Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to the 2,000 year old medical practices in China. There are four major branches–acupuncture, herbology, bodywork, and health promoting exercises. Chinese Medicine started its journey in India and arrived with Buddhism and Daoism—China’s own philosophy of harmony and balance. Based on climactic factors, dietary habits, and lifestyle, Chinese Medicine is one of few theory-based traditional medical systems that has documented its practices and remains in use today.
The most widely known of the four major branches of Chinese medicine in the West is acupuncture. Originally, sensitive spots on the body were pressed on, and physical or psychological responses were noticed and mapped. That map later became the acupuncture points where needle insertions are applied, to improve physical and mental well being. This knowledge was blended with the theoretical system of returning the body to the natural state of balance and health. Acupuncture became a valuable treatment choice and is the best known alternative treatment method in the West.
Within China itself, herbal knowledge has long been the most dominant branch of Chinese medicine. Using both regional herbs and those from other Asian continents, its theories and uses are recorded in countless Chinese Medical publications. The choice of herbs is informed by taking a pulse reading directing the practitioner to the patient’s Chinese pattern which determines the herbs chosen for their prescription. The focus of each treatment is holistic: it takes into account the strength and nature of a pathogen; the age and sex of a patient; the constitutional weakness or robustness of a patient.
Of the four branches of Chinese medicine, bodywork is the oldest and perhaps the most familiar. Even in the home where a parent rubs a child’s belly because of a stomachache or pats the back of a friend who is coughing there is proof of an instinctive reaction to heal. Enriched with Chinese Medical Theory and combined with empirical knowledge, forms of simple body- work have developed throughout the world.