The 8 Secrets of Traditional Chinese Medicine

        Secrets? While many of us have heard of acupuncture, the term “Traditional Chinese Medicine” (TCM) remains a mystery. Here, I'll give you a better understanding regarding this complex therapeutic method.

      TCM, which originated approximately 4000-4500 years ago, consists of what are called eight “limbs” or practices and techniques that are used to maintain health. They are listed in order of decreasing importance:

1.     Mind—this refers to meditation and relaxation techniques;

2.     Exercise—classically the martial arts, including Tai Qi and Qi Gong;

3.     Diet—prevents and treats diseases with carefully selected foods;

4.     Feng Shui—living in accordance to the harmony of the 5-elements;

5.     Astrology—used as a guide to treatment;

6.     Chinese Massage (“Tui Na”), Cupping, acupressure, and in some cases, applied Qi Gong;

7.     Herbs—This is an area where a lot of us that have been misled by the media. Often when I mention Chinese Herbology to people, they tell me that bear bladders, rhinoceros horns, and even monkey brains (though the latter is from a Harrison Ford movie), are being used often in TCM. It is truly unfortunate that there are poachers that are making a lot of money for these so-called remedies, putting these and other animals at risk, but rest assured that use of endangered herbs/animals is illegal in Canada. Registered TCM herbalists in North America do not use these species. The Chinese Materia Medica is extensive, including mostly plants, shells, and very few members of the Animal Kingdom. I use plants and a few shells in 99% of my formulas. Quality control is stringent for North American TCM herbal manufacturers. They must adhere to the strict "Good Manufacturing Practices" in both the US and Canada. Herbs are not only checked for quality. They are also checked routinely for toxic components and contaminants. 

8.     Acupuncture, best known for it's use in alleviating pain, is the insertion of very fine needles into acupoints to achieve a therapeutic effect. In North America we use sterile, prepackaged, medical surgical steel grade needles, that are used once, then disposed of in a sharps container that will later be incinerated at high temperature. All registered acupuncturists are to follow "clean needle technique". Practitioners must pass acupuncture (and herbal) safety tests before they are even allowed to write their board exams.

The first 5 limbs are tools we can learn that empower us to take care of ourselves. When healthy, practicing these techniques regularly can prevent serious illnesses. Common sense tells us that relaxation techniques, Tai Qi, yoga, and aerobics/Zumba/Jazzercise/ or walking 10,000 steps a day... When combined with weight bearing exercise, a proper diet and a healthy living environment, this should keep us healthy. This is why TCM is called "gardening medicine". It cultivates a life-style that prevents many diseases. Regular practice would save us a lot of discomfort, and along with our overloaded healthcare system, much money. Did you know that in ancient times, Chinese doctors were not paid if their patients became ill? Today, in Canada, if you go to a conventional medicine walk-in clinic and the doctors have met their "quota", they have to shut down for the rest of the day. Times have changed.

As only the last 3 limbs require a practitioner’s aid, we can see that the focus of TCM is on the maintenance of health and the prevention of disease, allowing us to live in a state of balance where we and our loved ones can fully enjoy life. We can enjoy our tasks and feel like ourselves again. It is unfortunate that in North America, acupuncturists do, however, often treat people seeking us as a “last resort” when all else has failed. As a rule, the longer the duration of illness, the longer the duration of treatment required. It is thus best to start treatments before symptoms become severe. Ideally when we start to feel a little "off", this is the best time to see an acupuncturist, instead of leaving it for several years with a worsening of symptoms and accompanied grief.

Now you know the 8 secrets of Traditional Chinese Medicine. They are the 8 limbs.

In conclusion, I would like to wish all Roosters a happy birthday. People born under the year of the Rooster (2017, and every twelve years before or after that, according to the Chinese Lunar Calendar) tend to be hardworking, resourceful, confident, and talented.  Their talkative and engaging ways make them popular; they enjoy the spotlight but can be seen as vain or arrogant. Some famous roosters include Rudyard Kipling, Eric Clapton, Jennifer Lopez, Yoko Ono, Steve Martin and Groucho Marx. May you enjoy peace, joy, health, and prosperity in this Year of the Rooster.