Traditional Chinese Medicine 101
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) may be very old, but it’s now making an entrance into the western world and being integrated into hospitals and treatment plans.
What is Traditional Chinese medicine?
TCM is an umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of health and wellness care to ultimately improve the quality of life including:
- Chinese herbal medicine
- Remedial massage or ‘tuina’
- Exercise and breathing therapy (like Tai Chi and Qigong)
- Diet and lifestyle advice
Most people don’t realise that it is a) the foundation of a lot of modern medicine we know today, and; b) is practiced all over the world by men and women who are not necessarily Chinese (like myself, a fair haired, female Caucasian in her late 20s from Adelaide, South Australia). Blowing all stereotypes out of the water, I know.
Traditional Chinese medicine – History and Origins
TCM has a long and rich history, being one of the oldest forms of medicine with only Ancient Egyptian and Babylonian medicine predating it. It has its roots in basic Yin and Yang theory (mutually opposite yet inter-dependent) with the 5 elements coming into play, whereby nature and the environment influence us greatly. We are strongly connected to the earth, thus to have optimal health we need to live in accordance with the environment, the seasons and one another.
The fundamentals of Chinese Medicine are to restore balance by maintaining harmony and order to the individual. It takes a holistic approach to promote health, well-being and longevity while aiming to prevent disease. Each treatment includes a detailed health assessment, observation, diagnosis and treatment plan for every individual; it is a very whole and comprehensive system of health care. As practitioners, we work together with our patients and their vital energy (Qi, pronounced ‘Chee’). This Qi runs throughout our body along channels or meridians but when there is disharmony, say a blockage or a deficiency, disease occurs. We diagnose the aetiology and pathogenesis of the disease and use acupuncture and herbal medicine to help to restore health and kick-start the body’s own ability to heal itself.
What can TCM can help to treat?
Traditional Chinese Medicine benefits come in the many heath issues, conditions and diseases that it can help to treat including:
- Skin conditions
- Colds and flus
- Musculoskeletal conditions
- Digestive disorders
- Fluid retention
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Weight loss
- Irregular periods
- Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
The area in which TCM is gaining most ground and recognition in the medical-science world is its application for treating Women’s Health, which happens to be my absolute passion and field of interest. TCM can address all sorts of female imbalances such as irregular periods, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis, PMT, menopause, natural fertility, pregnancy and IVF support (listen to this Women’s Health podcast I did with Carly where we cover many of these topics). In particular, Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) support to improve pregnancy rates has had a lot of research done on it in the past decade, including clinical trials. I was lucky enough to be involved in one such trial, ‘Acupuncture to improve live birth rates for women undergoing IVF study’ in Australia and New Zealand, conducted by The University of Western Sydney. As practitioners, we supported women through the crucial stages of IVF, specifically before and after their embryo transfer to improve implantation and contribute to greater IVF success as well as birth rates. It helps women feel supported, calm and relaxed in such a difficult and emotional time.
How does it work?
From a clinical, scientific and viewpoint, the acupuncture helps to increase blood flow and circulation to the uterus as well as release feel good hormones from the brain to benefit the mother, her eggs and the process overall. It is because of these biological processes and positive bodily effects that it can also help to treat PCOS, a common endocrine and metabolic disorder.
Through diet and lifestyle advice, regular acupuncture treatments and herbal medicine, we are able to effectively manage PCOS. Hormonal imbalances can regulate, moods level out, symptoms (such as weight gain, hair growth and acne) subside and cysts can even reduce is size and numbers. This gives hope to the 1 in 5 women of reproductive age effected by PCOS, what I often refer to as being a first world health epidemic. The numbers are steadily growing because of diet, stress, synthetic hormones (The Pill) and medications which all contribute to poor gut health, the centre of our wellbeing.
To get great results, it’s not all about treatment but also about patient care and education. By teaching women to relax and read their body, learn about their menstrual cycles and monitor ovulation, they can take back their health and get their body back on track, as well as increase chances of natural fertility. New scientific research has shown that when using Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM) pregnancy rates increase by 2-fold than with Western medical fertility drug therapy alone. It has also been found to improve ovulation, cervical mucus, basal body temperatures (BBT) and endometrial lining quality and thickness. The trials carried out were on women with PCOS, endometriosis, anovulation no ovulation), fallopian tube blockages and unexplained infertility making it a suitable treatment for all sorts of women’s health issues. Acupuncture combined with the right herbal formula can settle hormonal imbalances that will reduce the literally irritating symptoms of Pre-Menstrual Tension (PMT) as well as helping reduce period pain, regulating cycles and promoting ovulation. So whether you’re trying to conceive, or if you just want to feel normal like every woman should, a natural approach to healing can be the key to your health and happiness.
As a modern practitioner of an ancient medicine, I recognise the strengths in fusing Eastern medicine wisdom with up-to-date Western research to achieve the best results for my patients. Chinese medicine is a gentle yet effective approach to becoming more balanced and improving quality of life. Because at the end of the day, life should be as stress and pain free as possible. We all deserve to live this way, to do more than just exist.
To start exploring alternative solutions to support your wellbeing, I invite you to join the CDK tribe to receive your copy of the Natural Remedies eBook. It’s an A-Z guide of natural remedies, from holistic health experts including me. Have a read through and let me know what you think :).
P.S. Who do you know that may also find the history of Chinese medicine (and how it can help us modern women) as fascinating as you and I? Share this article with them now. They’ll thank you for it later!