As an important part of traditional Chinese culture, traditional Chinese medicine has a long history of more than 3,000 years. It establishes itself in the long run of Chinese glorious civilization and becomes a shining gem in the eyes of more and more people in the world.
According to archaeological research, writings on traditional Chinese medicine first appeared in the period from the 11th to the third century B.C. These writings have been playing an important part in developing world medical science. Some important medical books have produced far-reaching influence on the science. The Yellow Emperor's Canon of Internal Medicine, written by unknown medical scholars during the Warring States Period (476--221 B.C.), is regarded as the first comprehensive medical classic. Based on then scientific achievements and people's medical practice, this book gives detailed description of human anatomy, morbid anatomy, pathological physiology, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease. It lays the theoretical foundation for traditional Chinese medical theory.
Another medical book, Shen Nong's Materia of Medica, finished around the second century B.C., is the earliest extant classic on Chinese pharmacology. It is a summary of the experience of ancient Chinese in using medical substances. In this book, 365 kinds of herbs as well as some pharmacological theories are clearly listed. The effectiveness of these specific medicines has been confirmed by modem pharmacologist.
Traditional Chinese Medicine ("TCM") is an integral part of Chinese culture. It has made great contributions to the prosperity of China. Today both of TCM and western medicine are being used in providing medical and health services in China. TCM, with its unique diagnostic methods, systematic approach, abundant historical literature and materials, has attracted many attentions from the international community. TCM is well recognized for its remarkable effectiveness in off setting the side effect caused by the toxic and chemical treatment of cancer cases in the western medical system.
In China, TCM is under the administration of State Administration of TCM and Pharmacology. TCM and its development are regulated. National strategies, law and regulations governing TCM are now in place to guide and promote the research and development in this promising industry.
TCM is defined as a medical science governing the theory and practice of traditional Chinese medicine. It includes Chinese medication, pharmacology/herbalogy, acupuncture, massage and Qigong.
Now, traditional Chinese medicine still enjoys its great popularity both at home and abroad. More and more people come to know the marvelous functions of traditional Chinese medicine.
Theoretical Basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine is mainly based on the following three theories:
1. The theory of Yin and Yang
This theory holds that everything in the world consists of two basic forces, Yin and Yang that not only oppose but also complement each other. According to this theory, Yin and Yang exist between inside and outside aspects of every tissue and structure of the human body. When there is a balance between the two, there is no disease; if the balance is disturbed, illness is sure to arrive.
2. The theory of five elements
In this theory, the material world is basically made up of five elements, namely, metal, wood, water, fire, and earth. These five elements move and change constantly to promote and restrain each other. The human body is part of the physical world and the internal organs such as liver, heart, spleen, lungs and kidney correspond with the five elements in the universe. The liver, for example, is considered to have the quality of wood that can be easily lit up by fire. Thus, a man with a liver disorder can easily get angry.
3. The theory of jing and luo
This theory holds that the internal human organs are all linked by channels through which blood and 'qi'(vital energy) circulate. The main channels that run longitudinally are called 'jing' while the branches that run latitudinal are regarded as 'luo'. The blockage of blood and 'qi'in either 'jing' or 'luo' seriously affects people's health. In this case, to clear the blockage to ensure the free flow of blood and 'qi'is the fundamental step in curing diseases.
Guided by these three basic theories, doctors of traditional Chinese medicine emphasize not only local treatment but treatment of the whole body, which is aimed at readjusting its balance.
Diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine
In traditional Chinese medicine, diagnosis includes four basic methods: observing, auscultation, inquiring, and pulse palpating.
Observing is to thoroughly inspect the patient's vitality, complexion, physical condition and behavior, picture of the tongue, secretion, etc.
Auscultation is to judge pathological changes by listening to the patient's voice, moans, breathing and cough.
Pulse palpating, regarded as the most important of the four, is applied to find out the prosperity or decline of the viscera, the quality, power, rhythm of the patient's pulse. In other words, this method is to detect by touching or pressing some parts of the patient's body by hand. An excellent doctor can distinguish more than 30 types of pulse. Through pulse palpating, the doctor can correctly diagnose what the disease is.
Knowledge of anatomy and physiology is indispensable in pulse palpating. Valuable references in this field can be formed in ancient Chinese medical literature.
The first to be considered is the relation between the heart, blood, and blood vessels. The pulse, according to The Yellow Emperor's Canon of Internal Medicine, directly reflects the condition of the blood and the function of the heart. The pulse and heart are co-related. The pulse keeps pace with the heartbeat and stops with cessation of blood circulation when the heart dies.
The second consideration is the relation between breath frequency and pulse rate. A passage in The Yellow Emperor's Canon of Internal Medicine states that two pulse beats are felt when one inhales and another two follow when one exhales. Or when an average of 18 breaths are taken per minute, there are 72 pulsations.
Ancient Chinese medical practitioners were enabled by pulse palpating to know whether a disease was ''cold''or''warm''in nature and whether the patient's 'qi' was growing or declining.
