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Chinese Culture >> Chinese Medicine and Health

Introduction to Chinese Medicine

Over 2000 years old, traditional Chinese medicine focuses on balancing energy within the body and with the natural world. Chinese medical treatments include, among others, acupuncture, diet, and herbal remedies.

Acupuncture is one of the most well known methods of Chinese medicine. It involves inserting very thin, sterile needles into specific points along pathways of the body called meridians. Health problems arise when the flow of energy is blocked; acupuncture aims to open up and balance that energy flow.

Although western science lacks proof that acupuncture is an effective therapy, evidence shows that it relieves chemotherapy nausea, dental pain, soft tissue problems, menstrual cramps, backache, asthma, and emotional disturbances. Further research is likely to confirm what practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine already know - that acupuncture is highly effective in treating a wide array of disorders.

Acupuncture is successful in treating many types of non-surgical infertility. Evidence shows it can improve the chances of conceiving if done right before or after in-vitro fertilization and continued for about three months. Along with herbs, acupuncture improves ovarian function and increases blood flow to the endometrium. It addresses problems that impair fertility such as an under- or over-functioning thyroid.

Cupping is a type of acupuncture treatment. The acupuncturist heats a glass cup from inside to create a vacuum then places the cup on acupuncture points on the body. Cupping improves circulation and relieves discomfort from congestion, swelling, or pain. It is particularly effective for relieving low back aches, reducing sprains and other soft tissue injuries, and relieving fluid in the lungs. Cups are left on the body for five to fifteen minutes; a round bruise results which lasts for a few days. While there are no inherent dangers to cupping, it should not be done over cramps, convulsions, or ulcerated sores or when the patient has a high fever. Cupping is not advisable over the low back or abdomen of pregnant women.

In Chinese herbal medicine, herbs are combined in formulas of up to 25 herbs to address the needs of the individual patient. As with all methods of Chinese medicine, herbal treatment seeks to remedy imbalance in the body.

Like herbal treatment, dietary therapy is based on the condition of the patient. A balanced diet leads to good health, so dietary recommendations aim at re-balancing the body. Whether used by itself or as a complement to western or other eastern therapies, traditional Chinese medicine has an important role in modern medical treatment.

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