- Ellen Brown L.Ac. DACM
Chinese Medicine – ancient wisdom to heal the modern world
Updated: Aug 21, 2020
Traditional Chinese Medicine is the oldest medical system on earth, having been continuously and actively practiced for more than four centuries. Rooted in Taoist philosophy, it views humans as an inseparable part of nature, ideally striving to live in harmony with nature. These ancient, scholar-doctors lived a life deeply in tune with nature and saw the human body as a microcosm of the broader macrocosm (world) in which we live. They saw every phenomenon in the world around us – cold, heat, dampness, dryness and wind – reflected within us. These Chinese philosophers understood that the body has its own natural “intelligence” and developed a medical system to harness and support this innate wisdom and use it to revitalize and heal.
Chinese Medicine is based on a simple but beautiful principle: All life is energy, and as humans we must strive to harmonize this vast sea of energy in order to achieve health and wellness. It is concerned with how the human body interacts with all aspects of life and the environment, including the weather, time of day, our diet and emotional states. Living in harmony with one’s environment, eating with the seasons, maintaining moderation in work and play, cultivating energy and keeping our emotions balanced are just a few of the ancient Chinese tenants of optimum health that continue to ring true in our modern world. In this way, TCM represents more than just a medical system, but a way of life.
Chinese Medicine operates under the premise that our bodies seek out balance and strength intuitively, just as nature does. Consequently, health involves nurturing and cultivating the inherent intelligence of the body to do its own job. Chinese Medicine seeks to restore and maintain wellness by stimulating the body’s innate ability to heal itself and restore balance.
Four Key TCM Principles
1. Our body is an integrated whole. Each and every structure in our body is an integral and necessary part of the whole. Along with our mind, emotions, and spirit, our physical body structures form a miraculously complex, interrelated system that is powered by energy, or life force.
2. We are one with nature. Changes in nature are always reflected in our body. TCM factors in the particular season, geographical location, time of day, as well as your age, genetics, and the condition of your body when looking at your health issues.
3. We are born with a natural self-healing ability. Our body is a microcosm that reflects the macrocosm. Just as nature has a regenerative capacity, so do we. Sometimes, this ability may appear to be lost or difficult to access, but rarely is it ever completely gone.
4. Prevention is the best cure. Our body is continually revealing signs about the state of our health. But are you listening? Unfortunately, our hectic lives make it all too common to ignore these signs or symptoms until something more complicated arises. TCM teaches us how to interpret the language of our body.
Compared with the west, where “medicine” is often used as a way to mask illness, Chinese Medicine focuses on achieving health and wellbeing through the cultivation of harmony within our lives. Specifically, Chinese Medicine believes the key to health is the harmonious and balanced functioning of body, mind and spirit, which all depend on the unobstructed flow of Qi or “life energy” throughout the body along regular pathways known as meridians. When the flow of Qi is free and unimpeded, there is harmony, balance, and good health. When the circulation of Qi is weak, blocked or disrupted, pain and disease arise. This perspective is applied to everything affecting our health and wellbeing: from our diet, exercise and how we handle stress, to how we interact with our friends and family, our community and the environment. Perhaps most importantly, Chinese Medicine takes into account the wonderful complexity and diversity of each individual’s body, mind and spirit. From this perspective, health is viewed within the broader context of your life and is not isolated or apart from who you are.
Unlike the Western model of medicine that is largely disease-oriented – focusing on pathology instead of prevention – Chinese Medicine strives to keep the body healthy and in balance so that disease never has the chance to take root and develop. When pain or illness does strike, TCM focuses on relieving symptoms by addressing and eliminating the underlying root cause of the problem, not merely suppressing symptoms. Because the concept of a unified body, mind and spirit is woven into the very fabric of Chinese Medicine, practitioners strive to heal the spiritual and emotional aspect of disease in addition to the physical symptoms.
Acupuncture and herbal medicine – the two primary modalities of Chinese Medicine – help restore the body to balance and works on an energetic level to affect all aspects of a person: mind, body and spirit.
Acupuncture is grounded in the belief that the mind, spirit and body are a single, energetic system. Several thousand years ago, Chinese medical sages postulated that the body’s electromagnetic energy circulates in clearly defined pathways called channels or meridians. They created a map of points along these channels that influence the subtle energy throughout the body. Acupuncture techniques seek to move, strengthen, balance or change the direction of energy flow within the body to influence various organs, tissues and vital substances. Influencing the flow of Qi, acupuncture can help to increase circulation, decrease inflammation and pain, improve mood and reduce stress, enhance digestion, regulate hormones and sleep, and boost immunity. Thus, the body’s improved energy flow and biochemical balance encourages the body’s natural healing ability as well as promotes physical and emotional well-being.
The practice of herbal medicine dates back centuries, providing an unbroken lineage of medicinal knowledge and wisdom. Chinese herbal medicine is based on many of the same principles as acupuncture as it aims to treat disharmonies or imbalances within the body, as well as restore the proper flow of Qi along the channels. Each herb represents the unique chemistry of the plant, animal and mineral kingdom from which they come, and are part of the same fabric of life we all live, breathe and move. When we ingest these substances, they “speak” to our cells in a common language – a communication between the elements of nature within the herb and the elements of nature within our cells. Rather than producing a forceful command or shift in the body the way some drugs do, herbal medicine works by suggesting or encouraging the body, gently moving us into a different, better state of being. The end result is that the body is making most of the changes it needs on its own, generating effects that tend to be more lasting.
The ultimate goal of Chinese Medicine is to stimulate the innate healing power of the body and treat the underlying, root cause of disease. Symptoms of disease are seen as warning signals of improper functioning within the body and unfavorable lifestyle habits. Chinese Medicine emphasizes disease as a process rather than as an inevitable conclusion.
Chinese Medicine has the power to unlock your true potential and help you develop and use your own unique gifts and talents. Its insightful wisdom and ability to understand and address individual health needs empowers each person with a way to unite body, mind, and spirit — the foundation for lasting, authentic health. More than that, TCM helps show you how to live a life of balance, wellness, and harmony. It’s a timeless bridge that can initiate and support change and growth in any and every life dimension: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual.