Our recent medical approach has placed a strong emphasis on technology and finding the specific target cells or body chemicals that result in related symptoms and diseases. This is important and has saved many lives. But rising medical costs and complicated chronic illnesses unresolved by conventional healthcare mean that both the public and the government are looking for alternative options.
A long time ago in a country far, far away…
TCM boasts the oldest medical text in the world, the Huang Di Nei Jing, dating back between 800 to 200 B.C. This ancient book promotes wellness through three steps: first, disease prevention; second, early diagnosis and prevention of disease progression; and third, prevention of disease return and treatment of conditions that may have resulted from the illness. Sounds like a great foundation for our medicine today, and the good news is that integrative medicine—taking the best from holistic practices like TCM and combining them with conventional western medicine—is gaining popularity.
You might be surprised to hear that your tongue, pulse, sound of your voice, appearance, body temperature, and even smell can give clues about your health issues. TCM doctors can use simple tools like acupuncture needles, glass or plastic cups, food, herbs, and hands for treatments.
Simple methods, complex system
But do not let the simplicity of these means deter from the complexity of the systems that form this long-standing and powerful medicine. TCM is founded on a deep understanding of the connections between the details we can observe and the imbalances that result. For example, when someone is experiencing pain, a considerable amount of time is spent asking lots of detailed questions. Questions would include finding out specifics about the pain, like where it’s located, exactly how it feels—sharp, dull, throbbing, etc.—what makes it feel better, what makes it feel worse, and so forth. Some questions might seem unrelated to the pain itself, including finding out about other health problems, nutritional deficiencies, allergies, and even whether you have been feeling more of a particular emotion lately. As I said, it’s complex.
Today’s health issues
For this reason, though the major health concerns from 2000-5000 years ago—when TCM was a new medicine—are different from those today, this medicine is still growing in relevance. Today’s major illnesses like heart disease, cancer, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, diabetes, and environmental sensitivities can be assessed and treated with the same tools that treated tuberculosis, polio, and parasitic infection.