Chinese Medicine is truly an ancient tradition of health, and when I say “ancient” I truly mean it! The oldest texts referring to Chinese Medicine date back to the Zhou Dynasty (1100-220 B.C.E.) and arguably, Chinese Medicine had been a mainstay in China since 3,000 B.C.E. Yet here in the West, when we hear the term “Chinese Medicine” we are often a little perplexed - what is the difference between Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture? Why are there different terms?
The answer is simple - Acupuncture is actually a part of Chinese Medicine and the term “Chinese Medicine” encompasses the whole of the medical theory and practice that Acupuncture is a piece of. It would be much more accurate in the United States for Licensed Acupuncturists to be called Chinese Medicine Practitioners or Chinese Medicine Doctors, depending on their training and degree, but that is a topic for another conversation.
What Is Chinese Medicine?
Chinese Medicine is a holistic approach to health that addresses whole body, mind and spirit wellness. This includes treatment for active acute symptoms and conditions as well as preventative care to maintain health and wellness once achieved. In total, Chinese Medicine includes:
Chinese Medicine Addresses the WHOLE You
Chinese Medicine takes an energetic approach to the body - diagnosis is based on total symptom picture across all body symptoms plus tongue and pulse picture to assess the body’s energy or Qi. A Chinese Medicine practitioner is looking for patterns that represent the overall state of each energetic channel and system in the body, and there are 12 main meridians in question. They are :
Each organ and meridian system has a job to do and it is critical for overall health and wellness that they are each doing their job optimally. This energetic diagnosis might be something like Spleen Qi Deficiency or Liver Qi Stagnation. These diagnosis do not mean that anything is physically wrong with the organ - if you went to the doctor your Spleen or Liver might test out just fine - but they represent an energetic imbalance that is either making you feel sick or creating a state where illness is likely to occur if the imbalance is not corrected or addressed with care.
These energetic channels traverse the entire body - from inside your internal organs out to your skin, hair, muscles, connective tissue and all the way out to your fingers and toes. In short, the physical body and energetic body are intimately intertwined. This means that where one goes, the other will follow and vice versa. Chinese Medicine works on the principle that if we bring the energetic body back into line, the physical body will follow suit and the system will heal.
Because the entire body is traversed with channels, and individual channels often run from the top of the head to the tips of the toes, we cannot divorce any part of the body from another in Chinese Medicine. You have pain in your back? That channel tranverses all the way down to the ankle - we have to treat not only the back but the feet for ultimate success. You have a cold? The Lung channel goes out to the fingertips and the wrist!
Each channel is also associated with different emotional states and mental states of being - adjusting the energy of any given channel can help clarify the mind, focus attention, direct will and smooth unruly emotions.
For this reason, Chinese Medicine always takes the whole body into account and will treat many parts of the body and many organ systems, from a Western perspective, to correct balance, heal illness and create a state of wellness. This whole body approach also gives Chinese Medicine a strong ability to detect illness early and therefore maintain wellness long term. Combine this holistic approach with the many tools and modalities available to the Licensed Acupuncturist or Chinese Medicine practitioner, and you can see how Chinese Medicine can be highly effective in creating and maintaining health and wellness.
Questions? Comment or Contact Rebecca
If you have questions or want to know more, please don't hesitate to leave a note in the comments section below and I'll do my best to answer. You can always email me or book an appointment or consult online 24/7. Chinese Medicine is an amazing, holistic and quite complete approach to health that can result in powerful healing and long term health and wellness.
Until next time,
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.