How To Understand Traditional Chinese Medicine

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What is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?

From acupuncture, herbal decoctions, nutrition for the centre, touching Tuina

and moving Qigong

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a healing art that emerged in China over 2000 years ago and which has developed over the centuries. The goal of Chinese medicine is to treat the person as a whole rather than treating a localized symptom, because it is integrated in the entire organism. Every disorder has uniquely developed within the individual life cycle of each person. Even if important symptoms are similar, such as in migraine headaches, the causes are usually many and varied. Therefore, the therapy must be individually tailored to the patient. TCM involves doing various therapeutic procedures.

Acupuncture and Moxibustion

By needling (or heating) certain points on the surface of the body, the flow of life energy is regulated. This energy is denoted as ‘Qi’ (pronounced Chi) by the Chinese. Qi flows in a network of energy channels throughout the body. It links not only the acupuncture points, but also influences the internal organs with each other through internal pathways. By needling certain acupuncture points the body is specifically stimulated to help re-balance itself.

In acupuncture treatment, very thin needles are inserted into selected points to correct the previously established energy imbalance. This process is virtually painless. Moxibustion is another treatment method that may be performed either together with acupuncture or separately by itself. Here, the wool from the leaves of mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is burned on a needle or on a surface (garlic or ginger slice) on an acupuncture point. This healing heat strengthens the organism.

What diseases can acupuncture treat? In general, it has been shown that disturbances such as insomnia, stress symptoms, lack of energy, pain (acute and chronic), hormonal disorders, functional disorders, chronic rhinitis, allergies, hay fever, autoimmune diseases, infertility, symptoms of old age and children’s diseases respond very well to acupuncture. The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a list of diseases that can be successfully treated with acupuncture. Here are some examples: colds, asthma, sinusitis, headache, migraine, trigeminal


neuralgia, arthritis, sciatica, and gastritis.



Chinese medicinal therapy uses mainly parts of plants, along with minerals and some animal products. They have all proven their healing properties in more than two thousand years of application. A principle of Chinese medicine is the recognition that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Therefore, individual herbs and substances are usually combined together. Each patient receives an individually tailored recipe for their disease. Therefore, both acute and chronic conditions may be treated. Basically, there is no restriction to the applicability of Chinese drug therapy to specific illnesses.

Each Chinese medicine has distinctive characteristics. These consist of its flavour, the meridian on which it acts, together with its temperature effect. Taste: sweet, spicy, salty, sour, bitter, neutral, aromatic (in the sense of fragrance) and astringent. Each medicinal product has at least one of these flavours, but usually two or more. The flavours are not only perceptible to the senses, but also have well-known effects in the body: salty taste has a drying quality, a sharp taste opens the surface. This can be seen, for example, in increased sweating after eating chili sauce. Each medicine has an effect on certain meridians or organs. So the healing properties can be specifically used.

In addition, the medicinal products treat certain syndromes of Chinese medicine with their typical symptoms. In the syndrome, ‘stomach heat’ with the symptoms of heartburn and hiccups, for example, a formula is administered that cools the stomach, while the stomach Qi descends (to soothe the hiccups) and treats the cause of stomach heat, such as emotional stress. Chinese medicinal products are taken in the form of teas or decoctions. They can also be prescribed in the form of concentrated extracts, instant powders and pills that significantly shorten the preparation time.

Dietetics and Nutrition

"Only when diet therapy is not a cure, are drugs to be used," said a famous Chinese doctor. Since time immemorial, the Chinese have analyzed food according to their energetic healing effect on humans. So it is possible for a variety of diseases to be treated with certain foods and drinks. An individually tailored diet has always been used as a basis for overcoming existing and preventing future illnesses. It supplies the body with noticeably more energy, prevents disease and delays physical and mental aging.


the body. One of the most important sources for a healthy Qi is food. Therefore, the digestive organs, which convert the food and ensure that the beneficial ingredients – the so-called ‘clear’ ingredients – reach their destination, and the superfluous – the so-called ‘unclear’ ingredients – are passed from the body, which is important for the maintenance of health. The support of the stomach, spleen and pancreas, the so-called 'middle', is always at the centre of each dietary regulation. In TCM, in contrast to Western medicine, the spleen is directly linked to the digestive function.

