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lancelotarnold

What Is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

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At the 2016 Summer Olympics, you might have seen athletes with purple circles on their skin from cupping. Or maybe you know someone who swears by acupuncture for their back pain or herbal teas for colds. More and more, people use practices like these from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to not only fight disease, but also prevent it.

TCM is an ancient system of health and wellness that’s been used in China for thousands of years. Western medicine focuses mainly on treating disease. But TCM looks at your entire well-being.

Is it safe to try, and will it work? With a little background on how it’s used, you can make more informed choices to improve your health.

What’s the Idea Behind TCM?

Western medicine tends to view the body a lot like a car. It has different systems that need the right inputs and outputs. It’s very concrete and logical.

TCM, on the other hand, doesn’t focus on science and medicine. Instead, it’s based on balance, harmony, and energy. There are two central ideas behind TCM:

Qi: This is also called life energy or vital energy. The belief is that it runs throughout your body. It’s always on the move and constantly changes. TCM treatments often focus on ways to promote and maintain the flow of qi.

Yin and Yang: These are opposites that describe the qualities of qi.

Yin: hot, light, feminine, day, hollow
Yang: cold, heavy, masculine, night, solid
The belief is that everything in life has a little bit of its opposite, too, and balance is the key. For example, a drug from your doctor might heal disease. But it’s dangerous if you take too much of it.

According to TCM, these ideas play out in our bodies. When you balance the yin and yang of Qi, you feel healthy and well. If they’re out of whack, you feel sick. TCM aims to create harmony and a healthy flow of qi.


What Kind of Practices Does TCM Use?

Several. They include:

Acupuncture: very fine needles placed gently in the skin
Cupping: heated cups that create suction on your skin
Herbs: teas, powders, and capsules made mostly from plants
Meditation: a way to sit quietly and calm your mind
Moxibustion: dried herbs burned near the skin
Tai chi: exercise with slow movements and focus on the breath

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