The history of Traditional Chinese Medicine

The history of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM as it is called, is an Eastern form of medicine, rooted in thousands of years of history and practice traditions. What once was a medicine used only in ancient China, has now made its way into becoming more mainstream, and widely used in North America and European countries. 

Currently, many of the philosophies of Chinese traditional medicine have been in daily use for more than thousands of years, and are rooted in Taoism. Taoism is a religious and philosophical belief system, which emphasizes a holistic approach and living harmoniously.

Similar traditional medicine systems also exist in other Eastern and Southern Asian countries, such as Japan and Korea. Although similarities exist between these forms of ancient medicine, there are still distinct differences that set them apart. 

TCM employs many modalities such as herbal medicine, dietary modifications, lifestyle therapy, acupuncture, moxibustion, exercise, and other physical therapies such as cupping, as methods to support an individual’s healing. Healing is often directed at supporting and optimizing one’s Qi.

Qi is the term used to describe an individual’s life force. When an individual's Qi is depleted or out of balance, this often shows up as a physical symptom, disease, or disorder. These physical symptoms can then be categorized by using specific organ and meridian system theories in Chinese medicine.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has many theories that are used to guide the practice. Some of these are listed below with brief descriptions.

1. Yin-Yang Theory- This is a very ancient theory dating back to 700 B.C. It was developed more in depth in one school developed in what is referred to as the Warring States period from 476-221 B.C. It’s application then was incorporated into the traditional Chinese medicine following this time. 
2. The Five Element Theory- The first record of the 5 element theory being referenced dates back to the “Zhou dynasty,” between the period of 1000-7700 BC. Throughout Chinese Medicine History this method has waxed and waned in terms of its popularity, but now stands as one of the pillars of Chinese Medicine. 
3. The Transformation of Qi- The theories and philosophies behind Qi, pronounced “chi,” are arguably at the core of Chinese Medicine theory. Qi has a changing and fluid nature to it. At the time it can be described as material, and at others as a force, with energetic qualities. This duality of Qi mirrors the views of Chinese medicine that emphasize the integration of mind body medicine. 

Various forms of assessment are used and are unique to traditional Chinese medicine. These assessment methods are called tongue and pulse diagnosis. A skilled practitioner will use their assessment skills to observe various characteristics in order to confirm and formulate a TCM diagnosis and subsequent treatment plan.

The practitioner will assess qualities of an individual’s tongue, such as color, and an individual’s pulse, such as rate, rhythm, and strength, all giving clues and providing valuable information as to what disharmonies are present in an individual.

Doctor Allison Galan

Written by Doctor Allison Galan

Dr. Allison Galan is a licensed ND practicing in Calgary. She has a passion for empowering her patients to be their own catalyst for change, while supporting them in their health and wellness goals. She believes wholeheartedly in the mind-body connection, which is an integral component of her practice. Allison graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine, and also holds a Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology. She is a member in good standing in the CNDA and the CAND.