What is traditional Chinese medicine?

 Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) represents systematized methods for medical treatment, passed on for generations since ancient times, based on holistic view of human body, in which every part is interlinked and depends not only on visible factors, which serve as clues for establishing the diagnoses in Western medicine, but also the energetic system of the organism. A practicioner of TCM believes that the wellbeing of a patient depends on the circulation of energy (qi), as well as the equilibrium of Yin and Yang. The theory about these concepts is one of the cornerstones for Chinese culture and philosophy. This is the reason why diagnostic methods receive special attention in TCM, since the essential task is to identify the reason of illness and to treat it, instead of merely eliminating the visible symptoms.

According to the theory of TCM, the causes of diseases can be assigned to 3 groups:

- weather conditions (cold, moisture, wind, heat, humid heat of summer, dryness) – external causes of diseases;

- emotions (anger, joy, fear, sorrow) – internal causes of diseases;

- miscellaneous external causesstress, insufficient excercise, inadequate nutrition, injury, etc.

The diagnostic methods in TCM include visual inspection, listening, monitoring of behavior, examination of tongue (shape, colour, and moisture), palpation, and pulse diagnostics, which provide the main information about the condition of organs and meridians of the body.

Due to such approach, the practicioner of TCM understands the underlying mechanism of disease, identifies the true causes and prescribes personalized treatment, which has a complex effect on the whole body, instead of focusing on the apparent symptoms.

The treatment itself may consist of a whole array of methods, which include the ingestion of medicinal plants, massage, acupuncture, diet, and practicing of qigong. These approaches can resolve serious, chronic medical conditions, radically improve health, and provide a basis for disease prevention.

Acupuncture (insertion of needles) is one of the most widely used treatment methods in TCM. Its mechanism of action is based on neuronal, neurohumoral, immune, and reflector responses of body to the external irritant. This method does not cause undesirable side effects and therefore acupuncture can be employed both as a baseline therapy, as well as in the role of adjuvant method for the treatment of various conditions, especially those associated with intense pain.

 Acupuncture has been used in TCM for centuries for the treatment and prevention of illness. The following definition has been provided: «Acupuncture is a method of TCM where the action of needles on certain points in the body regulates the functions of organs and meridians, improves the flow of energy and blood for the purposes of disease prevention and treatmentThe first reference to acupuncture can be found in the fundamental source of TCM "Huangdi Neijing", better known as the «The Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine», which has been attributed to the 2-3 centuries B.C. and is recognized as the main doctrine up to the present time.

This is a unique source, which includes not only information and knowledge about medicine and methods of treatment and prevention of diseases, but also contains a large amount of other unique and useful information about astronomy, philosophy, biological rhythms and other fields of knowledge that were developed in Ancient China, where the human body was perceived as an integral part of the Universe.

 The practice of acupuncture was brought to Europe in 17th century by Christian missionaries. However, it became commonplace in the Western world only in the second half of the 20th century, when the U.S. President Richard Nixon during his visit to China visited a hospital where he witnessed how acupuncture was used for anaesthesia during a surgery on thyroid gland. After his return to the USA this episode was widely publicized in mass media and raised significant interest in acupuncture, facilitating the start of scientific studies and gradual introduction of acupuncture into clinical practice.

 The scientific understanding about mechanisms of action involved in acupuncture was expanded by rapid advances and achievements in the fields of neurophysiology, biochemistry, and biophysics.

 The medical indications for the use of acupuncture are very broad and include neurological, urological, gynecological disorders, various types of dependency, mood swings, and many other conditions.

In addition to external manipulations, an important part of any medical treatment is the active participation of patient. According to a Chinese proverb: «There is no incurable disease, but some people are impossible to cure». For this reason, the majority of Chinese people practice qigong already from childhood. The excercises of qigong harmonize the body, improve the flow of qi along the meridians of body, alleviate stress from internal systems of the organism, improve the focus of attention and working capacity.

The teachings of TCM about the functions of human body provides us with an alternative view about the causes of diseases, offering avenues for their treatment and prevention. This knowledge and methods, which are already widely used in clinical practice worldwide, are now also available to us.