Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a different perspective on the body


My mom was upset when my wisdom teeth were removed. She complained that removing any part of the body was going to mess up the balance of Qi in my body, a seemingly superstitious belief. But as a certified doctor of geriatrics at the Veterans Hospital who attended medical school in China, my mother is familiar with both Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine, also known as TCM. These two theories often contradict each other, as the case of wisdom tooth extraction shows.

Growing up, my mother always treated my illnesses with what I now know to be unusual drugs and treatments. She would boil vinegar and circulate it around our house when I had a fever, knead acupressure points in my hands when I had migraines, and boil pear soup when I had canker sores. . I used to help her with cupping therapy on her shoulders when she had knots from stress. She taught me the practice of massage.

It wasn’t until I got to college that I realized these weren’t “normal” remedies for common ailments. I first discovered DayQuil during my first semester away from home when I didn’t have my BanLanGeng Chinese drink. Based on my relatively good health after years of using herbs and massage therapy with my mother, as well as thousands of years of TCM practiced in East Asian countries, the medicine Traditional Chinese certainly has merit, even if it’s not proven by modern science.

The basic principles of TCM

The founder TCM theory is based on the idea that people have a life force called Qi which is kept in balance within them by two opposing energies, yin and yang. Yin is cold, feminine, negative energy and yang is warming, masculine, positive energy. Too much yin or yang can throw your body out of balance and cause illness. The body is seen as a single vessel where all parts are connected by meridians or energy channels.

In Chinese, having too much yang energy is called 上火, and having too much yin is called 着凉. When I was a child, my mother told me that I had, which explained my hyperactivity, but also made me develop canker sores. Certain foods carry different energies, which affect the balance of our body.

food that have a lot of “warm” or yang energy are spicy or acidic foods, such as lemons, lychee, lamb, coffee, kiwi, durian, chocolate, and alcohol. Too much yang causes illnesses associated with heat, such as fevers, inflammation and tension. As a person who tends to have more yang energy, after eating a lot of spicy foods or consuming alcohol, my skin breaks out often, and I spend the following days eating a lot of “cold” foods to keep my skin down. correct the imbalance.

The “cold” foods that increase the yin in your body are often watery and bitter, including foods like cucumbers, bananas, Asian pears, chrysanthemum tea, bitter melon, and grapefruit. My mother’s theory as a practitioner of Eastern and Western medicine is that the yin and yang energy in food has to do with pH levels, iron, and maybe vitamin B2, but none of that. has not been scientifically proven.

Popular TCM practices

Acupuncture and massage are another way to redirect and correct energy imbalances in the body. These practices are based on the stimulation of certain points along the meridians of our body. Acupuncture is a relatively popular treatment in America and is administered by placing needles at stimulating acupuncture points, also called acupuncture points, along the meridian channels. Sometimes electrical impulses are sent through the needles. Acupuncture is believed to trigger self-healing mechanisms, which is effective in the treatment of chronic pain.

Especially in the middle the opioid epidemic, acupuncture represents a drug-free therapeutic alternative to chronic pain. Acupuncture is also known to help those undergoing cancer treatment by minimizing pain and nausea caused by chemotherapy. Different acupuncture treatments claim to cure different diseases, but many studies in America have shown that fake acupuncture and sham acupuncture appear to have similar effects to real acupuncture treatments, so there are theories that the practice relies heavily on it. on the placebo effect. Others will swear by it.

Similar to acupuncture, massage is based on stimulating specific acupuncture points, but practitioners use their fingers, hands, and elbows instead of needles to apply pressure to the surface of your skin. Massage is more commonly used in spa treatment to relieve muscle tension.

Cupping is another TCM practice that you will occasionally see Olympic athletes using. During the 2016 Olympics, the swimmer Michel phelps drew a lot of media attention to cupping therapy when images of purple circles on her back and shoulders were released on the internet. suction cups is a type of deep tissue massage often used to relieve muscle tension. A practitioner uses heat to create a vacuum under a cup and places it on the skin to bring blood flow to the skin’s surface, causing purple bruising. Sometimes acupuncture needles are added under the cut. Cupping is a fairly uncontroversial treatment for TCM; no studies show this to be harmful, but many believe that cupping may also be highly dependent on the placebo effect.


