Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is no longer alien to people outside China, with acupuncture and massage now seen as sound alternatives to chemical treatment. Increasingly many westerners have come to believe in the alternative treatments that Chinese medicine provides.
But it has taken more than a century for people in the West to get to grips with TCM and overcome their misconceptions.
For visitors wanting to see or try out for themselves some of the traditional Chinese treatments, China offers many organized schools and training centers. Some of the major learning facilities for traditional medicine are the Beijing College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Shanghai College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Nanjing College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the Acupuncture Institute.
While the earliest Traditional Chinese Medicine makes use of many unusual items such as tiger bones and bat’s dung, it is in modern times the practice of acupuncture, acupressure
What to expect
A TCM practitioner will ask you questions about your emotional and mental life as well as your physical symptoms. Knowing whether you are indecisive or have an explosive temper may help determine what type of gallbladder trouble you’re having, for example. He or she may also take your pulse several times, once for each internal organ, and check the color and texture of your tongue, and then craft a customized treatment designed to enhance your overall health, rather than zeroing in on an infection or injury.
In most cases, the practitioner will use acupuncture to stimulate certain points along your meridians in order to bring your qi back into balance. But he might also apply small mounds of burning herbs (a technique called moxibustion) or suction cups (cupping), or use deep tissue massage. Then he may prescribe a combination of herbs and other ingredients designed to correct whatever imbalances he thinks are causing your troubles. Typically, you’ll brew these herbs into a strong-tasting tea, or they may come in pill or extract form.
In acupuncture long needles are driven into the body, either manually or with a mallet. The number of needles, sites used, duration and depth of penetration, as well as the direction in which the needle was rotated, all depended on the nature and severity of the illness.