What is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a complex holistic system of medicine that is estimated to be between 3,000 and 5,000 years old.  TCM originated in China but is now available around the world in a variety of forms and techniques, helping millions of people every day with a wide variety of health conditions.   

TCM’s understanding of the body originally developed through the observation of nature and its myriad of interactions, viewing humans as a microcosm of the environment that surrounds them.  TCM’s holistic approach is based on the idea that no single part can be understood except in its relationship to the whole.  It focuses on the specific disharmony between the relationships of different systems within each individual person, but treatment addresses all aspects of the body together to gain overall balance. TCM has created a unique system to diagnose and treat a variety of symptoms and syndromes within the body.  Because of this, the TCM approach to treatment is very different to that of Western medicine.   

In TCM, the body and its systems are viewed as an integrated whole and not isolated into individual parts.  It is this relationship within the body and between the organ systems that allows for internal disharmony to be identified.  If there is disharmony between the different organ systems in the body, patterns will emerge and the different syndromes will become clear for the TCM practitioner.  Once the syndromes are identified and treated, the balance can be re-established within the body and symptoms can be relieved.   

Evaluation of a syndrome includes a variety of factors including symptoms, history, pain,  pulses, temperature, excess, deficiency, location, skin color, systems effected, discharges, nature of the illness, tongue diagnosis, etc., as well as the degree between the pathogenic factor (if there is one) and the body’s resistance to it. 

Treatment is not based solely on the symptoms, but on differentiation of patterns and syndromes. Therefore, people who present with identical symptoms may be treated in a variety of different ways depending on the pattern or syndrome.  In addition, people with different symptoms may have the same pattern or syndrome and therefore be treated in similar ways.    

TCM encompasses a wide variety of different therapies such as acupuncture, acupressure, herbal and dietary therapy, moxibustion, massage, breathing and movement exercises.


Further TCM Recommended Reading:

The Web Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine

By Ted J Kaptchuk O.M.D

Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine

By Harriet Beinfield, L.Ac. & Efrom Korngold, L.Ac., O.M.D