disorder when there is nothing materially wrong with the Liver tissue (such as hepatitis or cirrhosis), but sees that the function is impaired. Then, rather than narrowing the search, it looks further afield, because it knows that if there is a certain problem in one organ system, it may have been caused by a different problem in another organ system, and moreover, is likely to cause problems in a third. For this reason Chinese Medicine is used to prevent serious disease and maintain good health.

DIAGNOSIS Although practitioners of Chinese Medicine study western medical science and understand disease processes from the western viewpoint, diagnosis in Chinese Medicine is not made according to a disease name, but according to patterns of the relative balance of Yin and Yang in the various organ systems.

The appearance of the tongue and its coat and 28 different pulse qualities in 6 positions are fundamental in identifying patterns and diagnosing which organ systems are implicated. These patterns tell us the underlying cause of the disease, known as the root and it is the root that the treatment will chiefly focus on. It is possible for two people to present with the same ‘disease’, for instance, ‘ulcerative colitis’, but fall into different ‘patterns’ and be treated quite differently. Conversely, two people may present with different diseases, one with asthma, the other with dysmenorrhea, for example, but be diagnosed with the same pattern and have very similar treatment.

Chinese Medicine Treatment

METHOD: In general terms, Chinese Medicine can be seen to work by stimulating and regulating the natural mechanisms of the body to restore health. For instance, rather than replace hormones, enzymes, blood cells, it assists the body to resume its normal function of producing them. This process takes more time than some therapies or drugs which introduce foreign substances to the body to control the body’s reactions. However, although the results of Chinese Medicine are not usually instant, they are often long-lasting.

COURSE OF TREATMENT: The length of treatment varies greatly and is dependent on the individual and also on the condition. Some people respond earlier than others, and some even get worse before they get better. Children usually respond very quickly. Acute illnesses, such as a recent cold, sore throat or urinary tract infection may only need one consultation and a few days of herbs. Acute sports injury usually only requires a few acupuncture treatments (3-5 on average). Long term chronic illnesses usually require a longer course of treatment. Generally speaking, the older the illness and the more complex the condition, the longer the course of treatment required. Usually, treatment will be more intense during the first few weeks, following which, intervals between treatments will gradually increase. The period of treatment can vary greatly. Usually there is no recurrence of symptoms but in some cases maintenance treatment is required.

TECHNIQUES: Therapies include Acupuncture, Moxibustion, Cupping, Tui na-AnMo (massage), Herbs and Counselling. Chinese medicine has a long history of safe practice.