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Traditional Chinese Medicine

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TCM, or Traditional Chinese Medicine, can be traced as far back as 1000 BC, where stone acupuncture needles were believed to be used. Texts from that period also talked of Yin and Yang and other concepts. The first written work on TCM is titled the Yellow Emperor's Inner Classic, Huangdi Newijing (Gascoigne 11). This book was written in 300 BC, but entries date back to the early 2700's BC. The book is still used in universities of Chinese Medicine around the world and is often called the bible of TCM. Today, TCM is still thriving in China and all of Asia. In recent years, information on TCM has become available to people in the United States. The United States has several schools of TCM, and it is now much easier to buy the necessary supplies needed for correct practice of TCM (Gascoigne 11-7).

During some time about 1000 years ago in the Song Dynasty, a man named Chen Yan classified the causes of disease into three different categories (Gao 31). Chinese medicine does not believe that bacteria and viruses are the cause of disease. Instead, it talks about influences that cause "disharmony" in Yin and Yang, the Essential Substances, the Organ System, the Channels, and the Five Phases (Cohen 37). "The Six Pernicious Influences-Heat, Cold, Wind, Dampness, Dryness and Summer Heat-are external climatic forces that can invade the body and create disharmony in the mind/body/spirit" (Cohen 37). With symptoms relating to heat, you can either have an excess of heat or a deficiency of it. Excess heat usually lasts for short periods of time and has symptoms such as high fevers, irritability and restlessness, thirst, little or no sweat or urine, and a flushed face. Heat rises in nature, as it also does in your body. That is why the upper areas of your body are the ones that suffer from excess heat. If you have an insufficient amount of heat you might suffer from hot hands and feet, fevers that occur in the afternoon, sore throat, inability to fall asleep, and irritability. Conditions of insufficient heat are chronic and are caused by a reduction of the body's own healthy energy. Heat affects many different organs in the body, so it is not uncommon to hear things like liver heat, heart heat, and stomach heat in TCM (Gao 37-8).

Cold disharmonies are most common in the winter and injure the body's Yang energy. When cold first enters the body it can cause fevers, headaches, and general body pains. If cold enters further and reaches the body's meridians it will produce muscle cramps and pain in the joints and bones. As cold enters further into your body it will eventually reach your internal organs. To much cold in the internal organs can cause "diarrhea, vomiting, abdominal pains, and intestinal noises" (Reid 37). Inner cold, not related to weather conditions, is caused by insufficiency of yang energy. Deficiency of yang energy can occur when you eat too many "cold" foods (Reid 37-9).

"Wind animates the body, stirring it from repose into motion just as wind moves the leaves of a tree" (Cohen 39). The first symptoms of wind disorders are tics and twitches, as well as headaches and a stuffy nose. If wind further infiltrates the body you may experience seizures, ringing of the ears, and dizziness (Cohen 39-41).

Dampness usually occurs in the late summer and can be contracted by exposure to rain or water and or living in damp climates. Symptoms range from sluggishness to "oppressive sensations in the chest". Inner dampness, caused by drinking too much alcohol and eating an excess of sweet and greasy food, has symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea (Reid 38).

Dryness is associated with the season of autumn. There is warm dryness and cool dryness. If dryness is contracted in early autumn, it is called warm dryness because the time is closer to summer. If the dryness is contracted in late autumn it is called cool dryness because it is closer to winter time. Warm dryness exhibits the typical dry symptoms; dry mouth, nose, and throat, and cough, as well as some heat symptoms such as thirst, fever, and irritability. Cool dryness has the same dry symptoms as warm dryness, except now it also exhibits fever, chills, headache, and other cold symptoms. The main difference between cold, and cool dryness is that the person will show more signs of dryness. Dryness enters the body with other climactic elements, so it can be more dangerous than the other 6 elements because of its ability to combine its power (Gao 42-50). Internal dryness is caused by loss of blood and other body fluids. Internal dryness usually occurs after a person has been sick with a disease that caused them to vomit or to have diarrhea. It can also occur after a great loss of blood or sweat. To much sexual activity can also result in internal dryness (Gascoigne 67-9).

Summer heat is the only one of the 6 influences that only occurs during one season, in this case, the summer. Summer heat is caused solely by the extreme heat that can occur in the summer time. The symptoms are very similar to those of heat, but summer heat can also be contracted with dampness. Humidity and rain are common in China during the summer, so a person could exhibit symptoms such as fever, flushed face, achy joints, nausea, and fatigue at the same time (Gao 52-4). Other than six pernicious influences, disease can also be caused as a result of your emotions and your diet (Gascoigne 62).

Well now that I had learned about the causes of disease, according to TCM, I had to figure out how to cure all of these sicknesses. In the old days, the Chinese would usually quarantine you if you were diagnosed with any kind of illness, and let you live out the rest of your days alone on an island... Just seeing if you were still paying attention! Actually there are quite a few treatments for disease in TCM. I guess the best way to start would be to list all of the major treatment therapies. "There are four basic healing techniques that the practitioner may suggest as treatments: acupuncture and moxibustion, dietary therapy, herbal therapy, and Qi Gong [pronounced "Chi Kung"] exercise/meditation " (Cohen 76). Each therapy procedure can be further subcategorized to specify the appropriate treatment plan (Gascoigne 98).

Acupuncture and moxibustion, what are they exactly? Well let's start with acupuncture. "Acupuncture is the art of inserting fine, sterile, metal filiform needles into certain points along the channels and collaterals (tributaries of the channels) in order to control the flow of the Qi" (Cohen 76). There are 365 basic acupuncture points in TCM, but most practitioners use around 150 of these points. The points are located along your "12 primary

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