Chinese medicine is a system of medicine partly based on the idea that an energy, called qi, flows along pathways in the body called meridians. In this belief, if the flow of qi along these meridians is blocked or unbalanced, illness can occur. In China, doctors have practiced Chinese medicine for thousands of years, and it is gaining in popularity in many Western countries.
Causes of qi imbalance are thought to involve:
Another important concept in Chinese medicine is the concept of yin and yang. In this approach, all things, including the body, are composed of opposing forces called yin and yang. Health is said to depend on the balance of these forces. Chinese medicine focuses on maintaining the yin-yang balance to maintain health and prevent illness.
Chinese medicine doctors look at the balance of body, mind, and spirit to determine how to restore qi, the yin-yang balance, and good health.
People use Chinese medicine to treat many illnesses, including:
Chinese doctors may use several types of treatment to restore qi balance.
Chinese medicine therapies include:
Research in China and worldwide has shown Chinese medicine to be helpful for many types of illness. Because Chinese medicine differs from Western medical practice in diagnosis and treatment methods, it is difficult to apply Western scientific standards to it.
For example, in Western medical practice, any two people with a similar infection (such as sinusitis) may be treated with a standard course of antibiotics. In Chinese medicine, each person might receive a different treatment for the same illness depending on the person's own qi and yin-yang balance.
Ongoing research of many complementary therapies is being done to determine their benefits and risks. Acupuncture has been the most studied of Chinese medicine treatments and has become accepted as a therapy for certain conditions in North America. Promising results have been found for the use of acupuncture in treating nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy, postsurgery pain, and pregnancy. Acupuncture also may be useful for other conditions such as:
Like conventional medicines, Chinese herbal medicines may also cause side effects, trigger allergic reactions, or interact with other prescription and non-prescription medicines or herbs. Before you use any Chinese therapies, be sure to tell your health professional about any prescription, non-prescription, or other natural supplements you are taking.
Be sure to choose a practitioner certified by an accredited school to ensure that he or she has had extensive training in Chinese medicine.
Always tell your doctor if you are using an alternative therapy or if you are thinking about combining an alternative therapy with your conventional medical treatment. It may not be safe to forgo your conventional medical treatment and rely only on an alternative therapy.