Treatments & Therapies

Traditional Chinese medicine – treatment, effects and risks

Traditional Chinese medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine (abbreviated: TCM ) is one of the oldest medicines in the world. It originated more than 2000 years ago in East Asia. According to grave finds and traditions, there were first traces – in the form of fish bones as acupuncture needles – as early as 5000 years ago.

The roots of Chinese herbal medicine are said to go back to the Stone Age. Traditional Chinese medicine is now practiced in various forms around the world and some of its therapy elements, such as acupuncture, are also enjoying growing popularity in the West.

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

The teaching of traditional Chinese medicine follows a holistic approach. Complaints and diseases are not viewed in isolation, but the body and its organ systems are understood as a unit of mutually influencing energies and dynamics. The elementary life energy according to traditional Chinese medicine is the so-called Qi. This is seen as an energetic process that flows through the human body in a constant flow.

Qi can be translated as breath, energy and power, but also as air, temperament or atmosphere. It has an essential meaning in Asian culture and shapes the understanding of the world and life there. In traditional Chinese medicine, Qi is held responsible for the harmony of organic and hormonal processes, but also for mood and temperament.

The symbols yin and yang are closely related to qi. According to TCM, their principle of polarity ensures an optimally balanced state of health, while an imbalance leads to illness. The principle of yin and yang is based on the belief that our world is governed by the principle of dualism. Day and night, sun and rain are constantly alternating, polarizing states that do not work without each other. According to TCM, Yin is seen as the female-passive side that receives and is associated with the moon. Yang is the masculine active and uplifting side associated with the sun.

Function, effect & goals

Traditional Chinese medicine is now used for many diseases. Acupuncture has proven to be very effective for back pain and migraines and is now covered by some health insurance companies.

But Qigong and Tai-Chi also provide valuable relief from tension and blockages. Many digestive ailments are alleviated by Chinese medicinal therapy, especially when combined with dietetics. TCM is a valuable addition to conventional treatment methods because it strengthens the body from within and thus brings about healing.

The most common healing method is acupuncture. With the help of fine disposable needles, certain points on the body are stimulated through the skin to allow the Qi to flow again. The mechanical stimulation of these points causes the stimulation of the Qi flow and thus brings about healing.

Chinese medicinal therapy consists of administering medicinal plants , minerals and animal components. These are mixed and individually tailored to the person to be treated, e.g. B. as a tea or a medicinal decoction made from plant components such as leaves, flowers, roots, bark and stems. There are precise application instructions for the preparation and ingestion.

Taiji and Qigong are special forms of movement within TCM. Various movement sequences are combined with breathing and coordination exercises and are also intended to get the Qi flowing again, to release blockages, congestion and tension. This strengthens the organs and the nervous system and thus the life force.

Manual therapy (Tuina) works with various massage and gripping techniques, gripping, kneading and stroking, and in this way tries to release energy blockages in the body and improve blood circulation.

TCM nutrition is intended to strengthen the body preventively. TCM assumes that food has an energetic effect and can trigger certain vegetative processes. Food is divided into hot, warm, neutral, cool and cold. chilli e.g. B. is considered hot, yoghurt and other dairy products as cold or cool. Too much dairy products can cool the body too much and trigger mucous processes. The type of preparation also plays a role. Food should be enjoyed in harmony with the season and in peace.

Treatments & Therapies

In traditional Chinese medicine, the human organs are also divided into yin and yang. Every yin organ has a yang partner. Too much or too little activity in one organ has a direct impact on its partner organ. The basic principle of all traditional Chinese forms of medicine is to bring the Qi back into natural balance. TCM teaches that there are so-called functional circuits inside the body. These energy channels are also called pathways or meridians and are the focus of the treatment.

The treatment methods of traditional Chinese medicine are based on the principle of the five pillars. These consist of therapy using acupuncture, nutritional science, medicinal herb therapy, massages and various movement teachings, above all Qi Gong . The practices of the Five Pillar Principle are designed to help regain balance. The two most important procedures are acupuncture and drug therapy.

In the former, blockages in the Qi flow are released by piercing the acupuncture points located on the meridians with thin needles. Warming up those points ( moxibustion ) and massaging them ( acupressure ) has the same effect. An acupuncture session lasts about 30 minutes. The patient lies relaxed on a couch. Before the puncture, the respective points are heated and massaged. The aim is to release blockages in the Qi with as few punctures as possible and to enable the patient to relieve their symptoms.

The exact cause of the effect of acupuncture has not yet been researched, but many patient reports have been able to confirm its effect. The main areas of application of acupuncture include sleep disorders , muscle complaints, neurological diseases, disorders in the gastrointestinal area and acupuncture in pregnant women to prepare for childbirth.

In contrast to acupuncture, drug therapy is one of the inner therapy methods. In TCM, particularly natural medicines are used – 90% of which are of plant origin. The disease is usually diagnosed after a detailed discussion and a typical Chinese pulse and tongue diagnosis.

The skin tone and texture, the tone of the voice and the patient’s complete physical appearance are also included in the diagnosis. Chinese medicinal therapy works heavily with tastes. Each of the medicines used can be assigned to a flavor and each flavor has its own effect on the body. Salty things should dry, sharp things should be cranked and opened.

Chinese medicines are usually administered in the form of teas or decoctions. Meanwhile, there are also ready mixes or capsules. They are usually prescribed in a combination of up to sixteen individual drugs. The areas of application are very far-reaching, respiratory diseases , flu infections, gastrointestinal complaints , skin diseases and allergies are most commonly treated with Chinese medicines.

Diagnosis & examination methods

From a scientific point of view, many of the effects of traditional Chinese medicine have not been proven to this day, which is why it is sometimes not taken seriously as an alternative medicine in the western world. However, numerous positive patient reports were able to confirm an effect. As with conventional medicine, complaints can also occur in Chinese medicine treatment if used improperly.

Poisoning, such as contamination from untested medicines on the black market, can be avoided by purchasing controlled medicines from pharmacies. A major criticism of TCM is its use of a large number of animal components from protected and endangered species. For example, bears are kept for the production of bear bile in conditions that are mostly cruel to animals.

Tigers, snow leopards, rhinos, saiga antelopes, saw rays, sharks and various species of turtles are still being abused and killed for traditional Chinese medicine. German TCM associations are unanimously against the use of endangered animal and plant species for the manufacture of medicines.

Risks, side effects & dangers

Since TCM is a gentle, holistic healing process, there are no significant dangers or side effects to consider. If there are occasional temporary side effects, they are usually so-called initial aggravations, which indicate that something is being set in motion in the body. They usually disappear in the course of therapy. TCM as a valuable healing process, precisely because it looks at the whole person and not just treats symptoms.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.