Hospitals in China are classified as specialized in western medical system, TCM or both. TCM is now available to 75% of the areas in China. TCM has been very effective in the treatment of diseases such as cardio-cerebro-vascular, immunogenic, tumors, bone fracture, etc. Scientific research and clinic experiments in TCM are continuously progressing. Successes have been made in many of the areas such as in circulating paths of meridians; in Zheng-syndrome, in diagnostic indexes; in therapeutic principles, in healing emergency patients with shock, acute DIC, acute myocardial infarction and acute renal failure. For treatment of bone fracture, method is adopted based on the theory of combination of mobilization and immobilization. Non-antibacterial compound prescriptions are used successfully in treatment of bacterial infection. In treatment of cancers, Fuzheng Guben compound prescriptions, though devoid of inhibitory effects on cancer cells, could cause the shrink of the mass of cancer. TCM provides a non-surgical approach to the treatment of acute abdomen.
Acupuncture anesthesia and acupuncture analgesia has promoted the acupuncture therapy to the world. Since the founding of the World Federation of Acupuncture and Moxibustion Societies (WFAS) in 1987,Chinese specialists in acupuncture have been selected three times as the chairman of the Federation. They have made outstanding contributions to the promotion and development of acupuncture.
Traditional Chinese Material Medica (TCMM) now becomes of a new branch in TCM. In the 80's, remarkable results were achieved in the research on natural and traditional drugs. The extraction of Qinghaosu from Chinese drugs was seen as a breakthrough in research on anti-malarial remedies. Researches on Qinghaosu and treatment of urinary system with Chinese drugs have been awarded the Albert Einstein World Science Award. With the transformation of TCMM, it will open up a new path to find new drugs and new treatments. In order to ensure the quality and supply of crude drugs, more than 600 production bases and 13,000 farms have been set up. There are more than 800 pharmaceutical factories of Chinese drugs with annual production over 400,000 tons in more than 5,000 varieties.
Universities and colleges in China are providing degree and diploma courses in TCM. It takes seven years of university education to complete a Doctoral degree in TCM. Cross education in both TCM and western system are provided to medical students with major in either one of the systems. Professional training is offered at night school or through corresponding courses.
The attitude towards traditional Chinese medicine and pharmacy across the world is changing. A large number of specialists in TCM have been invited by countries in Asia, Europe, America and others to give lectures on TCM or to conduct activities in TCM therapy and scientific research. In China, among the foreign students in natural sciences, those who major in traditional Chinese medicine accounts for the highest percentage. World Health Organization has established 7 collaborating centers of traditional medicine and pharmacology. International training centers have been set up in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Nanjing and Xiame rsonnel from over the world. Colleges of traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture have been founded in France, US, Italy and Australia. An institute of TCM theoretical research has been set up in the Munich University of Germany. Cooperation in TCM has been established between China and Japan, the United State and Germany.
There are fundamental differences in TCM and the western medical system. With some understanding of Chinese culture and philosophies, it may help one to see through and start to appreciate the value of TCM.
Introduction to TCM
With a history of 2000 to 3000 years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has formed a unique system to diagnose and cure illness. The TCM approach is fundamentally different from that of Western medicine. In TCM, the understanding of the human body is based on the holistic understanding of the universe as described in Daoism, and the treatment of illness is based primarily on the diagnosis and differentiation of syndromes.
The TCM approach treats zang--fu organs as the core of the human body. Tissue and organs are connected through a network of channels and blood vessels inside human body. Qi (or Chi) acts as some kind of carrier of information that is expressed externally through jingluo system. Pathologically, a dysfunction of the zang-fu organs may be reflected on the body surface through the network, and meanwhile, diseases of body surface tissues may also affect their related zang or fu organs. Affected zang or fu organs may also influence each other through internal connections. Traditional Chinese medicine treatment starts with the analysis of the entire system, then focuses on the correction of pathological changes through readjusting the functions of the zang-fu organs.
Evaluation of a syndrome not only includes the cause, mechanism, location, and nature of the disease, but also the confrontation between the pathogenic factor and body resistance. Treatment is not based only on the symptoms, but differentiation of syndromes. Therefore, those with an identical disease may be treated in different ways, and on the other hand, different diseases may result in the same syndrome and are treated in similar ways.
The clinical diagnosis and treatment in Traditional Chinese Medicine are mainly based on the yin-yang and five elements theories. These theories apply the phenomena and laws of nature to the study of the physiological activities and pathological changes of the human body and its interrelationships. The typical TCM therapies include acupuncture, herbal medicine, and qigong exercises. With acupuncture, treatment is accomplished by stimulating certain areas of the external body. Herbal medicine acts on zang-fu organs internally, while qigong tries to restore the orderly information flow inside the network through the regulation of Qi. These therapies appear very different in approach yet they all share the same underlying sets of assumptions and insights in the nature of the human body and its place in the universe. Some scientists describe the treatment of diseases through herbal medication, acupuncture, and qigong as an "information therapy".