What is Chinese Medicine

“Maintaining order rather than correcting disorder is the ultimate principle of wisdom. To cure disease after it has appeared is like digging a well when one feels thirsty, or forging weapons after the war has already begun.”

Nei Jing, Classical Chinese Text, 2nd Century BC


Chinese medicine is a holistic medical system, meaning that it views the body as one whole working system. No one part is separate from the others, and actions taken upon one part will in some way affect the others. Because of this viewpoint, Chinese medicine is a mind-body medicine; the physical body cannot be separated from the mind and emotions and to treat one is to treat the other.


Chinese medicine originated thousands of years ago and has developed through the ages ever since. As society evolved and adapted new ways of thinking, the medicine also adapted. There are roots in Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism, although Chinese medicine does not hold any religious affiliation in modern times. The ideas of Chinese medicine spread throughout Asia to allow for a wide variety of interpretations and styles. Today we have the ability to draw on not only Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques, but Japanese, Korean, Tibetan, Ayurvedic, and other systems from around the world.


Chinese medicine involves the use of acupuncture (thin needles inserted at specific points on the body), moxibustion (heated herbal therapy), tui na (medical massage), herbal medicine, dietary recommendations, exercise (tai chi and qi gong), and adjunctive techniques (cupping, gua sha, and others). Certain therapies are best used for certain complaints or imbalances, but they are all focused on returning the body to a state of balance.

Theories and Ideas

There are a few ideas special to Chinese medicine that help to shape the way a practitioner views and diagnoses the body.

    • Yin and Yang: These are the two complementary forces in nature, including the human body. For a body to be healthy, yin and yang must be in the right balance.
    • Qi: Qi is a term that is difficult to translate into English, but is best thought of as the activating force in the body. Qi is also considered the oxygen component of the blood that is so necessary for our cellular processes.
    • Blood: Healthy blood flow is necessary for a healthy body. Blood can become stuck, blocked, or deficient, and the therapies used in Chinese medicine often aim at improving circulation and blood flow.
    • Organ systems: In Chinese medicine, the main organ systems are the Lung, Large Intestine, Stomach, Spleen/Pancreas, Pericardium, Heart, Small Intestine, Kidney, Urinary Bladder, Triple Burner (not a physical organ), Gallbladder, and Liver. These organs pertain to their physical organ, as well as their associate acupuncture channel and points.
    • Elements: There are five elemental factors in Chinese medicine that correspond to different organ systems, channels, conditions, seasons, temperaments, and more. These are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water.
    • Treat the Root: This is a main tenet of Chinese medicine. We are always looking to find what the deeper root issue or imbalance is in order to fix the symptoms, rather than just use a “band-aid” treatment. Chinese medicine techniques work to reestablish the true health of the individual so that the symptoms will disappear as the underlying pattern is balanced.
    • Tongue and Pulse Diagnosis: Chinese medicine practitioners rely upon tongue and pulse diagnosis in addition to understanding the patient’s complaints in order to come to the root diagnosis.

Prevention Medicine

At its heart, Chinese medicine is a preventative medicine. Like the quote from the Nei Jing above, the practitioner looks to treat disease before it gets to the point of causing issues in the body. We are able to do this by observing small changes in the patient, responding to symptoms before they intensify, and maintain regular treatment schedules to prevent issues from becoming long-term conditions.

The lifestyle recommendations of Chinese medicine are also aimed at preventing disease in addition to treating current issues. Regular diet, sleep, and exercise habits are high encouraged in Chinese medicine. To find out what your best practices are and how Chinese medicine can help you live a healthier life, contact us.

Start on the path to healing today.