Traditional Chinese medicine is an antique medical system that takes a deep understanding of the laws and patterns of nature and applies them to the human body. TCM is not "New Age," nor is it a patchwork of different healing modalities. TCM is a complete medical system that has been practiced for more than five thousand years.
At the heart of TCM is the tenet that the root cause of illnesses, not their symptoms, must be treated. In modern-day terms, TCM is holistic in its approach; it views every aspect of a person body, mind, spirit, and emotions are part of one complete circle rather than loosely connected pieces to be treated individually.
The following is a brief introduction to some of the key terms and concepts in traditional Chinese medicine.
The true foundation of TCM is Qi, which is loosely translated as vital energy. In TCM, Qi is considered to be the force that animates and informs all things. In the human body, Qi flows through meridians, or energy pathways. Twelve major meridians run through the body, and it is over this network that Qi travels through the body and that the body's various organs send messages to one another. For this reason, keeping the meridians clear is imperative for the body's self-regulating actions to occur. Through proper training, people can develop the sensitivity to feel the flow of Qi.
While it is often described in the West as energy, or vital energy, the term Qi carries a deeper meaning. Qi has two aspects: one is energy, power, or force; the other is conscious intelligence or information. Each Organ System carries its own unique Qi, which allows it to perform its unique functions both physical (which Western medicine can describe) and energetic (which Eastern medicine can identify). This energetic function also includes an Organ System's relationship with other Organs. (Organ is here capitalized to distinguish the TCM concept of an Organ System and its functions from the Western concept of the physical organ.)
TCM frequently references several major Qi, or energy function, problems. One is an overall "Qi deficiency," which is often described in Western medical terms as chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). TCM also has the knowledge and ability to pinpoint which Organs have an energy deficiency. Another major condition is described as "Qi stagnation," which means energy and information cannot move smoothly to or from its appropriate location. For example, TCM considers pain, headache and stomachache the result of Qi stagnation.