What’s Chinese Medicine Anyway?

You may have heard of Chinese Medicine, and even been intrigued, but aren’t sure what it’s all about. You’ve probably heard about acupuncture and that it’s effective, but still have a lot of questions like what can it treat and how does it work? Usually, however, even less is known about other Chinese Medicine methods like herbalism, for example.IMG_0029

The short answer to all of the above is that Chinese Medicine is a long standing–from ancient times–and scientifically well-documented medical system. As far as ‘well-documented’ goes, think Nobel Prize… As far as ‘ancient’ is concerned, think millennium times several.


Dr. Tu Youyou (Chinese Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, Beijing) received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for developing an herbal based cure for malaria.

In the U.S., Chinese Medicine is chiefly considered an ‘alternative’ or ‘complementary’ medical practice. In China, however, it is a mainstream system used in hospitals and for any need a general medical practice may confront.

ancient-text1The differences between Chinese Medicine and ‘Western Medicine’ are many. Some do not translate well. For instance, the theoretical understandings of illness and health are dramatically different. How healing works is also different.

In the U.S., we might understand the differences much as, in recent years, we’ve come to understand our traditional practices compared to more holistic approaches. A basic difference is that holistic practices consider the underlying causes of poor health and strengthen the entire system for better health.

Louisville acupunctureTraditional Western medical practices have a long history of treating and managing symptoms rather than correcting systemic imbalances in body systems. Overall, Chinese Medicine can be seen as a holistic and integrative system and more traditional Western Medicine as having a specialty focus (ears, nose, throat, bones, etc) that is not systemically based.

So, to answer the broader version of our first question: What can Chinese Medicine treat? Illness and injury… whatever ails you. And, the second question: How does it work? Well.