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Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine, also known as TCM, includes a range of traditional medicine practices originating in China. Although well-accepted in the mainstream of medical care throughout East Asia, it is considered an alternative medical system in much of the Western world.

TCM practices include such treatments as Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, dietary therapy, and both Tui na and Shiatsu massage. Qigong and Taijiquan are also closely associated with TCM. Major theories include: Yin-yang, the Five Phases, the human body Meridian/Channel system, Zang Fu organ theory, six confirmations, four levels, etc.

Relationship with Western medicine

As an example of the different roles of TCM in China and the West, a person with a broken bone in the West (i.e. a routine condition) would almost never see a Chinese medicine practitioner, whereas this is routine in parts of rural China.

Most Chinese, in China as well as other countries, do not see traditional Chinese and modern Western medicine as conflicting. In emergency and crisis situations, there is generally no objection to Western medicine. At the same time, belief in Chinese medicine remains strong for maintaining health. As a simple example, they will see a Western doctor if they have acute appendicitis, but they exercise or take Chinese herbs to keep their bodies healthy enough to prevent appendicitis, or to recover more quickly from surgery. Very few doctors in China reject traditional Chinese medicine, and most use some elements of Chinese medicine in their own practice.

A degree of integration between Chinese and Western medicine also exists in China. For instance, at the Shanghai cancer hospital, a patient may be seen by a multidisciplinary team and be treated concurrently with radiation, chemotherapy, surgery, and a traditional herbal formula. A report by the Victorian state government in Australia on TCM education in China noted:

Graduates from TCM university courses are able to diagnose in Western medical terms, prescribe Western pharmaceuticals, and undertake minor surgical procedures. In effect, they practise TCM as a specialty within the broader organization of Chinese health care.
In other countries traditional Chinese and Western medicine are rarely practiced by the same practitioner. TCM education in Australia, for example, does not attempt to qualify practitioners to diagnose in Western medical terms, prescribe scheduled pharmaceuticals, nor perform surgical procedures. Australia is constructing a separate legislative framework to allow registered practitioners to prescribe Chinese herbs that would otherwise be classified as poisons.

Traditional Chinese diagnostics and treatments are often much cheaper than Western methods which require expensive equipment or medicines still under patent.

Modern TCM practitioners refer severe cases to Western providers. Investigation of the active ingredients in TCM has produced well-known drugs such as : Artemisinin, widely used in the treatment of malaria.


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