Editor’s Note: UPDATED as of October 9, 2016 for relevance and accuracy.
When you think about traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), what do you picture?
Most of us see someone lying on a table, with a plethora of acupuncture needles down their back. But TCM is far more than acupuncture, which is only one of six major treatments that TCM uses to help people re-balance themselves and gain better health.
There are a number of ways you can easily and naturally integrate TCM’s core tenants into your life to improve your overall health and well-being.
How to Integrate Chinese Medicine into Everyday Life
For five thousand years, the Chinese medicine multidimensional body-mind-spirit system has been rooted in natural law. That means it’s based on the seasons’ and the planets’ effects on the body (think about the full moon!), as well as Nature’s and the Universe’s energy relationship with our body.
Like today’s modern scientists, TCM has also understood for thousands of years that everything is energy. Health and wellness are the result of correctly balancing your body’s energy system. It believes there is a natural harmony or cooperation that exists within the organs and your body’s energy system. Illness and disease occur when one or more areas become out of balance with the others.
To prevent health problems, you need to pay great attention to what your body is taking in—not just on the physical level, but also on the mind level. Constantly digesting negative emotions and thoughts take a real toll on how the body functions.
For this post, we are going to speak mainly about the body, since it’s the easiest place for most people to start. TCM offers a number of approaches for creating wellness at the physical level. Its treatments include: acupuncture, herbal therapy, Qigong, Tuina (Chinese acupressure or massage), and a unique understanding of nutrition.
Nutrition and Chinese Medicine
Let’s look at nutrition: it’s one of the simplest ways to improve your health. For thousands of years, TCM has prescribed foods and herbs as medicine. It has long understood that the spiritual aspect of food—the true healing “ingredient”—goes far beyond the physical qualities of nutrients, calories, and vitamins. Each natural food has its own energy essence that can be used to support an organ and right imbalances within your body.
Chinese medicine classifies two categories of healing foods: the first includes foods that are part of a typical diet, such as broccoli, celery, carrots, apples, pineapples, pears and the like. The second includes foods and herbs that are prescribed in certain amounts, often for specific periods of time, such as ginseng, ginger, Goji berries and coix seed (sometimes called “Chinese barley”). These foods are usually prescribed when an aspect of the body is out of balance.
For instance: if you are having an issue with your liver, it is likely you would be told to include these foods in your daily diet: bamboo, broccoli rabe, dandelion, eggplant, fennel and scallions. TCM has understood for millennia that these foods can stimulate liver function and help its tasks at the body, mind and spirit levels.
Food can help your body regain its natural balance.
The Role of Acupressure
The real goal of Chinese medicine healing treatments is based on the knowledge that the body is born with the ability to heal itself.
TCM believes that prevention is the best cure. That’s why many treatments focus on restoring the body’s balance and harmony as opposed to healing addressing only symptoms or after an illness has already occurred. Getting an acupuncture “tune-up” is one of the easiest ways to stay in balance and prevent illness, which, of course, requires a skilled acupuncturist. But, acupressure is a healing modality you can do by yourself—anytime, anywhere, without any special equipment.
Acupressure involves stimulating or massaging key energy points in your body to produce maximum energy flow in your meridians, or energy channels, that connect all your organs. This simple practice can improve organ health. The Four Energy Gates is a powerful acupressure practice that helps the body achieve balance and supports overall health. Click on that link for more information on how to improve energy flow with a few simple daily self-massage sessions. Invest time in maintaining your own health.
Chinese Medicine and the Mind
While the preceding information has been focused on the body, I’d like to include the mind as well. The expression, “you are what you eat,” is true. At a higher level of awareness, it’s more important to note, “you are what you think.”
Sometimes, we feed ourselves a steady diet of negative thoughts and emotions that we still have to digest and process. We have to understand that thoughts feed our spirit; our emotions impact our body and health. We all know that if we’re depressed and tired, it’s much easier to catch a cold. Negative emotions can directly impact the way an organ functions.
In Chinese medicine, specific emotions relate to specific organs systems. They are especially disruptive if you experience them in excess or all the time—like fear, anger constant worry and overthinking. These affect your body’s ability to maintain balance and stave off illness.
One way you can help transform negative emotions is by incorporating meditation into your lifestyle. It doesn’t have to be much—even 10 or 15 minutes can work, if done correctly. The health benefits can be tremendous.
Remember, in TCM, prevention is key.
Keeping your body well through what you are taking in physically, mentally, and spiritually, is what you should focus on. TCM practitioners are trained to observe and address even the body’s smallest signs of imbalance. Chronic, annoying symptoms like pain, headaches, PMS, allergies, hot flashes, even skin rashes or vision issues, are the body’s way of signaling something is starting to go awry health-wise.
If you develop signs and symptoms that you didn’t have previously, your body is telling you something in your life has to change. Left untreated and dismissed as simply part of the modern human condition, symptoms can eventually progress into more serious ailments. Don’t let your body’s whispers become shouts! All health issues—large and small—are of importance to Chinese medicine practitioners.
Thanks to modern science, especially quantum physics, today we know that, at the subatomic level, everything is energy or energy frequencies. We also know, that at the deepest level, everything is connected. Inseparability is a basic principle of natural law. Because everything is energy and everything is interconnected, we have to consider how each aspect of our lives affects the other.
Emotions and thoughts are actual energetic frequencies; your physical being is an energetic system, pulsating in energy waves at the subatomic level. Energy can affect energy – therefore, emotional energy definitely affects physical energy and vice versa.
In TCM, the most important thing you can do for yourself—whether it involves nutrition, exercises, Qigong, or any other host of practices–is to be mindful of the powerful energy vibrations that you allow into your body and mind.
For more information on TCM, you can visit our website at TCMworld.org. There, you can learn more about various aspects of Chinese medicine, including meditative techniques to relieve stress, recipes for healing herbal teas, and delicious dishes to help your body repair itself when you’re out of balance, and much more.