The Culture and Healing of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) originated in ancient China for over two thousand years (Mercati), rooting back to the philosophy of Taoism. TCM views the body overall based on its anatomic functions instead of structures. Diagnosis of illnesses includes tracing symptoms to patterns of disharmony, deviations of eating and sleeping habits, and measuring pulse. The Chinese pharmacopoeia includes a large amount of herbal formulations that are used for the treatment of a wide variety of disease and illnesses. Healing comes in the form of acupuncture, massage (Tui na), exercise (qigong), and dietary therapy. Current TCM practices is based on principles of Chinese philosophy, including holism, differentiation, yin and yang, and the five elements (Lao, et al). Maintaining a balance between these principles is the way the body achieves physical health, longevity, and qi (the vital force or energy for maintaining the activities of life) (Lao, et al), thus differentiating it as a naturalistic belief system.
The Chinese medical theory views that disease does not suddenly occur. Disease is a journey from health where symptoms arise over a period of time, such as tiredness, nausea, and pain in specific areas. The disease may manifest physically, emotionally, mentally, or even spiritually. Deviating patterns and behaviors in the patient’s physical and emotional states in their living environments will indicate the type of imbalance and treatment required to heal their Qi. It is different from the Western medical system in that Western medicine tends to look for an agent causing a disease, such as a virus or bacterium. The cause of the disease is usually not clear and treatment is based on the symptoms that show. Western medicine is solely based on sciences of anatomy and physiology, separate from the mind (Lao, et al). Whereas in Chinese medicine, the mind, body, and spirit are intertwined and interdependent, thus treatment is aimed to restore and maintain a state of health throughout, rather than curing only the disease causing component (Mercati 14).
Being one of the world’s oldest medical systems, TCM features a series of theoretical systems and medical practices. Ancient Chinese ancestors based their medical experience through continuous practice. Tools used in the New Stone Age led to the invention of acupuncture (Jingfeng). They also discovered that the movements of the body and extremities are capable of fighting fatigue and even possess limited healing powers, thus leading to qigong. China is a land rich with a wide diversity of natural medicine, including herbal plants, animals, and minerals. Beginning as an agricultural period, ancestors gained rich experience in the application of these herbal drugs. They were able to invent compounds of mixtures of herbal remedies to produce its therapeutic effect, one of the important features of TCM (Jingfeng). Principles like ‘yin and yang’ and ‘five elements’ solidify the view that treatment is targeted at correcting underlying imbalance in the body (Kam, et al.). Everything in the universe
The main principle is the yin and yang polarity. It is believed that the body is built upon these two opposing aspect, which are interdependent and interrelated. The ‘yin’ is “negative, dark, cold, female, earthly, inner, [and] ghostly, whereas ‘yang’ is positive, light, heat, male, heaven, outer, and godly” (Lao, et al). More words that describe ‘yin’ are sad, plain, vegetarian, solid (organs), empty, and wet. ‘Yang’ can be furthered described as hot, happy, colored, non-vegetarian, hollow (organs), full, and dry. Most things that exist may be characterized as either yin or yang, often representing opposite, abstract properties. The main opposition of yin and yang is the hot-cold polarity. The foods categorized as hot are commonly those that are “nutritious, concentration, meaty, fatty, oily,...
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