Oriental medicine (traditional): Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), or Chinese medicine, is an ancient medical system that takes a deep understanding of the laws and patterns of nature and applies them to the human body. TCM encompasses many different practices and is rooted in the ancient philosophy of Taoism which dates back more than 5,000 years.
One important way that TCM differs from Western medicine is in the connectedness of the world and the human body. This view is based on the ancient Chinese perception of humans as microcosms of the larger, surrounding universe—interconnected with nature and subject to its forces. The human body is regarded as an organic entity in which the various organs, tissues, and other parts have distinct functions but are all interdependent. In this view, health and disease relate to balance of the functions.
Another distinction between TCM and western medicine is the methodology of TCM diagnosing which focuses on disturbances of qi, or vital energy. Diagnosis requires observing (especially the tongue), hearing/smelling, asking/interviewing, and touching/palpating (especially the pulse).
The classic Chinese medicine text, Nei Jing (Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor), documents key components of TCM theoretical framework: Yin-yang theory, the concept of two opposing, yet complementary, forces that shape the world and all life. A vital energy or life force called qi which regulates a person's spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health. Qi is influenced by yin and yang and circulates within the body along pathways called meridians. Health is an ongoing process of maintaining balance and harmony in the circulation of qi. The Eight Principles are used to analyze symptoms and categorize conditions: cold/heat, interior/exterior, excess/deficiency, and yin/yang. The Five Elements - fire, earth metal, water, and wood each correspond to a particular organ or tissue in the body and explain how the body works.
TCM emphasizes individualized treatment. Treatment modalities include acupuncture, herbal formulations, acupressure, qi gong, oriental massage, and tai chi. At the heart of TCM is the tenet that the root cause of illnesses, not their symptoms, must be treated.
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Last Editorial Review: 9/20/2012