Traditional Chinese Medicine, also known as TCM, is a group of medical procedures that originated in ancient China thousands of years ago. Rooted in the Taoism philosophy, TCM has evolved over the last 2,500 years.

There are many different health systems that have been influenced by Traditional Chinese Medicine but also have their own spin. People who embrace TCM traditionally use it as a preventative measure, but plenty of people also use it to treat current ailments as well.

TCM is versatile, involving many different practices, and is primarily used along with other health procedures. In the United States, the number of people who have sought out Traditional Chinese Medicine has more than tripled in the last decade. In this article, you will learn more about what TCM is, the concepts it follows, the four key principles of TCM, the different types, and the benefits.

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

TCM is a type of healthcare that is holistic and natural. It is considered holistic because of how it is designed to stimulate your body’s own ability to heal itself, and because TCM involves all aspects of your life, instead of just the negative signs and symptoms you are experiencing. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners are taught to view bodies as an interconnected and complex network.

Three of the most significant ways TCM treatments work to correct body imbalances are:

  • Looking at the patient’s environment and external factors.
  • Many times, people’s stress comes from not understanding how to manage their internal emotions in a healthy way. TCM practitioners help patients manage their stress by teaching them how to manage their feelings in a healthy way.
  • Changing lifestyle factors, especially if they are not eating a healing diet or are not exercising regularly.

During TCM treatments, the organs that are focused on actively include the heart, kidneys, spleen, lungs, liver, gallbladder, and the small and large intestines. There are many health issues that are addressed by TCM treatment; however, here is a list of some of the most common:

  • Arthritis,
  • Chronic pain,
  • Infertility,
  • Chronic or unexplained fatigue,
  • Liver disease,
  • Headaches,
  • Hormonal imbalances, PMS, and menopause symptoms,
  • Digestive issues,
  • High blood pressure, and
  • Chemotherapy or cancer recovery.

Traditional Chinese Medicine helps people unlock their potential. It is full of insightful wisdom and has an innate ability to address the unique needs of each person. Everyone has different talents and gifts, and TCM helps people discover their truth and use it to unite their mind, body, and spirit for long-lasting health. TCM practitioners desire to help people learn how to live their lives in balance, harmony, and wellness.

As one of the oldest healing systems in the world, TCM has been practiced continuously for thousands of years. No matter what health issue you are suffering from, and no matter when you need help, Traditional Chinese Medicine can help heal anyone because it is derived from natural law, which is unchanging.

It was first discovered after observations of how everything is integrated and functioning at deep and invisible levels. TCM principles, theory’s, and healing practices are a reflection of the relationships that already exist in natural law.

Concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine continues to grow and evolves to fit the needs of people; however, TCM stays rooted in the ancient beliefs that first formed it. Here are some of the ancient concepts:

  • The human body is a smaller version of the greater universe.
  • Yin and Yang – there is harmony in the opposite, yet complementary, forces. The concept of yin and yang believes disease is the result of an imbalance between the opposing forces.
  • The five elements: fire, earth, metal, wood, and water are symbolic of the stages of life. The elements are said to explain how the body functions and transforms during disease.
  • Qi (pronounced chee) is the energy that flows through the body and helps to maintain health and wellbeing.

The ancient beliefs that influence TCM have also dictated the four key TCM principles.

The Four Key TCM Principles

Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on four main principles. Here is more about each principle.

Your Body is Part of an Integrated Whole

Your body is made up of multiple structures that are integral and a necessary part of the whole. Your mind, spirit, emotions, and physical body are all different structures that are joined together to form a complex and interrelated system that receives its power from energy and life force.

You Are Wholly Connected to Nature

Your body is connected to nature which means the changes you see in nature are also reflected in your body. Traditional Chinese Medicine considers seasons, time of day, and geographical locations along with genetics, age, and body condition when finding what is causing your health concerns.

You Have a Natural Self-Healing Ability

Everyone is born with the ability to self-heal, just as nature regenerates. While it is never gone, most people don’t realize their skills and misplace their abilities because of life.

Prevention is Best

It is common for people to ignore the signs and symptoms that something is not aligned with their body. They have a tendency to ignore minor ailments until they are faced with a complicated and more serious health concern. Your body is continually trying to communicate with you about the state of your health and TCM helps people learn how to interpret what their body is sharing with them.  

Types of Traditional Chinese Medicine

From Chinese medicine cupping to oriental herbs, there are many different types of traditional medicine. Here are 7 of the most common techniques:


Acupuncture is a process where sharp, thin needles are inserted into your body to stimulate specific acupoints. Acupuncture believes that many diseases are caused because of disruptions to the energy flow in the body. It is used to treat a variety of ailments like anxiety, arthritic pain, migraines, toothaches, insomnia, liver problems, digestive issues, and skin conditions.

Chinese Herbology

Chinese herbology is the process of using natural plants or minerals to help balance your energy. Chinese healing herbs correct yin and yang when they are over or under-active. The herbs help with digestive issues, stress, liver disorders, cardiovascular conditions, allergies, skin conditions, fatigue, and gynecological disorders.

Chinese healing herbs are as potent as drugs and have to be used and treated with caution. However, when prescribed by a trained practitioner, they are safe.

Chinese Massage

Similar to acupuncture, Chinese massage focuses on the meridian system and the specific points where energy (qi) collects and can be manipulated. The masseuse uses thumb pressure and different kneading techniques to re-focus the flow of qi in the body. Having smooth flowing qi not only helps physical ailments but also promotes mental health. Chinese massage is good for overall health and wellness, joint and muscle problems, and internal disorders.  

Dietary Therapy

Dietary therapy is a detailed look at the patient’s personal imbalances as well as the environmental factors like geographical location and the season. The practitioner uses those factors to help prescribe food that will supply the deficient elements while countering excesses as well. Dietary therapy is usually used along with other TCM practices.

Chinese Therapeutic Exercise

Exercise is essential for overall health, and well-being and the Chinese believe having an active life is essential to being healthy. Their belief in balance encourages finding the right balance between rest and activity. Chinese medicine believes exercise is vital for many different chronic diseases like multiple sclerosis, cancer, high blood pressure, hypertension, and more. Where herbs and acupuncture help with balance, exercise enables the body to regulate itself.

Three of the most common Chinese exercises are Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and Kung Fu.

Cupping Therapy

Cupping therapy is a method for enhancing circulation and relieving pain. A practitioner applies cups to their patient’s back in different positions to produce suction. The cups are placed on target areas of deep tissue or skin on the back, and the goal is to draw out the toxins that are affecting the body. For people who suffer from muscle knots, tightness, stiffness, swelling, or lower back pain, cupping can help.


Moxibustion is heat therapy that helps to enhance the flow of qi in the body. During moxibustion, practitioners hold a stick with burning moxa leaves close to their patient’s skin. Some practitioners align the moxa stick with specific acupuncture spots. The moxa stick is held 1 to 2 inches above the skin and held there until the skin reddens and is full of warmth.

Final Thoughts

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a mix of holistic health practices that began more than 2,000 years ago. Following the belief system that our bodies are one part of a larger whole, TCM practitioners believe bodies are capable of self-healing and sometimes just need work to unblock the flow of energy.

Speaking with a TCM practitioner is a significant first step in finding the treatment that will best heal your ailments.

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