Toll Free - U.S.& Canada:  1-800-791-9386   Hong Kong:  800-930-623   Australia:  1-800-779-835
Free online Chinese learning support
  • Follow us on Facebook!
  • Watch Our YouTube Videos!
  • Follow us on Twitter!
  • Follow us on WeChat!
    Follow Us in WeChat by Scanning!
    Follow Us in "WeChat"
    by Scanning
  • Follow us on LinkedIn
  • Explore Our Instagram Videos & Photos!
United Kingdom:  0-800-086-8969   Germany:  0-800-180-0341   Singapore:  800-130-1652
France:  0-805-080-689   Spain:  900-838-906    

Traditional Chinese Medicine in 2020, What You Need to Know

Sep. 21, 2020

Chinese medicine is nearly as old as Chinese civilization itself. Yet it continues to be used, even in 2020. It is sometimes combined with modern medicine and is said to speed recovery time from illness and injury as well as enhance overall wellbeing. Since well being is becoming more important in western countries, Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, is gaining popularity.

The most popular forms of Chinese medicine are relative depending on who you ask. What is currently popular revolves around trends and what media portrays Chinese “医学 (yī xué) medicine” to be. Since the wellness movement has really exploded, people from all over the world have begun to explore TCM. It has deep roots that have developed over thousands of years and includes mind and body treatments, such as acupuncture, cupping, taichi, as well as herbal remedies to prevent and cure diseases.

医学(yī xué): n. Medicine


tā cóng shì yī xué .


He pursued a career in medicine.

tā rè’ài yīxué


He loves medicine.

Let’s explore TCM treatments a little more in-depth.

Traditional Chinese medicine is oftentimes used to address the following ailments:







High blood pressure



Although conventional treatments in modern medicine are based on a diagnosis and is used to treat individual symptoms, in TCM, the treatment is determined by what the underlying imbalance might be. For example, a person with insomnia may have difficulty sleeping because of an imbalance such as a kidney yin “不足 (bù zú) deficiency”, spleen qi deficiency, or blood deficiency. The TCM is used for the cause and not the symptoms of the cause as modern medicine tends to do in some cases.

不足(bù zú): n. deficiency/shortcoming


wǒ hái yǒu hěnduō bùzú zhī chù.


I still have many shortcomings.

tā yán chóng shuìmián bùzú,


He is severely sleep deprived.

The first question is the deficiency of practical vocational skills and academic knowledge.

The Traditional Chinese Approach

Rooted in a philosophy known as Taoism, traditional Chinese medicine is based on the theory that all of the body’s organs mutually support one another. Therefore, in order to be healthy, an individual’s organ functions must be in balance. This balance is attained, in part, by harmonizing yin and yang, two opposing but complementary energies that are thought to affect all life.

Another approach in traditional Chinese medicine is to harness vital energy called “qi” or “chi”. This energy force flows throughout the body by certain pathways, also known as meridians. According to this theory, disease, as well as emotional, mental, and physical health problems, develop when the flow of qi is blocked, weak, or excessive. Restoring the flow of qi is considered essential to balancing the yin and yang and, in turn, achieving wellness.

Typical Procedure

During a standard appointment with a TCM practitioner, they first assess your overall health by doing “舌头( shétou ) tongue” assessment. In TCM, it’s thought that different areas of the tongue reflect the health of five corresponding organ systems: liver, lung, spleen, heart, and kidney. Next is a simple pulse assessment, and a general physical exam. The exam would identify any Imbalances or qi blockages.

舌头( shétou ):n. tongue

tā shēn chūle shétou.


He sticks out his tongue.

shétou kěyǐ fǎnyìng yīxiē shēntǐ wèntí.


The tongue can reflect some physical problems.

If the practitioner identifies an imbalance in one of TCM’s organ systems, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person has a physical disease in that organ.

The liver, for instance, helps to regulate the smooth flow of qi. If a person has “liver qi stagnation”, the energy is said to be blocked, resulting in irritability, anger, or depression, a bitter taste in the mouth, indigestion, and a pulse that practitioners describe as “spastic”.

A “kidney yin deficiency”, on the other hand, is associated with a dry mouth, hot flushes in the afternoon or evening, tinnitus, and forgetfulness. The tongue is usually reddish in color with little or no tongue coating. Practitioners describe the pulse as “wavering”.

Treatment Methods

There are many different therapeutic methods used in traditional Chinese medicine, the most popular being acupuncture. Since traditional Chinese medicine emphasizes individualized treatment, healing methods vary widely from patient to patient. These methods often include:

⁨ 1. 针灸 (Zhēnjiǔ) Acupuncture: Though acupuncture’s roots lie in TCM, it is used as a western treatment for a variety of health concerns.

