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What Exactly Is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?

For centuries practitioners have used Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat everything from depression to infertility. But what is it and how does it work?

Most of us don’t visit our western medical professionals until we’re experiencing more serious signs of dis-ease and illness.

Troublesome conditions involving our mental health, such as anxiety, our digestive health or autoimmune conditions caused by inflammation send us to the doctor already in pain and distress. The typical approach is to treat the illness, often with pharmaceutical remedies – treat the symptoms, rarely the cause.

Fortunately, trends are changing as we look more and more in the direction of alternative and functional medicines, with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) coming into greater favour. Patients are eager for more proactive treatments, those that address the cause along with the symptoms to explore better, longer-term solutions to find relief.

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

And when should we consider it to treat our more prevalent and challenging, modern, 21st-century health concerns?

In practice for thousands of years, TCM hasn’t changed very much over these many centuries. At its root, it is founded on the principle that there is a vital life force that flows through every body – Qi (pronounced “chee”). It is the imbalance caused by a change in the opposing and complementary forces, yin and yang, that make up the Qi, that is responsible for illness and disease. When the yin and yang are in balance, you feel healthy –relaxed and energized.

When there is an imbalance, however, the yin and yang can have a negative impact on your health. Whether there is too much or too little Qi in one of the body’s energy pathways or meridians, or when the flow is blocked, it causes disease and illness. Promoting the natural flow of Qi is the ultimate goal of TCM treatment.

TCM treatment aims to restore and maintain this balance through a whole-body or whole-person approach – a complete medical system that is used to diagnose, treat, and prevent a variety of illnesses.

Examples of treatments used to restore balance:

  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
  • Herbal remedies
  • Movement and concentration exercises (such as tai chi)
  • Moxibustion (the burning of herbal leaves on or near the body)
  • Cupping (warmed glass jars to create suction on the skin of certain points of the body)

What conditions can TCM treat?

TCM can be used to treat a variety of conditions and ailments in a holistic way. From the very minor to more chronic and acute health issues, TCM is known to provide long-term relief.

The various symptoms that respond to treatment with TCM include:

  • chronic pain
  • common cold
  • acute sinusitis
  • bronchitis
  • bronchial asthma
  • arthritis
  • colitis
  • ulcer
  • IBS
  • constipation
  • diarrhoea
  • acute conjunctivitis
  • myopia in children
  • cataracts
  • infertility
  • sexual disfunction
  • insomnia
  • neuropathy
  • stress
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • toothache
  • gingivitis
  • headache and migraine
  • low back pain
  • osteoarthritis
  • allergies

Kootenay Columbia College of Integrative Health Sciences currently offers four diploma programs in Traditional Chinese Medicine and an introductory distance learning course.

Are you interested in becoming a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine? FIND OUT MORE about our Traditional Chinese Medicine programs!