Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Chinese medicine is based on the concept of energy or qi, which is pronounced, “chi.” Qi flows through the body via pathways known as meridians. When its passage is blocked, illness is the result. Chinese medicine has been practiced in China for thousands of years. It has also gained popularity in Western countries as a type of complementary medicine or treatment. It may include various practices, such as tai chi, qi gong, and acupuncture. A survey done in the United States in 2007 indicated that 3.1 million adults have tried acupuncture and 2.3 million adults have practiced tai chi. Another 600,000 have practiced qi gong.

Elements of Therapy

According to Chinese medicine, a qi imbalance may be caused by external forces, such as heat, cold, or wind. It may also be caused by internal forces, such as emotions. Finally, a qi imbalance may result from lifestyle factors, including lack of sleep, lack of exercise, or a poor diet. Yin and yang is another important concept in traditional Chinese medicine, which states that the body comprises opposing forces that must be in balance in order to ensure health and prevent illness. Therapy encompasses a number of different practices, including:

  • Acupuncture, which involves placing very thin needles along the body’s identified meridians.
  • Chinese herbal medicine includes roots, powders, animal substances, and herbs that are believed to restore balance and energy within the body.
  • Moxibustion involves burning a plant herb over a specific area of the body or acupuncture point in order to heat the skin.
  • Tui na is massage therapy that works on the body’s meridians.
  • Nutrition and diet counseling, which attempts to balance intake of yin and yang foods and substances.
  • Cupping involves placing jars with warm air on the body to create a suction effect and stimulate qi.
  • Acupressure is the use of hands or fingers to stimulate energy along the body’s meridians.
  • Qi gong and tai chi include movement practices that combine postures, breath, and mental focus.

Chinese herbalist with medicinal herbs


Chinese medicine may be used to treat a wide variety of illnesses, including infertility, back pain, arthritis, headaches, allergies, and even asthma. The type of treatment usually varies according to the individual and the illness. Scientific evidence on the effectiveness of Chinese medicine in treating specific ailments is lacking or inconclusive.


It is difficult to study and regulate traditional Chinese medicine because it varies significantly in its approach from scientific or Western medicine. There are schools in Chinese medicine that are accredited in the United States. Practitioners certified by accredited schools can be trusted to provide safe therapies. In general, acupuncture is the most widely-studied and regulated practice within Chinese medicine. Research has shown promising effectiveness in using acupuncture to treat side effects of chemotherapy, post-surgery pain, and symptoms of pregnancy.

Chinese herbalist and patient


Traditional Chinese medicine is an excellent form of complementary therapy to conventional medicine. While it may not be medically safe to forgo conventional treatment and rely totally on Chinese medicine for some illnesses, it is usually best to combine both forms of treatment. Of course, it’s important to inform your doctor if you are thinking about trying a complementary form of therapy.