Traditional Chinese Medicine, What You Need to Know

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

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