Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) originated in ancient China and has evolved over thousands of years. TCM practitioners use herbs, acupuncture, and other methods to treat a wide range of conditions.
Underlying the practice of TCM is a unique view of the world and the human body that is different from Western medicine concepts. 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.
The theoretical framework of TCM has a number of key components:
These concepts are documented in the Huang Di Nei Jing (Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor), the classic Chinese medicine text.
TCM emphasizes individualized treatment. Practitioners traditionally used four methods to evaluate a patient’s condition: observing (especially the tongue), hearing/smelling, asking/interviewing, and touching/palpating (especially the pulse).
TCM practitioners use a variety of therapies in an effort to promote health and treat disease. The most commonly used are Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture.
Other TCM therapies include moxibustion (burning moxa—a cone or stick of dried herb, usually mugwort—on or near the skin, sometimes in conjunction with acupuncture); cupping (
Traditional Chinese medicine, which encompasses many different practices, is rooted in the ancient philosophy of Taoism and dates back more than 5,000 years. Today, TCM is practiced side by side with Western medicine in many of China’s hospitals and clinics.TCM is widely used in the United States.