Acupuncture is the practice that most often comes to mind when thinking of Chinese medicine, but TCM represents a much broader system of medicine that includes herbs, massage, diet and exercise therapy. The underlying basis of TCM is that all of creation is born from the interdependence of two opposite principles, yin and yang (see the Eight Guiding Principles below). These two opposites are in constant motion, creating a fluctuating balance in the healthy body. Disease results when either yin or yang is in a state of prolonged excess or deficiency.
One of the body constituents is Qi (pronounced "chee"), which is the energy that gives us the ability to move, think, feel, and work. Qi circulates along a system of conduits, the principle ones being channels or meridians. There are twelve principle bilateral channels of Qi, each intimately connected with one of the viscera of the body, and each manifesting its own characteristic Qi (e.g. Liver Qi, Gallbladder Qi, etc.). When the flow of Qi becomes unbalanced through physical, emotional, or environmental insults, illness may result.
TCM practitioners are trained to view the body, mind, and spirit as one system, as opposed to Western medicine practitioners, who are taught to regard each of these elements as separate. Despite TCM's dramatically different approach, Westerners have been drawn to its practice because of its emphasis on healing the whole person and seeking the root cause of illness. However, Westerners do often find it difficult to translate a TCM diagnosis or remedy into the western practice of medicine with which they are familiar. For example, there is no direct translation for how a TCM practitioner might explain a patient’s condition as "cool with dampness," or an "imbalance in water," with a need to "tonify the kidneys" or "replenish Qi".
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a complex system that requires many years of training to master. This guide serves as an introduction to the practice of TCM, providing additional resources for your research.