When it comes to the different TCM practices and their use around the world, Chinese herbalism is the most controversial. Chinese herbal products are used to solve all kinds of medical problems – from strokes and heart disease, to mental disorders and the common cold. They can be taken orally, used in ointments, or burned near the skin in a process called moxibustion.

Western medicine thinks drugs and herbs should be prescribed symptomatically, for example, valerian for insomnia, or white willow bark for headaches. In contrast, Eastern medicine examines the energetic nature of a sick body – whether it has too much yin or yang energy – tries to find the root cause of the problem and prescribes herbs to restore Qi balance.

A famous case used to discredit TCM herbalism as a whole is Ma Huang, also known as ephedra, which TCM uses to treat asthma. Ephedra is a stimulant that targets the heart, lungs, and nervous system, and was used in weight loss and dietary supplements in America in the early 2000s until high doses were discovered. could cause serious and harmful side effects. The Food and Drug Administration banned the herb in 2003; it has since been withdrawn from the retail market, but licensed TCM practitioners are still allowed to prescribe it in small amounts. Yet this adoption of TCM herbs into the mainstream can be very dangerous, especially if it is treated as another over-the-counter supplement without any consultation with TCM experts.

The use of ephedra is only a controversy arising from the practices of TCM. In 2019, the World Health Organization recognized TCM practices in their 11th version of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems and received a lot of negative feedback. Managing Director Margaret Chan openly applauded China’s improvements in public health and efforts to globalize the use of TCM practices. China has made the promotion of the use and legitimacy of TCM around the world a policy agenda.

Although much of traditional Chinese medicine is not based on science, it has been used in China, Japan, South Korea, and other countries in East Asia for thousands of years. years. a systematic effort standardize terminology and techniques of TCM. Critics argue that there is no physiological evidence that qi or meridians exist, and little evidence that TCM is not based solely on the placebo effect. Many Chinese medicines have been shown to contain hidden ingredients or contain substances banned by the FDA.

China endorses the use of TCM not only as a medical practice but as an economic industry. With more than 450,000 practitioners and nearly 4,000 hospitals in China exclusively dedicated to traditional Chinese medicine, it is important to legitimize TCM to keep these institutions in operation. The Chinese pharmaceutical industry and Chinese rural agriculture depend on the demand for traditional herbs. The Chinese government has even banned people from speaking out against TCM, making it difficult for Chinese doctors to question some Chinese medical practices.

Western philosophies versus Eastern philosophies

While I think more scientific studies should be done to examine how traditional Chinese medicine works, it’s important not to discredit TCM in its entirety. Often we are told that Western science is the only way forward, but combining these two worldviews can be beneficial for modern medicine. For example, we could greatly benefit from TCM’s approach of treating the body as a whole, instead of Western medicine’s approach of treating symptoms of a disease as something separate from the body.

Often times in Western medicine we treat the symptoms of a disease rather than the disease itself. For example, headaches are usually symptoms of a larger problem, but Western doctors will treat them as a single disease, prescribing pain relievers instead of trying to figure out the cause. In contrast, an TCM doctor might try to figure out how energy imbalances may have caused the headache and treat the problem at its root.

In a society where instant gratification prompts us to find quick fixes like taking a few pills or invasive surgeries to make us feel better, the credit for TCM comes from seeing the body as a unique machine that works best when we push it into the body. good energetic direction after its loss. its balance, rather than something to change.

My mom might be right about my wisdom teeth; maybe they were used for something in the larger system of my body that I did not know. Removing them when they started to hurt was the easy way out, but it’s possible that removing this seemingly harmless part of my anatomy would have a bigger impact on my body’s energy balance.

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