Food is similar to medicinal products in that they are classified in terms of their effects on the body. Qualities for determining the therapeutic effect are: taste, smell, temperature effect, colour and consistency of the food. These characteristics stimulate and nourish the internal organs. Furthermore, the preparation has an influence on the healing effect: for example, a steamed vegetable has a lesser warming effect on the body as one baked in the oven. A special feature is that the taste of the food has a direct, strengthening effect on associated organs: acid stimulates the liver, bitter the heart, sweet the spleen and pancreas, sharp the lungs, salt the kidneys, etc. And since the energetic classification of food fits into the diagnostic and therapeutic system of Chinese medicine, dietetics can be effectively combined with other therapeutic methods such as acupuncture and medicinal therapy.

Tuina Anmo (Massage)

Acupuncture works using needles while Tuina massage uses different manual techniques. Tuina is one of the oldest manual therapies. The treatment has the background of meridian theory and integrates acupuncture points. Thereby, the whole organism is affected, with the aim of restoring balance and to alleviate pain.

Tuina can certainly be seen as an energetic massage that stimulates the Qi and blood circulation in the body. It also includes soft tissue work, such as the treatment of muscles, tendons and ligaments – similar to Western massage. However, it goes even further by also including the joints. Chiropractic interventions, mobilization and repositioning, belong to the high skills of advanced Tuina practitioners. The passive and active exercise therapy is part of the treatment process. The domain of Tuina therapy is the area of orthopedic (musculoskeletal problems), and trauma (injury-related ailments and diseases). Tuina can be used to treat degenerative, chronic and acute processes. It is also used for internal disease processes. Tuina can also be used to tonify, and is a great help for the elderly or for people with debilitating or chronic diseases.

Qi Gong und Tai Ji Quan


meditative practices and have therefore been tested for many centuries. In modern China, these exercises have become a part of traditional medicine. It involves movement and breathing coordination exercises which supports the treatment of disease. Qi Gong and Tai Ji clean and strengthen our energy. In addition, they provide relaxation and inner peace. Qi Gong especially can be learned and practiced in the West by anyone right into old age. Today, Qi gong holds an important place not only in convalescence from illness, but it is also important in disease prevention.

The naturalness of breath and the subsequent mental images that accompany the exercises are inspired from nature. In this case, ‘we fly like a crane’ or ‘stand like a tree’ or, ‘brush the surface of the sea smooth’. The exercises touch some deep, primitive force within humans. Gradually, the body gets to know the movements better, the images directing the movements and over time creating a link between imagination and movement, movement and imagination. This develops to a repeated experience of peace and serenity.

All movements are performed in a natural flow of energy. They develop an unobtrusive power that remains permanently connected to the roots of vitality. The practitioner relaxes and the breath becomes slow and steady. The daily stress leaves the body and there is an inner harmony, which also helps sick people to heal. The body is strengthened, the emotions are balanced and the mind becomes clear.

About the AGTCM

The AGTCM – Association of classical Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine e.V. -( is an interdisciplinary member organization, which campaigns for the quality of teaching and application of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The AGTCM was founded in 1954 and today has approximately 1,600 members, most of whom practice TCM as alternative or medical practitioners. It is one of the most important associations for Chinese medicine in Germany and secures, along with its five partner schools, some of the highest training standards for acupuncture, Chinese medicinal therapy, Tuina and Qigong ( The AGTCM supports patients, for example, when searching for TCM therapists in their area and giving them criteria for the quality of TCM treatments at hand. The AGTCM holds the TCM Kongress Rothenburg (ob der Tauber) every year, which has established itself over the past decades as the most renowned TCM congress in the Western world. In addition, the AGTCM is also committed internationally to the interests of TCM – for example, as a founding member of the European Association TCM (ETCMA), working together in organizations from 18 European countries.


Further information and press contact AGTCM and TCM Kongress Rothenburg AGTCM Board Member for Public Relations

Tom Tuchardt Silbersteinstr. 97 D-12051 Berlin

Telefon: +49 (0)176 96322019 E-Mail: