What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Chinese medicine is 80 percent lifestyle, 10 percent acupuncture, 10 percent herbal medicine.

says Dr. Georg Weidinger from Vienna, who is not only a medical practitioner but also a TCM doctor and has written numerous books on the subject of TCM. The essence of his statement is: The way we live our lives has a great influence on our health – in China and way beyond.

Health is holistic

Traditional Chinese Medicine – TCM for short – covers a wide range of holistic medical practices from East Asia and China. The  origins of TCM can be dated back more than 2,000 years, that much is certain. Their methodologies are as relevant today as they were back then.

Everything is connected to everything: Traditional Chinese Medicine provides practitioners and patients alike with a holistic view by looking at body, mind and soul as one. All parts of our system are connected through energy lines. The Chinese call these energy lines “meridians”. In the holistic medicine of India – Ayurveda – these energy lines are called “Nadis”. According to the Western view, the meridians can be equated with the fasciae, nerve pathways, the lymphatic system and also the blood pathways, which run through our entire body and have a variety of tasks and effects on our lives.

Health is individual

If a person is ill, the entire person – and not just an affected part of the body – is examined and treated. In this way, Traditional Chinese Medicine differs from many classical medical practices. “Illnes” according to TCM means that something in our system is out of order. The forces of yin and yang are not in balance and there is disharmony between the 5 elements.

In addition to the physical condition, TCM considers a variety of other factors in a treatment. Among other things, the emotional and mental state of a patient, his diet, personal lifestyle and environment are examined. Therefore, there is no medicine in TCM that has one and the same effect for everyone.

The appropriate treatment is created on the basis of the individual constitution of each person. Health is therefore as diverse as we humans are.

Health means taking responsibility

Depending on the point of view, TCM usually comprises four or five therapeutic areas which are intertwined and applied in different settings. These are acupuncture, treatment with medicinal herbs, movement/massage and nutrition.

Therapies with acupuncture and medicinal herbs are the responsibility of trained specialists. All other areas relate to what Dr. Weidinger understands by “80 percent lifestyle”. We are invited to take responsibility and actively shape our health.

Let’s take a closer look at the various areas of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Healing needles: acupuncture

When the glacier man “Ötzi” crossed the Alps more than 5,000 years ago, he could not have known that the discovery of his body in the ice in 1991 would trigger several scientific sensations. What he possibly knew though were complex natural medicine methods.
In Ötzi’s skin, scientists found various dot, cross and line shapes carved as tattoos that could not be explained for a long time. Today it is known that these coincide with classical acupuncture points and that they are in line with the diseases from which Ötzi suffered during his lifetime. A starting point of today’s research is therefore that complex natural medicine knowledge was available in the Neolithic Age.

Today, acupuncture is the best known area of TCM and the healing needles are acknowledged as a complementary and alternative treatment method. An acupuncture treatment is carried out by specially trained therapists.

What our ancestors already knew: medicinal herbs

The knowledge of the healing power of various herbs was deeply rooted in ancient cultures. Our grandmothers knew which plants to use for specific aches and pains. Plants and animal products have always been (and keep being) used to alleviate and heal human suffering.

Today, the healing effects of herbs and other plants celebrate a great rediscovery. The application of medicinal herbs in TCM is reserved for TCM doctors who have special additional training in this field of expertise. It is , however, of course possible to take a course on regional medicinal herbs or asking old and wise familiy members for advice on that. 🙂

In addition to knowing about TCM medicinal herbs and acupuncture, there are many aspects that we can take care of ourselves. Let’s take a look at them now.

Mindfulness in motion: TCM movement practices

To remain agile throughout all ages and areas of life, our body needs movement. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qi Gong and Tuina are the practices taking care of our physical boday. Similar to yoga, pilates, Feldenkrais or physiotherapy, Qi Gong includes various physical exercises being practiced with mindfulness. These physical exercises are different from sports in as such that they are practiced without competition or the aim of a peak performance. Instead, practitioners are invited to observe what is good for their bodies and what is not.

However, you do not necessarily need to practice yoga or Qi Gong to establish a mindful movement routine. Running in nature just for the sake of running without feeling the need to achieve a certain result or a leisurely hike often do the trick as well and keep the head clear. By the way: To keep working the mind as well, practices such as Qi Gong and yoga include various meditation and breathing exercises. They act as a “gym” for the head and provide a mental workout.

Tuina starts where we come up against the limits of our own range of motion. It is the form of classical Chinese massage. In this process, a therapist helps us to mobilize body parts on a deeper level. Tuina includes not only massage techniques, but also stretching, reflexology, acupressure and chiropractic.

You are what you eat: nutrition

Food is the lubrication oil of our body. It helps keep “the engine running” and keeps us healthy and fit from the inside out. The quality of our “lubricating oil” plays an important role in this process. According to TCM, nutrition is as individual and diverse as there are humans on this planet.

Food that is beneficial for one person may be not as good or even damaging for another individual. For nutrition according to TCM there are various guidelines, but only one certain fact: There is no one-size-fits-all recipe that  is healthy for everyone.

East meets West: TCM and Western medicine

Exercise, healthy food or meditation: It is proven today that these routines and other practices have a positive effect on our physical and mental health. Traditional Chinese Medicine is one of the so-called alternative healing methods which may complement our Western medicine.

Since the last century, classical medicine has saved countless lives by not only discovering and curing various diseases, but also preventing them. Remarkable scientific progress has literally (almost) eliminated countless diseases – such as polio or smallpox – often with the help of a single injection. The outstanding success of classical medicine is indisputable and it supports us in further improving the quality of life of mankind.

However, there are also diseases that cannot be cured with a single type of treatment, injection or surgery. These include, for example depression, cancer, heart or autoimmune diseases. Today, these are thought to be triggered by a combination of physical, genetic, environmental and social factors. This makes it extremely difficult to find a general treatment method that can be applied to all people. Due to the enormous complexity, Western science nowadays starts looking towards the East. Step by step, the door is opening up to include alternative healing methods into the treatment of various diseases.

Health is (also) in our hands

Many therapeutic holistic approaches – such as TCM, Ayurveda, yoga or naturopathic practices – have gained increasing recognition in recent years and are now combined with classic treatment methods. They help us take on more personal responsibility for our health and our lives.

In many ways, the key to this lies in how we lead our lives. To put it in Dr. Weidinger’s words:

And lifestyle means the way we live every day, how we get up in the morning, what we eat, how we move, how we deal with our work, with our fellow human beings, with our partners, with our children, our animals, what we believe in, what we are afraid of, our attitude to illness and death and how we go to sleep in the evening. About all this (…) I would like to tell (…) and give you many suggestions for a more mindful, happier, healthier and perhaps longer life.

This is what I would like to inspire you with my work, thoughts and ideas, too. Do you want to stay up to date about my information, news and offers? Then I would be happy if you subscribe to my newsletter.

Much love & metta, Helene

 >>> Back to blog overview