Alternative Medicine: Traditional Chinese Medicinie (TCM)

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Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine includes a number of disciplines including herbal medicine, tai chi, acupuncture, and moxibustion. TCM is a complete system of medicine and is among the oldest still practiced systems of medicine in the world today.

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Traditional Chinese Medicine

Chinese herbal medicine is part of a larger healing system called Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which also includes acupuncture, massage dietary advice and exercise. TCM is a popular method of treatment, with nearly three million Australians visiting TCM practitioners every year.

The underlying principles of TCM are very different from traditional Western notions about health, illness and the workings of the body. Chinese herbs are prescribed to normalise imbalanced energy, or Qi (pronounced 'chee'), that runs through invisible meridians in the body. Whether or not the philosophy is believed, studies have shown Chinese herbal medicines to be successful in treating a range of disorders, ranging from skin care to serious chronic diseases and is particularly useful in areas such as gynaecological and gastrointestinal disorders.

Chinese herbs are commonly used to treat disorders such as:

Yin and Yang

The ancient Chinese proposed that every living thing is sustained by a balance of two opposing forces of energy, called Yin and Yang. Together, they make up the life essence, or Qi - a type of energy that flows through the body via invisible channels called meridians. Half of certain organs and meridians are governed by Yin and the other half by Yang. When Yin and Yang are out of balance in the body, this causes a blockage of Qi and a subsequent illness. Yin and Yang imbalances can be caused by stress, pollution, poor diet, emotional upsets or infection. For diagnostic purposes, Yin and Yang are further subdivided into interior and exterior, hot and cold, deficiency and excess.

The five elements

The TCM philosophy proposes that everything including organs of the body - is composed of the five elements: fire, earth, metal, water and wood. The herbs are similarly classified into the five tastes - sweet, salty, bitter, pungent and sour - which correspond to the five elements, for example, since the skin is a metal element Yang organ, it would be treated with a pungent herb.

Herbs

Chinese herbal medicines are mainly plant based, but some preparations include minerals or animal products. They can be packaged as powders, pastes, lotions or tablets, depending on the herb and its intended use. Different herbs have different properties and can balance particular parts of the body. Prescribing a particular herb or concoction of herbs means the practitioner's diagnosis has to take into account the state of the patient's Yin and Yang, and the elements that are governing the affected organs.

Acupuncture and Moxibustion

Acupuncture

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