Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

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Old TCM chart on acupuncture meridians
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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 22 September 2017


See also Complementary & alternative medicine (CAM) | Hua Tuo | Integrative medical care | Men's Health Pathfinders | Women's Health Pathfinders

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) refers to ancient and traditional medical practices that originate in the area known today as China. Many of these practices are widely-accepted throughout the world, and have become increasingly accepted within 21st century Western medicine. TCM has been slowly frames as part of integrative medical care in Europe and the United States. TCM practices comprise therapeutic modalities that include acupuncture, dietary therapies, Shiatsu, Reiki, herbal remedies to name but a few. Qigong and Taijiquan are part of a Chinese tradition rooted in similar laws and observations of nature, the cosmos and the human body. Major theories of TCM include yin-yang, the Five Phases, the human body meridian and channel systems, Zang Fu organ theory, the six confirmations and the four layers. During the 1950s, TCM was widely systematized during the time of Mao Zedong.

Traditional Chinese medicine is based on the idea that the body is a universe of interconnected systems and works in balance to maintain healthy functioning. Yin and yang refers to qi ("breath", "life force", or "spiritual energy"), blood, jing ("kidney essence", including "semen"), other body fluids, the Wu Xing, emotions, and the soul or spirit (shen). TCM has a unique model of the body concerned with meridians. Unlike Western models which divide the body into parts, the Chinese model is concerned with function. The spleen is not a specific body part but related to transformation and transportation, and of mental functions such as thinking and studying.

Diagnostic techniques

  • Palpating the radial artery pulse (pulse diagnosis) in six positions
  • Examining the tongue, voice, hair, face, posture, gait, eyes, ears, vein on index finger of children
  • Palpating patient's body (especially abdomen, chest, back, and lumbar areas) for tenderness or comparison of relative warmth or coolness of the body
  • Observing odors from the patient; asking patient about effects of their problems
  • Anything that can be observed without instruments or harming patient
  • Asking questions about family, living environment, personal habits, food diet, emotions, menstrual cycle for women, child bearing history, sleep, exercise, and anything that may give insight into the balance or imbalance of an individual

Canadian context

Herbal products are federally-regulated in Canada. Many health products are regulated, and include vitamins and minerals, herbal remedies, homeopathic medicines, traditional Chinese medicines and products such as amino acids and essential fatty acids. Health Canada's Natural Health Products Directorate works to ensure that health products are safe for use in Canada. Its role is " ensure that Canadians have ready access to natural health products that are safe, effective and of high quality while respecting freedom of choice and philosophical and cultural diversity." In 2013, Prime Minister Stephen Harper created an Advisory Committee on Traditional Chinese Medicines in Canada.

The NHP Regulations went into effect in 2004, and cover product and site licensing, good manufacturing practices, adverse reaction reporting, clinical trails and labelling. The Canadian Interdisciplinary Network for CAM Research (IN-CAM) was established by Dr. Heather Boon, a pharmacist and medical sociologist with expertise in CAM and Dr. Marja Verhoef, a social scientist and epidemiologist who holds a Canada Research Chair in complementary medicine. To address the gaps that exist in the CAM evidence base, IN-CAM's mission is to "...create a sustainable, well-connected, highly trained complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) research community in Canada that is internationally recognized and known for both its excellence in research and its contributions to understanding CAM and its use."

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