A short introduction to Chinese Medicine

From the beginning of human civilization, people across the world have been developing rituals, practices and medicines to improve their personal well-being. Today, many of the ancient and traditional remedies are still in practice and with the help of modern technology traditional remedies are becoming popular among the wellness community. In this series of explainers, ANKHA Magazine will introduce the traditional ways of wellness around the globe, both the history and the current practice in the West. This article introduces you to the basics of traditional Chinese medicine.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has been practised in China and across East and Southeast Asia for thousands of years and is one of the world’s oldest and most comprehensive forms of medicine. Based on the belief that the whole human body is an interconnected system, Chinese medicine uses natural remedies and techniques to promote balance and harmony within the body. It includes a wide range of practices, such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary therapy, massage, and exercise. According to its theory which is directly linked to the indigenous Chinese religion Daoism, the human body is composed of five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water (our next article is all about that!) and is regulated by the flow of Qi, the vital energy that runs through the body’s meridians or pathways. Simply speaking, if your five elements are balanced, and your energy is flowing smoothly, you are healthy. On contrary, if your elements are not balanced, for example, caused by eating too much oily food, or your energy is not flowing smoothly, for instance, caused by bad posture, your body will tell you that through pain, discomfort and illness. Chinese medicine believes that the best doctors don’t just cure the symptoms, it uses all means of treatments to restore the body to a healthy state. That’s why it’s very common to visit Chinese medicine practitioners even when you are well just to check the elements and energy in your body.

Herbal medicine is an essential component of Chinese medicine, where a combination of herbs is used to treat a wide range of conditions, including digestive problems, respiratory issues, and skin disorders. Chinese medicine practitioners believe that each herb has a specific energy and flavour, and they combine them to create a personalised treatment plan for each patient. That philosophy translates to another significant sector of Chinese medicine, dietary therapy. Food is seen as medicine that can be used to balance the body and promote health. Specific foods will be recommended to you based on the individual’s constitution and health condition. In addition to these practices, Chinese medicine includes massage techniques like Tui Na and Gua Sha, which uses acupressure and manipulation to treat muscle and joint pain as well as oedema. Qigong and Tai Chi, two forms of exercise that incorporate breathing and movement, are also widely used to improve physical and mental health. Lastly, a practice which would freak out many people is acupuncture, which involves the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate the flow of Qi and promote healing. This technique is believed to help relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and improve overall health. In the series of explainers, we will take a look at all of those individually, so stay tuned!

Chinese medicine is not just popular in East and Southeast Asia, it is gaining popularity worldwide, and many people are turning to this ancient form of medicine and wellness practice. In recent years, Chinese medicine has gained mainstream acceptance in the United States and Europe. Many people turn to it for relief from chronic conditions like pain, anxiety, and depression. According to a survey conducted by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health in the United States, about 1 in 10 Americans have used acupuncture or other forms of Chinese medicine. However, despite its growing popularity, Chinese medicine remains controversial in some circles. Critics argue that there is limited scientific evidence to support its effectiveness. Surprisingly, a similar debate actually is happening in China too as the younger generations believe in contemporary technology and medicine more. However, proponents of Chinese medicine argue that it has a long history of use and that many of its techniques have been shown to be effective in clinical trials. They also point out that Chinese medicine takes a holistic approach to health that focuses on the whole person, rather than just their symptoms. As Chinese medicine continues to gain global popularity, it is likely that we will see more research into its effectiveness and safety. Whether you’re a sceptic or a believer, there’s no denying that this ancient practice is capturing the attention of many people in the West who are seeking out new ways to improve their health and well-being.

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