An Inside Look Into 3 Traditional Chinese Medicine Practices

Why these ancient TCM methods still thrive thousands of years later.

Since the World Health Organization (WHO) accepted traditional Chinese medicine into its 2019 Global Compendium, its practices have gained more recognition in the medical community. For many, these methods are new and exciting alternatives to Western medicine, but for China, they represent thousands of years of culture and history.

Despite TCM’s progress, it’s still a polarizing field. Some support the movement, while others emphasize its illegitimacy. In a global climate primarily dictated by Western medicine backboned by modern technology, it’s easy to move away from traditional practices instead of inviting them to the conversation.

TCM, Photo from Unsplash by Bundo Kim

Many have claimed the health benefits these methods offer, despite the lack of clinical trials and studies, people should not completely ignore their merit. With more studies come more potential benefits and revelations. For too long, Western medicine had maintained a blind side to this area, unwilling to conduct property research into these traditional practices.

There might be something to say for ancient TCM methods that still thrive thousands of years later. Here are three areas of TCM still practiced today.

1. Cupping

Cupping, Photo from Unsplash by Katherine

An ancient Taoist method previously practiced widely across imperial courts in China, cupping therapy dates back to 281 AD. There has been debate, however, if the ancient Egyptians might have invented the technique around 1500 B.C. Ge Hong, a famous herbalist of the Jin Dynasty, is believed to have pioneered cupping in China. Hong strongly advocated that the benefits of cupping and acupuncture (mentioned later in this article) could cure various illnesses.

Traditionally, cupping was a supplement to surgical procedures, and the cups were made from bamboo or cattle horn. Today, modern cupping methods use silicon molds and have transitioned into more therapeutic techniques.

Believed to draw out toxins, a piece of cloth, usually soaked in alcohol, is set aflame, sucking the oxygen out and creating a vacuum. The cup seals the body, expanding the skin causing blood vessels to break. The body reacts as if it was injured and sends excess blood to heal the area.

The process is a popular treatment for back pain and arthritis but can also potentially reduce asthma, the common cold, chronic cough, and indigestion issues.

2. Acupuncture

Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncture.
Acupuncture. Photo from Unsplash by Antonika

Historians believe acupuncture goes back centuries before the Common Era (C.E.) after archeologists discovered sharpened bones and sticks considered instruments of the practice. The method gained a reputation as a standard therapy across China before its abrupt decline in the 17th century during the rise of Western medicine.

Acupuncture works by inserting needles across the body at places known as acupoints. These acupoints run along internal channels called meridians, representing the body’s major organs and functions.

Traditional practitioners believe all bodies have energy coursing through them called qi (chee.) Harnessing one’s qi along the meridians allows the practitioner to re-balance the patient, improving their overall health. Western views deduce that the needles stimulate one’s nerves, muscles, and connective tissue, boosting the body’s natural painkillers.

Needles remain in the skin for 10-20 minutes. Sometimes the practitioner might gently turn, apply pressure, or heat to the needles. Most people find they come out feeling refreshed and energized. Studies have found acupuncture to be a powerful tool for pain reduction. It has been said to reduce back pain, menstrual cramps, migraines, and dental pain.

3. Tai chi

Traditional Chinese Medicine taichi
Tai chi, Photo from Unsplash by Kevin

Tai chi, a well-known form of Chinese martial arts, is designated to fighting techniques and can provide impressive health benefits. Many styles of tai chi have evolved over thousands of years. Each style has its unique differences, but they all follow the essential principles. The three major ones of today are Wu, Hao, and Sun, the latest style and most suitable for those with arthritis.

Like acupuncture, tai chi was founded by the ancient Chinese practice of Taoism, which emphasizes the importance of balance needed to live in harmony with nature. In Taoism philosophy, everything has a complementary opposite: the yin and yang push and pull against one another in an eternal relationship of balance.

Tai chi incorporates the principle of yin and yang through gentle movements, postures, breathing, and focus techniques, which collectively bring the body to balance. Studies suggest that tai chi can improve Parkinson’s disease, reduce joint pain, improve quality of life and mood.

Although TCM has been around for decades, it’s only gained partial recognition internationally. Studies have found these methods to be effective, yet little comprehensive research has been done to discover the entire scope of the field.

Like any other surgical procedure or pill, clinical trials and extensive studies are the only accurate way to gain results. TCM research is highly underdeveloped, and the world could be missing out on the opportunity to unlock new ways of healing humanity.

George Hashemi

Content Editor Associate

George admires the power of the written word and its ability to communicate different cultures and destinations to others. He is an avid reader, foodie and voyager. You will probably find him on a food-tour in Madrid, or curled up with a book in the beautiful blue city of Chefchaouen, Morocco.

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