⁨ 2. Acupressure: Finger pressure is applied over acupuncture points and meridians.

⁨ 3. 拔罐 (báguànr) Cupping Therapy: is a practice that involves briefly applying rounded inverted cups to certain parts of the body using a vacuum effect. Some proponents suggest that the drawing of the skin inside the cups increases blood flow to the area.

⁨ 4. Diet and nutrition: Foods are thought to have warming/cooling properties and are said to have specific healing properties.

⁨ 5. Herbal medicine: Herbs and herbal tea may be suggested.

⁨ 6. Moxibustion: A practice that involves burning an herb near the skin to warm the area over acupuncture points.

⁨ 7. Exercises: such as “太极 (Tàijí) tai chi” and qi gong.

中草药 (Zhōngcǎoyào) Chinese herbal medicine

Rather than prescribing individual herbs, practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine typically combine a variety of herbs in formulas selected depending on the patient’s individual needs. These formulas may be given as teas, capsules, tinctures, or powders.

Currently, there are about 12,000 kinds of medicinal plants in China. Here are just a few ”草药 ( cǎo yào ) herbs”  commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine:

中草药(Zhōngcǎoyào): Chinese herbal medicine

草药 (cǎo yào): n. herb medicine


zhōngcǎoyào hěn kǔ。


Chinese herbal medicine is bitter。

tā bù rèn shi zhè zhǒng cǎo yào .


He doesn’t recognize this kind of medical herb.

1. Astragalus: The Chinese name of the herb, Huang qi, is considered to be one of the most important herbs in traditional Chinese medicine. One of the main uses of astragalus is to improve immune function. It is said to work is by increasing the production of immune cells. It may also have mild antiviral activity and help with the prevention of colds.

2. 人参( rénshēn) Panax Ginseng: Going back to ancient times, Panax ginseng was used to increase energy and stamina and to give the immune system a boost. It has been shown to improve cognitive performance, mainly short-term memory too.

3. Ginkgo biloba: is an antioxidant-rich herb used to enhance brain health and treat a variety of conditions. Although dietary supplements typically contain extracts of the plant’s leaves, Ginkgo Biloba seeds are commonly used for healing purposes in traditional Chinese medicine. to preserve memory, as well as promote recovery from stroke.

4. Ginger: herbalists have used the root of the ginger plant to relieve stomach problems. With its natural anti-inflammatory effects, ginger is also commonly used to treat arthritis, high cholesterol, menstrual cramps, and other health conditions.

5. Gotu kola: is believed to have antimicrobial, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, and memory-enhancing properties while others assert that it can also aid in asthma, depression, diabetes, diarrhea, fatigue, indigestion, and stomach ulcers. When used topically, Gotu kola is believed to help speed the healing of wounds and reduce the appearance of stretch marks and scars.

Always check with a professional before trying any herbs that you are not familiar with. Everyone reacts differently. If you’re considering trying traditional Chinese medicine, seek a qualified practitioner. Even in 2020, TCM can be useful and effective for modern problems.

HSK 3 quiz

Which of the following are not “中草药”?

A. Panax Ginseng

B. Gotu kola

C. Astragalus

D. Aspirin

See Answer Analysis

You May Want to Learn More:
An “Interesting” Explanation of “有趣(yǒuqù)” and “有意思(yǒuyìsi)”
What Do a 感染 (gǎn rǎn) and 传染 (chuán rǎn) Have in Common? Only This Chinese Quiz Will Tell
How These Chinese Women Are Riding the Winds and Breaking the Waves

HSK 1 quiz

Got questions? Take a free 1-to-1 lesson with one of our professional teachers by signing up below:

search no result

By clicking Submit, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.
Your email address and phone number

Write a comment

Your Name: 
Your Email:  Your email address will not be published.
Verification Code:  Verification Code Unclear? Try another one
By clicking Submit, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.
Email This Article
Recipients' email addresses:
(separate recipients with comma)
Your name:
Your e-mail address (optional):
Your message (optional):
Verification Code:
By clicking Send, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Get 11 FREE Mandarin E-books
Sign up for a free trial now!
Get more information about our Chinese lessons through live chat
Get a FREE live 1-to-1 lesson and FREE e-books. Complete the form below:

search no result

By clicking Submit, you agree to our
Terms of Service
and Privacy Policy.
Your email address and phone number