Traditional Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a branch of traditional medicine that is said to be based on more than 3,500 years of Chinese medical practice that includes various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, cupping therapy, gua sha, massage (tui na), bonesetter (die-da), exercise (qigong), and dietary therapy, but recently also influenced by modern Western medicine. TCM is widely used in the Sinosphere where it has a long history, and in later years it is also increasingly practiced across the globe.One of the basic tenets of TCM is that the body’s vital energy (ch’i or qi) is circulating through channels, called meridians, that have branches connected to bodily organs and functions.” The existence of vital energy is not scientifically verified. Concepts of the body and of disease used in TCM reflect its ancient origins and its emphasis on dynamic processes over material structure, similar to European humoral theory.
Scientific investigation has not found evidence for traditional Chinese concepts such as qi, meridians, and acupuncture points. The TCM theory and practice are not based upon scientific knowledge, and there is disagreement between TCM practitioners on what diagnosis and treatments should be used for any given patient. The effectiveness of Chinese herbal medicine remains poorly researched and supported. There are concerns over a number of potentially toxic plants, animal parts, and mineral Chinese medicinals. There are also concerns over illegal trade and transport of endangered species including rhinoceroses and tigers, and the welfare of specially farmed animals including bears. A review of cost-effectiveness research for TCM found that studies had low levels of evidence, but so far have not shown beneficial outcomes. Pharmaceutical research has explored the potential for creating new drugs from traditional remedies, with few successful results. A Nature editorial described TCM as “fraught with pseudoscience”, and said that the most obvious reason it has not delivered many cures is that the majority of its treatments have no logical mechanism of action. Proponents suggest that research has so far missed key features of the art of TCM, such as unknown interactions between various ingredients and complex interactive biological systems.
The doctrines of Chinese medicine are rooted in books such as the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon and the Treatise on Cold Damage, as well as in cosmological notions such as yin–yang and the five phases. Starting in the 1950s, these precepts were standardized in the People’s Republic of China, including attempts to integrate them with modern notions of anatomy and pathology. In the 1950s, the Chinese government promoted a systematized form of TCM.
TCM describes health as the harmonious interaction of these entities and the outside world, and disease as a disharmony in interaction. TCM diagnosis aims to trace symptoms to patterns of an underlying disharmony, by measuring the pulse, inspecting the tongue, skin, and eyes, and looking at the eating and sleeping habits of the person as well as many other things.