Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) - What is it?

TCM compared to Western medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine is a complex medical system developed over thousands of years. Some medical classics, like the Huang Di Nei Jing, “The Medical Classic of the Yellow Emperor”are 2000 years old. Yet, even today, no student of TCM can avoid knowing about this text. Comparing TCM with Western medicine reveals considerable differences.
For example, too often Western medicine is crisis-driven and deficit oriented, while in TCM, the ideal physiological state, or functioning of the body is is the harmonic interaction of physical and mental processes. Together they can provide the balance necessary for living well.

The Origin of Disease

An important difference between the TCM and Western point of view is how each explains the origin of disease. Besides traumatic injuries and the consequences of an improper diet, there are actually only two others, exogenous pathogenic factors and emotional factors.

Exogenous pathogenic factors are climatic, like cold, dampness or wind. Following Chinese conception, these factors can directly penetrate our body surface and cause disease. To the Chinese, one can literally “catch a cold”. In Western terms, acute pain syndromes or acute infections caused by viruses or bacteria might fall into that category.

Emotional factors include anger, worry, melancholy, grief and fear. They also include circumstances related to modern lifestyle, such as overwork and stress. Emotions are part of everybody’s life. However, in those cases where the emotional circumstances are too strong or last too long, the Chinese medical system holds that they can cause physiological disturbance resulting in physical or psychological symptoms. The relationship between certain emotions and the five elements that are mainly affected by them is clearly described.

The Goal of Treatment

It is a principle of TCM, that the Ben as well as the Biao must be treated. Biao means twig and stands for the symptoms - like headache, dizziness or fatigue. Ben means the root. It is essential that the underlying (root) cause of any disease be evaluated. The ultimate goal of the therapy is to achieve a sustainable result, not only the short-term relief of the symptoms.