Tradtional Chinese Medicine – an introduction and overview

Traditional Chinese Medicine has a very long history. The first written account goes way back to 2,000 years ago, appearing on the Shang dynasty’s preferred method of recording for posterity – oracle bones or inscriptions on tortoise shells.

Much of all that is ancient in China is attributed to an ancestor-god, and TCM is no exception. The Yellow Emperor’s classic of Internal Medicine (黄帝内经huangdineijingis till used as a teaching text for TCM students in China and the West today. It is the first comprehensive account of Chinese Traditional Medical theory stemming from around 1000 BC.

Ted Kaptchuk ‘s classic text The Web Which has No Weaver is the first, and still the best introduction in English to Chinese Medicine principles. For those interested in learning more, Kaptuchuk’s book is highly recommended.


 Kaptchuk is now a Professor of Medicine at the Harvard Medical School. His website lists 238 publications, with The Web as number 238 – his first publication.

TCM theory is an incredibly complex discipline which, like other medical forms, specialises into health areas. Blue Poppy Press is a TCM supplier of books and medical equipment, and has a comprehensive list of general and specialist books in the field.

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Most everyone has heard of yin and yang. This theory, stemming from Daoism, has influenced many traditional Chinese s, including the Yi Jing, feng shui, and Chinese medical theory.

In TCM, there are meridians corresponding to all of the internal organs and then some. A good overview of the meridians can be found here


Western practioners refer to the acupuncture points by the name of the meridian and a number – eg Kidney 1, or Stomach 36, however in China, all the points have a name, and the names have meanings. Kidney 1, found in the middle of the palm of the foot, is called 源泉 yongquan or Gushing Spring. It is used as a calming point, but also activates 元气 yuan qi, or the original qi we are born with, known as pre-heaven, or pre-natal qi.

More on yuanquan and how to use it to massage can be found here.

Western scientists like to measure, test, and “prove” things which they do not understand. They are fond to say that TCM “is not based on scientific knowledge.” What is scientific knowledge if not research, experimentation, comparing results, making analysis? TCM has been doing this for at least 2 millenium. The system of logic used by TCM is so radically different from Western logic, however, that it seems incomprehensible and mysterious at first instance. It is however, a complex and consistent system of logic – just different from allopathic systems.

Allopaths like to ‘explain’ how ‘acupuncture works’ from their own logical systems, and there have been numerous scientific studies and theories pronounced as to ‘why’ it works. Electrical currents inside the body is one answer they have come up with.

A comprehensive overview of the research, from an allopathic point of view, can be found here

This site ( found by clicking on ‘here’ above) includes research from Yale University, ground breaking Korean research, Curtin University and research into American air force personel.

Here’s one study on the positive effects of TCM in treating diabetics.


img20160817074515Tradtional Chinese Medicine is a very popular form of treatment in China – simply because it works. In any Chinese city, you will find a TCM hospital like this one in Suzhou. They are very busy places and the treatment modalities are sometimes different from what you would find in a western acupuncture clinic. This is mainly due to the fact that it is a HOSPITAL – and not a clinic – and also due to the large population in China.

Stay tuned for more posts about TCM!