Most Americans have heard of acupuncture, one of the most popular forms of alternative healthcare in the United States.
What many don’t know is that acupuncture is part of a healing system that’s at least 2,300 years old. In the US, that system is referred to as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
How Does Traditional Chinese Medicine Work?
Like acupuncture, all Chinese medicine practices focus on balancing energy flows to help someone maintain (or regain) health.
How Does Traditional Chinese Medicine View the Body?
While Western medicine sees the body organized into cells, tissues, organs and systems, TCM sees it in terms of energy flows organized into sets of paired opposites, most notablyyin(cold, inward, passive) andyang(hot, outward, active).
This elemental energy is calledqi(orchi), which circulates along defined channels calledmeridiansthrough “organs” that carry familiar names—liver, kidney, heart—but which refer to specific functions rather than physical collections of tissue.
Imbalances in this energy can lead to symptoms and disorders.
For example, a TCM practitioner may diagnose someone with “heart blood deficiency”; one possible standard diagnosis may be anemia (which in Western medicine has nothing to do with the heart). Or what we would call a hot flash could be described as an “exuberance of yang” that shows up as heat.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Acupuncturists use extremely fine needles inserted at specific locations along the meridians. The needles are so slender that they may not be felt at all, or there may be a slight pinching sensation.
These needles are used to counter disruptions in qi, which are thought to cause imbalances that can lead to disease. In Western terms, researchers have found that needle placement affects the central nervous system, leading to the release of neurotransmitters linked to pain relief.
What Else Does Chinese Medicine Use Besides Acupuncture?
TCM practitioners will often recommend lifestyle changes, such as adjustments in dietary and exercise habits (including recommendations that clients take up Chinese exercises such as tai chi and qigong). They may also employtui na, a technique that combines massage and manual manipulations; like acupuncture, tui na is thought to remove blockages that impede the free flow of qi.
In addition, TCM uses an extensive array of herbs. Some Chinese herbs commonly used in the US include:
- Astragalus: known as “yellow leader” for both its color and its importance in TCM; used to support the immune system as well as the heart and liver*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
- Ginkgo: the trees can live for thousands of years; used to promote optimal circulation within the brain*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
- Ginseng: also known as “Korean ginseng” and one of TCM’s best-known herbs; used to promote healthy vitality and stamina*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
- Green tea: one of the world’s favorite beverages; used to promote cellular and metabolic health*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
- Licorice: most “licorice” candy contains none of the actual herb; DGL form used to support healthy digestion*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
If you have a pre-existing condition—and especially if you are already taking prescribed medication—you should always work with a qualified professional to create an herbal supplementation program that best meets your specific needs. You should also coordinate care with any other practitioners, including standard MDs, you may be seeing.
Does Chinese Medicine Work with Western Medicine?
Yes—they are used together in China at every level of their healthcare system. What’s more, many medical institutions in this country are integrating aspects of TCM into the services they offer.
How Do I Find a Chinese Medicine Practitioner?
Licensed acupuncturists are the most numerous TCM practitioners in the US, but there are those who hold licenses in other aspects of Chinese medicine.
How Do I Find an Acupuncturist?
Most states require that acupuncturists be licensed, which involves following an approved course of study and then sitting for an exam (exact requirements differ from state to state). Gaining licensure allows someone to use LAc after their name; passing additional exams allows the practitioner to use the Dipl AC designation.
The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), the only organization that administers licensure exams on a national level, offers a find-a-practitionerdirectory.
How Do I Find Other Types of TCM Practitioners?
Some practitioners choose to specialize in Chinese herbology; passing the appropriate exam allows them to use the Dipl CH designation. The most comprehensive level of certification, the Diplomate of Oriental Medicine (Dipl OM), allows the holder to practice both acupuncture and Chinese herbology.
These exams are also offered by NCCAOM, and you can use the same directory to find holders of Dipl CH and Dipl OM certificates.
The information in this blog is provided for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for consultation with a doctor or qualified healthcare professional. Consultation with a doctor or qualified healthcare practitioner is strongly advised, before starting any regimen of supplementation, a change in diet or any exercise routine. Individuals who engage in supplementation to promote health, address conditions or support any structure or function of the body assume all risks. Women who are pregnant, especially, should seek the advice of a medical doctor before taking any dietary supplement and before starting any change in diet or lifestyle. Descriptions of herbs, vitamins, nutrients or any ingredients are not recommendations to take our products or those of any other company. We are not doctors or primary-source science researchers. Instead, we defer to the findings of scientific experts who conduct studies, as well as those who compile and publish scientific literature on the potential health benefits of nutrients, herbs, spices, vitamins or minerals. We cannot guarantee that any individual will experience any of the health benefits associated with the nutrients described. Natural Organics will not be held liable for any injuries, damages, hinderances or negative effects resulting from any reliance on the information presented, nor will Natural Organics be held accountable for any inaccuracy, miscalculation or error in the scientific literature upon which the information provided is based.
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.