In Appreciation of Traditional Chinese Medicine

May 3, 2022
May 3, 2022 admin

In Appreciation of Traditional Chinese Medicine

By:  Rikiyah Mixson

As I watch SemideCoco ASMR, a naturopathic medical student from Canada, and ASMRist on YouTube, the soothing sounds and application of what she calls “Traditional Chinese Medicine” caught my attention. In SemideCoco’s videos, she performs medical role play on real people by utilizing different forms of Traditional Chinese medicine as methods of healing for ailments. My interest in public health led me to do further research on Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Traditional Chinese medicine, also known as TCM, is “thousands of years old and has changed little over the centuries. Its basic concept is that a vital force of life, called Qi, surges through the body. Any imbalance to Qi can cause disease and illness.” (Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2022) In Chinese culture, TCM is based on the belief that when there is an imbalance between the Yin and Yang, which is the human body and universe, illnesses and diseases start to manifest.

As healthcare costs continue to rise in the United States, so does interest in holistic medicine (Reno). However, in the United States, holistic medicine is not FDA approved. Yet, herbal supplements are listed under “Dietary Supplements” in many retail outlets because that distinction does not need approval.

The lack of studies to determine the effectiveness of TCM and hazards such as, “herbal preparations that may not meet expectations in safety, quality, and efficacy” (Shwu-Huey Liu, Wu-Chang Chuang, Wing Lam, Zaoli Jiang, and Yung-Chi Cheng) are explanations given for TCM’s lack of approval by the US Food and Drug Administration.

I have mixed opinions on this issue because I personally sought alternative medicine due to my feeling gaslit by doctors in Western medicine. I researched some ways to relieve the severe pain I was experiencing, and reached out to a holistic medicine practitioner. In our discussion, the practitioner shared how she uses holistic approaches in TCM such as acupuncture, and herbal remedies as treatment. I was very fond of the ideas she mentioned to combat my condition until she revealed my insurance would not cover the expenses.

My background knowledge of holistic medicine from courses I have taken, and my own research made me aware of this, but I still wanted to know why natural remedies that are ingrained in other cultures are dismissed in the Western world.

Overall, Western medicine credits Traditional Chinese Medicine for advancing some of what we know in the U.S. medical system today. However, my question led me to discuss why holistic medical approaches are not recognized as “real treatment” to be covered by medical insurance companies in the United States. According to the practitioner, medical insurance companies did not cover holistic treatments because TCM has been shown to be very effective. If people are “curing themselves” with natural supplements, insurance companies would not be making an extreme profit off of sick people.”

There are many testimonies from patients who have undergone treatment that utilized TCM who have reportedly experienced slower progression or complete omission of diseases or illnesses. Although I believe this can be very possible, there are reasonable grounds as to why the United States has not approved the official use of TCM. There are existing aspects of safety, such as the potential dangers of natural supplements not being administered by a licensed practitioner that deserve consideration.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has been passed through generations in Chinese culture. These traditional methods of healing state that harmony, gratitude and TCM go hand-in hand. According to TCM, “gratitude brings balance to the meridians and their respective organs.” (Leibson) The Kidney energy is said to be the (Qi), a reflection of our energies, genetic expression, and the body’s ability to sustain homeostasis. The energy we receive in our kidneys when we are born is known as “Jing.”  “Our daily gratitude practices can positively affect the way we nurture (or harm) the energy in which we are born. This energy “influences the Qi energy that continues throughout our life.” (Leisbon) This is why it is important to make sure the Yin and Yang are harmonized.

Further, the liver is the other organ filled with energy. It controls our emotions, such as feelings of anxiety and depression. “When our liver energy is stuck, we feel as though there’s nothing, we can do to impact our current emotional state. We feel as though we are at the effect of our emotions, rather than being able to create and design our lives.” (Leibson) This type of mindset has influenced many people of diverse cultures, to start living and leading with intention. The concept of remaining positive and participating in activities or exercises that calms the mind and body can have a positive ripple effect throughout your life.

Traditional Chinese Medicine’s origins trace back to the 3rd century BCE. As one of the oldest forms of medicine, it is extremely important to preserve it. That starts with appreciation.

The holistic approaches used in Traditional Chinese Medicine are heavily used around the world. Examples include: acupuncture or acupressure, moxibustion (moxa treatment), cupping, brews that include medical plants or dried animal parts, movement and concentration exercises (Tai Chi) and massages.

Acupuncture or acupressure is the process of thin needles being inserted into specific area points on the body. Acupuncture practitioners believe that this generates energy flow within the body, causing re-balance and alleviating/managing stress. (Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2022) Moxibustion (moxa treatment), is the burning of mugwort leaves. Mugwort leaves are burnt near the patient’s skin’s surface with a stick to apply heat.‌ It is said to advance healing with the process of acupuncture.  (WebMD, 2021) In cupping, warm glass jars are used to create suction. The purpose of cupping is to ease any pain or inflammation, and relax the body, enhancing blood flow. This is a form of a deep tissue massage. Brews or herbal remedies consist of hot teas that can contain animal parts, such as snake skin or also plants for sources of protein. The benefits of the brews are for healing properties; many people use it for conditions such as anxiety and insomnia. Movement and concentration, known as Tai Chi exercises, consist of slow movements and breathing techniques that relax the body. This method has been known to offset some diseases. Lastly, massages are considered essential because it is another form of healing that improves physical and mental health.

In terms of development in modern medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine is credited for over two-hundred modern medicines we use in the United States. The medicines are derived from the species of plants used in Chinese medicine. The development of cures in Western medicine is attributed to the compounds scientists found in Chinese herbal remedies. I found this to be very interesting because this is not common knowledge. However, in the fitness and training world, Chinese practices are more known. Tai chi and Qigong are mostly used in health and fitness programs as a form of meditation.

 The holistic approaches used in Traditional Chinese Medicine should be valued and appreciated. Oftentimes, we ignore the health practices of other cultures without taking the time to be thankful for it or look into the history. Recognizing the contributions of the Chinese culture’s medicinal healing practices on the western world, is essential to the celebration of holistic health.

Works Cited

Acupuncture. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2022, from https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/acupuncture?amp=true

Chinese herbal medicine – 10 health benefits. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2022, from https://www.villageremedies.com/blog-articles/chinese-herbal-medicine-10-health-benefits

Herbal supplements: What to know before you buy. (2021, January 09). Retrieved April 20, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/herbal-supplements/art-20046714

Leibson, M. (2020, October 21). Gratitude and traditional Chinese medicine. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from https://www.acupunctureinmichigan.com/gratitude-and-traditional-chinese-medicine/

Liu, S., Chuang, W., Lam, W., Jiang, Z., & Cheng, Y. (2015, February). Safety surveillance of traditional Chinese medicine: Current and future. Retrieved April 20, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4348117/

Moxibustion: Definition, technique, benefits, and risk factors. (n.d.). Retrieved April 20, 2022, from https://www.webmd.com/balance/what-is-moxibustion