What is Chinese Medicine?

Chinese medicine has existed for decades, with its origins being traced back to second century BC. Like western medicine, it has many branches or practices. This includes the consumption of Chinese herbs, Tai Chi, chiropractors, acupuncture and cupping. Each branch has its own specialists and are designed to address different medical issues.

The Origin of Chinese Medicine

Chinese medicine is likely to have existed before its recognized date, however at that time, its practices were not recorded down and thus cannot be verified. Furthermore, medicinal practice in China prior to this period were highly dispersed with no common basis for treatments.

However, there have been accounts of such practices being passed down orally.

Things changed during the second century BC as formal literature for Chinese medicine emerged. Among which, two texts are widely recognized as core to all modern day Traditional Chinese Medicine practice.

Huangdi Neijing

Also known as the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon, the Huangdi Neijing is widely considered to be the influential piece of text in TCM. The Huangdi Neijing is a collection of basic ideas of TCM, incorporating several of the most fundamental concepts that apply to all aspects of TCM. Its multi-volume includes concepts of Yin & Yang, nature’s 5 elements and Qi. 

Given that the text was created centuries ago, it should come as no surprise that some of its ideas, particularly those relating to anatomy and physiology are out of date. Without the advance understanding of the human body, some of the proposed treatments may appear primitive to today’s readers. Yet, its base ideas and concepts are still valid for TCM practitioners today.

For example, the need to balance all natural elements in the body in order to maintain a harmony between Yin & Yang is widely applied in TCM. This involves introducing herbs that balance out an excess of any one element, e.g. heat, in the body. At the same time, TCM practitioners would advise you to limit your exposure to elements that your body is weak to.

Shanghan Lun

Translated in English to be the Treatise on cold injuries, this text was complied by Zhang Zhongjing. In it, the treatise explains how a TCM practitioner might diagnose and treat infectious diseases that were caused by the cold. This text formed the basis for many modern day Chinese medicine herb treatments and thus is fundamental to all practices.

Expanding on the concepts brought about in Huangdi Neijing, Shanghan Lun would elaborate further on the types of herbs to be used for treating cold based diseases. The aim here would be to open the body’s meridians and allow the life force, Qi, to flow through to all parts of the body. Once this has occurred, the body would have corrected its balance and began to recover.