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
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
Relationship with Western
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
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.