Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is the original healing system in China that developed (and continues to develop) for the last 2,500-5,000 years. It is in essence a study of how to maximize and maintain health. TCM evolved out of Taoist, Confucious, and Buddhist philosophies.
TCM and its texts were exported to surrounding countries which modified and developed their own styles, particularly in Japan and Korea.
A practitioner of TCM in California is called an acupuncturist, although they learn and use a number of modalities:
There are major channels of energy flow in the body called meridians. Along these lines there are certain points where the energy pools and is easier to access called acupuncture points. There is actually a detectably lower level of surface tension at these points.There are 12 major meridians in the body and over 400 points, each of which has specific uses and manner in which they are needled.
Acupuncture involves placing tiny needles (or filaments) into these points. Sometimes the needle is strongly stimulated, sometimes microcurrent is used on the needle, sometimes moxa is used, and other times there is no stimulation.
Moxibustion is the burning of the leaves of the mugwort plant (Ai Ye; Folium artemesiae). Sometimes a stick of the herb (which looks like a long cigar) is lit and swirled close to the area being treated. This method is often used when there is a large area to be treated.
The picture on the left shows needle moxa. This method is used to warm and activate a particular point.
A clump of moxa can also be lit on the skin with a barrier of salt or a ginger slice.
The Chinese pharmacopeia contains over a thousand herbs. American acupuncturists are required to study 465 of these which are more commonly used. These herbs are used in sophisticated formulas that contain 1-3 “king” or main herbs with other herbs to support their function, balance out potential side effects, and address other concurrent issues. Typical formulas contain from 3 to 15 herbs. Herbs are typically not taken alone, with some key exceptions such as ginseng.
Chinese herbs are categorized by temperature, the 5 tastes, and the organs systems they enter, as well as their particular actions. They are categorized in terms of safety, ranging from those that can be taken regularly and indefinitely (such as ginseng), to those that are toxic and must be dosed carefully and short term (as in the case of treating parasites). Herbal medicine was given such importance that it fueled much of Chinese exploration into other cultures. The Chinese pharmacopeia has adopted medicinals from all over the world.
Qigong literally means to exercise the qi. The term qigong encompasses Tai Qi, meditation practices, chanting, breathing exercises, and other exercises that can resemble yoga (Dao In) and movements that imitate animal movements (Crane Style Qigong). Qigong practices are chosen based on desired goals, such as spiritual development, improving physical health, for relaxation, to improve your abilities as a healer, or as an adjunct for martial arts development. Acupuncturists will often give a simple qigong exercise as homework for their patients.
Eating according to your constitution and season has been a main part of TCM since its beginning. Diet appropriate to the individual is a key factor in maintaining and recovering health.
Food is categorized by the 5 flavors and by temperature in the same way herbs are categorized. As a general rule fruits and vegetables tend to be cooling and cleansing. Grains tonify qi. Animal products tonify blood and yin.
Method of cooking is also important. Raw is the coolest and the hardest to digest. Lightly steaming is neutral. Roasting is the most heating.