A Holistic Approach to Healthcare
With a history of more than 2500 years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an ancient set of practices from China to diagnose and cure illness. The TCM approach to healthcare is holistic, looking for the underlying imbalances and disharmonies behind an illness, which differs fundamentally from conventional Western medicine approaches. TCM practitioners will look at the whole picture in treating the patient, instead of just focusing on the disease.
Traditional Chinese medicine has always been an important component of healthcare in China. It has grown in popularity in the Western world over the past few decades.
In TCM, the evaluation of a syndrome includes the confrontation between the pathogenic factor and body resistance. Practitioners will recommend therapy based on the identification of a pattern of disharmony or imbalance in the human body and its interaction with the environment. Treatment is not based only on the symptoms, but on the differentiation of syndromes. Therefore, patients with an identical disease may be treated in different ways and, on the other hand, different diseases may result in the same syndrome and may be treated in similar ways. Discrimination in patterns of disharmony is the most important aspect of TCM diagnostic and is known as being difficult to master.
Diagnostic and Pulse Taking
In order to determine which pattern is at hand, TCM practitioners rely on several diagnostic methods, including:
- Palpation of the wrist and other pulses
- Palpation of the abdomen and other body areas
- Inspection of the face and particularly of the tongue
- Listening for particular sounds, such as wheezing
- Attending to body odor
- Inquiry about body functions with the patient
Pulse taking requires years to master and is the doctor’s most important diagnostic skill. By feeling the pulse, an experienced practitioner can accurately diagnose almost any medical problem. While western physicians feel for one pulse on the radial artery of the wrist, Chinese physicians feel for six pulses in each wrist: three superficial and three deep at specific points along the artery. The pulse is examined for several characteristics including rhythm, strength and volume. The quality of each pulse reveals underlying imbalances in specific internal organs and in the body as a whole.
As a holistic, or complete health care system, TCM leverages practices to govern diet and nutrition, exercise and spirituality along with more specialized techniques. TCM practitioners use a variety of therapies, including Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, moxibustion (burning an herb above the skin to apply heat to acupuncture points), Tui Na (Chinese therapeutic massage), dietary therapy, and Tai Chi and Qigong (practices that combine specific movements or postures, coordinated breathing, and mental focus).
Herbal medicine acts on organs internally while acupuncture stimulates certain areas of the external body and Qigong tries to restore the orderly information flow inside the network.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
Herbal medicine is, with acupuncture, a foundation of Traditional Chinese medicine. About 600 different medicinal substances are commonly used in TCM and several thousands have been listed in the Chinese pharmacopoeia.
The unique characteristic of Chinese herbal medicine is its formulation. A TCM practitioner will prescribe a formula that typically contains multiple herbs, often from four to twenty different types.
Herbal prescription can be delivered as pre-made formulas available as pills, tablets, capsules, or powders. These formulas are convenient to use, as they do not require preparation. However, pre-made formulas are not as potent as decoctions and do not allow the practitioner to adjust the content and dosage.
Herbal prescriptions have been traditionally delivered as decoctions. The practitioner prepares the content and dosage of each herb in the specific formula for the patient. The patient will boil the herbs in water at home for 30 to 60 minutes and consumes the decoction several times a day.
Another, more recent form of delivery for herbal prescriptions is via granulated herbs or high powdered extract concentration obtained by dehydration. TCM practitioners can prepare specific formulas by mixing these powders. These formulas maintain the potency of traditional decoctions and are easily administered by dilution in hot water.
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The information provided on this site is for reference only and should not be taken as medical recommendations or professional guidance.